Tracfone Samsung S425G Review
Over the years I've gone through several Tracfones, all because I was trying to find a handset that did everything I wanted it to do.
Well, I think I finally have one that fits the bill. Mostly.
Above is a Samsung S425G. It was bought refurbished for 10 bucks. And yes, it was only 10 bucks as it did include free shipping. On that link, you'll see a "refurbished" option. Depending on who is selling refurbs, you'll get a price anywhere from $9 to $15. There is absolutely no reason to buy this phone at full price new.
Now before I get into why I really like this handset, in my time using Tracfone I've discovered a few "secrets" about the way they do things, if you will.
If you'd rather skip to my review of the phone, scroll down or jump.
Most Tracfones use either T-Mobile or AT&T as the carrier. And yes, you can switch carriers, but only if you very specifically know how to do it.
The carrier is defined by the SIM card part number and not the account. Generally speaking, if the SIM card model number ends in C4, such as TF64SIMC4, it's AT&T. If it ends in a 5 or something else, it's most likely T-Mobile.
What this means is that in order to change carriers, you have to get a new SIM card.
Can you get a new SIM card for free? Yes. All you have to do is call Tracfone support and tell them you want another one, and they will mail it to you - BUT - and this is a big but - the only way you can get one with the carrier you want is to specifically request one that works in a specific ZIP code for that carrier.
For the ZIP code in Florida I live in, if I tell Tracfone to send me a new SIM, they will send me one for the T-Mobile carrier because that's what their computers say will work, even though it doesn't. T-Mobile in my ZIP barely works and even has problems sending SMS text messages, never mind placing phone calls.
And now comes the part on how I switched over my Samsung S425G from T-Mobile to AT&T.
Okay. So I get the phone and activate it. I see the "E" icon, which means the old EDGE network, as in the slow-as-molasses/barely-works network. Uh-oh.
I check the SIM, and yep, it's a T-Mobile carrier. Blah.
I call Tracfone and tell them to send me a new SIM - but with a special request. I specifically instruct them to send me one that works in ZIP code 33617 (Tampa Florida) because I know they can do that, and because I know any SIM card sent for that ZIP will be the AT&T carrier.
A few days later, the card arrives in the mail. I check the SIM model number and yep, it's a C4 just like it should be. I pop the card in, activate the phone, and ta-da, no "E" icon but rather a proper and strong "3G" icon instead. Very cool. Now my phone works correctly.
The phone review
Some people greatly prefer phones with tactile buttons and thumbpads, and I am one of those people. I've never been able to get along with a touchscreen phone, and I've owned two by Tracfone, the LG 840G and the LG 800G, both of which are just awful. Poor battery life, bad menus, etc. They both suck.
Now of course if you're seeking out a slider-style phone such as the S425G is, you've probably looked and quickly discovered this phone is not available for sale in stores or Tracfone's web site and that it must be bought online. Yeah, you've seen the T404G, but not the S425G.
Why is this? Probably because the S425G is being phased out. Or maybe for some other reason. I've no idea. But I can honestly say I like the S425G better than the T404G. Seems to have a better screen and the buttons feel better too.
So anyway, the review. I'll do this with a pro and con list.
Pro: Proper thumbpad layout
The soft keys are set wide on the far left and right so you don't hit them accidentally - which by the way is the #1 problem with the T404G as it has an "OK" button at bottom left that you will press accidentally from time to time. That doesn't happen on the S425G because "OK", as in "Send", is assigned to a soft key instead.
Pro: Camera Panorama and Geotagging options
The S425G may only have a 2MP camera, but it does have a panorama option (up to 6 pictures that it will auto-combine into one), and has GPS so you can geotag the phone to the exact location where it writes coordinate EXIF data. And yes, you can turn this off easily. But the fact it even has geotagging is amazing for a phone this cheap, as this is something ordinarily reserved for much higher-priced cameras and handsets.
Note on the geotagging thing: When you enable GPS for a photo, you see a little satellite icon on the display. If the icon is animated, the phone is acquiring a GPS signal. If the icon is not animated, a signal has been acquired and will store coordinate data when you take the photo.
