We've been using the LG Chocolate phone for the last month and it's unquestionably an attractive handset, possibly the best-looking phone ever -- from the glowing red touchpad to the glossy casing, this handset oozes class and style. However, as with many style icons there are problems below the surface, and although we are big fans of the Chocolate phone, it's definitely not a perfect device.
It's currently available at O2, T-Mobile, Carphone Warehouse and phones4u on monthly tariffs.Design
Unusually for a mobile phone review, the first thing worth mentioning for the LG Chocolate phone is the packaging. It is, without reservation, the best-looking box that has ever graced a mobile phone reviewer's table. Like a Japanese paint box, this black rectangular packaging looks like it was made to hold fine badger-hair brushes, not a mobile phone. Fortunately this phone is particularly attractive too, and doesn't seem out of place when you unclasp the magnetic clip on the front of the box and open it up.
When you take the phone out, aside from its minimalist design, you'll notice how thin it is. Measuring only 15mm, it's not quite as slender as the diminutive Samsung P300, but it's still very pocket friendly. It's also light, weighing only 83g, which is 16g less than a Sony Ericsson W810i and about the same weight as the Nokia 7280.
The front of the LG Chocolate is black and looks almost seamless when the screen is turned off, apart from a silver border around the OK button and a small silver LG icon at the top. There's also a silver strip that separates the top section of the phone from the bottom. The rest of the handset is completely black.
The screen on the front measures 33 by 40mm and displays 262,000 colours. It's set behind the black border of the casing so when it's switched off it blends with the rest of the phone. Underneath the screen is a touchpad that only glows red when it is activated, and features five navigation keys, two soft keys, a call key and a cancel key. The touchpad is heat and touch sensitive, so it only works when you touch it with your hand and won't activate when it's loose in your bag or pocket. After using the touchpad for a couple of weeks we found it responsive, but not as easy to use as a clickable button, because you can't feel whether you've pressed the key correctly.
Unlike other mobile phones the end call key is on the right side rather than the front, which takes some getting used to. If you want to end a call you can slide the phone shut or use the end key, but if you press the cancel button on the bottom right corner of the front, nothing happens. We can't think of another phone that has the end key on the side, and it's hard to see why LG has gone against convention.
Next to the end call key is a dedicated media button that gives you access to the camera, video camera and MP3 player. On the top right side of the phone is the covered charging port that doubles up as the headphone port and a USB port. The included headset comes with a built-in remote that lets you control the MP3 player and answer calls. It also has a 3.5mm adaptor, so you can plug in your own headphones if you don't like the proprietary ones. On the left side of the phone are two volume buttons.
The back of the phone is completely black and minimalist apart from another small LG logo. Once you slide the phone out, you reveal the hidden keypad and a 1.3-megapixel camera with flash and portrait mirror. The slide is spring mounted so it opens easily, and it feels very smooth and solid. An advantage of having the phone behind the slide is that it protects the camera lens from any scratches.
The keypad features black keys with white alphanumeric symbols and each key is either matte or glossy, creating a chequered effect. The keys are large and easy to press but, as with all slide phones, there isn't a lot of space to manoeuvre at the top of the keypad, due to the top section of the phone getting in the way.
Overall our main design niggle with the Chocolate phone is that the glossy casing, which according to LG has a special coating to minimise scratches, does scratch very easily. There's also the issue of fingerprints and sweat easily accumulating on the surface of the phone making it look dirty. A carrying pouch is provided in the box, but unless you want to take it in and out of the pouch each time you make a call, it's not the perfect solution.Features
After all the fanfare that comes with owning a phone that looks like this one, it is a bit of a let down in terms of features. The touchpad takes some getting used to and the feature set isn't inspiring in the same way that the Nokia N80's is. With phones like the Samsung E900 popping up on the horizon, it's starting to look like the Chocolate phone may melt in the heat of these better featured handsets. What you can't forget though, is that this was the first phone of its kind and even though it may suffer a little in the specs department, it more than makes up for it in sheer style, elegance and originality.
The Chocolate phone is marketed as a stylish phone with multimedia capabilities and it does have a camera, MP3 player and 128MB of internal memory. The camera lets you change the white balance, use a timer, add effects, choose size and resolution and it lets you turn the flash on and off. It only has a 1.3-megapixel sensor, which is great for MMS messages and wallpaper photos but flounders against the quality of the almost year-old Sony Ericsson's K750i's 2-megapixel camera.
In contrast, the MP3 player performs very well and features equaliser settings, a shuffle mode and even animations. It works particularly well with the included headset that also lets you plug in your own headphones, control the MP3 player and answer calls, without needing to take the phone out of your pocket.
If you want to take photos and store MP3s on the Chocolate phone you're going to need lots of memory and, as previously stated, you get 128MB of internal storage space. Unfortunately, that's it for memory space and unless you're happy with around 20 to 30 songs and a few photos on your phone, you're out of luck as there's no expandable memory card slot.
One solution we found for this lack of memory was to regularly back up and change any data we had on the phone with the provided USB cable. The phone is automatically recognised by Windows as a mass storage device and you can simply drag and drop files into or out of the phone with ease. While this is a very useful feature we would have preferred more internal storage space or an expandable memory card slot.
We were also disappointed by the included PC software that didn't seem to work on any machine we loaded it on to, and didn't recognise the phone when we plugged it in. This meant that we couldn't take advantage of the synchronising capabilities that the software claims it provides, though this may have been a specific problem to our software or computer.
Another niggle we had was that the T9 text input system wouldn't automatically change the letters to upper case after a full stop even though we had it set to T9Abc. This meant that we had to manually change the T9 setting back to Abc instead of abc every time we started a new sentence, which we found very frustrating.
There's also no speakerphone, which means no conference calls or handsfree facility. We found this strange since you can play music on the speaker -- you can always use the included headset for handsfree calls but we were dissatisfied by the lack of speakerphone function.
Aside from that everything else worked fine and there were small details that made using it straightforward. For example, we particularly liked the ability to search recent recipients of texts when sending messages. This meant that rather than searching through a list of contacts every time we sent a message, we could simply search the 'recent list'.
Other features include a WAP browser, MMS and SMS messaging, Bluetooth, email client, video recorder, photo album, video album, voice recorder, calendar, memo, calculator, unit converter, world time and sudoku (Java) game.Performance
The audio on calls was clear and we didn't have any problems with background noise or sound distortion.
The camera took decent quality photos and video for MMS messaging and viewing on the phone, but compared to the K750i, they were more distorted and pixellated when we printed them out.
Battery life was acceptable -- it's quoted at around 360 minutes' talk time and 200 hours on standby.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield