Straight Talk Audiovox Car Connection Safe Driver Review

Straight Talk Car Connection

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Kit Contents
OBD2 Car Connection device with 10 days initial service, instruction manual
Connection Type
Connects to OBD2 diagnostic port
Compatibility Car must be equipped with OBD2 port – Most 2003+ Makes and Models.
Installation Simple plug and play
Monthly Plan $10 a month or $100 a year
Coverage
Requires GSM you must have either AT&T or TMobile coverage
Price
139.99 – Check Availability

About the Save Driver Car Connection

The Straight Talk Save Driver Car Connection device allows you to monitor various aspects of a car’s health, MPG,  and location by using a cell phone signal to transmit the data to either a smartphone app or online.  In addition, it allows you to set up cell phone restrictions using the Zoom Safer app on a target device. This is an excellent device for monitoring your teen driver or spouse any time anywhere.  The monthly cost is $10 a month or $100 a year.  Initially, I thought the device was kind of gimmicky but I was pleasantly surprised to find the comprehensive data logging very interesting and useful.

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How it Works , Compatibility and Installation

The device works by using a GSM cell phone connection to transmit the cars data to either a mobile app or online.  The data is provided by your vehicle’s OBD2 diagnostic port which is standard on most 2003 and newer cars.  While the device is advertised as being compatible with 2003 and newer vehicles, there are lots of cars with OBD2 ports prior to 2003 which I verified by plugging it into my 2002 Subaru Impreza.

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What’s neat about this device is that you can monitor all kinds of data remotely without having to have your smartphone in the car. So you can be at home yet still be able to monitor the car anywhere there is GSM coverage.  The only drawback that I found is that you must have the device active with Straight Talk or the device is nothing more than a $139 paper weight. Without the Straight Talk service, you cannot get any data out of it since it cannot be connected to either a computer or phone as it does not have Blue Tooth capabilities or USB connector.

Installing the device is very easy. The hardest part is locating your OBD2 port as it varies from car to car. You will need to Google this if you do not know your car’s OBD2 port location. Other than that, you install it by simply plugging it in. It only installs one way so installation is very easy and takes 1 second.

The Data

I found the data provided by this device to be both comprehensive, useful and quite interesting. The device is able to monitor just about all aspects of your vehicle’s health including check engine lights, possible recalls as well as maintenance intervals. One of the coolest thing I found about the device and service was the ability to diagnose a Check Engine light by telling you exactly what triggered it and a description of the fault. Below are some screen shots of the data.

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Next is the ability to monitor the location of the car by its ability to log each trip. The device logs everything the car goes on a trip and parked. Whats really cool about this data is the fact that it logs the max speed to each location. In addition, it is able to detect and alert on items such as what aggressive acceleration. What’s impressive about all this is the fact that you can see this data from either a smartphone app or online from the car connection website.

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Yet another impressive feature is the ability to create “Safe Zones”. With this feature, you can set up an area where you can be alerted when the car leaves said area.  So for example, you can create a zones as large as your city to as small as 600 feet,  so if the car leaves your safe zone, then the device will alert you either by email or text.

The data logging capabilities of this device was very impressive and very accurate since it gets it’s data from both GPS and your cars computer. So for example, unlike GPS only devices, this device can determine your car’s speed extremely accurately.  I found the location data to be very accurate as well. All in all I was pretty amazed with all this thing logs.

Cell Phone Call and Text Restrictions

I was a bit disappointed with this feature. The reason for that is the way this feature is set up and works. The first thing is that you have to install the Zoom Safer app on the target phone.  So if you’re wanting to do this for your teen driver, then you must get their phone and install the app. The app is only available for Android and iPhone so it will not work with a non smartphone or a Windows phone. Anyhow, when the app installed, the service communicates with the app and thus enforces the restrictions you have set up. The problem with this is that your teen can easily uninstall this app without you really knowing it thus defeating the whole purpose of it.  The other problem here is that it of course will not apply restrictions to any other phone in the car.

So while this part of the service works, I just don’t think it will be all that effective.

Conclusion

I was very surprised by the device’s capabilities. I can see lots of benefits for concerned parents and spouses. The vehicle health capabilities were also really cool and beneficial. All in all, I would recommend this service to anyone. The only drawback of course is the $10 monthly price, though you could do the 1 year $100 option. The call restrictions were a bit disappointing but I guess it was because I was expecting it to some how jam all phones in the vehicle. I would say this device is a must for any parent with a teen driver.

Straight Talk ZTE Quartz

Specs – Straight Talk ZTE Quartz

Default
Dimensions Height 6.11″ x Width 3.00″ x Thickness .36″
Weight 7.00 Ounces
Form Factor Compact Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology CDMA 3g Data with WiFi
Calling Plan Straight Talk $45 Unlimited
Downloadable Apps Yes, all apps available through Google Play store. Comes with Youtube, Google Maps, GPS Navigation.
Processor 1.2 ghz dualcore
SD Card/Internal Storage 2gb built in/Capable of up to 32gb micro SD card. No SD card included.
Android OS Jelly Bean version- 4.3
Digital Camera 8 mega pixels
Screen Size 5″ Diagonal
Battery Life 12 days stand by & up to 12 hrs talk
Button Types Capacitive touch buttons with physical push center button
USB microUSB v2.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price TBA

About the ZTE Quartz

Today we examine the all ZTE Quartz from Straight Talk. This is a ginourmously large screened device that doesn’t break the bank. If you like large screens but don’t want to spend a ton, then perhaps this one is worth taking good look at. Other than the large screen, the Quartz features and excellent and Straight Talk class leading 8mp digital camera so this one is a great choice for the selfie and picture loving taking bunch!

Specs

The Quartz features some eye popping features for the price. First and foremost, I must mention the large 5″ screen. Yes, that’s right, the 5″ screen! This screen looks amazing for the cost. Videos, images and web sites look simply amazing with the high resolution so those who enjoy their multimedia should really take a close look at this phone.

