Virgin Mobile sets new standard in low cost smartphones by Seth Weintraub @FortuneMagazine January 31, 2011, 6:40 AM EDT E-mail Tweet Facebook Google Plus Linkedin Share icons The LG Optimus V is now showing up at some Radio Shacks on Virgin’s network for only $149. I called Virgin Mobile’s data plan the best Smartphone plan on the planet last year. As far as I can see, no other carriers have yet come close to Virgin’s $25/ month after tax, unlimited data, unlimited texts and 300 anytime minutes per month plans. I have a hard time putting together a plan that costs even double that much, especially with unlimited data, which isn’t always available. Virgin Wireless USA is a wholly-owned Sprint S subsidiary and Virgin devices ride on Sprint’s 3G network. Virgin deals exclusively in prepaid plans, which means that the buyer is responsible for the price of the phone (no subsidies). Luckily, Virgin would sell you a midrange phone called the Samsung’s Intercept for $249 (or slightly less). The price of getting an Android phone just dropped $100 on Virgin’s network with the Optimus V, a cheaper Android phone without the Intercept’s hardware keyboard but a nicer screen and a thinner profile …and a better OS. Or at least that is the rumor being thrown around right now. Some guy was able to pick up a LG Optimus V at Radio Shack and do a rudimentary review on it (below). From Radio Shack’s site, you can see it has a slightly better screen than the Intercept without a physical keyboard. Most importantly, it has Android 2.2 which allows updated Gmail and Maps, Voice Actions and improved browsing. The Virgin Intercept is still stuck at Android 2.1 (though I’ve heard it will get updated to 2.2 shortly. Engadget had very positive things to say about the Optimus T and Optimus S, two siblings of the Optimus V on T-Mobile and Sprint respectively. There’s absolutely no doubt that the Optimus T and Optimus S offer incredible value. With nice hardware, up-to-date software, and most importantly, solid performance, there’s a lot to like for both first-time Android users and smartphone aficionados on a budget. The key to this phone is its low monthly charges. Most ‘free’ Google GOOG Android phones have plans that start out at around $75/month for unlimited data, texts, etc. With this phone’s $25/month plan, you break even on the $150 up front cost in 3 months. Virgin is expected to announce the phone officially tomorrow. If you are in the market for an inexpensive Android phone, I challenge you to come up with a better deal than the one that Virgin provides with its upcoming Optimus V.