LG has a hit in the making with its new VX7000, the company's first camera phone with video-recording and playback functionality. Featuring a rotating lens, a flash, and beautiful internal and external screens, the VX7000 will be a hit with camera-phone aficionados. However, the phone's weak e-mail capabilities and lack of Bluetooth or IR support will frustrate business users. Available for Verizon Wireless, the handset sells for $249.99. Though that's a fair price, you should be able to find it for less with service. With its blue and silver frame and a mirrored finish on its front cover, the sharp VX7000 represents a new look for LG handsets. Though it's a bit boxy, it resembles a gadget straight from the Jetsons, and we love the overall futuristic effect. It's also big (3.7 by 1.9 by 1 inches) and heavy (3.9 ounces) for a flip phone, so it makes for an awkward fit in a jeans pocket, especially with its prominent antenna. If you don't mind wearing a phone on your belt, the included plastic holster might come in handy. On the upside, it's solidly constructed and quite comfortable to hold while talking.
Front and center is the bright external display, which shows the date, the time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID (where available). The 1.25-inch-diagonal, 4,096-color screen also displays pictures of your callers and the wallpaper of your choosing, while a long, thin indicator light above the screen flashes different colors for incoming calls or text messages. (The light does double duty as the camera flash.) Flip open the mobile and you'll find the eye-popping, 2-inch-diagonal internal screen. Armed with 262,000 colors, it has outstanding color and depth, making it a joy to browse the mostly intuitive menus. For some odd reason, though, the camera menu is included under the Web browser page. Unfortunately, the screen is difficult to read in harsh sunlight.
We had no trouble pressing the roomy, flat buttons on the VX7000's backlit keypad. A five-way navigation control lets you browse menus with ease and acts as a shortcut to the calendar, the phone book, the camera menu, and Verizon's Get It Now service. There are also two soft keys and a dedicated button that gives you one-touch access to the camera. Along the left edge of the phone are volume up/down keys and a dedicated voice-calling button, while a one-touch camera/shutter release key is on the right side. Last but not least is the swiveling camera lens that's built into the hinge of the phone; just use your thumb to point the lens 90 degrees in each direction.The LG VX7000 comes with a mixed bag of features that should keep casual cell users happy. The 500-contact phone book has space for five numbers and two e-mail addresses per name. Contacts can be assigned to a group, matched with a picture for photo caller ID, and paired with a specific ring tone or message tone. The mobile comes with 5 polyphonic and 14 monophonic ring tones and a vibrate mode. You also get voice dialing, three-way conference calling, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, world roaming, a notepad, and a tip calculator.
Unfortunately, the handset stumbles when it comes to e-mail and instant-messaging functionality. You can check your Hotmail or AOL Mail through a Web-based interface, but you'll have to download the crude, bare-bones Soda-Pop Mail to collect messages from your POP3 account, and there's no IMAP4 access at all. Instant-messaging fanatics can stay in touch with AOL, MSN, and Yahoo, but you can sign in to only one account at a time. Other missing features include a speakerphone, Bluetooth, and an infrared (IR) port.
Though it's only VGA quality, the VX7000's camera is one of the most powerful we've seen in a phone. You can take photos at four resolutions (640x480, 320x240, 176x144 and 160x120) and save up to 200 shots in the phone's 5MB of dedicated photo memory. The Night mode and the flash are somewhat helpful in low light, but you also can use the 3X zoom and adjust the brightness, quality, color effect, and white balance for each shot. For even more personalization, you can choose between two included shutter sounds, or you can opt for none at all. There's no multishot function, but a self-timer (which you can set to 3, 5, or 10 seconds) lets you dash in front of the camera for group shots. Even better, you can take photos when the handset is closed (just use the dedicated camera button and the external LCD), while the rotating lens lets you take self-portraits or aim the lens for surreptitious shots (not too surreptitious, we hope). Be aware when you rotate the lens from front to back, the image on the screen appears upside down, and you must flip the image to see it properly. Photo colors were rich and vibrant, although bright light sources such as overhead lights or windows tended to look blown out.