Another feature really worth mentioning is the the class leading 8mp digital camera. By class leading, I mean for Straight Talk mid to entry level devices. No other Straight Talk phone has this high a camera resolution to date, that is this far south of the Galaxy S class and iPhone. Suffice it to say, this phone will take one mean selfie and/or picture.

The remaining specs are quite typical for a phone at this price range. With the Quartz, we get Android 4.3 and a 1.2 dualcore processor.

Design Look Feel

The design on this phone is typical ZTE. That is to say, all plastic construction (including the screen). One thing I really like this phone is the fact that they made the screen take up just about the entire face of the phone. This is a good thing because this device is quite large so real estate is at a premium here.

The layout is fairly typical in that you get a 3 button layout just below the screen. The strip that houses the buttons is quite small because again, the screen is the real star here. The rest of the layout reveals a slightly different than usual layout with the both the volume and power/lock button living on the right had side of the phone, the headphone jack on top and the charge port on bottom.

Now this phone is more squarish than round so it tends to feel quite large in the hand. That said, I don’t think a rounded design would make this one feel any smaller because the phone measures slightly over 6″ in height.

Final Thoughts

This phone is really large so pocket carriers need not apply! This is a great multimedia device on a budget. Additionally, it features and excellent high resolution camera so the Quartz can actually double as a full time picture taking device. If you like large screened devices without the large screen price, then this one may be the ticket. While not on the iPhone or Galaxy S class caliber, I think this comes quite close at a fraction of the price.

Straight Talk Samsung Galaxy Ace Style

Specs – Straight Talk Samsung Galaxy Ace Style

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Dimensions Height 4.75″ x Width 2.46″ x Thickness .41″
Weight 4.16 Ounces
Form Factor Compact Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology CDMA 3g Data with WiFi
Calling Plan Straight Talk $45 Unlimited
Downloadable Apps Yes, all apps available through Google Play store. Comes with Youtube, Google Maps, GPS Navigation.
Processor 1.2 ghz dualcore
SD Card/Internal Storage 2gb built in/Capable of up to 32gb micro SD card. No SD card included.
Android OS Jelly Bean version- 4.3
Digital Camera 5 mega pixels
Screen Size 4″ Diagonal
Battery Life 12 days stand by & up to 12 hrs talk
Button Types Capacitive touch buttons with physical push center button
USB microUSB v2.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price 149.99

About the Samsung Galaxy Ace Style

The Galaxy Ace style is newest entry level compact device in the Straight Talk Galaxy family. This one is quite similar if not nearly identical to the popular Samsung Centura in terms of looks but boasts specs that are far superior.  While design wise, this one looks just like the Centura, it is an updated device as it brings a newer Android OS and a much more powerful processor.  While it may look like the Centura, rest assured, this device is light years ahead in terms of specs and performance.

Specs

Specs here are quite typical for what we now expect for a phone at this price range. The processor is of the 1.2 ghz dualcore variety which vastly improves on the weak 800mhz unit found in the Centura.  This makes the phone perform much faster and reliably than the Centura. Another spec item of note is the larger 4.0″ screen.  The screen is one of the main selling points on this phone as far as I’m concerned. The reason for this is the clarity and brightness that makes videos and images look great. While I’m on multimedia, I will say that the sound quality is really good on this phone as the speaker is well placed on the top to the right of the camera. This prevents your hand from fully covering it when holding the phone in either portrait or landscape mode.

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Another item worth talking about is the newer Android 4.3. While not the absolute latest, this is one of the newer Android’s available on Straight Talk, in fact, this is only the second or third phone to be available with this OS.

Finally, we have the 5 mp camera which captures excellent images. In fact, I will say that this one has one of the better cameras of any Straight Talk phone at this price range. I found the images taken by this phone to be extremely clear given it’s only 5mp. While it does not have an LED flash, it takes good low to medium light images. Another thing I liked about the camera was the unique camera interface that has different image modes. The interface is presented in a carousel style where you can swipe through various different modes such as night, action and the like.

One item on the specs that I do not like is the fact that it does not come with an included SD card so you will need to buy one as this phone only has about 2 gb of built in memory with about 1 gb used up by the operating system.  You will for sure need to get at least a 4 gb SD card if you want to use this as your primary music playing device or if you enjoy lots of apps.

As far as cellular technology goes, this phone uses CDMA so Straight Talk would activate it with either Verizon or Sprint. On the downside, this phone is standard 3g so you do not get the faster 4g or LTE data speeds. That said, that is fairly standard on the lower spectrum phones.

Digital Camera

As I touched on previously, I was really impressed with the images coming from this phone’s camera. While it’s only 5mp, the images were clear and crisp void of that cell phone taken picture graininess. I will say that this is probably one of the best image takers in the entry level Straight Talk phone category. Below are some sample images.

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While the camera preformed admirably, I was disappointed by the fact that it doesn’t have an LED flash. Surely Samsung could have sprung for the extra $1 or $2 it costs to install one. This is one item where the ZTEs shine as most of those have built in LEDs. That said, the Ace Style does have a front facing VGA camera for the selfie taking bunch. Anyhow, even though it does not have an LED flash, it does take some excellent low light shots such as the one below. Yes, that is beer!

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One item on the camera that I really dug was the mode interface. While you could say it’s a bit of a gimmick, I really liked the carousel interface it is presented in. While most other phones have a boring mode interface, this one looked really cool and impressed me enough that I thought it worth mentioning. I believe this is a Samsung proprietary thing as I have not seen it on any other Straight Talk phone to date. Here is a shot of the phones screen showing the carousel style mode.

