Even though LG makes plenty of high-end phones like the LG Expo, it still provides lower-end entry models for those who don't need too many fancy features. Last year's LG Wine for U.S. Cellular is a good example--even though it had a megapixel camera, it had a really solid keypad plus dedicated shortcut keys that made the phone easier to use. The LG Wine 2 continues that tradition, but with a slightly more advanced feature set; now it has a music player and a camcorder. Still, it's as easy to use as ever before, and we think it's an excellent handset for beginners. The LG Wine 2 is available for $49.95 after a two-year agreement and a $50 mail-in rebate.
The LG Wine 2's glossy plastic shell doesn't have quite the sheen of its predecessors--it certainly doesn't remind us of any wine we've ever tried. Still, it retains a practical rectangular shape with curved corners, and the matte surface on the back makes it pleasant to hold. Measuring 3.97 inches long by 1.97 inches wide by 0.62 inch thick, the Wine 2 is slender, and at 3.6 ounces it won't weigh you down.
On the front of the phone is a 1.77-inch screen, which is quite large for an external display. It shows the date, time, battery, and signal strength information plus incoming caller ID. It supports 262,000 colors and works well as a self-portrait viewfinder for the camera. You can adjust the display's wallpaper and clock format, but not much else.
The camera lens sits above the display, while the 2.5mm headset jack, volume rocker, and charger jack are on the left spine. On the right are the microSD card slot, the camera key, and the voice command key.
The phone flips open with ease to reveal a 2.4-inch 262,144-color main display. Images look vibrant and colorful, and the text looks crisp as well. You can adjust the backlight time, the menu style, the color schemes, and font settings for style, color, and size. Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of a square four-way toggle, two soft keys, a speakerphone key, and a Clear key. The toggle doubles as shortcuts to the Bluetooth menu, U.S. Cellular's EasyEdge shop, a customizable My Menu where you can add up to 12 shortcuts, and the calendar.
Though the LG Wine had four dedicated shortcut keys under the display, the LG Wine 2 has them under the navigation array instead. This new position makes them far easier to access. The shortcut keys correspond to a widget interface, the alarm clock, the photo gallery, and the EasyEdge online store. You can customize the widget interface with shortcuts to the calendar, the notepad, the calculator, the FM radio, the music player, and up to four contacts. The interface is a more visual and hence easier way to access these functions, just in case you don't want to dig around the main menu to find them.
Beneath the aforementioned hot keys are the Send and End/Power keys plus the number keypad. Like with the LG Wine, the Wine 2 has a really roomy keypad with large keys and digits, which would be great for those who have bad eyesight. They're slightly raised above the surface as well, so it's easy to dial and text by feel.
The LG Wine 2 has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for seven numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a memo. You can organize your contacts into caller groups, pair them with photos for caller ID, or you can customize them with any of 24 polyphonic ringtones. You can also add a message alert tone from one of six choices.
Basic features of the phone include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a note pad, a calculator, an easy tip calculator, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a unit converter. It also has voice command support, stereo Bluetooth, and PC syncing. You get location-based services via U.S. Cellular's Your Navigator. The Wine 2 has 3G in the form of EV-DO Rev. 0 as well.
We were puzzled at first as to why we couldn't see the mobile Web browser or mobile e-mail application. It turns out that we needed to download them from the EasyEdge store. We would really appreciate it if those came preinstalled in the phone instead.