Billed by LG as the "little black dress" of cell phones, the VI5225 flip phone for Sprint PCS service is indeed small and black and could conceivably be appropriate for almost any occasion. While its feature set does little to impress, it should do the trick if you're searching for a basic mobile for casual calling. Unfortunately, at $199 without service, this model is priced as an Armani when really it's more applicable to the Gap sale rack. That said, if you can find it for $50 or less, you won't be disappointed. Beyond its two-tone dark coloring and sleek shape, there's not much to say about the LG VI5225's minimalist design. But it has some appeal; a thin silver ring circles the front flap, and the polished black shell acts as a mirror. Moreover, the pocketable and portable handset is compact (3.5 by 1.9 by 1.0 inches; 3.4 ounces), and it feels comfortable to hold while you're talking. A rectangular, monochrome display shows the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (when available), but the VI5225 is otherwise so smooth and flat that it looks like it could be skipped across a pond. It's also one of the few LG phones with an internal antenna.
Open the phone, and the modest appearance persists. The main screen measures two inches diagonally, and though it displays only 4,096 colors, it's bright and crisp. Just be warned that it's difficult to see in direct sunlight and goes completely dark when the backlight is off. Likewise, the animated menus (available in two styles) are nice and easy to use but nothing special overall.
We especially liked the large, well-spaced navigation buttons--great for someone with large thumbs. Two soft keys open the phone book and the menu system, while a four-way toggle, with an OK button in its center, provides one-touch access to messaging, the Web browser, downloads, and one user-defined shortcut. Alternatively, you can scroll through the menus via the side volume rocker, though its thin shape makes it a bit hard to press. The blue-backlit keypad buttons also are big, with easily readable numbers but are set flush with the surface of the phone. The LG VI5225 doesn't go far in terms of features. There's a 200-name phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a Web site, and notes. Callers can be assigned to groups or matched with one of the 14 polyphonic or 6 monophonic ring tones, though there's no picture caller ID. Other features include a vibrate mode, a calculator, a world clock, a scheduler, a notepad, an alarm clock, airplane mode, and a tip calculator. You get text messaging, but multimedia messaging is noticeably absent.
Using the integrated WAP 2.0 browser, you can surf the wireless Web via Sprint's high-speed 1xRTT network or access e-mail, news, and other material. Solitaire is the only Java (J2ME)-enabled game included, but you can download more titles, ring tones, and apps from Sprint's PCS Vision service. A selection of voice commands is also available through Sprint for an additional fee of $5 per month.
You can personalize the VI5225 through a selection of greetings, wallpapers, sounds, clock styles, colors, or screensavers. You can download more options, but fees will vary. We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) LG VI5225 in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Callers sounded loud and clear, though on their end, they could tell we were using a cell phone. The handset picks up breathing noises easily, so be sure not to hold it too close to your mouth when talking.
Battery life was good. We beat the rated talk time of 2.5 hours by a half hour. For standby time, we eked out 9 days, a full day over the promised time of 8 days.