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Performance

The Samsung Galaxy Ace Style really shines in the performance category due to it’s newer Android OS and 1.2 dualcore processor. One of the best places to test performance is on Google Maps and this phone does not disappoint as it handles maps with ease. You can pinch zoom and rotate without any noticeable lag or hesitation. The same can be said with videos as they super smooth and look amazingly near HD quality.

I think this phone will handle just about any Google Play store app with ease. Every app that I tested performed flawlessly and without hesitation. Despite the price, this is no dog!

Design Look Feel

One of the things that might make this one popular is the fact that it looks just like their best selling Centura.  The button design is even the same though I would say a bit dated for a new phone since the middle button is of the push button variety.  While the center button is of the push variety, they did put a bit of chrome trim around it so it doesn’t look terrible. The other Android buttons are of the capacitive touch. The remaining layout elements are located in typical fashion with the volume on the upper left, the iPod type head phone jack on top, the power/lock on the upper right and the charge port on the bottom.


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One of the things I have always liked about the Samsung Galaxy phones is that they look just a bit more sophisticated than their entry level brethren from LG and ZTE. I particularly like the chrome look bezel surrounding the screen. Another design element that I really like is the slate look front face that surrounds the screen. For some reason, this minor element just makes the phone look a bit more expensive than it really is.

As expected, the entire phone is made of plastic, this includes the screen so we do not net to enjoy the benefits of Gorilla glass on this phone. That said, the phone has a substantial feel to it and does not feel cheap.

Perhaps one of the more unique things I found about this phone is the fact that despite the 4″ screen, the phone still feels very compact. Maybe it’s because of the rounded corners and semi rounded back. Suffice it to say it feels much smaller than it really is.

Final Thoughts

While this phone looks just like the Samsung Centura, specs are much improved over the meager Centura specs. This one brings a powerful processor and faster Android 4.3. Much of what people like about the Centura remains, namely in the form of a compact body and good looks.

On the downside, the phone is a bit pricey when compared to other Straight Talk phones in this class. Of course you are paying for the Samsung brand and quality. My conclusion is that the phone is well worth the money as it simply looks and feels better than the cheaper ZTEs and LGs. I think this would make an excellent phone for those who value quality over price.

Straight Talk Remote Alert Kit Review

Straight Talk Home Alert Specs

Kit Contents
Control Key pad, AC adapter for control unit power, motion sensor, motion sensor wall mount, 2 9 volt batteries, $10 monthly card, instruction manual.
Motion Sensor
Senses up to 26 feet with 120 degree field
Monitoring Self monitored. Delivers triggered alerts via text or voice call.
Installation DIY installation, all sensors are wireless. Central unit plugs in using AC adapter.
Monthly Plan $10 a month or $100 a year
Compatibility
Requires CDMA you must have either Verizon or Sprint coverage
Control Zones Monitors up to 4 zones – up to 16 sensors per zone
Arming Modes
Standard Arm, Silent Arm (Does not have a siren)
Number of sensors Compatible with up to 64 sensors (16 per zone). Kit only includes 1 motion sensor.
Price $149.99 – Check Availability

straight-talk-ra13Today, we review an interesting all new service from Straight Talk. This is the Remote Alert system which retails for $149.99 with your first months service.  This kit can be used to remotely monitor your home, apartment, storage unit, RV or the like. This kit is basically, a totally DIY  non-monitored “home alarm” system.   By non-monitored, I mean that the device does not rely on a land line connection to dial out to a monitoring service such as ADP.  This is where the kit differs from a traditional home alarm system. Additionally, the kit does not include a siren so it will not alert your neighbors or be terribly loud for that matter.

By now, you might now be wondering, what is the point of this thing and what exactly does this it do?  The answer is that it is basically a self monitored system.  By this, I mean that the sole purpose of this device is to alert you any time it is triggered.  It accomplishes this by either calling and texting a set of pre-programmed numbers that are stored on the device.  This is where Straight Talk comes into play because the system does this via a cell phone signal, so Straight Talk will actually program this thing with a local cell phone number so that it can send its texts or phone calls to you when triggered. This is the basic premise of the device so please keep reading if this sounds interesting to you. A quick disclaimer here, Straight Talk does not market this as a home alarm and this is clearly stated on the box.straight-talk-ra11Opening the the Remote Alert kit reveals of following components:

  • A control key pad unit with AC wall plug and 9 volt battery backup.
  • A motion sensor with 9 volt battery and wall mount.
  • 1 month $10 card.
  • Instruction manual.

straight-talk-ra1straight-talk-ra2straight-talk-ra10Normally, I don’t even bother looking at the included manuals when it comes to Straight Talk products, but with this kit is absolutely essential that KEEP your manual because it contains all of the programming instructions.

How it Works

As I mentioned in the intro, this Remote Alert system basically functions similar to a standard home alarm. The Remote Alert system, however, is self monitored, meaning it cannot be monitored by a third party company like say ADP.  It is also completely wireless and self sustained so you do not need a home land like to use it.The system works by having a cell phone number programmed into it when you activate it with Straight Talk. This will be a local phone number Straight Talk will assign to it based on your zip code. One item of note here is that it uses CDMA coverage. This means that you will need to have Verizon or Sprint coverage in your area to activate it. This may sound strange for a “home alarm” system but that is what makes this thing unique and easy to use. Anyhow, once this kit is activated by Straight Talk, you simply program up to 3 phone numbers it can call simultaneously or up to 6 cell phone numbers it text. This is where the self monitoring part comes in. Because this works via a cell phone signal, you must keep this device activated with Straight Talk or it will not work. This will set you back either $10 when paying month to month or $100 a year when you prepay the entire  year up front.straight-talk-ra4The  kit comes with a motion sensor that looks very much like the motion sensors used in motion sensing lights Once set up, the system sends a text message and/or a phone call to the programmed phone numbers when the motion sensor is triggered.  You ca add additional sensors, either more motion sensors or magnetic window/door sensors but those are sold separately for around $30 a pop.straight-talk-ra1The control unit has 4 individual zones and you can add your sensor(s) to any of these zones. Each zone is capable of controlling up to 16 zones so you can have up to 64 total sensors hooked up to this thing.Controlling the unit is done via the control key pad just as you would on a regular home alarm. One cool thing about this kit is that you can use your cell phone to Arm and Disarm it. There is an app available for Android and iPhone users on their respective app stores. You can also arm/disarm by simply texting the unit from your cellphone (remember, this thing has a cell phone number assigned to it). Additionally, you can purchase the key fob which allows you to arm/disarm just like a car alarm.

