Inside the Slider is where things officially begin to fall apart. Everything is powered by an 800 MHz Snapdragon CPU, which is simply not up for the job of keeping things running, to an even moderately smooth degree. Despite the thoroughly less than modern flavor of Android, Gingerbread 2.3.4 to be exact, everything is slow, jittery, and generally unresponsive.
There is a considerable, some might say intolerable amount of lag between inputs and executed actions on screen. Scrolling and screen transitions are where the lack of horsepower is most noticeable. Things are generally fine once you're inside an app or game, but switching back and forth will often result in the Slider freezing for a number of seconds, leading to assumptions that the phone has completely locked up.
The lackluster performance is perplexing. While a single core 800 MHz processor is meager by today's standards, it should still run Gingerbread well enough, especially when it's a mostly stock variant. There is no custom UI to speak of, other than a Virgin Mobile specific intro animation that only happens when the phone is turned on or off.
On the plus side, for some at least, is how the Android experience is mostly unfiltered. Those who are not a fan of custom overlays will be able to breath a sigh of relief. Though one has to wonder how much a custom UI might have either further hindered the Slider, or perhaps helped its case, provided if one was properly optimized for the platform.
But because it's an older version of Android, and on a device that cannot allow for upgrading, you can forget about some of the more recent apps in the Google Play Store. The stock web browser is okay, but it can't hold a candle to the Android version of Google Chrome. Which, alas, is not available to Slider owners. It's a situation that will continue to worsen over time.
As noted earlier, music is one of the primary focuses of the device. The Slider comes pre-loaded with a variety of ringtones and notifications and alerts that are actually decent. The default tones might not be most people's cup of tea, but there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. Though the emphasis on music is mostly felt in the pre-loaded applications.
Carrier provided apps is an annoyance for most Android users, mostly because they cannot be un-installed. And their presence on a Virgin Mobile device is especially perplexing, since it somewhat betrays the M.O. of the no strings, mostly autonomous experience. But given their primary focus, they can at least be rationalized.
My Accounts is fairly self-explanatory; it allows the customer to monitor account activity, view balance, and pay for additional service. Too bad both the phone number and password, both necessary to access account information, is not saved by the phone, which is a bit of a pain. The worst part is how it is not a true application, but simply a web alias. One that, curiously enough, cannot be deleted.
Downloads allows users to purchase ringtones that are based on hit songs and wallpapers featuring today's hottest musicians. One can also find shortcuts to a variety of online portals, which provide sports scores, info pertaining to local nightlife, and places to find a date. It's something straight out of 2002 and might actually be the case.
The idea behind Downloads, that being a one-stop resource for anything you would need from the web, made sense back in the day, before phones were designed for web surfing and a variety of applications that expertly provided specific bits of content were in place. The overall look and feel is equally archaic, and feels like something you remember from your very first cell phone, which was powered by J2ME. In fact, it's clear that it's a holdover from Virgin Mobile's past that they have completely neglected to update to today's specifications.
Virgin Mobile also places heavy importance on social networking, hence the presence of Twitter and Facebook clients, both pre-installed. These are not custom applications, but the same stock version you'd find in the Google Play Store. With one lone exception: they cannot be uninstalled. For many, this is a non-issue, but for those who actively hate both services, this is will be a major source of annoyance.
Three other social networking apps that are not nearly as well known are also found. First there's Poynt, which serves up movie times, restaurant reviews, places to find gas, and the like. SCVNGR is a location-based game that rewards players for completing tasks that are tied into local businesses, with perks stemming from them as rewards. And airG is yet another mobile social network, one that is primarily built around dating.
But the centerpiece pre-installed app would have to be Virgin Mobile Live, which is the primary hub for Virgin Mobile specific content. It allows one to stream audio, much like an internet radio station, and can run in the background. Given how unlimited data is a cornerstone of the carrier's sales pitch, there should never be a concern when it comes to eating up too much for the app. Whereas actually finding a signal is the actual concern.
If one likes what they hear, there is a Buy button, which automatically takes the user to an Amazon page, where that particular song can be purchased. Or at least that's what is generally supposed to happen. Sometimes, you'll come across a page on Amazon stating that there is no trace in their library.
The selection of music that is offered is mostly contemporary indie pop, with some classic alternative tracks and rap tossed into the mix. It's a great way to discover new acts that you might not have heard about otherwise, but it is disappointing that there's no real control from the users' end. One would have expected at least a small handful of stations to choose from, specializing in rock, R&B, and country. But no, it's just one curated station.
The Virgin Mobile Live app also has a video component, but those assuming that it contains music videos are sorely mistaken. Instead, it's simply a list of clips featuring the adventures of Sparah, a made up celebrity couple that is Virgin Mobile's corporate mascots. The videos, by the way, do not play in the app and instead either sends you to the default browser or the YouTube app.
The overall look and feel of the Virgin Mobile Live is also disappointing. When streaming music, a small thumbnail of the album art is provided, with necessary information, such as the artist and song title, presented in the form of a very slowly moving ticker at the bottom. Again, something that is supposed to be stylish is anything but.