Compare The ZTE Quartz and Alcatel OneTouch Pop Mega

In today’s comparison, we have the battle of the “Heavy Weights” by way of the ZTE Quartz and Alcatel OneTouch Pop mega. Both of these phones are of the large form factor variety so if you like this type of form factor then this comparison may be of interest to you.

Note that the Pop Mega includes a Bluetooth “Buddy” device that allows you to make and receive phone calls and texts. (Device not pictured)

Check Straight Talk Availability

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ZTE Quartz

Unico Availability

 

straight-talk-alcatel-mega-popAlcatel Pop Mega

Sonic Availability

 

Phone Dimensions 6.05″ x3.10″ x 0.37″ 6.39″ x 3.30″ x 0.35″
Included Bluetooth Device None Includes Bluetooth “Buddy” device
Screen Size Diagonal:5.5″ Diagonal: 6.00″
Processor Speed 1.2ghz Quadcore
1.2ghz Quadcore
Weight 7.00 oz 6.55 oz
Android Version 4.3 Kit Kat 4.3 Kit Kat
Technology & Calling Area CDMA 3g/WiFi (Verizon or Sprint) 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 Not Included, supports up to 32gb Not Included, supports up to 32gb
Camera 8 mega pixel/LED flash/Front facing 1.3mp
8 mega pixel / LED Flash/front facing 2mp
Price $199.99 $249.99

Technology and Calling Area

This I would say is main difference between the two devices. On the one hand, we have the ZTE Quartz which is a CDMA device, as such it would be activated with Verizon. Additionally, the phone is standard 3g so you do not get the fast LTE data. The Alcatel Pop Mega on the other hand, is a GSM phone with fast 4g LTE data. This means it would be activated with AT&T. Be sure to have LTE coverage in your area before purchasing this phone.

Conclusion, the Pop Mega will facilitate much faster data downloads so it’s worth the extra 50 bucks.

Specs

Specs are pretty much a wash. Both phones have excellent 8mp cameras with LED flash. They both have 1.2ghz Quadcore processors so both phones will perform basically the same. Then there is the large screens, the Mega has the larger 6″ screen compared to the 5 1/2″ unit on the Quartz. Truth be told, both screens look pretty much the same and both phones have measure pretty much the same as well.

The one item I will mention is the fact that the Pop Mega has much better sound quality when on speaker as it has a much larger speaker opening. It’s probably 4 times larger than the Quartz. There is definitely a noticeable difference between the two.

Lastly is the so called “Buddy” device that comes with the Pop Mega. This little device looks like an old school feature phone device. It woks by connecting to the phone via Bluetooth thus allowing you to make phone calls and text without using the main phone. The buddy device is quite small so you may find it more convenient to use when making phone calls.  It’s not very text friendly though because it’s alpha numeric.

Design & Build Quality

Build quality is again a wash on both phones. they are both plastic construction and neither has Gorilla Glass screen. I do find the Quartz to be a better looking phone because it has an aluminum look trim between the battery cover and phone bezel. The Pop Mega is all black with no such trim.

Android buttons are basically the same on both of these. Both phones have back lit buttons. Lastly is the battery cover with both phones having a slight rubberized feel to them. While I am writing about batteries, I will mention that both phones have permanent batteries. That is to say, they cannot be replaced when they go bad. Keep that in mind if you are the type to use your phone for a long time. Both batteries will probably give you over 2 years of service before you have to worry about it.

Conclusion

My conclusion is that the Alcatel OneTouch Pop Mega is the superior device here mainly because you get the fast LTE data speeds, larger screen without it being much bigger. You also get the “buddy” device which you can use to make a quick phone call. Before you buy the Pop Mega be sure to check your coverage area for LTE coverage from AT&T.

