Sporting a faux-leather rather than a fake metallic-plastic cover, the LG VX3100L stands out from many of its cell siblings. Yet like its sister model, the , the 3100L lacks a color screen and an external display, and it offers only the most basic PIM capabilities. But the phone's unique style and price--as low as $59, depending on the plan--are likely to be its main attractions, appealing particularly to budget-conscious or first-time phone buyers seeking a basic, functional device.
Cased in a black, faux-leather finish, there is something comforting about an unpretentious flip phone such as the VX3100L. While the hard-rubber stub antenna is an inch high, the small and lightweight (3.15 by 1.72 by 0.9 inches; 3.14 ounces) VX3100L does not add excessive bulk or weight to a pants pocket. And though the five-line, 120x80-pixel monochrome screen seems retro, it's highly readable.
The backlit keypad buttons are large and well spaced for easy one-thumb dialing, and the four-way navigation button provides easy single-touch access to ring and earphone volume controls, wireless Web access, SMS messages, and the calendar. We're happy to report the menu navigation was straightforward and easy to use, a far cry from the complicated options found on the company's earlier LG VX10 model.
One quibble: The VX3100L ships with only a charging cradle (a travel charger is available for $28.99), an ongoing complaint with all LG models.
The VX3100L is bereft of fancier features but has the basics covered well. You get a calendar/scheduler function, an alarm clock, two games (Mobile Hawk and Black Jack), SMS text messaging with the T9 predictive-text software, and 27 monophonic ring tones as well as vibrate. Besides bilingual (English or Spanish) menus, it sports the OpenWave UP 4.1 WAP browser for simple menu-driven wireless Web access via Verizon's 1xRTT network.
The 199-entry phone book should be copious enough for most users, and saving a called or incoming number to the contact list is painless. The step-by-step process also allows you to set a special ring tone for a contact, each of which can be associated with up to five phone numbers. We have one complaint with how contacts are organized in the phone book. When entering a new contact, the 3100L prompts you to assign the person a one-, two-, or three-digit number (for use with speed dialing). Though you can choose your own number, the phone defaults to the next available number, regardless of where the contact's name comes in the alphabet. Also, while one-touch access to the phone book is available through the soft keys, accessing it through the menus is not the most intuitive process.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) mobile around New York City using Verizon Wireless service and got exceptionally solid reception. Sound quality was loud and clear. We could turn down the volume one or two notches to avoid distortion at the top level, although the sound with the headset was not as crystalline. The ringers were easy to hear, even from the pocket of our jeans in a noisy environment.
With no power-draining color screen, the phone met its rated 3.5-hour talk time and 5.5-day standby time--still far less than what you'd get from a more fully featured model.