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I picked up this little candy-bar style phone from KMart a few weeks back, when it was on sale for $9.99 (which, by the way, it is again at KMart, now through June 7). This is apparently Tracfone’s replacement as the GSM base model handset, taking the place of the Motorola C139. Based on my dissatisfaction with that model, I did not have the greatest of expectations for this particular phone. However, I was very pleasantly surprised.
First, the visual appeal of the w175g, in my opinion, is fantastic, especially by Tracfone standards. It features a sleek, light appearance enhanced by a large, bright, glossy screen and buttons that are flush with the surface of the phone. The phone does carry the word “Tracfone” engraved in the back of the phone. But other than that, I tend to believe that this handset does a good job of looking like a “normal” cell phone rather than a prepaid phone, which may be important to some.
But for most Tracfone users, though, I’m assuming that little things like appearance are not the most important details. So let’s get on to what matters: Battery life, voice quality, and signal reception were all excellent on this model – far surpassing the C139 that this phone replaces as well as the Kyocera K126C, the CDMA counterpart from Tracfone.
I made several test calls, and was very happy with the performance of this phone. For one particular call, I called someone first from the w175g and talked for 10 minutes before calling back from my landline phone immediately after ending the Tracfone call. In that case, the person I was talking to was unable to determine which phone was the cell and which was the landline (they didn’t have caller ID). For my part, I actually thought that the w175g performed as well as my landline phone, and at least as well as any Tracfone model I’ve used. Two thumbs up there.
For another portion of my testing, and the reason for the delay in this review getting posted, is that I took the phone with me across my state for a weekend trip. I had with me 3 other Tracfone GSM phones as well as a Net10 GSM phone, all for the purpose of comparing the signal strength among the various handsets. Among the Moto V170, V176, C139, and Nokia 1100, the signal received by the w175g was as good as any of the phones I tried. Again, two thumbs up.
At the beginning of the aforementioned cross-state trip, I made sure that all the phones I took with me were fully charged. 6 days later, the w175g shows 1/3 battery on the on-screen indicator. This time covered some periods during my trip in which signal was very low or non-existant, something that I’ve found to be hard on battery life with other phones. I also talked for 12 minutes, and spent maybe 20 minutes playing with the menus of the phone. I believe that this should fairly represent the “average” Tracfone usage patterns, if there is such a thing. All that being said, battery life seems to be very good. I don’t know if it will live up to the 18-day standby time touted on the phone’s packaging, but it’s great nevertheless. By way of comparison, the C139 I took along with me died completely after 4 days of standby (no talk time or “menu exploration”).
Speaking of menu exploration – the menu layout on the w175g seemed to make sense to me after a little time getting used to it. I’m confident that anyone who picks up this phone could find their way around it with minimal practice. It has the tiled icon look similar to what you’d find on the Motorola V176 or W370. While the menu layout of some of the older models such as the Motorola V170 or Nokia 1100 are simpler, they also include less features, so I guess it makes sense that the w175g needed to include more options. All in all, I’m sure that if you owned this phone, you’d learn the menu functions in an acceptable amount of time. And, to make calls, it’s as simple as dialing the number and pressing “send.” So, no worries there.
While the menus were fairly easy to navigate the biggest complaint I had about this phone was the dexterity required to use the keypad one-handed. I found it somehwhat more difficult to use than my trusty old Nokia 1100, which admittedly I’ve been using for 3+ years, so I’ve had plenty of time to get used to it. But I thought that the flat keypad combined with the elongated, narrow shape of the phone to make one-handed use somewhat difficult. Keep in mind here that I don’t use an ipod or play more than a few hours of video games a year, so my thumb dexterity is probably lacking compared to many young people. Maybe some readers will have absolutely no problem using the flat keypad and small scroll wheel to navigate the menus. However, I could certainly understand how some people – those with larger hands or those who are less accustomed to manipulating their thumbs across small keys – might have trouble with the keys at first.
And, the other negative – at the beginning of this review I mentioned the sleek appearance and glossy screen. That glossy screen easily attracts fingerprints and other smudges. They won’t prevent you from reading the screen by any means, but may bother some people who want everything to look perfect all the time. If you’re the sort of person that would be bothered by your phone occasionally appearing imperfect, stay away.
I consider both of these last two points to be very minor though, and I will assume that they would not deter a low-volume caller from considering this phone. All in all, I feel that the w175g is a giant step up from its predecessor (Motorola C139) and is a much more desirable alternative than the Tracfone CDMA counterpart base model handset (Kyocera K126C). If you are considering this phone as your first Tracfone or an upgrade from one of the two mentioned above, I definitely believe that you will be satisfied with your purchase, especially if you can pick it up on sale for $9.99. Keep in mind, though, that the W370 flip phone is still being offered for $25 after rebate from Amazon (click here for more details), and that phone includes free double minutes for life. I am a firm believer that the double for life deal will make the extra $15 money well spent over the life of your phone.
I personally won’t be buying any more of these for a while, as I am a big fan of the bundle deals from Tracfone.com that offer airtime plus a free refurbished phone. But, once Tracfone eventually clears all those C139′s from its inventory and begins to offer the w175g as the freebie model, I will absolutely be looking to upgrade some of my friends and family that have older phones.