Straight Talk LG Access LTE Review

Specs – Straight Talk LG Access

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Dimensions Height 5.00″ x Width 2.60″ x Thickness .40″
Weight 4.5 Ounces
Form Factor Compact Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology GSM 4G LTE (Activates with 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 1.2 ghz Quadcore
SD Card/Internal Memory SD Card not included, supports up to 32gb
Android OS Kit Kat version- 4.4
Digital Camera 5 mega pixels with LED flash & .3 mp front facing
Screen Size 4.5″ Diagonal
Battery Life 10 days stand by & up to 7 hrs talk
Button Types Capacitive Touch with center push button
USB microUSB v2.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price $229.99

About the LG Access

lg_access_4The LG Access is an all new 4G LTE phone for Straight Talk. Highlights on the Access are 4g LTE data, Gorilla Glass screen, 1.2 ghz quad core processor, handsome design and extra apps such as Infra Red TV/Cable/Satellite remote app. The LG Access is an excellent phone with features typically found on higher end devices.

Specs

The base specs on the Access are excellent beginning with the 4G LTE fast data. Additionally, you get a Gorilla Glass screen and a fast 1.2ghz quadcore processor. This device comes with Android 4.4 (Kit Kat) so you get one of the latest Android Operating Systems out there.

While the price tag on this phone seems a bit high, you do get some extras not found on any other Straight Talk Android device at this price range. One of the coolest, is the built in Infra Red TV/Cable Box/Satellite remote which gives you the ability to control said devices directly from your phone. Programming the remote is quite easy as it guides you through the entire process. I was able to program it for my Sony LED TV and it worked great!

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I also found some surprising little features in the settings as this phone comes with the face recognition capabilities so that it knows when to pause videos when you are not looking at it.  Finally, the last cool feature I found is the so called knock code. This allows you to program a sequence of touches to 1 of 4 quadrants on the screen. When this is programmed, you can bring the phone right out of sleep/lock by simply entering the touch sequence on the screen.

A bit of a let down was the 5mp camera as the resolution is a bit low for a phone at this price tag. I think this phone should have come with an 8mp unit. You do get an LED flash and a front facing .3 mp camera as well.

While there are other Straight Talk LTE devices for less money and similar specs, this is the only Straight Talk device I have found with the TV remote app.

Design & Look Feel

The Access design can be summed up as handsome. While this isn’t a super flashy design, it is what I would call attractive. What I really like about the Access is the size as this phone falls in the just right department. In other words, this phone is not too small that you can’t watch videos but it isn’t super large that you can carry it in you pocket.

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Design elements include an aluminum look trim in between the screen bezel and battery cover. The phone bezel is a dark gray color that’s almost black.  The layout is as follows: volume button is on the upper left hand side, power/lock on the upper right hand side, head phone jack is on the top left and the charge port is on the bottom center. The android buttons are both capacitive touch and physical push. The touch buttons are to either side of the physical push one. Unlike similarly designed Straight Talk LGs, this one does not have the multi colored LED light surrounding the physical push button. Additionally, the capacitive touch buttons are not back lit. Lastly, is the gloss dark blue almost black patterned battery cover.

Overall, the design is minimal yet sophisticated. I liked the fact that it’s not solid black as it has just the right amount of design trims to break it up a bit. I was a bit disappointed with the lack of back light on the Android buttons but this was by no means a deal breaker for me.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I found the Access to be quite a nice little phone. I really liked the little remote control app simply because I have never found this capability on other phones, at least not without having to pay extra for an app. The Gorilla Glass and LTE speeds really set this phone apart from other similarly designed LG phones. That said, I did find a bit overpriced but I think it’s mostly because I have come to expect most Straight Talk LGs to be priced in the sub $200 price range.

