"Hyped Cellphone Won't Make You a Chocoholic"1.5 starson by ozzie8888
Pros: Good marketing strategy
Cons: Read review from NYT
Summary: Review from the New York Times
Author: David Pogue
Hyped Cellphone Won't Make You a Chocoholic
Chocolate, under the proper circumstances, can be a deeply satisfying treat for the senses.
It can also be a sticky mess.
Unfortunately, the heavily hyped Chocolate music player/cellphone (made by LG, offered by Verizon Wireless) resembles the latter more than the former.
What's nice about the phone: its looks. It's tiny, almost like an elongated box of Tic Tacs. It's shiny, clad in dark plastic. And it's a slider phone, meaning that the dialing pad is hidden except when you slide the halves apart.
The rest of the time, the front panel is supposed to look like an iPod, with a bright color screen above and a circular control pad below. The phone-call sound quality is good, and the price isn't bad: $150 (after rebate, and with two-year commitment), although you should also factor in the price of a Micro SD card to hold your music files ($50 or so for a 1-gigabyte card).
Music lovers should also note that the Chocolate is one of very few U.S. phones that can actually send high-quality music wirelessly to Bluetooth *stereo* headphones. And now, the sticky mess part.
Turns out the iPod dial isn't a dial at all; it's just four buttons arranged in a circle. That's OK in itself, but these buttons don't budge or even click when you press them; the only response you get, if any, is a reaction on the screen.
It's a bad sign that two pages of the manual are dedicated to listing warnings about these touch buttons. "Remove moisture from the surface of your hands," goes one. "Don't use the touch buttons in a humid environment." (OK, so what are we supposed to do when we're in Miami? Use a pay phone?)
"If you touch [a button] off-center, it may activate the nearby function instead."
And so on.
Listen up, LG dudes: I'm sorry, but if your primary control system requires seven warnings in your manual, maybe you should reconsider your system.
Sure enough, these buttons are a nightmare. They're balky, nonresponsive, slow to react and all-around infuriating (and yes, I tried all four sensitivity settings). The three people who tried my review unit had amazingly similar reactions, even after I told them to stop running their thumbs around the dial as though it were an iPod. One said he felt like throwing the phone "through the window," another "into the trash," and another "across the room."
More problems: The Send key is on the left of the front-but the End key isn't across from it, as on every other cellphone on earth; instead, it's a microscopic, vertically mounted button on the right edge of the phone. When the phone is sleeping, the screen goes completely black, so you can't even tell if it's on (you don't even get a clock). The phone works with MP3 and Windows Media files, but not with songs bought on iTunes and not with the Macintosh.
The camera is decent, but it's only 1.3 megapixels and you have to open the slider to use it. Worse, your picture gallery (and the Take Video command) are hidden, nonsensically, in the Get It Now menu, which is traditionally the cheesy commercial area of Verizon phones, where they try to sell you games, streaming video and so on.
And what kind of phone has a speaker this good, but no speakerphone?
Don't even get me started on the phone lock function, which disables all of the buttons after only *three seconds*. You can't use any of the buttons again unless you press a tiny side button twice. I couldn't find any way to disable this deeply annoying feature.
Whenever I review a product this badly designed, I just stare at the ceiling and try to imagine how it could possibly have gotten out the door. Haven't successes like the iPod and the Treo taught the marketers anything about making things work simply and well? It's stunning that nobody in a position of power at LG or Verizon actually tried this thing, tried pressing those infernal passive-aggressive buttons, and realized that the Chocolate is a usability disaster.
As it stands, people might buy this phone because it looks cool. But it's safe to say that not many of them will become Chocoholics.