Using and Installing The Kit

One of the things I like about this kit is the fact that it can be installed in about 2 minutes since the sensors are connected to the control unit via wireless signal. So you don’t need to have this installed professionally or run ugly wires all over the place.  All you need to do is place your control unit within 6 feet of a power outlet since this thing needs to be plugged in for power.  That is the extent of wiring!

As for your motion sensor, it comes already paired for your device so you simply install the 9 volt battery and find a good location for it. The sensor is capable of detecting motion in 120 degree range from up to 26 feet. With this in mind, you can either simply place it on top of a bookcase or the like or wall mount it with the included mount. The mount can either be screwed into the wall or used with strong double sided tape. One item of note here is to locate this such that it is not easily triggered if you have pets or you will be getting lots of false alarms.  You can make this system more reliable by placing a magnetic door switch on all of your entry doors but this will cost you an additional $100 for the magnetic sensors.  I would definitely go the magnetic sensor route when using this in an apartment, RV, storage unit or shed where entry doors are minimal. Additional sensors must be paired to the control unit on one of the 4 available zones.

Once you have everything installed, the system is quite easy to use.  In addition to the numbers you want it to call/text, you can program exit and entry delays so you have time to arm/disarm the unit when coming in and out of the house.   Arming it is quite easy and can be set up as a silent arm or standard arm which makes a beep when triggered.  One item of note here is that the beep is not very loud  and will probably not be heard outside of the structure you are monitoring.  Anyhow, disarming is easily done by simply entering your 4 digit pin, using the app, texting the unit or using the key fob.Pros and ConsLike anything else, there’s always pros and cons. Here are the pros as I see them

  • The unit is very easy wireless install as it does not need professional installation or wires.
  • The price is affordable.
  • Great for apartments, storage units, sheds and RVs
  • Can be expanded with sensors to suit.
  • You do not need a landline to use it.
  • Self monitoring via text or phone calls

Here are the cons:

  • Cannot use it with a monitoring service such as ADP
  • Not very loud when triggered
  • Additional sensors can get pricey when used as home alarm since additional sensors will be needed.
  • Motion sensor is prone to false alarms
  • Must keep it active with Straight Talk and will not work unless it is kept active.
  • You must have CDMA coverage from either Verizon or Sprint.

Conclusion

I really liked this system for its intended use. It was extremely easy to install and program. I found it to be a reliable security system when used with the  window/door sensors.  I also liked the fact that it notifies me via text or call when triggered, though to be honest, I am not sure what I would do should it ever alert me for real. This kit is probably best used to monitor small structures because the window/door sensors are the best way to go about it as it makes it quite reliable. The motion sensor worked well but it can easily be triggered thus leading to false alarms.  I think if you have a small structure you’d like to monitor, then I feel this kit presents the perfect solution.

Straight Talk LG Optimus Fuel

Specs – Straight Talk LG Optimus Fuel

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Dimensions Height 4.28″ x Width 2.32″ x Thickness .47″
Weight 4.0 Ounces
Form Factor Compact Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology CDMA 3g (Activates with either Verizon or Sprint)
Calling Plan Straight Talk $45 Unlimited
Downloadable Apps Yes, all apps available through Google Play store. Comes with Youtube, Google Maps, GPS Navigation.
Processor 1.2 ghz
SD Card/Internal Memory 4gb SD card included, supports up to 32gb
Android OS Kit Kat version- 4.4
Digital Camera 3 mega pixels/no LED flash
Screen Size 3.5″ Diagonal
Battery Life 9 days stand by & up to 5 hrs talk
Button Types Capacitive Touch and physical push with multi color LED light
USB microUSB v2.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price $59.99

About the LG Optimus Fuel

straight-talk-lg-fuelThe LG Optimus Fuel is a very affordable device with great features. While you don’t pay alot for this phone, you get a phone that’s quite similar in specs to phones costing 2 to 3 times as much, with the exception of the screen size that is. Despite the low price, the Fuel is a fully functioning Android phone with all of the Android apps found on more expensive devices. Overall, this is a great little phone at an even better price. A great phone for children, teens or someone who wants an affordable phone.

Specs

Specs are quite impressive on this little phone even though it only costs $60. You get a 1.2 ghz processor, Anroid 4.4 and 3mp digital camera (no LED flash). What’s impressive here is that this phone has Android Kit Kat which is one of the newest versions out there. This is one of the first Straight Talks to come with Kit Kat. Lastly, it comes with a preinstalled 4gb SD card. The screen on this one measures only 3.5″ diagonally. This is both good and bad because while it makes for a very small device, the screen resolution leaves somewhat to be desired. You will find videos to be a bit more grainy that you find on larger phones. Images also don’t look as good as they do on bigger phones. This is always one of the drawbacks of small screened phones. On the positive side, the phone has a great speaker with excellent sound quality.