Straight Talk Alcatel One Touch Pop Mega LTE

Specs – Straight Talk Alcatel OneTouch Pop Mega LTE

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Dimensions Height 6.39″ x 3.32″ x 0.34″
Weight 6.42 Ounces
Form Factor Xtra Large Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology GSM LTE 3g with WiFi/Activated 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 Dual Core
SD Card/Internal Storage SD card not included/Capable of up to 32gb micro SD card
Android OS Android 4.3
Digital Camera 8 mega pixels/2mp front facing camera/LED flash
Screen Size 6.0″ Diagonal
Battery Life 22 days stand by & up to 14 hrs talk
Button Types Capacitive touch buttons
USB microUSB v4.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price $249.99

About the One Touch Pop Mega

The Pop Mega is the grandaddy of them all when it comes to the Alcatel One Touch series. As the name implies, this phone is over the top HUGE. Make no mistake, this phone is bordering on phablet territory, it’s still a phone but almost a tablet.  This is by far the largest screened budget device Straight Talk has released to date. Of course the large screen implies that the phone body is large and it is indeed. This thing measures close to 6.5 inches in height! It’s also rather wide at over 3.25″ wide, most phones are around 2.5″. The good news is though that it is quite slim measuring in at just .35 inches in thickness.

Aside from the obvious large size, the other notable aspect of the Pop Mega is the fast LTE data speeds.  Be aware that this phone is GSM so will require either AT&T or TMobile LTE coverage. In short, I think this is about as close to the S4 in terms of size you are going to find at this price range.

Specs

I think the star here is obviously the ENORMOUS screen size. This one comes in at around 6.0″” measured diagonally. This one is not for the faint of heart when it comes to size and don’t even think about it if you are a pocket carrier because this thing will NOT fit in any pant pocket.

Yet another star on this phone is the excellent 8mp camera. It’s one of the only budget Straight Talk devices with that many megapixels at its disposal. Most other phones in the Straight Talk line come in at the usual 5 mp resolution.

Lastly, is the 1.2ghz Dualcore processor that’s coupled with the 4.3 Android version. This one has plenty of horsepower to drive the massive screen.

Design & Look Feel

The most obvious design feature here is the impressive size. Other than that, everything else is pretty standard on the phone. It comes with all black plastic construction which is typical for a budget line phone and everything is located where one would typically find things on a phone of this nature. The Android buttons below the screen are capacitive touch and per usual, you only get the 3 button layout. The phone is void of any decorative type elements such as chrome trims and such.

The one cool feature is the fact that there is very little wasted space on the face as the massive screen takes up just about 100% of it. It’s quite efficient on real estate usage to say the least.

Final Thoughts

You really need to be a HUGE fan of large form factor phones, no pun intended. This phone can be summed up with it’s name sake MEGA. If that’s your ticket, then I highly recommend this phone as it has Samsung S like features and size at a very sub $300 affordable price tag.

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 5.5″ 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 $199.99

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 5.5″ 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 ghz dualcore processor. One item of disappointment is the fact that you do not get an SD card included with the phone and you will need to run out and get one if you plan on storing lots of music and/or images as the phone really only has about 1 gig worth of usable space.

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. One thing you will find, if you’ve never handled a large phone like this, is that it tends to feel very top heavy when you hold it from the bottom, like in a texting in Portrait mode situation.

Final Thoughts

This phone is really large so pocket carriers need not apply! Additionally, I felt that while the phone is nice enough, it is a bit overpriced considering you don’t event get LTE. That said, this is a good multimedia device for video lovers on a budget. Do keep in mind that the sound quality is not the best though acceptable. Finally, the high resolution camera is great but I’m still not sure the phone is quite worth the price tag. If you like large screened devices and have AT&T LTE coverage in your area, I would rather go for the Alcatel OneTouch Pop Mega being that you get much more for just $50 more.

Tracfone Alcatel One Touch Pop Icon

Specs – Tracfone Alcatel OneTouch Pop Icon

straight-talk-alcatel-pop-icon
Dimensions Height 5.55″ x Width 2.84″ x Thickness .38″
Weight 5.30 Ounces
Form Factor Large Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology CDMA 3g data with WiFi/Activated with either Verizon or Sprint
Calling Plan Tracfone Android plan
Downloadable Apps Yes, all apps available through Google Play store. Comes with Youtube, Google Maps, GPS Navigation.
Processor 1.2 ghz Quad Core
SD Card/Internal Storage SD card not included/Capable of up to 32gb micro SD card
Android OS Android 4.4
Digital Camera 5 mega pixels/front facing camera/LED flash
Screen Size 5.0″ 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

149.99 Check Availability

About the OneTouch Pop Icon

Besides being  a mouthful to say, this Alcatel device is a large screened entry level device for the multimedia lovers out there. Highlight here is an enormous 5.0″ screen. One interesting feature on the phone is what they call “Simple Mode” which is designed with novice smartphone users in mind. When in “Simple Mode”, the icons become jumbo large and the navigation is simplified to 3 basic screens, the contacts screen, main home screen with phone dialer/text and the apps menu that displays all apps from A-Z in a running table similar to a contacts type view.

