Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gear: LG Chocolate 3 Review

Despite my techie/gearhead leanings, I've always preferred to have a cell phone that was just a phone. No crazy internet access, no GPS navigation system, not even a camera (though I relented and my most recent phone had a camera). I just wanted something simple to stick in my pocket without a lot of crazy features. I didn't think that I needed -- or wanted to pay for -- any extra baggage.

The problem I've discovered after having gone through two 2-year contracts with phones at that level is that they're generally terrible phones. There's no money to be made on basic phones so cell phone manufacturers don't put any special engineering design or high quality batteries into them. Exhibit A: my most recent phone's battery wouldn't hold a charge worth more than 5 minutes of talk time with about 6 weeks to go on my contract. I happen to hate talking on the phone, so in certain cases this wasn't a bad thing! Still, more often it was very annoying.

When my Verizon contract was up in September and I was eligible for a "new every two" discount, I decided to skip the low end and at least look at the middle of the road phones where some solid design and components might be used. After looking around for a while, I honed in on the LG Chocolate 3 (VX-8560).
Things I liked from my research:
  • It's good as a phone. Several sites lauded good general phone capabilities. One even decided to start using this phone as its gold standard for comparison to other phones. General phone use is what I was always after, so big plus here.
  • Charged via USB. Notice the USB symbol on the bottom edge of the phone? The charger for the phone is actually an AC to USB port adapter. The phone comes with a USB cable and you can either plug it into the adapter or just plug it into a USB port on a computer. Cool idea.
  • Decent 2.0MP camera quality. My line has always been, "I don't need a camera on my cell phone, my regular camera works just fine." I have to admit, though, there are times when you're out somewhere and being able to grab something at least decent can be very useful (my previous phone's camera was horrid). It can also be very useful when you lose your regular camera.
  • 1GB capacity MP3 player built in. I've had an iPod for years but I've never had much use for it. When I'm at a computer (home, work, HTPC) I use Rhapsody to stream music from the internet and when I'm driving somewhere, I listen to CDs or the radio. Maybe having the MP3 player right on a device I'll always have in my pocket will change my use paradigm?
  • FM transmitter built in. I have an FM transmitter for the iPod but I've found it too klugey, too cumbersome and too poor sound quality to be of much use in the car, particularly when most of my downtown trips are 5 minutes or less -- it's really not worth the hassle of getting the transmitter running for trips that short. This one is built right into the phone and has a nice simple interface that might overcome the shortcomings over other solutions. However, for various reasons (mostly due to FCC limitations on their broadcast strength), FM transmitters are a flaky technology and I didn't hold out much hope that this one would be any better. If it worked, though, it would be a nice bonus.
  • Slim flip-phone design. Not exactly a feature that stands out anymore, but I've had chunky/clunky cell phones for so long that changing to a slim design would be nice.
SOLD! I purchased this cell phone about a month ago and I have to say that I love it. Some things are less than perfect, but overall it's an extremely solid phone. Obviously, as you've seen around here, the camera is at least passable. The MP3 player is a nice addition to the basic slim design and the FM transmitter is about as good as can be expected. I'm not sure the music package is going to change the way I listen to music in the car -- even the relatively simple interface for initiating FM transmission is a little too much work for a quick car trip (you also have to turn it back off when you're done) -- but I've found the external speaker useful in certain places where I wanted some background music and had no other sources and the FM transmitter has worked well on some longer car trips.

One feature that I'm a little unhappy about is the USB charging. I was under the impression that the USB cable was a standard USB --> mini USB cable similar to the kind found on most cameras. Turns out LG used a proprietary mini connector on the phone end, so I'll have to buy an extra cable to stash at work for an emergency charge instead of being able to use the USB --> mini USB cables I've got sitting around everywhere. It's not a big deal since it still charges from any USB port, but it would have been nice if they had used an existing standard on the phone side. Otherwise, job well done LG!

1 comment:

Matt said...

I have always been the same with phones. I have the cheapest Samsung available at the time. No camera, blue tooth, nothing. My next phone I will do a step up as well, I think.