The LG VX8300, the company's third EV-DO cell phone for Verizon Wireless, aims to improve on some of the drawbacks that saddled the previous VX8100. And for the most part, it succeeds. Packaged in a similar design and offering a comparable range of high-end features as its predecessor, the LG VX8300 provides improved functionality and slightly better performance. As is typical with Verizon, features such as Bluetooth are limited in scope, though we were glad to see support for e-mail this time around. And if Verizon lives up to its promise to provide a stereo Bluetooth profile and modem capability through Verizon's 3G network, the VX8300 will be an even better choice. The LG VX8300 is fairly priced at $149 with one-year contract or $99 with a two-year contract. When we initially saw the LG VX8000, the company's first 3G phone, we loved the high-speed connectivity but weren't so hot on the boxy design. Fortunately, the LG VX8100 had a sleeker, rounder form factor, and we're glad to see that the LG VX8300 offers the same, though with a few differences. At 3.58 by 1.93 by 0.92 inches and 3.88 ounces, the VX8300 is slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, and instead of blue, it comes in gray. Though it's a nice effort overall, we're partial to the more eye-catching blue.
LG also made tweaks to other outside features. The 1.2-inch external display is a hair smaller than the VX8100's, though it has the same resolution (65,000 colors). Besides showing the date, time, battery life, signal strength, battery life, and photo caller ID, it acts as a viewfinder for self-portraits. Below the display are the external music controls, which are slightly redesigned as well, while above it are the camera lens and the smaller and relocated camera flash. Like the VX8100, however, the LG VX8300 has a bulky external antenna and nifty side-mounted stereo speakers.
Inside the phone is the bright and vivid internal display. Supporting 262,000 colors and measuring 2.25 inches diagonally, it's unchanged from the VX8100. With eye-popping colors and graphics, it's more than adequate for viewing photos, watching videos, and playing games. The menus look good, but we're not fans of the standardized Verizon selections, no matter how pretty they look. You can change the backlighting time on both displays.
Below the display are the user-friendly navigations controls. Though they bear a slightly different design from the VX8300, they're still tactile and adequately sized. A five-way toggle doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions, and we like that the OK button opens the main menu when in standby mode. Surrounding the toggle are two soft keys, the Talk and End/power controls, and a Clear key. In a departure from the VX8100, the Clear key no longer doubles as a speakerphone key, which as been moved to its own control just below. Though we always like a designated speakerphone key, it's worth noting the VX8300 has no shortcut on the main keypad. That's not an issue for us, but you may think differently.
The keypad buttons are large, tactile, and well spaced. The numerals on the keys are big as well, and the backlight is bright. Dialing by feel is also easy, as the keys are raised just above the surface of the phone. As with the VX8100, the right spine has a dedicated camera key and a Micro SD card slot, while the left spine has a volume rocker and a voice-command control.The LG VX8300 has a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can organize callers into groups, pair them with an image for picture caller ID, and assign them on of 11 polyphonic (32-chord) ring tones and four message tones. Other goodies include a vibrate mode; multimedia and text messaging; a duplex speakerphone; MSN and Yahoo instant messaging; call recording; a notepad; an alarm clock; a tip calculator; a world clock; a calendar with a scheduler; and voice memos, commands, and dialing.
A duplex speakerphone is included, and though you get Bluetooth 1.1, it won't support object exchange profiles. Though we've grown to accept that from Verizon, we still don't like it. On the other hand, we are excited by the prospect of Verizon adding a stereo Bluetooth for listening to music and the ability to use the phone as a modem over Verizon's EV-DO network with a Bluetooth or USB connection. Hopefully, the carrier will follow through with both. Two additions over the VX8100 are long-awaited support for POP3 e-mail and the introduction of Verizon's flash-based UI. The VX8300 is the first phone to feature Adobe Flash Lite, and we like the animated screensavers it brings to the phone.