Design & Look Feel

The Fuel is very minimalist in the design department. That is to say, there isn’t a whole lot of bells and whistles here. It’s got all of the functional bits, it just doesn’t do it in a very fanciful way. For starters, it has the typical 3 button Android layout. The buttons are of the capacitive push variety but do not light up when pressed. The middle button is not capacitive, but rather is of the push button type. The middle button does have a cool little feature though as it has LED lighting around it which changes colors depending on what the phone is doing. For example, it lights up green on incoming calls, multicolored when the alarm goes on, red when charging and other modes. As expected, the phone is of the all plastic construction variety including a plastic screen. The battery cover has a textured finish and is easily removable. The remaining phone buttons are located as follows: volume on the left, headphone jack on top, power/lock on the right and the charge port on the bottom. Overall, this is by no means a fancy phone but it does it’s job in easy to use fashion.

Final Thoughts

The Optimus Fuel is a great little phone for the price. Probably the best performing phone at this price range from Straight Talk to date. It has plenty of power to perform any task you ask of it. This would be a perfect budget phone though it does still require the $45 unlimited card.

Straight Talk Motorola MOTO G

Specs – Straight Talk Motorola Moto G

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Dimensions Height 5″ x Width 2 1/2″ x Thickness 1/2″
Weight 4.9 Ounces
Form Factor Compact Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology XT939G – GSM 4g data with Wifi/Activated with either AT&T or TMobileNote that this is not LTE but 4g which is enhanced 3g
Calling Plan Straight Talk $45 Unlimited
Downloadable Apps Yes, all apps available through Google Play store. Comes with Youtube, Google Maps, GPS Navigation.
Processor 1.2 ghz Quadcore
SD Card/Internal Memory 8gb built in/no expandable memory
Android OS Final Jelly Bean version- 4.3
Digital Camera 5 mega pixels/front facing camera/LED flash/Unique Interface/Geo Tagging
Screen Size 4.5″ Diagonal/Gorilla Glass
Battery Life 9 days stand by & up to 5 hrs talk
Button Types No buttons/Android buttons built into Android
USB microUSB v2.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price $169.99

About the Moto G

straight-talk-moto-gIt’s been a while since Straight Talk introduced and offered a Motorola device so the Moto G is a welcomed mid level device to their line up. The Moto G is offered as a GSMphone so will work in AT&T/Tmobile calling areas. While the Moto G is new to Straight Talk (released in May), the phone has been available since late December 2013. Specs geared more towards making the phone affordable but still comes with some neat items like Gorilla Glass, a water resistant coating and color battery covers (sold separately).

While on paper, the Moto G looks quite average, the phone has a very upscale look feel you can only find on the higher end brands like Samsung, HTC, Nokia, etc. This is a great phone for those who want an affordable device and a solid brand.

Specs

As we mentioned above, specs aren’t really mind blowing on the Moto G. Don’t get this confused with the higher end Motorolas because this phone was designed for the mid level consumer. For starters, the phone comes with a 1.2ghz quadcore processor which is plenty quick to run the Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS.  Keep in mind that  this processor is much more powerful than your run of the mill dual core and single core units found on the other mid level Straight Talk offerings even though it is labeled as 1.2 ghz.

While the phone has plenty of horse power to run the latest Android Kit Kat, Straight Talk is shipping this with Android 4.3 which is still considered to be Jelly Bean all be it the highest Jelly Bean version before Kit Kat.

Moving on, we find a rather pedestrian 5mp camera which is somewhat disappointing but still good enough for most.  I found the pictures to be of good quality though they can be somewhat blurry in lower light situations.  I did like the camera interface as it is quite intuitive and different than most. It has a cool carousel type interface that you swipe and spins around, think Wheel of Fortune here, to reveal all the options. Another cool thing on the camera is that you can zoom by swiping up and down instead of the slider type zoom interfaces found on other devices. Also worth mentioning is the Geo tagging feature that allows you to tag the location where the image was taken. Lastly, it does have a 1.3 mp front facing camera which I found to be quite good when compared to other phones in this segment.

One bummer about this phone is the built in 8gb memory without an micro SD card port. This means that this phone’s storage capacity cannot be expanded by inserting a larger sd memory card. Another somewhat slight bummer is the non replaceable battery which cannot be what they call “user removed”.

Overall, the specs look somewhat average for a mid level phone but be aware that the processor on this thing is much more powerful because of its quadcore nature.  Also keep in mind that there is no other Straight Talk that will come with Gorilla Glass at this price point.

Design & Look Feel

The design of the Moto G is very familiar. That’s because it is designed in similar fashion to just about every other Android out there. One thing I will mention here, is that the phone has the curved back found in much more expensive phones instead of the flat brick like backs on the ZTEs and the like.  This and the rubberized cover make this one feel real nice in the hand. With that said, there are a few of design elements on this phone which are cool and out of the ordinary for a Straight Talk.

The first, is the water repellent coating that’s built into the phone. This means you can use the phone in rainy weather and the like. Don’t mistake this for waterproof because the phone is by no means waterproof.

Another cool element on this phone is the “floating” button design. What this means is that the phone does not have any physical buttons below the screen. Instead, this one has sort of buttons that are almost just like the Android icons and float above the Operating System screen at the bottom of the screen. This is easier seen than explained but can been in the in image above. Suffice it to say, this is a pretty cool element and one we have not seen on a Straight Talk device before.

Finally, there are colored battery covers that can be swapped out in lieu of the usual charcoal black job that it comes with. There are several colors available but must be purchased separately. One item of note there is that I couldn’t find where to buy them online but they are supposed to be out there someplace.

Final Thoughts

The Moto G is an excellent premium mid grade device. What is pleasantly surprising here is that the Moto G is actually cheaper thn other mid level Straight Talk ZTEs. The Moto G will give you far superior performance and quality for your money but there are some drawbacks such as a 5mp camera and non expandable memory. If you are looking for a mid level phone but don’t want to settle for the off brands, then the Motorola Moto G might be worth a good look. Another plus is tha Straight Talk is offering for both GSM and CDMA calling areas.

