Even though Alltel isn't quite considered a major national carrier, it still has a number of cool handsets in its lineup. The latest one is the LG Wave, a midrange cell phone that is supposedly curved to mimic the curl of a wave. We certainly don't deny that it has an appealing design, especially with the touch-sensitive music controls right on the front and a unique dual-tone color scheme. Still, we're not fans of the slick keypad and the screen could look a lot better. However, the LG Wave comes with a healthy dose of features--a megapixel camera, a music player, EV-DO, plus Alltel's unique Celltop interface--for an affordable $79.99 with a new service agreement.
We don't quite buy the analogy that the LG Wave is curled like a wave, but it is quite a curvaceous device, with rounded corners and a soft curve rising from top to bottom. We especially like the fade-to-black color scheme it has on the front. Measuring 3.5 inches by 1.93 inches by 0.89 inch, the Wave is a decidedly small phone, and since its chassis is made from a lightweight plastic, the Wave only weighs in at around 3.03 ounces. The lightweight feel does make it seem a tad cheap and toylike, but we didn't mind, as it felt fine in the hand and when held next to the ear.
The LG Wave comes with a small but functional 1.25-inch diagonal external screen right on the front. It displays all the typical information like date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. Since it supports 65,000 colors, the display also supports photo caller ID plus act as a camera viewfinder. It also displays the currently playing track when the music player is activated. A few tiny icons along the top of the screen indicate whether you have a new message, whether the phone is on vibrate, and whether you're in a roaming zone.
When the music player is activated, a row of touch-sensitive music player controls will appear underneath the display. These glowing red keys consist of the rewind/track-back key, the play/pause key, and the fast forward/track forward key. You can configure the sensitivity of these keys plus add sound effects to them so you know when you've pressed the right key. We haven't been huge fans of touch-sensitive keys, and it's no different here. We really miss the feeling of tactile keys, and it's kind of a pain to unlock the keys every time you want to change a track. The least they could've done is to have a vibrating or haptic feedback for the keys, but even that isn't present.
A camera lens sits above the external display, but there is no flash. On the left spine are a headset jack, a volume rocker, and a dedicated music player key, while the right side is home to a microSD card slot, a dedicated camera key, and the charger jack. You can unlock the aforementioned music player keys by hitting any of the keys on the side.
Flip open the phone and you'll find a simple 2-inch diagonal 262,000 color display. The screen is bright, colorful, and shows off the phone's animated menu icons. You can adjust the display's backlight time, the menu style, font styles, and dialing font sizes, but there is no brightness setting. The Celltop menu interface is especially enticing; it consists of interactive, changeable windows, or "cells," that act as shortcuts to things like your call log or message in-box. There are even other features, such as displaying weather or news information. You can read more about the Celltop feature in our review of the Samsung SCH-u520M.
Underneath the display is a navigation array that consists of two soft keys and a circular toggle that act as shortcuts to the contacts list, Axcess Apps, the browser, and the music player. There's also a dedicated speakerphone key, a dedicated camera key, a Back key, and the Send and End/Power keys. We thought the keypad felt rather slick and slippery, with a rather crowded array as well. That said, there was enough textured delineation between each key so you could dial by feel if you wanted.