LG takes a minimalist approach with its G4050 handset. Though it does add some improvements over the entry-level , a modest design and basic features still make it an ideal phone for first-timers. Those who require more extensive use of their mobiles, however, may be disappointed with this phone's inconsistent performance. It's not worth its $249.99 price tag, but Cingular is offering the unit for a much more reasonable $39.99 with service. The LG G4050 flip phone is so slim and light--3.2 by 1.7 by 0.8 inches and 2.9 ounces--that we frequently had trouble finding it in a bag or a coat pocket. Considering how small it is, the mobile is surprisingly comfortable when holding it to your ear during conversation.
The silver handset's clean lines are disturbed only by a small volume button on the side of the unit. Because the power cord connector doubles as a cable connector, the handset is free of extra ports. Though the external monochrome display is an improvement over the, it is rather dull, and you can adjust only the contrast level, not the brightness. It displays the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID where available.
Another improvement over the LG G4010 is the 1.75-inch-diagonal, 65,000-color internal display. Crisp and pleasing to the eyes, it faltered only in direct light, and again there's no brightness control. On the upside, we liked the redesigned navigation keys, which consist of a five-way toggle and two soft keys. For such a small handset, there's plenty of room for dedicated shortcuts, such as setting the ring type, accessing messages, opening the calendar, activating the Internet browser, and recording voice memos. Moreover, all controls are well spaced and tactile. The blue-backlit keypad is sufficiently bright for dark environments, and the keys are raised just above the phone's surface.Because this is an entry-level handset, the LG G4050's feature list won't blow anyone out of the water. A 255-entry phone book handles up to three phone numbers and one e-mail address per entry, and you get eight speed-dial locations. Caller groups can be paired with any of 10 polyphonic (40-chord) ring tones or with a picture, though the image doesn't show up on the external screen. Other goodies include a unit converter, a calculator, a world clock, a calendar and scheduler, a 30-second voice recorder, voice-activated dialing, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser (with GPRS data speeds), and conference calling for up to five lines. A Minute Minder triggers a beep once a minute during an ongoing call so that you can keep tabs on the length of your conversations. An unexpected bonus is an integrated infrared (IR) port for sending data and faxes.
On the fun side, the G4010 supports text, enhanced, and multimedia messaging, so you can send messages that include animations downloaded (for $2 each) from Cingular's Wireless Internet Express service. The phone also comes with Blackjack, a Java (J2ME)-enabled game, but you can download more titles, ring tones, and wallpaper if the included choices don't suit your fancy.We tested this dual-band (GSM 850/1900; GPRS) LG G4050 in the Chicago area using Cingular Wireless. Because the handset had difficulties maintaining a consistent signal even when sitting in the same spot for long periods of time, call quality was erratic. We encountered frequent dropouts during conversations, often for as long as 10 seconds at a stretch. Even when we had a strong signal, there was considerable background hiss. And the included earpiece doesn't boost the volume enough for you to hold extended conversations outdoors.
As for battery life, we reached four hours of talk time, easily beating the rated time of three hours. The five days of standby time, however, fell short of the maximum rating of eight days. According to the FCC, the digital SAR rating for the G4050 was 0.71 watts per kilogram.