As cell phones grow more complicated, sprouting features such as cameras and MP3 players, it's good to know there are still handsets on the market that focus on making and receiving calls, pure and simple. The VX3200 for Verizon Wireless, the latest model in LG's line of entry-level handsets, does just that. Like the company's for AT&T Wireless, the VX3200 is basic, yet it offers good performance and a smart, lightweight design. There's no external display or Web browser, but there are some unexpected surprises, including a speakerphone, a bright color screen, and voice-dialing options. At $160, the mobile is priced a little on the high side, but you should be able to find it cheaper with service. Normally we're not fans of flip phones without external displays, but the LG VX3200 is an exception. With a soothing blue front flap and compact dimensions (3.4 by 1.8 by 0.9 inches; 3.5 ounces), it's decidedly attractive, even bordering on cute. And its small stature means it can fit in almost any pocket, and it feels comfortable to use and hold while you're talking. Beyond the 1-inch external antenna, there are few outside controls to complicate things. A large volume rocker can be used to scroll through the menus, and a tiny green LED flashes for incoming calls. The overall construction is sturdy, and the flap opens and closes easily with a nice click.
The earpiece and the microphone match the blue hue of the front flap, while a mirrored frame surrounds the phone's display. The 1.5-inch (diagonal) screen displays a solid 65,000 colors; it is crisp and clear and can be seen in dim settings. In natural light, however, the screen appears faint even on a cloudy day, though you can adjust both the brightness and the contrast.
The navigation buttons and menus--there's a choice of two styles--couldn't be easier to use. A four-way toggle provides one-touch access to messages, sounds, the speakerphone, voice memo, and voice dialing. An OK button in its center allows you to select options in the text-based menus, while two soft keys open the phone book and the main menu page. The controls are well spaced and are lit by a bright blue backlight. Keypad buttons are nicely sized, and they are raised above the phone's surface, so it is easy to dial by feel. As said before, the LG VX3200 has a mostly basic feature set. You get a 300-name phone book with room for five phone numbers and three e-mail addresses for each contact. You can organize contacts into groups and assign them one of 32 polyphonic ring tones (there's also a vibrate option) for caller ID purposes--particularly useful since there's no external screen. You also can pair names with a message tone and a picture, and there's room for 99 speed-dial entries.
Other features include a scheduler, a calculator, an alarm clock, a voice memo recorder, a notepad, a tip calculator, text and enhanced messaging, and a world clock. Gamers are out of luck, though, and there's no Internet browser. But there were some features we were surprised to see, especially the speakerphone and USB for data/fax and PC connections.
For such a basic phone, the VX3200 included a variety of customizable options. You can choose from a series of wallpapers, clock styles, sounds, and theme colors, and you can compose a personalized banner message. Other nice touches: you can adjust font sizes and colors, and you can set the phone to "say" the numbers as you dial them in either English or Spanish. Finally, when roaming outside the service area, you can program the phone to enter power-saver mode after a specified period of time. We tested the triband (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) LG VX3200 in San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; and southern Oregon. Audio quality was clear, and callers had no trouble hearing us or vice versa. They could tell we were using a cell phone, but we suffered from few dropped calls. Also, audio quality and signal strength suffered in more rural areas.
Battery time was mixed. We got 3.5 hours of talk time, slightly beating the rated time of 3.3 hours. But for standby time, we managed only 4.5 days, well short of what LG claims. While that's not great, it's not terrible either.