The navigation keypad consists of a four-way toggle, a middle OK key, two soft keys, a dedicated speakerphone key, a dedicated Web browser key, talk and end/power keys, plus a back key. The toggle doubles as shortcuts to Virgin's My Account feature, a new text message, the recent calls list, as well as Virgin's VXL Web page that lets you download ringtones, games, and other personalization options. Though the keys felt tactile enough, the keypad felt a bit crowded, especially the two soft keys and the number dial pad. Also, the keys don't have a lot of give and need a bit more push than most.
As an entry-level phone, the Flare doesn't have a lot of features to begin with. It has a decent-size phone book, with room for 500 contacts. Each contact can hold up to five numbers, three e-mail addresses, a Web address, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with one of four animations for caller ID. You can also pair them with one of 11 polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include text messaging, a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, a scheduler, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a regular calculator, a world clock, a voice memo recorder, and a notepad. We're happy to see the Flare also has voice dialing and Bluetooth support.
As part of Virgin Mobile, you can customize the Flare via downloads from Virgin's VXL portal. Options include wallpaper and screensaver graphics and animations, clock styles, alert sounds, and ringtones. Demo versions of three games are included--Sexy Poker, Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man, and Tetris, and you can always download more. Just be careful, there's only 8MB of internal memory.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900) LG Flare in San Francisco via the Virgin Mobile service. We were impressed with the call quality--volume was loud enough, and callers were able to hear us quite clearly. There was little static or interference as well. Speakerphone quality didn't fare so well though; callers thought we sounded muffled and we had to speak up. Similarly, callers didn't sound so good via the phone's speakers. We paired the Flare with the Plantronics Discovery 925 without a problem.