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LG 5350 - cellular phone - CDMA / AMPS review: LG 5350 - cellular phone - CDMA / AMPS

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The Good Compact; sharp color screen; compatible with Sprint's 3G data services; strong features; Java enabled; decent battery life.

The Bad Wireless Web experience should be faster.

The Bottom Line The LG 5350 may not have the sex appeal of Samsung's A500, but it holds its own--and it's more affordable.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

Buyers interested in LG's 5350 for Sprint PCS service will most assuredly compare it to Samsung's similarly featured A500. While the LG isn't as light or as slick as that model, this attractive flip measures up to the Samsung in many ways and arguably offers a superior interface, button configuration, battery life, and price tag.

A pocket full of fun, this phone is fairly compact.

The 5350 isn't as compact (3.5 by 1.8 by 1.1 inches; 3.8 ounces) or as stylish as the Samsung A500. Still, it's elegantly designed, with blue trim on the outside and a blue finish on the inside that complements the sharp, 120x133-pixel, STN color screen. You can view nine lines of text and 65,000 colors on the display, which is identical to the Samsung's.

The external LCD is the standard monochrome variety and displays time, date, and caller-ID info, with a blue backlight for flair. All the main buttons on the phone are also lit in blue, except for the End button, which is conveniently illuminated in red.

We liked the dial-pad buttons; they're a decent size, slightly rubberized, and spaced far enough to minimize misdials. We also appreciated the four-way navigational button above the dial pad--it makes scrolling through menus easier--and the dedicated volume control on the side of the phone that doubles as a page up/down scroll button in wireless Web mode. Kudos to LG for avoiding Samsung's mistake with the OK/Enter button; on this model, it's where it should be: in the middle of the four-way navigational control. With its large animated icons, the interface is slightly slicker and cleaner than the A500's.

Like other PCS Vision-enabled phones, the 5350 lets you customize the look of your phone with downloadable graphics, pictures, and sounds, available as part of Sprint's next-generation data service. The wireless Web interface also looks jazzier, though it remains largely text-oriented. (See the Performance section for more on the wireless Web features.)

Keypad kudos to the 5350. It's easier to navigate the phone's menus than that found on Samsung's A500.

Like the A500, the 5350 has many bells and whistles that revolve around the PCS Vision service; it's hard to recommend this phone to users who don't want to pay an extra $10 per month on top of their voice charges. Naturally, the standard features are all here: call history, a 199-name phone book, a calendar, text messaging, voice recognition, voice dialing, customizable key tones, and some Java-based games (Real Fighters and Egg Stack). The 5350 has a whopping 43 multitone (40-chord) ring tones, all of which can be surprisingly loud; don't forget to turn the 5350 to vibrate mode during board meetings.

As noted, you can purchase downloadable screensavers and additional games--some are lame, while others are somewhat addictive--for a few dollars. Better yet, by using a special mode that turns off the cell radio, you can play them while you're on a flight.

Speaking of accessories, there's a wireless Web connection kit with USB that allows you to turn your 5350 into a modem. Also, the 5350 is compatible with Sprint's PCS Business Connection service, which allows you to receive corporate e-mail and view your calendar on your phone.

Heavy load: The 5350 comes with a not-so-portable desktop charger.

In our tests in San Francisco and New York City, we found call quality on the 5350 (CDMA 800/1900/AMPS 800/1xRTT) to be quite good; the speaker is nice and loud. However, don't expect to pick up signals where your old Sprint PCS mobile couldn't. For example, we still didn't get a signal in our Manhattan office, where Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile phones usually worked. When we did get a signal, callers said that we sounded fine but not fabulous.

Thanks to Openwave's browser--which features Web-page-caching technology, among other enhancements--the 5350's wireless Web experience is slightly better than the A500's. But even though Sprint's 3G network is supposed to make surfing quicker, we didn't notice a significant speed boost. Simultaneously checking sports scores on this model and the WAP-enabled monochrome Sanyo SCP-6200, we didn't get the information any faster on the 5350. Sprint's Vision models currently limit you to XHTML sites, so you can't access the quicker-loading WAP sites. To be clear, the lag time isn't long, but you still have to wait about five seconds for the next screen to appear once you click a link.

As noted, battery life is good, particularly for a color-screen phone. We managed to hit the rated talk time of three hours and came in just a day short the phone's rated standby time of eight days. We should point out that the more you use the phone's backlight and wireless Web features, the bigger a hit the battery takes. Our result for talk time represents continuous use of the phone without the backlight on. Like other LG models, the 5350 comes with a power adapter and a charging cradle. We wish that LG would simply provide a travel charger that plugs directly into the phone.

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