One could argue that as the Razr was to Motorola, the Chocolate was to LG. It was the first real iconic phone from LG, gaining plenty of hype because of its slender look and candy bar moniker. The Chocolate was also one of the first to really showcase Verizon's V Cast Music player, with its unique touch-sensitive music player controls and focus on the multimedia experience. We weren't too thrilled with the first iteration, but its sequel, the LG VX8550 Chocoate, was sweetened up to our liking thanks to its mechanical scroll wheel and easier-to-use controls.
But LG wasn't comfortable resting on its laurels. In an effort to broaden the Chocolate's appeal, LG has decided to produce a flip version of the iconic phone, dubbed the LG Chocolate 3. (We at first thought the LG VX8600 was the flip-phone successor to the LG Chocolate, but we were mistaken). Verizon is also marketing the LG Chocolate 3 as the marquee phone for its new V Cast Music with Rhapsody service, so the Chocolate 3 is amped up with music-focused features like a 3.5-mm headset jack plus a built-in FM transmitter. Though we're big fans of its multimedia features, we have to say its design has lost some of the luster and sex appeal of its predecessors. The LG Chocolate 3 is available from Verizon Wireless for $129.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a two-year service agreement.
As the first flip phone in the Chocolate line of handsets, the design of the Chocolate 3 is markedly different from its predecessors--the only remaining similarity appears to be the iPod-like scroll wheel on the front of the device. Measuring 3.87 inches high by 1.94 inches wide by 0.64 inch thick, it is also the least "chocolate bar"-looking of the lot, with a wide yet slim rectangular body. While we appreciate LG going in a different design direction for the Chocolate 3, this new design makes the Chocolate 3 look and feel like just any other slim flip phone on the market, and it doesn't seem as special and iconic as its predecessors.
Like the LG Decoy, the Chocolate 3 has a reflective mirrorlike finish on the entire front surface of the phone. It's so reflective that it almost obscures the 1.76-inch 262,000-color external screen located right above the scroll wheel. The external screen displays the typical caller ID, date, time, and battery and signal strength information when in standby mode. You can adjust the backlight time and clock format, but not much else.
From the external screen, you can then access a limited menu. The menu options are presented in rotating pattern, so it's easy to navigate just by using the scroll wheel. Menu options include the camera, the calendar, the messaging in-box, the My Music folder, and the My Pictures folder. This way, you can take a quick glance at things like your recent messages or the day's events without having to open the phone. Also, since there's no dedicated camera button, this is the only way to access the camera feature when the phone is closed. Of course, you can also access the music player interface either via the My Music folder or simply by hitting the dedicated Music button on the right spine. The display shows the album art of the song, plus you can play, pause, rewind, or fast forward the music by clicking on the scroll wheel (more on the music player in the Features section).
Underneath the display is the aforementioned mechanical scroll wheel. It feels reminiscent of the one on the VX8550 Chocolate, and that's a good thing. The spun metal surface of the wheel makes it feel tactile, and the wheel spins freely without a lot of resistance. We could press the wheel in four different quadrants (up, down, left, right) and the middle button quite easily, as well. Almost too easily, in fact; this is why the Chocolate 3 has a Keylock/Hold button on the right spine to prevent accidental presses. Unlike that of the two other Chocolate phones, the Chocolate 3 does not have any touch-sensitive navigation keys, which is just fine by us.
The left spine of the Chocolate 3 is home to a 3.5mm headset jack (very nice!), the volume rocker, a voice command key, and the charger jack. The microSD card slot plus the Music and Keylock buttons are on the right. A camera lens sits on top of the external screen. There's no self-portrait mirror, but that's OK since the external display also acts as a viewfinder. There's no flash LED, however.