LG has made a name for itself in the handset business by being flexible--its lineup runs the gamut from high-end models, like the LG EnV, to the low-end, like the LG AX275. Its most recent Sprint handset, the LG LX160, is certainly one of the company's lowest-end offerings. Lacking a camera or a music player, the LX160 is suited for those who just want a basic phone without the frills. That said, the LX160 does come with Bluetooth, e-mail, voice command capabilities, and a stripped-down Web browser, so you do get a little more functionality than just a bare-bones phone. The best thing about the LX160, however, is that it's available for free--if you sign a two-year service agreement with Sprint.
As a basic phone, there's really not much to say about the LX160's design. It is, however, quite small and compact, measuring only 3.54-inches tall by 1.85-inches wide by 0.78-inch thick and weighing 2.86 ounces. Though not quite the thinnest flip phone we've seen (that honor would go to the Helio Fin), the LX160 does have a rather slim profile with smooth curves all around. We're glad to see an external screen on such a basic phone, especially one that supports 65,000 colors. The 1-inch diagonal display shows the usual information: date, time, battery and signal strength, and caller ID. The headset jack, volume rocker, and voice dial key sit on the left spine, while the right spine is home to the charger jack.
Flip open the phone and you'll find a simple, 1.75-inch diagonal internal display with about 65,000 colors as well. Though not the most vivid screen we've seen, we still managed to view the display when under bright sunlight. You can adjust the backlight time and font size, but not the brightness. The grid-like menu is very straightforward--there are hardly any animated icons, and menu options are indicated by plain text.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a four-way toggle that doubles as shortcuts to messaging, the Web browser, the My Content folder, and the calendar, plus a middle OK key. We also like that there's a dedicated speakerphone key (it doubles as a Recent Calls key when in standby mode) and a dedicated key for sending out new text messages. There's also a Talk key, a Back key, and an End/Power key. We found the four-way toggle a pleasure to use because of its bubble-like texture, while the rest of the keypad felt a tad crowded. That said, the keys were still raised enough above the phone's surface that we could dial and navigate by feel.
There's really little to say about the LG LX160's features, since it's such a basic phone. First, you get a 500-contact address book with room in each entry for five numbers, an e-mail address, a URL, and a memo. You can categorize the entries into groups, pair them with a pre-loaded image for caller ID (as there's no camera, caller ID photos aren't an option), or pair them with one of 33 polyphonic ringtones. Other features include a vibrate mode; text and multimedia messaging; a speakerphone; instant messaging; e-mail; voice recording; a notepad; an alarm clock; a tip calculator; a world clock; a calendar; and a calculator. On the more advanced side, there's also a Web browser and Bluetooth. With Bluetooth, the LX160 can be used as a modem for a Bluetooth-enabled laptop.
There are quite a few personalization options for the LG LX160. You can change the phone's wallpaper, screensavers, display styles, and more. There aren't that many choices included in the phone, but at least you can buy more via the Web browser. As far as applications go, you can even download MobiTV and watch short video clips on the LX160, though we wouldn't recommend it--streaming video looked incredibly choppy and blurry. A few built-in games include a demo version of Brain Juice, Midnight Pool, Pac-Man, a demo version of Tetris, and World Series of Poker. As with the other options, you can download and purchase more titles from the Sprint store.
We tested the dual-band LG LX160 (CDMA 850/1900) in San Francisco using Sprint's service. Call quality was decent--we could hear callers just fine and vice versa--but we did experience quite a bit of static, and our voice would occasionally fade in and out, according to callers. Speakerphone calls had similar results, though we were quite impressed with the phone's volume for such a tiny device. We also paired the LG LX160 with the Plantronics Voyager 520 Bluetooth headset without any problems.
The LG LX160 has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours of talk time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 45 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG LX160 has a SAR rating of 1.19 watts per kilogram.