The Tech Herald

Review: Verizon LG Chocolate 3

by Steve Ragan - Aug 25 2008, 21:59

The Tech Herald takes a look at the Chocolate 3 and Rhapsody. (IMG: Verizon)

The LG Chocolate, now on its third successful release, is one of the top selling phones for Verizon; it has grown into what could easily be called a "franchise" phone. The newest incarnate of the Chocolate is designed with VCast in mind, and is one of the first phones aimed at the music-lover set, because it works hand-in-hand with Rhapsody.

We at The Tech Herald got our hands on one of the phones to play with for a few weeks, taking time to use not just the handset for calls, but to also test the music functionality as well.

While it’s not the best of the best, the third version of LG’s Chocolate will deliver for those who want a simple phone with no bells and whistles. Likewise, if you want a phone with some additional features, but prefer to focus on the normal offerings such as camera, music player, and multimedia capabilities, then this is also a good phone to look at.

LG’s Chocolate 3 is focused on music. This is obvious from the team-up with Rhapsody and the FM transmitter the phone includes. Storage wise, there is 1GB of internal memory on the phone, and the option to add an 8GB microSD card.

Rhapsody is the new music service offering from Verizon. While the Rhapsody service itself has been around for a while, this is the first time you will have seen Verizon make a push to offer the service. The cost is $14.99 USD per month, and with that you can download an unlimited amount of DRM-controlled music, and sync the songs with up to three devices. The Rhapsody service is decent selection-wise, and rather simple to use. However, the biggest mark against Rhapsody and Verizon is the DRM. As with Yahoo and Microsoft, if Rhapsody should ever dump the Verizon offering, subscribers would be left on the hook.

Aesthetically, the first thing you notice with this new phone is the compact clamshell design. Thin and lightweight, the Chocolate 3 will fit just about everywhere.

The Chocolate 3 is also intuitive to use. There are no complex menus, and there are no issues with location of the various menu settings. When closed, navigation is performed by a sleek touch wheel that moves you through the more common settings including Music, Calendar, Camera and Messages, to name but a few. However, the outer menu is static, and there is no customization; a minor annoyance that few will worry about, as the target market for this phone will use these settings more often than not.

The inner menu is a white and red on black menu, easy to navigate and view in almost all lighting conditions; the only exception being direct sunlight to the main screen, which gives off a harsh glare.

The call quality is clear, as was expected, as the Verizon network covers all of Indiana with decent coverage, and very few weak signal areas. Most of the calling and testing took place in downtown Indianapolis and also out on the west side. During testing there was one dropped call, but that could have been the other cell number (different provider) that was being called at the time. There was no solid evidence one way or another.

As mentioned, the Chocolate 3 is a great music player as well as a phone. It is designed to act as a portable jukebox with a decent amount of internal storage, and the option to add additional storage with a memory card (up to 8GBs via microSD). During the test, music was downloaded to the phone with VCast, as well as uploaded from a desktop computer and synched with Rhapsody.

The Rhapsody software is downloaded from the Web (vzw.com/music) and sets up in a matter of seconds. Once the software is ready, the player is easy to navigate, and the documentation, located online via the help menu, is extensive.

Once launched, the “Getting Started” menu will walk you through the steps needed to turn your host computer into a media hub for the Chocolate 3. As expected, all the music on the computer is scanned and added to your library. After that you have one final step to perform to ensure that your computer is ready.

The last step is authorization. This is important, as without it the Rhapsody tracks will not play on your computer. You do this in the "My Account" menu, as seen below. Deauthorization is the same process, and if you have downloaded tracks, they will need to be moved to the new computer or re-downloaded.

With the $14.99 USD subscription, using Rhapsody is about as easy as searching the Web for music and downloading. Tracks can be played, for the most part, in their entirety, and if you like what you hear, download them with your subscription rights (they'll be downloaded to your library for later play).

If you want to burn a CD of your downloaded tracks, you will need to pay $0.99 USD on average per track to do so (Rhapsody's "Help" section explains that the unlimited plan is $0.89 USD per track; however that is rare for most of the new songs).

Moving back to the Chocolate 3, on the other side of its music abilities is an FM transmitter. While the phone has the ability to store ample song tracks, if you want to beam them to an FM station, you can do so on several presets.

However, the down side to this during testing was that the phone would need to be rather close to the radio picking up the signal. In testing, a normal “boom box” was used, and the phone needed to be within four feet to get a clear signal. If within the limits, the signal is clean and music is clear. In a car, setting the phone on the dashboard offered a better signal than that of resting it in the car’s cabin. 

The other features of the Chocolate 3 include a camera (example images below) that offers some decent pictures for 2.0 mega pixels of performance. There are image options for lighting adjustments and also a 2x zoom option.

Another option on the Chocolate 3 is aimed at those parents who would likely get this handset for their kids, and it's called "Chaperone". This feature allows the Chocolate 3 to have its location shared with family members via the Chaperone Web site, the Chaperone Parent application or Child Zone SMS alerts.

VCast, the multimedia package from Verizon, was also tested, and worked as expected. The 2.2-inch LCD screen offered clear images of CNN News, but was still small for regular viewing. Because this is a media phone, and centers on music, the battery life becomes an issue. The life of a full charge ran to about 200 minutes when playing music and streaming video constantly. Verizon's specs outline a usage life of around 270 minutes, so this was about average.

Overall, this is a great phone. While standard and not too flashy, it offers just enough flash to make it relevant. The LG Chocolate 3 launched in July for a price of $129.99 USD after a $50 USD mail-in rebate, provided users sign up for a new two-year customer agreement. Service plans start at $79.99 USD, and include unlimited megabytes for Mobile Web and Media Center.

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