Money at 30: Mode Phone (and Current Rewards for Android) Review
A few short weeks ago, I shared my review of an app called Current Rewards that allows you to earn gift cards and cash just for listening to music (although you’ll need to do a bit more if you want to really earn points). As I noted in that review, I was first made aware of the app’s existence thanks to an ad I saw for the Mode Phone. Well, after having a positive enough experience with Current on iOS, I decided to order a Mode Phone for myself and see what it was all about.
So what is the Mode Phone and can it really help you make money (or at least earn rewards)? Let’s take a look at what the product has to offer and what my experience has been so far.
What is Mode Phone and How Does it Work?
Buying the phone and plan options
When it comes to buying the Mode Phone, you’ll need to decide whether you’d like to subscribe to a recurring plan or just buy the device outright. For the recurring plan, you’ll pay a one-time fee of $29.99, $9.99 for your first month, and then a GSM Unlock fee of $1.67, which is for some reason billed monthly. While the cost for this plan is $9.99 a month, it notes that it’s billed quarterly (making the GSM Unlock billed monthly thing even more confusing). But, the benefit here is that you can get a Mode Phone upgrade every 12 months.
Rather than figure out this recurring plan, I decided to just buy the device. This cost me a grand total of $149.97 — including $119.99 for the phone itself, $19.99 for a “world phone unlock upgrade,” and $9.99 for shipping.
Network compatibility (or using on WiFi)
Since the Mode Phone is completely unlocked, you can use the device on a number of wireless networks. However, those networks must be GSM. In other words, if you’re on Sprint or Verizon, you may be out of luck. To see if your network of choice is included you can try Mode’s compatibility checker.
Something else I should note is that you don’t even actually need to use a network if you don’t want to. In my case, while I likely could pop my T-Mobile SIM into the phone, I’ve just been using it on WiFi. So far, I haven’t encountered any issues with this in terms of earning and so I intend on keeping it this way.
Delivery, unboxing, and accessories
I’ll admit that, when I first placed my order for the Mode Phone, I wasn’t expecting to see it for some time. Perhaps it was because part of me thought it would be shipping from overseas, but I had it in my head that I would be waiting at least a couple of weeks before I’d get to test it out. Well, instead, my phone shipped remarkably quickly. Looking at my emails, it turns out that I placed my order on Saturday, June 26th and the phone was delivered on June 30th. That’s pretty impressive, especially since I initially ordered on a non-business day. Also, the phone was delivered via FedEx for what it’s worth.
Along with a nicely packaged new phone, the box included a charging brick, mini-USB cable, a headphone set with microphone, a clear case, and a 32 GB micro SD card. Interestingly, while it may just be a placebo, I felt like the Mode Phone charged better when I used the charging brick provided instead of just inserting the micro USB cable into my iPhone’s adapter. Elsewhere, coming from the iPhone, I was a little taken aback that I needed to remove the phone’s exterior in order to insert the SD card. This is also how you’d go about inserting your SIM. Luckily, I was able to pry the back off and get it back on with little issue.
As for the headphones… they may be the worst sounding pieces of crap I’ve ever heard. Like, cheaper than airplane headsets. I pretty much figured this would be the case and never planned on using them anyway, but, yeah, pure trash. Luckily, as you’ll see, there are other options that don’t require you to use those awful things.
Finally, the case I could really take or leave. They talk this up on the site as an added value but the price tag they put on it is a little generous. In any case, I’m rocking my Mode Phone sans case for now — let’s see if I end up regretting that.
Setting up my account
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when setting up my Mode Phone for the first time, but it was actually pretty simple. Of course, it helped that I already have a Google account, so I could register my new Android device under that. Additionally, I was happy to see that I could log into the Current account I had been using on iOS and continue earning points on Android. Overall, while it took a few minutes, I thought the setup process was easy enough and I was ready to go soon after.
One of the biggest unanswered questions I had prior to placing my Mode Phone order was whether or not it had Bluetooth. On the one hand, this is a pretty standard feature but, on the other hand, it could also be something that’s cut to save money. Thankfully, the Mode Phone is indeed Bluetooth equipped, allowing you to use wireless headphones or, in my case, connect a Bluetooth speaker. Meanwhile, as you’d expect considering that (atrocious) headphones were included in the package, there is a headphone jack on the device as well. Take that, Apple.
Turning to the specs, the phone has a 6.52″ screen, runs Android 10 (they’re about to release 12 for what it’s worth), has facial recognition for unlocking, includes a 13 megapixel main camera along with two useless other back cameras and a near-useless 5 megapixel “selfie” camera, and has a 4,000 mAh battery. Since I called out the camera, let me start there. While the main camera can take some decent shots in the right light, I’m not even sure what the additional cameras do other than complete the required multi-camera bump that all phones must have now. Additionally, while the face ID works well enough, the selfie camera is also not too helpful if you want to actually look good.
Before I say this next sentence, let me point out that I am not a tech reviewer and, thus, I’m sure Marques Brownlee would say otherwise. But, I think that the screen on this phone is perfectly fine. The games I play with the phone look sharp to my eye — although I haven’t watched any super high-quality movies on the phone or anything. Let’s just say that the screen looks a lot better than the headphones sound.
We’ll talk a bit more about the Mode’s Phone’s specs and their real-world implications as we jump into my experience using the phone.
Using the Mode Phone and My Experience So Far
When you head to your Mode Phone’s main page, you find the “Earn as You Go” widget. This will display your Current balance as well as offer shortcuts to some functions and options. These include:
Personally, I have yet to try all of these — and some are similar to the iOS offering. Therefore, I want to mostly focus on just a few of these “modes”: Game, Weather, News, Surf and Charge… as well as the unlock screen bonus. Of course, I’ll also cover Music, seeing as that’s what Current is built on.
We’ll start with Game, as it’s the way I’ve racked up the vast majority of my points so far. When you tap this mode or visit Boosters > Games in the Current app, you’ll see a few selected games that you can download, play, and earn points from. Keep in mind that these offers are only available to new players who haven’t previously downloaded the game. Also, these are different from the app downloads in Offers found in Current as those usually have goal-based bonuses instead of time-based ones.
Typically, your first reward will arrive after playing just one minute of using the app. From there, while the number of points you earn will grow, so will the amount of time you’ll need to spend using the app before you’ll claim that bonus. In my case, I decided to try out Dice Dreams, earning a healthy number of points for my initial download and play. However, the gravy train didn’t stop there as I was able to rake in hundreds of points for subsequent plays. At this time, my next bonus is for 1,000 points, which I can earn after playing another half hour. Meanwhile, the only other game listed for me at this moment is Coin Master, offering 138 points after 1 minute — however, I have seen other games pop up from time to time. In any case, I’m curious to see when my ability to earn from Dice Dreams will die off, but it hasn’t happened yet. Plus, every time I do hit a new goal, I unlock a Super Boost, increasing the points per dollar I earn from Music.
By the way, it’s clear that the reason these games are rewarding you with points is in hopes that you’ll spend money in their app. If you’re susceptible to such things, it may be best to stay away. However, if you have strong resolve, it can be a lucrative arrangement.
Weather, News, and Surf
I’m going to lump these three modes together because they’re fairly similar in their benefit. In each case, you can earn a daily bonus by activating these modes and checking the weather, news, and opening a web browser respectively. For Weather, you’ll earn 25 points daily while News and Surf will each net you 50 points. Even better, these payouts are increased when you have Bonus Bucks activated, increasing them to 38 points and 75 points.
Each of these tasks are super easy to accomplish each day. On top of that, the points you earn from them go toward your daily goal in Current, which earns you even more points. Thus, I’ve been making a point to hit up all three of these modes every morning.
When you charge your Mode Phone, you’ll also be able to earn points. That said, this means you’ll also be inundated with ads while you charge your phone (although it seems as though you can disable this feature in the Current app). If you leave it enabled, you can earn up to 140 points at a time. For example, if you leave your phone charging overnight, you’ll likely hit that 140 number by the morning. While this isn’t my favorite point-earning opportunity, it is ripe for optimization.
One other bonus I wanted to mention is the unlock/check-in bonus. You can score this bonus every two hours by simply unlocking your phone. However, this isn’t automatically available every two hours on the clock. Instead, once you lock your phone and activate the timer, the two hours will begin. Then, once it hits zero, you’ll have one hour to unlock your phone and claim the points. To be clear, you can unlock and use your phone in the interim but will need to be sure to swipe up from the unlock screen at the right time to claim the points.
Let me start with this: the Current app for Android actually has a search function! What’s more, this search function is better than I would have expected, allowing you to search for an artist and not only see stations that frequently play their music but also what stations are currently playing songs by said artist. Coming from the iOS app, this feature alone was a gamechanger for me and I’ve definitely been making use of it.
Another big issue I had with the iOS version of the app that the Android edition resolves is the ability to understand how you earn points. Whereas the iOS app really leaves you to guess what causes your earning rate to go up or down, it’s much clearer here. When you log into the app, you’ll see your current points-per-minute rate — say, 2.9 per minute. Then, when you complete various tasks, you can get a boost for the next hour. So, that 2.9 could become 3.9 per minute with a Super Boost activated.
Other than that, the music option in Current for Android works pretty much the same way. Yet, another benefit is that I feel as though the iOS version makes you check in more often to keep earning whereas the Android one (or at least the Mode Phone) hasn’t made me do this. Needless to say, all of these differences have made me enjoy listening to music via Current on my Mode Phone even more than I did on my iPhone.
