Monday, January 31, 2011

Cheap WiFi Only Android Phone

Until now it has been relatively difficult to find an Android smartphone without a data plan that you could use with wireless Internet only. Some older Android phones can be picked up used, but you may have to pay at least something to get the phone in a working state. Not to mention the fact that older phones are often stuck with older versions of the Android operating system.

I have an old T-Mobile G1 that I use for Android development with wifi only, but to get it running I had to buy a SIM card and a month's worth of talk and data. I only had to pay around $30 for that, but I would have rather kept that $30 for myself. And in any case, the G1 was still running Android 1.6. Getting a newer version onto the phone requires rooting the device and upgrading the OS yourself, a time consuming and somewhat risky task.

But now there is a pretty good option if just want an Android smartphone but don't want to pay for a monthly data plan.

Virgin Mobile USA now offers the LG Optimus V for about $150. It's a decent but not spectacular phone, but best of all it runs Android 2.2 and you can get the phone up and running without ever buying a service plan.

As of this writing, Radio Shack and Target have the phones. If you want one, be sure you get the "Optimus V" (for Virgin Mobile) and not the "Optimus S" (for Sprint). Maybe the Sprint version allows this, but I'm not sure.

How to Activate the Android Phone with WiFi Only
Once you have the phone, charge it the battery and turn it on. Once Android has booted, unlock the screen by swiping the lock icon to the right. Click the Menu button (the physical button on the bottom left), then click Settings on the screen.

Click Wireless & Networks on the screen, then click Wi-Fi to turn on wirelss networking. Now you are set to access the Internet from the phone.

Now click Wi-Fi Settings to scan for and connect to available wireless networks. Once the phone successfully connects to a wireless access point, you're ready to go.


  1. I am sorely tempted to run out and get an Optimus V just so I can play with a cheap Android device. Heck, if I like it, I might switch from my iPhone 4 and AT&T to Virgin Mobile. Cheaper and no contracts, plus they have a MiFi!

  2. Thought that would work, but keeps reporting disabled on two different networks. Might have to activate it for a month or something.

  3. Any resolution to the above? If I knew I could use wifi without a contract I'd buy one instantly, but it sounds like they may have blocked wife if no contract?

  4. HockeySDakota: are you getting Internet connectivity through WiFi at all? I was able to do that out of the box, but I am pretty sure you can't use Google Voice to make calls without a plan.

  5. I think you can tango. I often continue using my optimus even when my plan runs out.

  6. WIFI is everywhere, from cafe's to malls... Is there a health risk in WIFI? Some says there is a great risk on it.

    1. The risk from wifi is far less than the risk of using a phone. However, they both carry risk. Let me summarize, based on my own experience.

      Anything wireless you may develop a sensitivity to. Corded is best (old fashioned curly corded phones and plug in the wall ethernet cables).

      My sensitivity first came from excessive phone use, including downloading several applications over my new Android. You need apps, right?! I talked 2000 minutes/month on average at the same time. This caused a noticable wireless sensitivity (dull pressure headache). Then the sensitivity snowballed! Next, cordless phones. Then wifi! Holy crap, I thought all those wifi people were a little crazy, but I then got it. It creshendoed (spelling) to the point that one day I couldn't even work, because my boss's phone with a cracked faceplate I could sense 2 seconds before it rang.. and he was 12 feet away through a cube wall. Ouch. How am I going to live, I thought? How can I go to the grocery store and be bothered by a woman on the phone 15 feet away? Doesn't she know that she's harming herself?

      Worst things:
      1. The thought of subjecting a minor to any of the following conditions.
      2. Being very far away from a tower in data transfer mode.
      3. Moving with a phone on GPS. Driving, for instance.
      5. Being very far away from a tower in talk mode.
      6. Moving with a phone in talk mode. Driving faster is worse than driving slower, but they're both bad. The reason is you're switching towers more often.
      7. Stationary data transfer mode.
      8. Stationary talk mode next to your ear.
      9. Driving and texting. Although this is down the list as far as having an impact for a headache, this is not recommended.
      10. Stationary talk mode on speaker away from your head.
      11. Sleeping with your phone next to your bed with bluetooth, location services, wifi, etc.
      12. Sleeping with your phone next to your bed or carrying your phone around in flight mode. Flight mode doesn't work right, it's better to NOT use it.
      13. Stationary talk mode on a wireless home phone.
      14. Sleeping with your phone on and next to your bed without any fancy settings.
      15. Wifi on laptop.

      How to protect you and your loved ones:
      * Cut out wireless. Get a corded phone and corded internet. There are little dohicky's you can buy, some help. But ultimately, they keep you limping along with wireless.
      * Cut down unneccessary driving, especially on conjested roads.

      Doing those two things helped me recover to the point that I can live a completely normal life. The only caveat is sunday school where everyone is looking up their scriptures on mobile devices. I have to leave the room.

  7. I am developing a smartphone app using PhoneGap with the Android emulator. I am now in need to go to the next step with testing on a real device (I need the camera function in my app). I don't need a mobile phone or a smartphone so I would like to purchase an Android 2.3 smartphone without entering in to a service plan with a carrier. I plan to use my home WiFi network for my Android smartphone to access the Internet. What are good Android smartphones recommendations?

  8. WiFi now on smart phones are much better that they were a year or two ago. It has definitely improved. Everything's fast now. I don't think anyone still uses fiber optics cabling to get internet nowadays.

  9. This is a Thank You for everyone who provided info about the voip solution.
    The situation was that I had horrible cell service and very good internet service. I heard of voip so I just started googling.
    Solution: an android with bad esn [$11 online] plus free Google Voice and GrooveIP [I got $5 version]. I can now call and text US & Canada free of charge on my wifi and any other wifi anywhere.
    Reading about it was confusing...actually doing the hookup was easy!
    Thx for the help.

  10. Hi Lindsey,
    Thanks for your information..

    Bad esn