The LG CE500 for Cingular Wireless strikes us as a consumer-friendly multimedia phone. Its plastic exterior makes it seem like a toy, but it hides a decent array of multimedia features. Even though the CE500 lacks Bluetooth and a speakerphone, it is packed with an MP3 player, triband abilities, and EDGE support, as well as a VGA camera plus camcorder with flash. Because of that, the CE500 may serve as a primer for consumers who are looking for their first MP3/camera phone. The LG CE500 will be a Best Buy exclusive for a limited time, selling for only $99.99 with a two-year contract with Cingular. As multimedia phones go, the LG CE500 is far from flashy. Unlike with the latest media handsets from Sprint, the display doesn't swivel or turn around, plus it measures a somewhat bulky 3.7 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches and weighs a hefty 3.7 ounces. Sure, that's smaller than a smart phone, but it's clearly not the type of phone you slip in your jeans pocket. The black and silver outer shell was a mixed bag, and though it feels cheap (as does the external antenna), like it belongs in a toy store rather than an electronics outlet, it managed to withstand multiple jostles inside a purse with nary a nick. It also felt comfortable in our hands, partly due to its rounded corners, and while the front flap opens pretty easily, it takes slightly more effort to close.
A wide silver vertical stripe runs down the middle of the front flap, and in the center of the stripe is the camera lens with a flash, an external display, and MP3 player buttons. The 1.2-inch-diagonal TFT external screen has 65,000 colors and a 96x96-pixel resolution. It shows signal and battery strength, the date, the time, caller ID (where available), and your choice of wallpaper. When the camera function is enabled and the front flap is closed, the screen also shows a reflection of yourself, thus allowing for self-portraits. The external and internal screens display the same skin when the MP3 player is turned on. We like the music player buttons; they are not only useful but also give the phone a little more style. On the left spine are the headset jack, the volume controls, and a TransFlash card slot. On the right is a dedicated camera button.
Flip the LG CE500 open, and you'll note the bright, 262,000-color TFT 1.8-inch internal display that's easy on the eyes, both in daylight and at night. As with the external screen, you can adjust the backlighting time up to 30 seconds, and the same information on the external screen appears here. However, font size and brightness could not be adjusted. Almost half the keypad is taken up by the phone's controls, which consist of two soft keys, a four-way navigation toggle with an OK middle key, a camera button, an MP3 player shortcut key, the Talk and End/power buttons, and the Clear key. The four-way toggle is also marked with shortcuts to text and instant messaging, the My Stuff menu, and the address book. The blue-backlit dial pad is slightly beveled, and even though it is flat, we were still able to dial by feel.