More on earning points (Current Rewards for Android)
Here’s the thing: I’m not 100% clear on what earning features are exclusive to the Mode Phone and which are just part of the Android version of the app. However, from what I can tell, it seems as though the Weather, News, and Surf features accessible via the widget are just for Mode Phone users along with the 45-point “widget check-in” bonus.
In any case, I wanted to cover even more point-earning opportunities not featured in the iOS version of Current. The first is the Check-In streak. Each day that you tap “check-in” and complete a song, you’ll earn a few points and extend your stream. Then, when you reach certain milestones such as one week, two weeks, or a month of check-ins in a row, you’ll earn more significant bonuses. This could easily turn into a big deal as you grow your streak and earn easy points.
One other tab I wanted to highlight is found under Boosters and it’s called “Installs.” Although this is similar to some deals found in Mega Offers, Installs only features offers where you’ll just have to install the app and use it for a few minutes. The downside is that there aren’t a huge number of these apps and you can only do each once. Regardless, I appreciate the ease of these options while they last.
Cashing in points
As you rack up points, you’ll have a few choices for how to spend them. Mostly, this includes gift cards for various retailers, such as Amazon, Best Buy, Starbucks, iTunes, and more. There are also options for claiming cash via PayPal. However, I haven’t used this option as your PayPal account email address must match the one you use for Current (which isn’t the case for me).
Personally, I’ve been partial to Amazon gift cards. After one day of using the phone (combined with the few points I had leftover from my iOS use), I had enough for a $4 Amazon card. Less than a week later, I scored a $10 card. Then, just a few days after that, I was ready to claim yet another $10 card. In each case, my digital gift cards were emailed to me a day after I claimed them. From there, I just had to head to Amazon, enter the card number, and the balance was added to my account.
Another thing that’s pretty cool is that you track your progress toward reaching your chosen reward by setting a goal. In fact, Current will gift you with some bonus points just for selecting a goal. Then, you see what percentage of the way you are to your goal by tapping the “Redeem” tab.
Phone’s performance and quirks
Up until now, I’ve mostly focused on all of the ways you can earn points and rewards with Mode Phone. But how is the device itself? Well, it’s not always the greatest.
First, I feel like my music is interrupted far more using the Mode Phone than it was when I was streaming via my iPhone. Even when I close all the other apps, there are times when I can’t get a solid stream to save my life. There’s a chance that this might be related to my internet connection, but I doubt it since that’s typically very stable.
Speaking of stability, I also encounter several app crashes with the Mode Phone — especially with Current itself. I actually was worried that the app wasn’t going to work when I first got started as it would crash immediately after opening every time. To my relief, this was resolved after I updated the app via the Play store and it’s been better since (albeit not perfect).
Another quirk I’ve encountered is that in order to claim the points bonus from the widget I need to tap quite a few times. More specifically, I find that closing the Current app, reopening it via the widget, and then trying it again gives me the best chance of getting it to work.
As frustrating as the Mode Phone’s performance can be at times, there are other instances where it works perfectly well. I’m really not sure what the differences are, but I’ll keep testing to see if I can find the culprit.
$900 a year?
On the Mode Phone site, they estimate that you can earn $900 a year in rewards by using the phone. They also note that this is based on an average of four hours a day of use. Also, this is 50% higher than the $600 a year they suggest you can earn from just the Current app alone.
In my review of Current, I said that the $600 estimate felt extremely optimistic. Of course, that was the iOS version and I can now see that the Android version holds a lot more opportunities. So do I think that this $900 a year figure is realistic?
I’ll say that, in this case, I find the $900 number to at least be reasonable, in that I could see someone somewhere achieving that. Meanwhile, based on my own initial experience, I’d estimate that I’ll end up earning a few hundred dollars over the course of the year if I keep it up, but don’t see myself getting to four hours a day of use nor the $900.
Final Thoughts on Mode Phone
On the whole, I have to say that I’ve really been enjoying using my Mode Phone. Furthermore, I firmly believe that my gift card rewards will easily be able to cover the cost of the phone within a few month’s time, with further earnings being easy “profit” — even if these likely won’t amount to $900 in my case. Plus, as someone who didn’t already have an Android device, it’s nice to have one not just for the much-better Current Rewards app but also for casual gaming and whatever else.
That said, if you’re looking to make the Mode Phone your full-time device, I’d probably advise against it. While it does have some capable features, I could easily see the bloatware and budget specs getting in the way of useability. In fact, while it’s convenient that the phone can be used on a variety of networks, I think I’d stick to just using it as a WiFi-only device.
All thing considered, I’m glad I decided to try the Mode Phone and I look forward to earning more rewards with it in the future. Just like with the iOS version of Current, I’m having fun listening to music, discovering new games, and scoring free gift cards in the process. If that sounds good to you, then the $150 cost for the Mode Phone may just be worth it.
Also published on Medium.