Bluetooth in a cell phone has traditionally been reserved for shoppers who could spring for high-end handsets, but now Sprint has brought it to the mainstream with its compact, slightly funky LG PM-325 camera phone. Of course, we wish Sprint hadn't hobbled the data-transfer capabilities of Bluetooth, but with a slick sliding keyboard, an impressive screen, and great call quality, the PM-325 is an attractive, affordable option for users that want a taste, albeit a limited one, of what Bluetooth has to offer. At $229, the phone is pricey, but you should be able to find it for a discount with service. Overall, the LG PM-325 scores points with an attractive design that takes time to discover fully. It weighs a slight 3.3 ounces and measures a compact 3.9 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches. At first glance, it appears to have only a tiny, recessed screen that shows the time, incoming calls, signal strength, and battery life, but a quick flip of the thumb slides the keypad down to reveal a large (1.75 inches diagonally) display that can show a vibrant 65,000 colors. The screen is difficult to see in direct light, but you can adjust the backlighting time and the font size.
The slide is a fun, functional feature that makes the phone more compact, but it doesn't really make it easier to use. We found the slide extended the keypad beyond the reach of our fingers, making one-handed operation difficult. And because the backlit keys are close together and set flush with the surface of the phone, we often hit the wrong key when dialing. Also, we were a bit mystified about another point. Traditionally, the point of a slider mobile is to hide the keyboard to avoid an accidental misdial. In this case, however, LG chose to hide the screen instead, so locking the keyboard is still in order when you're carrying around the PM-325. Fortunately, you can dial the phone without extending the keypad, and you can access some menu functions when on a call.
Otherwise, the controls on the PM-325 are pretty straightforward. The five-way toggle at the center of the handset is used to navigate the bright, icon-driven menu, which comes with a choice of two styles. You also get one-touch access to four user-defined functions. Likewise, two soft keys open the menu and a task list. We were glad to see that the OK button doubles as a camera shortcut, and there's a Back button. The volume rocker and a voice-dialing control are on the side of the device, while the VGA camera lens and a small mirror are mounted on the back; you don't get a flash. The phone also comes with a standard 2.5mm headset jack and a USB port for data syncing, although the USB cable must be purchased separately.The phone book on the LG PM-325 stores a respectable 199 names with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, and notes. Contacts can be assigned a picture and any of 18 polyphonic or 6 monophonic ring tones. The mobile also comes with a number of call management features, including caller groups, multiple call timers, three-way calling, auto-answer, speed dial, voice dial, and a vibrate mode. Still more features include a voice memo, a notepad, text and multimedia messaging, a tip calculator, an alarm clock, a calendar, and a world clock. For data services, the phone supports Sprint's PCS Vision service, which uses Openwave's WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser and offers access to Web-based e-mail and support for AOL Instant Messenger.
Unfortunately, you don't get a speakerphone--a curious omission--but the addition of Bluetooth sets the PM-325 apart from most mobiles in its class. With a Bluetooth headset, which will cost you an additional $50 to $100, you can answer calls and carry on conversations without the hassle of a cord running from your ear to the phone. Sprint deserves some praise for putting the feature in a midrange phone, but users should know that Sprint limits its use. Although you can connect to a wireless headset, it cannot be used to connect to your PC or other Bluetooth devices. This follows a distressing trend we first saw with Verizon's . Though the companies say otherwise, some carriers are hobbling Bluetooth to force users to pay for their data services to move files off their phones. While some might say some Bluetooth is better than none, the whole effort is a cheap move.