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Specs

For the price, the Pop Icon brings great specs to the Tracfone Android plan.  This phone is far superior to the basic Androids previously available. For starters, you get a quad core 1.2 ghz processor along with one of the newer Android versions in the form of Android 4.4.  The most obvious item of course is the huge 5.0″ screen which looks great when watching movies and the like. This is currently the largest screened device currently available direct from Tracfone.

The phone also has a great digital camera as it comes with a 5mp unit and built in LED flash. Additionally, you get a .3 mp front facing camera located in the upper right hand corner.

Last but not least, is the excellent speaker yielding great sound quality when on speaker or watching videos. The Pop Icon has a fairly large speaker on the bottom rear of the phone. For sure the best sound quality having Tracfone currently available.

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Design & Look Feel

The design is nothing super special here. It comes to us with the prototypical 3 button Android layout that has now become standard fare on entry level devices.  An all black plastic body highlights the simple and easy to use design.  The body is all black without any fancy chrome looking trims. The back battery cover is flat black with a bit of a rubberized feel to it. The bezel around the phone is satin black. As expected, the screen is also plastic so no Gorilla Glass on this one.

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Moving on the rest of the layout, on the top you find the usual 3.5mm headphone iPod style jack. The volume and power buttons are located on the right hand side and finally the charge port is located on the bottom. One thing to mention is that this one does not come with a preinstalled SD card so you will need to purchase one to store your music and the like. This one supports up to a 32gb card.

Ease of Use

One of the items worth mentioning on this phone is the ease of use feature called “Simple Mode”. What this does is to simply make navigation more intuitive by reducing the navigation down to 3 screens. The first screen is the contacts, the main screen contains the main phone dialer and text messaging icons and finally the last screen lists all of the apps in a running table similar to how you would see a contacts list. The phone comes configured with this out of the box.  Lastly, when in “Simple Mode”, the icons become jumbo large so they are easily visible without putting on your pair of reading glasses.  This feature can easily be defeated by by going into the Settings and turning the simple mode off. I have reviewed well over 100 phones and this is the first time I see this feature so it seems to be something unique to this specific model.

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Since you get a 5″ screen, the texting keyboard is quite easy to navigate because the icons are a bit larger than is typically found on smaller phones. The phone dialer also has large icons making that easy to navigate as well. One thing I will mention is that all other apps remain the same as far as navigation and ease use (or lack there of). The icons on the apps also remain the same size as if the phone were in regular mode.

Final Thoughts

I always like Alcatel phones because they have great features for the money. The OneTouch Pop Icon is no exception. For $149.99, you get excellent specs and a large screen.  Before you buy the OneTouch Pop Icon, be sure you are in a Verizon or Sprint calling area. Also keep in mind that this phone is 3g phone only.

Straight Talk Huawei Magna

Specs – Straight Talk Huawei Magna

straight-talk-huawei-magna
Dimensions Height 4.96″ x 2.51″ x 0.43″
Weight 5.29 Ounces
Form Factor Large Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology GSM 4g 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 1.2 ghz
SD Card/Internal Storage SD card not included/Capable of up to 32gb micro SD card
Android OS Android 4.3
Digital Camera 5 mega pixels
Screen Size 4.5″ Diagonal
Battery Life 10 days stand by & up to 10 hrs talk
Button Types Capacitive touch buttons
USB microUSB v4.0
Audio Jack & Charging Standard 3.5mm iPod type / micro usb charge/data
Price n/a

About the Huawei Magna

I’m not really sure what to make of the Huawei Magna. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this device. It’s got good specs, an excellent price and it does everything well. My problem with this phone is that it just does not stand out.

