Verizon Chocolate

The newest Verizon BUZZ is about LG’s new Chocolate phone (if you are expecting a review stuffed with candy metaphors and puns to contribute to the already super-saturated media blitz, I’m afraid you’re in for some disappointment). This sleek glossy black bar is nothing if not stylish. With glow-through menu buttons, high-res display, a touch wheel and a slide-out camera and keypad, the Chocolate is a monument to minimalism. Don’t let the simple design fool you; the Chocolate coating is just the semi-sweet exterior (oops…that’s a pun). Inside you’ll find a 1.3 mega pixel camera, full VCast support, Get It Now features (including the hot new GPS function, VZ Navigator…demo), Bluetooth connectivity, and even an MP3 player. If you purchase the VCast Music Essentials (for an extra $50) bundle, you’ll even get ear bud headphones with a mic to seamlessly swap between listening to music on the go and talking hands-free while driving, signing autographs, or pretending to be on Star Trek by talking into the empty space in front of you. There are also the standard VCast goodies for those who can’t leave the computer—weather, news, mobile web, IM, email, video messaging. Navigation was relatively hassle-free, and while the interface took some getting used to (especially compared to other phones with “qwerty” layouts), the text entry was pretty quick. Of course, most people will text message back and forth rather than via the IM, but it’s nice to have the option of seeing who’s online. The smooth elegance of the Chocolate is not without cavity-inducing flaws (p.s. I lied about no lame puns). The pseudo-iPod wheel design is actually just touch-sensitive buttons in a circular shape. The small size and position of these “sensitive” buttons—combined with a surprising load-time delay—makes navigating menus difficult on an intuitive level. I regularly found myself accidentally logging onto the mobile web to check my account when I was trying to get to my Pix or maneuver around the menu. Also, the slide-out keypad is relatively barebones and poorly spaced for dialing…it takes some getting used, but not too terribly long to acclimate. In what could have been the biggest and most damaging glitch, the Chocolate’s ability to “sync” with a PC, actually turned out to be an issue with MY system (*note: make sure you’re smart enough to have the Service Pack 2 update…or you will be a fool without music). When my computer failed to sync, I contacted Verizon and their I.T. department was ready and willing to do everything possible to resolve the issue; and I mean EVERYTHING! Ed is the Bellevue Resident Superhero and he would not rest until he not only diagnosed the problem, but took every measure possible to ensure that I could utilize every feature the phone had to offer (he was prepared to drive to my house and let me use his laptop when he figured out that my system was not up to snuff). The sync procedure is actually very simple (after you are running the right OS) and straightforward. Insert Music Essentials CD (provided in Music Essentials bundle), click to install drivers, click to install VCast Music (and Windows Media Player 10), and plug phone into computer using the USB cable (also provided in the Music Essentials bundle). After that, it’s a matter of opening Media Player and clicking the “sync” in the phone menu. You’ll be able to store hours of music on the 2 GB of memory stick (actually a microSD; a fantastic concept of having ENORMOUS storage in infinitesimal space, this card is smaller than my pinky fingernail) along with your pix and flix. Having an MP3 player phone is a fantastic feature that allows you to bring your music with you and swap between swayin’ to songs and chatting with chums with the push of a button (conveniently located on the dangling ear bud mic). It also has a surprisingly clear and powerful external speaker so you can “boombox” your phone…and annoy the hell out of those who don’t appreciate quality tunes. After accessing all the features (and then asking for help to fix and test the music), I came to the conclusion that the Chocolate is pretty rich. It’s damned stylish and using that GPS is incredibly cool on a pimp phone. The digital camera actually exceeded my expectations for having no flash and being 1.3 mega pixel. With the .wma music loaded and ready on the phone, I was able to sample the potential sound quality, which is very good with the 3D stereo headphones and “EQ” function (not actually an equalizer, but the presets weren’t bad). With all the competition for the new trend phone (pick a Moto-acronym: RAZR/SLVR/ROKR), the stage is set for a changing of the guard. With many features shared, the Chocolate synthesizes all of them in a powerful little slide phone. Besides, the main asset is still well intact—it’s a very pretty piece of candy.

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