We're not sure about the Aloha moniker, as there's little about it to suggest the 50th state or even a welcoming spirit for that matter. The handset's design is so minimalist that it might even cause the late Mies van der Roe to wince. Clad in white and gray with clean lines and rounded edges, the Aloha is so devoid of outside features that even an external display and a volume rocker are absent. Normally, we're not fond of flip phones that have no external displays. While we realize that its lack of a screen helps account for the Aloha's low price, we still miss being able to check a caller's identity without opening the handset. That leaves just a headset jack on the left spine, a charger port on the Aloha's bottom end, and a small red light that shows through the front flap. It blinks to let you know the Aloha is on, but you can turn the light off if you prefer.
At 3.5x1.9x0.9 inches, the Aloha is average size for a flip phone, but at 2.7 ounces, it's quite light. It rested comfortably in the hand, but the hinge mechanism was a tad loose. Also, the plastic shell felt cheap.
The internal display is relatively small for the phone's size (1.5 inches; 128x128 pixels). It supports just eight lines of text, so you have to do a fair amount of scrolling though the simple menus (grid and list styles are also available). Also, the 65,000-color resolution means that graphics aren't very rich. But really, that's to be expected on a basic phone. You can change the backlight and the font size.
The keypad buttons have a standard design with a four-way toggle, a central OK button, two soft keys, talk and end/power buttons, and a back key. All the keys are easy to use; they're tactile and quite large. Additionally, the toggle doubles as a shortcut to the Web browser, the recent calls list, the messaging in-box, and the My Account feature. The backlit keypad buttons are tactile as well, and they are separated from each other.
The Aloha has a small phone book with room for 199 contacts. Each entry holds five phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, a Web address, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with any of 10 polyphonic ringtones. You can add a personalized animation as well, though without an external display we don't quite see the point of such an option. Other features include a scheduler, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a world lock, a voice memo recorder, a notepad, text messaging, a speakerphone, and a vibrate mode. Surprisingly, the Aloha also offers voice dialing.
You can customize the Aloha with a selection of wallpaper, screen savers, clock styles, and alert sounds, and you can write a personalized greeting as well. Two games are included--ZooZooClub and Battle Reverse--and you can use the phone's wireless Web browser to download more content from Virgin's VXL Internet service. The Aloha offers 3.5MB of storage for your content.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) LG Aloha in San Francisco. (Sorry, we couldn't get to Hawaii.) As an MVNO, Virgin doesn't operate its own network, so it piggybacks on Sprint's service instead. Call quality was decent but not too spectacular. There was little static or interference, but voices sounded rather harsh. Also, callers had trouble hearing us unless we were in a quiet environment. The volume was fine, but without any side-mounted volume controls we, had to go through a few clicks on the toggle to adjust the sound level. That's rather inconvenient when you're on a call, since you have to remove the phone from your ear. The speakerphone works sufficiently well, though the volume is rather low. Also, you can't turn on the speakerphone until after you place a call.
The Aloha has a rated battery life of three hours talk time and 6.25 days standby time. In our tests, we met the rated time. According to FCC radiation charts, the Aloha has a digital SAR rating of 1.3 watts per kilogram.