Technology

New LG Chocolate: Even Sweeter


0719_chocolate
Editor's Rating: star rating

Available from Verizon Wireless, the new LG Chocolate phone is even slicker and easier to use than last year's model

There were plenty of music phones before the Chocolate arrived last year, but that LG handset was the first to really deliver the look and feel of two separate devices in one. Simply put, the company successfully created a mobile gadget that looked like an iPod on the outside and a cell phone when you slid it open.

Despite its sleek design and popularity overseas, some complained that the music player wasn't as easy to use as an iPod—though I disagreed. Well, a new version of Chocolate has arrived, also available through Verizon Wireless, and it's slicker and slimmer than the first. But most important, thanks to subtle changes in the location and functions of various buttons, it's even easier to navigate. You don't have to read the product manual: From the first use, the device feels like an old friend.

What the Chocolate Is Not

Weighing just 3.24 ounces, the new Chocolate is a great basic music phone. No, this gadget is no longer as novel, cutting-edge, and eye-catching as the Chocolate circa 2006. Other manufacturers have since designed music phones that are more striking and feature-rich. An upcoming Sony Ericsson Walkman W580 features an FM radio; Chocolate does not. Apple's iPhone can access Wi-Fi networks; the Chocolate cannot. The iPhone and the W580 come with stereo headsets; Chocolate does not. Nor does it have iPhone's vast internal memory for storing music. And Chocolate doesn't offer the best sound.

But then again, the new Chocolate isn't necessarily trying to compete with the most expensive, highest-end devices. Priced at $250, it sells for only $100 with a two-year contract and a mail-in rebate. The iPhone starts at $499. To my mind, among basic music phones, Chocolate remains the easiest to use and most beautiful out there. And the tweaks LG has made to jazz it up are a definite improvement.

In addition to offering the latest version in new colors (black cherry and blue mint), LG moved around and changed the phone's buttons and scroll wheel. The "end" button, used to power on and off, now resides on the slide-out keypad instead of on the side of the phone. That makes operating the phone a lot easier.

New Features Make Real Difference

The touch-sensitive buttons now vibrate to let you know they've registered your command (the old Chocolate didn't offer this haptic feedback) (see BusinessWeek.com, 9/5/06, "Easy Listening on LG's Chocolate"). The touch pad also features a speaker button now.

Other improvements on the old Chocolate: The on-screen menus look more polished and simplified. And the new model features Flash software, so the wallpaper looks more like a moving cartoon.

But what I have long admired about LG phones are the user-friendly touches. For example, you can increase the font size for phone numbers as you dial if you don't like squinting at the screen. Little things like that can make a big difference in your daily use of a phone. There's also an application that helps you calculate the tip at a restaurant or split the bill. I loved that.

The bottom line: The new Chocolate is a really nice phone for this price range.

Kharif is a reporter for BusinessWeek.com in Portland, Ore.

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