Comparing the Straight Talk Alcatel OneTouch Sonic and ZTE Unico

Today we compare two very similar phones from Straight Talk, namely the ZTE Majesty and ZTE Unico. This is a good comparison because both are very similarly sized spec’d. That said, they are different technology phones altogether, particularly when it comes to data speeds because the ZTE Unico is an LTE phone thus providing you with up to 10x data speeds.

Check Straight Talk Availability

straight-talk-zte-unico

ZTE Unico

Unico Availability

 

straight-talk-alcatel-sonic
Alcatel Sonic

Sonic Availability

 

Phone Dimensions 5.25″ x 2.59″ x 0.43″ 5.25″ x 2.75″ x 0.45″
Screen Size Diagonal: 4.5″ Diagonal: 4.6″
Processor Speed 1.2ghz 1.4ghz
Weight 4.95 oz 5.45 oz
Android Version 4.1.2 Jelly Bean 4.1 Jelly Bean
Technology & Calling Area GSM LTE Activated via AT&T or TMobile (Check your local LTE coverage) GSM LTE Activated via AT&T or TMobile (Check your local LTE Coverage)
Speaker Yes Yes (Excellent audio quality!)
Headphone Jack 3.5mm (iPod type) 3.5mm (iPod type)
SD card slot 8gb Included, supports up to 32gb Not Included, supports up to 32gb
Camera 5 mega pixel/LED flash/Front facing vga
5 mega pixel / LED Flash/front facing VGA
Price $199.99 $179.99

Technology and Calling Area

Today we are comparing two GSM LTE 4g phones. Both of these phones will be activated with either AT&T or Straight Talk. My bet is AT&T.  Note that neither of these phones will work with Verizon or Sprint so you will need AT&T or TMobile LTE coverage in your area to get the 4g LTE speeds. If LTE is not available in your area from either of these carriers, then you will get standard 3g speeds.

Specs

I was pleasantly surprised by the Sonic specs. It’s got a 1.4 ghz dualcore processor to the Unico’s 1.2 ghz unit. The screen size is another element where the Sonic is better. Both of these phones come to you with 5mp cameras, led flash and front facing VGA cameras.

I just felt the Sonic to be a better performer in the specs department. Everything performed quickly and without that annoying hesitation. That’s not to say the Unico is a dog by any means, I just felt the Sonic experience was better. One item of note is that the Sonic does not include a preinstalled SD card so I dock 1 point for that =).

Screen, Audio Quality and Phone Size

Both of these phones are more or less the same physical size. Though the Sonic is a bit wider by 1/4″. That said, the Sonic comes with a larger 4.6″ screen versus the 4.5″ screen found on the Unico. Additionally, I found the display quality to be superior on the Sonic. That is to say, the screen was sharper, brighter and overall more pleasing to watch videos on.

On the Audio Quality, I was quite impressed with the crisp sound coming out of the Sonic. This is attributed to a better speaker placement and larger speaker opening. The Sonic is the hands down winner here.

Design & Build Quality

Build quality is about the same on both of these devices. Both phones are all plastic construction, sorry no Gorilla glass on either of these. Both feel like quality devices, that is to say they don’t feel cheap in any way despite their relatively low price. The Unico does have a metal look design trim going around the phone so it looks better overall. The Sonic on the other hand is all black with semi gloss plastic surrounding the phone. Both have the semi rubberized batter covers.

While the design is pretty much the same on both of these, I felt that speaker placement on the Sonic was much better thus winning extra design points in my book.

Conclusion

If you haven’t noticed, I felt that the Alcatel Sonic was the vastly superior device in this comparison and that’s not because it’s the cheaper of the two. I thought the Sonic outperformed the ZTE in just about all aspects. I will go so far as to say it is the best Straight Talk device I’ve reviewed in the sub $200 category.

Straight Talk Alcatel One Touch Sonic LTE

Specs – Straight Talk Alcatel OneTouch Sonic

straight-talk-alcatel-sonic
Dimensions Height 5.27″ x Width 2.74″ x Thickness .44″
Weight 5.55 Ounces
Form Factor Large Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology GSM 4g LTE Data with WiFi/Activated with either AT&T or TMobile
Calling Plan Straight Talk $45 Unlimited
Downloadable Apps Yes, all apps available through Google Play store. Comes with Youtube, Google Maps, GPS Navigation.
Processor 1.4 ghz Dualcore
SD Card/Internal Storage SD card not included/Capable of up to 32gb micro SD card
Android OS Final Jelly Bean version- 4.1
Digital Camera 5 mega pixels/front facing camera/LED flash
Screen Size 4.6″ Diagonal
Battery Life 15 days stand by & up to 11 hrs talk
Button Types Capacitive touch buttons
USB microUSB v4.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price $179.99

About the One Touch Sonic

sonic-4Alcatel has been making feature phones for Straight Talk and Tracfone for years but this is their first  Straight Talk Smartphone introduction.  The one notable item on the Sonic is the HUGE 4.6″ display. This is actually the largest display on a non Samsung Galaxy S Straight Talk to date with a $179.99 price tag to boot.

The other item worth talking about is the fast 4g LTE data speeds. The cool thing here is that it does not cost us any extra as the $45 cards will work on this phone and still get you the LTE data speeds. Now keep in mind that this is prepaid so excessive use is subject to data throttling which means they can either reduce your speed and or amount of data you can use. .

Despite the impressive screen size and LTE, the Onetouch Sonic can be considered more of a mid level device so quality is not quite up to say iPhone or Galaxy S standards. That said, this is a very good phone for the specs and features. I’ll go so far as to say this is probably the best sub $200 Android from Straight Talk right now.

Specs

As I touched on before, this phone has a really large 4.6″ screen that is super bright and crisp. The processor here is a 1.4 ghz Dualcore unit that runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. The camera is a 5mp unit with LED Flash and front facing VGA camera. You do get a bit of a bonus by way of FM radio which will work even without a cell phone signal.

Storage is about normal for Straight Talk phones as this one only has 2gb of built but you can expand it up to 32gbs via micro SD cards. One note is that this phone does not include a pre-installed card so you will need to run out and buy one should you desire the extended storage capacity.

Overall, this is an excellent performer for the price and you can’t get a bigger screen without spending Samsung Galaxy S money. The camera isn’t the absolute best I can certainly deal with that considering the price.

Digital Camera

The sonic comes with a 5mp camera which can be viewed as a bit of a drag but lets not kid ourselves, this phone costs 1/2 to 1/3 the price of the big boys. Pictures are excellent in bright light and a bit above average in low light situations. That said, it does have an LED flash. Here are various shots under different lighting conditions. Overall, I was quite pleased with the image quality this low cost phone turned out.

IMG_20140604_171520 IMG_20140604_171431IMG_20140604_173803

Additionally, you get a front facing VGA camera. What’s most impressive are all the camera goodies such as  digital zoom, auto focus ,  nifty camera modes like  Geo Tagging/HDR/Action/Burst/Smile shot/Panorama and more.  If that’s not enough, video quality can be shot as high as a reported 1080p. For the price, I have not seen a better camera on another Straight Talk Android to date at this price point.

sonic-7 sonic-5

Design & Look Feel

Design here is shall we say typical. Looks and feels like your average Android. That is to say, you get the 3 button Android layout with all plastic construction. The capacitive Android buttons light up when you touch them allowing you to see them in the dark. The phone does not have a light sensor though so they do light up even in the day when touched.

sonic-3 sonic-2

The Sonic is void of any metal look trims as it features an all black semi gloss finish around the perimeter of the phone. The battery cover does have a slight rubberized texture to it. If you’re looking for a bit of bling on your phone, then the Sonic might not float your boat but I think you can overlook that because it’s quite good in just about every other aspect that matters.

About the only look feel aspect worth noting is that the screen expands to just about the very top of the phone and did I mention it is quite LARGE. Despite the rather large screen, the phone still maintains some decent dimensions and still fits in the pocket.

Performance

I think performance is where the Sonic really shines. For starters, the screen is super bright and crisp, probably one of the better screens you will find at this price point. Zooming and rotating in apps such as Google Maps are a breeze and does not have that annoying lag that the lesser powerful phones have. Do remember that this has a 1.4ghz dualcore CPU so it will run just about any app on the market.

One item that I was impressed with is the excellent sound quality of this device. The speaker opening is at the top left so it is not in a place where your hand will cover it. Additionally, the speaker opening is fairly large for a phone like this so rest assured this phone is an excellent performer in the multimedia arena.

Final Thoughts

The Alcatel OneTouch Sonic is an excellent phone for the cash. You just about the best specs and features you will find south of $200 bones.  This would be a great phone for multimedia lovers out there.

Comparing The Straight Talk ZTE Unico and ZTE Majesty

Today we compare two very similar phones from Straight Talk, namely the ZTE Majesty and ZTE Unico. This is a good comparison because both are very similarly sized spec’d.  That said, they are different technology phones altogether, particularly when it comes to data speeds because the ZTE Unico is an LTE phone thus providing you with up to 10x data speeds.

Check Straight Talk Availability

straight-talk-zte-unico

ZTE Unico

Unico Availability

 

straight-talk-zte_majesty
ZTE Whirl

Majesty Availability

 

Phone Dimensions 5.22″ x 2.59″ x 0.41″ 5.40″ x 2.60″ x 0.41″
Screen Size Diagonal: 4.5″ Diagonal: 4.5″
Processor Speed 1.2ghz 1.2ghz
Weight 4.8 oz 5.45 oz
Android Version 4.1.2 Jelly Bean 4.1.2 Jelly Bean
Technology & Calling Area GSM LTE Activated via AT&T or TMobile (Check your local LTE coverage) GSM Activated via AT&T or TMobile
Speaker Yes Yes
Headphone Jack 3.5mm (iPod type) 3.5mm (iPod type)
SD card slot 8gb Included, supports up to 32gb 4gb Included, supports up to 32gb
Camera 5 mega pixel/LED flash 5 mega pixel NO LED Flash
Price $199.99 $179.99

Technology and Calling Area

This is the main difference between these two devices. The Unico GSM (AT&T or TMobile) while the Majesty is CDMA (Verizon or Sprint). The other big difference here are the data speeds, the Unico offers 4G LTE data and is currently the only Straight Talk sold phone with this capability at this price range. The other Straight Talk LTE phones are either the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S series which are both 2 to 3 times more expensive as the Unico!

If you aren’t familiar with 4G LTE, this means you will get 5 to 10 times faster data speeds when accessing the internet, videos, etc.  Check your local AT&T LTE coverage before purchasing this phone because LTE is not fully available everywhere. The Unico will behave the same as the Majesty if you do not have LTE coverage in your area so there is no point in spending the extra 20 bucks if the capability is not available in your area.

Screen and Phone Size

These phones are essentially identical in this regard. Both phones have 4.5″ diagonal screens and are basically the same in body size. The Majesty is slightly heavier by about 1/2 an ounce or so.

Design & Build Quality

Again, the design is very similar here. As you can see in the images, the Unico is a bit more square than the Majesty. Both phones are all plastic construction and offer the same quality. I will say that I find the Unico a bit more attractive because the trim around the phone looks a bit better to me.

Conclusion

Both of these phones are essentially the same in all regards. If you’re pondering one or the other, the only thing you need to know is that the Unico gives you significantly faster 4g LTE data speeds.  Please check your local LTE coverage before you go spending the extra 20 bucks because LTE coverage is not all equal. If do not have AT&T LTE coverage, then the Majesty would be a better choice.