This can be used for sending audio to a wireless headset or for transferring files to/from the handset. I use it for file transfer. It's very convenient because any time I don't have to connect a wire to do something, I'm a happy guy.
Pro: Memory card slot on OUTSIDE and not under the cover
The card slot is easily accessible and does not require taking off the rear plate to get to it. A 2GB card will hold about 1,000 photos at maximum quality that the camera can do, and that's the card I put in it.
Supposedly, the phone will support up to a 32GB card, but I personally would only put a maximum of a Class 4 8GB card in it just to be on the safe side. And yes, I would specifically "go slow" with class 4 because that better suits the 416MHz processor the phone has in it. Anything above that would show no appreciable difference as far as access speed is concerned.
If you're wondering how much storage it has with no additional memory card, it's 117MB, which is something like 100 photos at maximum quality for the 2MP camera it has.
Pro: Has a built-in countdown timer app
My last phone didn't have this, and this does. It's buried under "Tools", but can be assigned to the shortcut menu on front via the little envelope button on the keypad.
I actually use the timer app a lot and really missed not having it. For example, when I do laundry and load up the dryer, start a cycle and walk away, I can't hear when the dryer cycle finishes because I'm too far away from it. So I just set the timer app on my phone instead, and when it chimes, I know to go get my dry clothes.
Most phones these days have a "quick alarm" feature where you can set it for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour, etc. But having a timer app is just so much easier to work with.
Pro: Proper font and font display
The LG 840G had the worst font display I've ever seen on a cell phone. The font was readable, but the spacing between lines was way too much and you couldn't change it, and even the smallest font size was still too big.
The S425G on the other hand does font display perfectly. When viewing a text message, if you want to increase/decrease font size, just use the up/down volume button on the left. Very easy, very convenient.
It will separate groups of digits by dashes automatically. If the number is 18001234567, it will show as 1-800-123-4567.
The cursor does not "jump around" when composing a text message, even when you switch back and forth from keypad to thumbpad and back again.
Any text message received that is in your contact does display the name of the contact properly. You'd think all phones would do this, but many don't.
Pro: Battery life
6 hours talk time, 12.5 days standby time.
In real world figures, that means if you do mostly texting, such as I do, you only have to charge the phone once a week.
Con: Not totally snug when slider is closed
This is a problem with all slider phones, and the S425G is no different.
I will say that the S425G does have a tighter fit when the slider is closed compared to most other phones, but still, it does move a little bit. You especially notice this when taking photos with the phone.
Con: Weak speaker
It's not very loud.
Con: Volume for text alerts requires a lot of experimentation
When changing settings for the sound profile, what you set for a text alert volume is never what you hear. You'll have to send yourself a few texts to know what the actual volume will be, and you'll most likely have to bump up the volume for texts a few notches.
Con: Music player has TOTALLY HIDDEN feature to skip to specific time
I found this out by experimentation as this is listed NOWHERE in the documentation for this phone.
The S425G, like most other Tracfones with keypads that are Samsung-branded, has a center button surrounded by four directional buttons, which are called "navigation keys" in the manual.
When playing an MP3, if you want to skip ahead, press and HOLD the right navigation key. If you want to skip back, press and HOLD the left navigation key.
If you by accident just press left or right, the player jumps forward or back to the next or previous song in your song list, or restarts from the beginning if you only have one song loaded.
When skipping, the skips happen at 1-minute intervals at first, and the longer you hold a navigation key, it doubles to 2-minute, then 3-minute, etc.
Knowing this feature is the only way to have the music player be actually usable to listen to podcasts with, which is what I listen to most with the phone's music player.
Con: The only way to have certain contacts not ring the phone is to use a silent ringtone
Every so often some telemarketer moron will call my phone. Whenever I see a number I don't recognize, I head straight over to 800notes to check the number. 99% of the time that site will tell me if a number is a known telemarketer moron or not.
I have a contact set in my phone called "Telemarketer". In that contact, whenever I receive a call from one, I update that contact with the phone number I don't want to ring my line anymore (you can add something like 20 or more phone numbers even for just one contact by "adding fields" when editing a contact).
