As with LG's popular VX6000, the external OEL display flashes 1980s-video-game-style multicolor dots across the bottom of the screen when you first close the lid. Time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available) appear in blue on a black background. As for the 65,000-color internal display, you can adjust the backlighting time to your choice of 7, 15, or 30 seconds, and always on or off, as well as the brightness level. Even at its brightest setting, however, the internal screen is rather dull. The colors on another fairly basic LG phone, the VI5225, pop much more vividly.
On the plus side, the navigation controls are roomy, and the two soft keys are sufficiently large. The five-way navigation toggle in standby mode provides one-touch access to the Web, the calendar, your messages, and the Axcess shopping site. It would have been better if one of the keys had been left open for a user-defined shortcut, but we appreciate that you can use the OK button to activate the speakerphone before placing a call. The menus, available in two styles, are easy to navigate. You can view them graphically or as a list, and a dedicated Back button provides an easy way to back out of submenus. The dial-pad keys are roomy as well, but dialing by feel is difficult, as they are set flush with the surface of the phone. The left spine includes volume controls and a voice-command button, through which you can make calls (either through the contact list or by dictating the digits), check voicemail, note the time, or access the scheduler to check on upcoming events.Don't expect a boatload of features from the LG LX5550. There's no Bluetooth, no infrared port, and no camera. What you do get is a phone book that holds 499 contacts, each of which can store as many as five phone numbers and three e-mail addresses. You can assign any of the 36 polyphonic ring tones to your contacts or to different phone numbers for the same contact. You can assign a picture or a graphic to your contacts, although the images won't show up on the external display. The phone stores as many as 99 speed-dial numbers. You also get a vibrate mode, text messaging, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a world clock, and a notepad.
The highlight of this phone is the access to voice commands. Pressing and holding the Voice Command key with the cover closed activates the Driving mode, which automatically activates the speakerphone and voice commands for hands-free operation without the need for a car kit. We had no trouble making calls through voice command--it easily recognized phone numbers we dictated through the Digital Dial command. When the system isn't sure of your request, it will ask for confirmation of the command, and you answer yes or no to continue. Unfortunately, voice-command features don't work in analog roaming mode, which we often encountered in our calling area.
You can personalize the LX5550 with a variety of wallpaper, theme colors, clock styles, and sounds. The phone also supports the Axcess Mobile Web service for $5.99 per month, with which you can download games (none are included), additional ring tones, and other applications via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser.We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) LG LX5550 in the Chicago area. Because the phone was registered to an Alltel local-calling plan, the handset operated in roaming mode. When in digital roam, call quality was mediocre--callers had no trouble hearing us, but they could tell we were using a cell phone. When the phone occasionally slipped into analog roaming, we encountered persistent static. The speakerphone is sufficiently loud for use in hands-free mode while driving, although we often had to repeat ourselves to be understood.
Battery life is nothing special at all. We managed 2 hours, 15 minutes of talk time, just short of the maximum 2.5-hour rating. We noticed that the battery heats up after about a half hour of continuous use, so extended conversations may become a bit uncomfortable. We fell two days short of the rated six days of standby time. According to the FCC, the LX5550 has a digital SAR rating of 1.21 watts per kilogram.