Straight Talk ZTE Z930L Unico LTE

Specs – Straight Talk ZTE Unico Availability

straight-talk-zte-unico
Dimensions Height 5.22″ x Width 2.59″ x Thickness .41″
Weight 4.8 Ounces
Form Factor Medium Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology LTE cellular data network and WiFi
Calling Plan Straight Talk $45 Unlimited
Downloadable Apps Yes, all apps available through Google Play store. Comes with Youtube, Google Maps, GPS Navigation.
Processor 1.2 ghz
SD Card/Internal Memory Pre-installed 4gb sd card, Up to 32gb microSD compatible
Android OS Jelly Bean – 4.1.2
Digital Camera 5 mega pixels/frong facing camera/LED flash
Screen Size 4.5″ Diagonal
Battery Life 9 days stand by & up to 5 hrs talk
Button Types Capacitive touch buttons
USB microUSB v2.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price $199.99

About the ZTE Unico

straight-talk-moto-gThe ZTE Unico is the first affordable LTE phone from Straight Talk. Expect to pay $199.99 for a new one from either Straighttalk.com or Walmart. The ZTE Unico device is of the GSM variety which means Straight Talk would activate this with either AT&T or TMobile.

The main attraction on this particular ZTE phone is basically the fast LTE internet connectivity at an affordable price.  If you are not that familiar with what this means exactly, it boils down to the internet on this phone will be 5-10 times faster than the typical 3G phone (Most other Straight Talk models). For this convenience, you will pay about $20 more over similar Straight Talk models with similar specs and no LTE.

Be aware that LTE will not improve call quality, dropped calls, etc, LTE will only speed up your internet connection. Other than LTE, there are no new features to be found on this phone that are not offered on lower cost Straight Talk devices.  I would say the ZTE Unico is on par with the ZTE Solar since both are GSM devices.

Check ZTE Unico Availability

Specs

Other than the LTE connectivity, specs are fairly robust to average. In other words, this is not going to have super high end specs. For starters, we find a 1.2ghz processor which is about average for devices these days, though still plenty fast for just about all apps and games you can download. One nice thing is that the phone comes with a 4gb SD card already preinstalled for you.

Screen size is 4.5″ so I would put this in the medium category. It’s not super huge but it isn’t exactly tiny either. I personally like the 4.5″ screen because it’s plenty large for watching movies yet not obnoxious in size so that it doesn’t fit in your pocket. Despite the fairly large screen, the phone still remains relatively compact measuring just 5.25″ high by 2.6″ in width. While I’m on the screen, I will mention that this phone has a very nice and crisp resolution. The user interface looks super clean and smooth, videos also look great.  Another worthy mention is the excellent audio quality on this phone. The speaker is on the back but it sounds great.

zte-unico-1 zte-unico-2

 

About the only weak spec here for an LTE phone is the camera as it only has 5mp of resolution. At this point, I would expect better from a phone of this caliber. I say that because you can find 5mp cameras on other Straight Talk ZTEs that are much cheaper than this. Another item worth mentioning with the camera is that it is a bit slow to take pictures. It takes a few seconds for it to focus and finally snap the shot. I wouldn’t call it a deal breaker, just something to keep in mind. Now on the plus side it has a front facing camera and built in LED flash on the back. The LED flash works really well to turn out decent images when shooting in low light rooms and such. Below are some low light shots taken with the phone to demonstrate. Overall, the image quality on pictures is good.

unico_low_light1 unico_low_light2

Design & Look Feel

As is often the case with these Straight Talk ZTEs, the design is somewhat pedestrian. The phone is all black plastic construction and while it does not have much of a “bling” factor, it does have a nice silver decorative trim that runs the perimeter of the phone. While it is not metal, it looks pretty good and does a decent job simulating it. Moving onto the back, we find a rubberized battery cover with the camera and flash top center. Both the camera and flash look to have a thin metal trim around them.

zte-unico-4zte-unico-7

The layout on this one is pretty much the same as it is on other ZTE models. Just below the screen we find a 3 button capacitive touch layout which is common to all other ZTE Phones currently on the Straight Talk page. The phone has a light sensor at the top which controls the backlight on these buttons. That is, they light up in dim light and not in bright. This is another common feature on many ZTEs.  The remaining items are laid out in a fairly typical manner with the 3.5mm head phone jack top left, power/lock top right, volume upper left and charge port lower right.

zte-unico-5 zte-unico-6

Interfaces

The interfaces on this phone are all very user friendly making them a breeze to use.  The screen responds nicely to touches. There is no lag or hesitation when performing touches.  As with all Androids, this phone supports both vertical and horizontal orientations.

Like most standard Androids, the ZTE Unico comes with 5 homescreens. One cool thing about this one is that you can add more homescreens if you wish so you can organize your icons.At the bottom of the homescreen, you find a place for 4 customizable icons and the center main menu icon. The stock icons consist of the phone dialer, messaging, browser and camera. You can remove and add different icons rather easily.

As far as the texting, browsing and phone interfaces go, all perform great. They are laid out well and are all easy to use. The phone keypad for example is nice and bright with fairly large squares for the numbers. The texting screen is also easy to use with everything you need on the main screen.  The phone comes with the standard Android keyboard. Finally, is the internet browsing, this works well supporting the pinch zoom feature as well as horizontal and vertical orientations.

zte-unico-10  zte-unico-8

Final Thoughts

The Unico is an excellent offering for those who want LTE speeds without spending Samsung Galaxy S money.  This feature will essentially cost you about $20 more than other similarly spec’d Straight Talk devices. Be sure that you have good GSM LTE coverage in your area, either AT&T or TMobile. If you don’t have said coverage or you simply don’t care about internet speeds, then you may be better off with either the ZTE Majesty or ZTE Solar which both have about the same specs for a bit less money.

Anyhow, back to the Unico, Specs are good though not great for an LTE device. What I really like about it, however, is the affordable price tag which under cuts the Galaxy S by more than half. That said, don’t expect the same performance but as with all things in life, this is a bit of a compromise.