There’s not a single item on this phone that I can point out is unique to this particular model.  About the only thing I can say is noticeable is the 4g data speeds. Now don’t confuse this with 4G LTE as it is not the same. This phone is more of enhanced 3g speeds.

Specs

Specs here are fairly average for a phone at this price range. The main reason I have always liked Huaweis was simply because they were inexpensive and reliable. The same can be said about this phone and its specs. I will try to summarize everything here though to be honest, there’s nothing that really stands out about the phone specs wise.

For starters, the phone comes with a 4.5″ screen measured diagonally which is not about the standard size on most new phones.  The screen performs great and displays bright and clear, no complaints there to be sure.

Next, is the 1.2 ghz processor that performs great with Android 4.3. This is not a dualcore unit like the Alcatel LTE devices, which I highly recommend by the way. The equivalent to this device is the Alcatel One Touch Pop Star LTE. Anyhow, continuing on, we next find a typical 5mp digital camera that performs admirably.

Final Thoughts

The Huawei Magna is a fine device with a great price tag for the budget conscious. That said, there is simply nothing on it that stands out for me. I would say this phone is about average compared to most others at this price point on the Straight Talk line up. This is not to say the phone performs in an average manner, it’s just that there are any stand out highlights on it to speak of.

Straight Talk Alcatel One Touch Pop Star LTE

Specs – Straight Talk Alcatel One Touch Pop Star LTE

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Dimensions Height 4.84″ x Width 2.50″ x Thickness .38″
Weight 4.6 Ounces
Form Factor Large Candybar Touchscreen
Network & Technology GSM LTE 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 1.2 ghz Dua lcore
SD Card/Internal Storage SD card not included/Capable of up to 32gb micro SD card
Android OS Android 4.3
Digital Camera 5 mega pixels/front facing camera/LED flash
Screen Size 4.0″ 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 n/a

About the One Touch Pop Star LTE

Here is another long named Alcatel device from Straight Talk. This phone can be considered the baby brother to the Alcatel Sonic. This is because the One Touch Pop Star has a much smaller 4″ screen. Essentially, all other specs are quite similar to the a fore mentioned Sonic. One notable feature is the fact that the Pop Star comes with the newer Android 4.3.

The main feature here is that the One Touch Pop Star comes with the fast LTE data which would be activated with either AT&T or TMobile.  I would recommend this phone if you want the fast LTE data in a smaller form factor than the other Alcatel One Touch devices.

Specs

I think that this little phone has some excellent specs for the sub $200 price tag. To begin with, the Pop Star comes with fast LTE data. The next item worth talking about is the 1.4ghz dual core processor. This fast processor coupled with Android 4.3 makes the Pop Star a super fast performer. I think this phone is a bargain for the specs.

One of the items I really like on this phone is the same 5mp digital camera that comes with the One Touch Sonic. The camera on this little phone takes excellent images. In addition, the camera has built in LED flash so you can take decent low light images.

Overall, specs are great on this phone and you really can’t go wrong considering the relatively low cost.

Design & Look Feel

Perhaps the one and only slight disappointment on the Pop Star is the rather pedestrian looks of the phone. As with the other One Touch models, the Pop Star has the usual 3 button Android layout below the screen. All other items are in typical locations with the power/lock on the top, the headphone jack is also found on the top, the volume buttons are on the top right and finally the charge port is on the bottom.

So despite the Pop Star name, the phone isn’t exactly a Pop Star in looks. I think this is ok because this phone is all about great specs at an excellent price.

Final Thoughts

Like all the other Straight Talk One Touch series phones, the Pop Star LTE has some impressive specs for the price. Despite the sub $200 price tag, this phone is an excellent performer. I also like the compact form factor while still retaining the LTE data speeds. I would not hesitate to recommend this phone to anyone that has GSM LTE coverage in their area.

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 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.