The numeric buttons also take some getting used to. Because of the additional letter buttons, the numeric keys are a bit smaller than you might expect, and it was weird at first to reach past the raised letter buttons to press a number. Also, they are a bit slippery. Fortunately, all controls are brightly backlit, and we like that the AX490 has dedicated shift, space, and symbol keys. You can even use the letter keys to dial numbers that use words (as with many 800 numbers), and the phone will convert the letters to numbers automatically. In keeping with the racing theme, the keypad looks a bit like a checkered flag.
The AX490 has a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can save callers to groups or pair with a phone or one of 31 polyphonic ring tones. Basic offerings include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, LG's handy tip calculator, a notepad, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a calculator. The AX490's higher-end features are admirable. Inside you'll find a three-minute voice memo (you can store up to 200 memos), Bluetooth, and a full duplex speakerphone. Aspiring spies can record phone calls.
The VGA camera is standard for LG phones. You can take pictures in three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) and choose from three quality settings. Other options include a 4X zoom (not available at the highest resolution), a flash, white balance and brightness controls, a multishot feature for taking up to six photos in rapid succession, a three- or five-second self-timer, a night mode, four color effects, and four shutter sounds (plus a silent option). When finished with your photos, you can save them to the phone's 12MB of memory or send them to friends. Photo quality is on a par with that of other VGA phones. Colors were muted and object outlines were fuzzy in our test shots.
You can personalize the AX490 with a variety of wallpapers, color themes, and sounds. You can choose from a selection of NASCAR-themed wallpapers and sounds. If you want more options, just download them from Alltel via the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser. No games or extra applications are included with the AX490, but you can download them from Alltel's Axcess Shop. Available options include Andretti Racing 3D and Ryan Newman Racing.
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) LG AX490 in San Francisco on Alltel's roaming network. Call quality was decent overall. Volume was high, and we encountered little static or interference. Occasionally voices sounded somewhat robotic, but we were satisfied with the performance. Likewise, callers didn't report any problems. We also made calls with the speakerphone and were pleased.
The AX490 has a rated talk time of three hours and a promised standby time of less than six days. We managed to get 3 hours, 57 minutes of talk time in our tests.According to FCC radiation tests, the AX490 has a digital SAR rating of 0.78 watt per kilogram.