Yuhnke Commentary: 'Green' smartphone offers big features without a big price

PHOENIX - Not every smartphone has to break the bank at $200 or more. Many of us simply don't want to spend that kind of cash. Sprint just launched two new 4G LTE phones, one of them is the LG Viper 4G LTE that sells for $99.99. Not only is it a solid smartphone but it also packs a punch without breaking the bank.

The Viper has a fairly impressive list of specifications. It has a nice 4" touch screen. I like this size even though it pales in comparison to some of the giant screens we're seeing in high-end smartphones. It has a 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor, a 5 Megapixel rear camera, a VGA front-facing camera for video calls and a built-in NFC chip. Near Field Communications means the phone can scan embedded NFC chips and be used with Google Wallet to make wireless payments at various businesses. It's a cool feature that we'll be seeing a lot more of in the future.

The Viper runs Google Android 2.3. This is a bit of a disappointment. The latest version, 4.0, was released at the end of 2011. Sprint confirmed to me that the Viper will get a free upgrade to 4.0 although a date is not set.  2.3 is just fine but 4.0 is the latest and greatest. Hopefully you don't mind waiting a few months.

As mentioned earlier, the Viper is one of Sprint's first 4G LTE smartphones. Problem is, Sprint hasn't actually activated its' LTE network anywhere. The phone will work just fine on the existing 3G network. You'll have to wait if you want to suck down 4G speeds though. In Arizona this is a non-issue since Sprint never launched its' previous 4G technology, WIMAX, in our state. Old 4G phone, new 4G phone - you're not getting 4G on Sprint either way. Hopefully Sprint will activate LTE in Arizona sometime this year but I'm not holding my breath.

The LG Viper is one of Sprint's eco-friendly phones. The casing is made from 50 percent recycled plastics. The charger is energy efficient. It's CarbonFree certified and comes in fully recycled packaging. It's not easy being green but Sprint and LG are taking some of the complication out of it. Sprint even includes a postage-paid envelope to recycle your old phone. Well done, Sprint.

Overall, the LG Viper 4G LTE on Sprint is a solid Android smartphone at a reasonable price. You get some of the latest technology like a dual-core processor, Near Field Communication and LTE compatibility. On the other hand, the software is a step behind and LTE won't work until Sprint rolls out network upgrades. If you don't mind waiting for a software upgrade (confirmed but no date set) and lack of 4G at the moment isn't an issue, the LG Viper is a solid choice for only $99.99 with a 2-year contract on Sprint.

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