My silent ringtone is just a 10-second MP3 of silence. I have that one Telemarketer contact set to use the silent ringtone. No need to assign a separate contact group or any of that nonsense. Just one contact with a bunch of numbers, set to a custom silent ringtone. Not an elegant solution, but it works.
Con: No way to block text messages
I've only known one Tracfone that can do this, being the older T105G. That handset is the most basic phone you could possibly own. It's only double-minute (no triple-minute ever offered for that handset) and has no camera, but it does have the ability to block up to 10 numbers from texting you.
The S425G cannot block texts. In fact, it can't block anything. But this is true for 99% of Tracfones out there.
If you need the ability to block (skip this if you want to continue reading the review)
If you absolutely need the ability to block, you have to use Google Voice, and here's how it's done. It's kind of a long process, but totally worth it if you need blocking ability.
First, get a phone number from Google Voice. Free. The only time it will cost you anything is if you want to transfer your number, which as far as I know is a one-time cost of 10 bucks. If you do that, you'll have to call up Tracfone for another SIM card. Just tell them you want a new phone number and they'll send a card out to you for free. Wait until the GV number transfer is done first before you do this. DO NOT give out your new Tracfone number to anyone. Just keep using your old number that's handled by GV.
Second, set up GV to forward all calls and texts to your Tracfone number.
Third, from GV (as in from a web browser), text your friends and family and tell them you got a new phone (even if you didn't) and to text or call you back. What Google will do here is assign each one of the people that texts or calls you a unique phone number. When all those forwarded texts/calls come into your Tracfone, you'll see those unique numbers. Save all those numbers as contacts and name them appropriately. Whenever you text/call those numbers, it will use your GV number as the outgoing number and not the Tracfone number.
That probably sounds confusing, so I'll explain it again like this:
I go to Google Voice and login, then in the browser send you a text message. You reply to that message. That message is forwarded by GV to my Tracfone, using a unique number Google assigned to you that I see but you never see. I then assign that unique number in my Tracfone as your contact number. Whenever I call or text that number from that point on, it will use the GV number as the outgoing identifying number and not the Tracfone number.
If you're still confused by that, well, sorry, there's no better way I can explain it.
Important note: Google Voice at this point doesn't do MMS, or at least not very well. This means you can't send or receive photos via GV. Text only.
Third, you now have the ability to block anyone that texts or rings your GV number, plus a few other goodies.
If someone texts you that you never want to get texted from again, login to GV and "mark as spam". Any call or text sent to you from that number will never be forwarded to you ever again.
If there are certain numbers you want immediately dumped to voicemail and never ring your line, yep, you can do that.
You now have the ability to archive every single text message ever sent to you.
You now have the ability to search all your previous texts, both sent and received.
Believe me, GV is some seriously good stuff.
"But I don't want Google knowing all my texts!"
You use the phone company, and the phone company is more evil than Google ever could be. In other words, don't worry about it. The only way to not have your communications spied upon is to never use a phone. Since you're obviously going to use the phone, the fact Google will have all your texts archived doesn't make anything any better or worse concerning your privacy since the phone company already has that stuff stored and archived anyway.
Verdict: S425G = good
Good phone, long battery life, has useful little apps, proper thumbpad and keypad and the phone has everything where it counts.
The S425G may not have Wi-Fi and the 3rd-party app support is crappy (just Java stuff), but I consider it the best basic prepaid smartphone you could own, at least as far as a slider-style is concerned.
I can whiz through this phone's menus easily, can type up texts very quickly and really like the fact it can geotag photos.
Note on geotagging: Flickr does recognize that and can map it for photos that contain that EXIF data. And the way to send direct-to-Flickr from the phone is to send it to a private Flickr-assigned email address for your Flickr account. Just take a photo, put that in a text message as a photo attachment, and instead of sending to a number, send to the Flickr email address instead. Very easy.
Yeah, I'm happy with my S425G. I went through several Tracfone handsets before finally ending up with this one, and I dig it. Works for me, and I'd recommend it to others. Get one.