LG is one of the top makers of touch-screen feature phones, and though many of them go to big national carriers like Verizon Wireless and AT&T Wireless (like the LG enV Touch and the LG Xenon for example), quite a number of them make it to regional carrier U.S. Cellular as well. One such offering is the LG Bliss, which reminds us of the LG Tritan, except it doesn't have a keyboard and it has a lower resolution camera. The Bliss has customizable home screens, EV-DO, and a number of multimedia features, all in a slim shape. The LG Bliss is available for $99 with a new two-year service agreement and a mail-in rebate.
Measuring 4.23 inches long by 2.28 inches wide by 0.47 inch thick, the LG Bliss is one of the thinnest touch-screen phones we've ever used. Its tapered edges make it feel even skinnier than it is, and at 3.42 ounces, it's lightweight as well. The Bliss' all-plastic construction does make it feel rather cheap, though. The phone comes in either white with gold trim or black with a lime green trim.
Dominating the phone's front surface is the large 3-inch touch-screen display. It supports 262,000 colors and 240x400 pixel resolution, which result in vibrant color and sharp images and text. When the phone is idle or locked, a screen overlay displays the date, time, any missed calls or messages, plus a brief rundown of the day's schedule. There's a power save mode that defaults the brightness and backlight settings to be more energy efficient, though you can turn it off if you want to adjust them manually. You can also adjust the font style, the dial font size, and the menu style.
Like the Tritan, the Bliss has four home screens: the Main home screen, the Shortcuts screen (for application shortcuts or browser bookmarks), the Contacts screen, and the Multimedia screen. You can swipe across the screen horizontally to switch between the home screens, or you can simply tap on the home-screen navigation bar at the top of the display. There are four shortcut icons along the bottom of each home screen. They correspond to the messaging menu, the phone dialer, the main menu, and the contacts list.
You can adjust the banner text and the appearance of the clock and calendar on the home screen only. For the Shortcuts, Contacts, and Multimedia screen, there's an Edit button at the lower right corner, which puts the screen in editing mode. In this mode you can add new shortcut icons, rearrange them, or remove them. There's also an Align button on the upper right that snaps the icons to a grid. You can choose a different wallpaper for each home screen.
We have a mixed reaction to the touch-screen interface. We like the haptic feedback, which vibrates the phone to let us know when our touch has registered, plus we had no problems with overall touch accuracy, whether we were using our fingers or the included stylus. However, the response time was a bit slow for our liking. There is often a very slight delay between when we touched the screen and the resulting function. Though we eventually got used to it, not everyone will be pleased with it. You can use the touch calibration wizard to ensure accuracy. You also can adjust the strength and length of the vibrating feedback, plus the type and volume of the vibration's sound effect.
The phone dialer and messaging interface are similar to other LG touch-screen phones. The dialer has a big virtual number keypad so you can easily dial the numbers. As for messaging, you have three input methods. The first is via the number keypad, with either ABC or XT9 input; the second is handwriting recognition; and the third is a full virtual QWERTY keyboard. To reveal the QWERTY keyboard, you have to rotate the phone to landscape mode; the Bliss has an internal accelerometer that will rotate the display as well. We liked the virtual keyboard quite a bit: the keys are large and when you tap one, it magnifies to let you know which letter you selected. There's a dedicated @ symbol as well, for entering e-mail addresses.
That doesn't mean the Bliss has all touch controls. Underneath the display are three physical keys, which are the Talk key, the Clear or Speakerphone key, and the End/Power key. The volume rocker is on the left spine as well as the 2.5-millimeter headset jack. On the right are the charger jack, the screen lock key, and the camera key. The camera lens is on the back. There is no self-portrait mirror, so it's a bit tricky to take a self-photo. There's a microSD card slot, but it's located behind the battery cover.
Above the display next to the speaker is the Bliss's proximity sensor. This shuts off the display when you bring your face next to it (like when you're on a call) in order to save battery life.
The LG Bliss has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a memo, and a Web site URL. You can then organize your contacts into caller groups, add a photo to a contact for caller ID, plus one of 25 ringtones or one of eight message alert tones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, voice command, an alarm clock, a calendar, an organizer, a world clock, a notepad, a calculator, a tip calculator, a unit converter, and a stopwatch. There's also a drawing panel application that lets you sketch down doodles and send them to friends if you wish.
More advanced features include GPS navigation, a voice recorder, voice command support, USB mass storage mode, and stereo Bluetooth. You can also get mobile e-mail via U.S. Cellular's EasyEdge service. It is compatible with most Web e-mail services like Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo, plus any provider with POP or IMAP. The EasyEdge portal also gives you access to the app store and City ID, an enhanced caller ID that displays city and state information of incoming calls.
The browser was quite easy to use. You can zoom in and out of pages with either the volume rocker or an onscreen slider. Though it's not as smooth as the multitouch pinch method, it's certainly a lot easier than tapping on a magnifying glass icon. We did encounter some hiccups when scrolling through long Web pages, though; it sometimes scrolls the page in skips and starts rather than one smooth continuous motion. This was especially when there were a lot of images, so this might be a performance issue (see Performance section).
The LG Bliss has quite a nice music player. The interface is clean, simple, and intuitive. The player organizes songs into albums, artists, and genres. You can create and edit playlists on the fly, and set the music on repeat or shuffle. The player interface is quite typical, with the album art in the middle and the player controls along the bottom. To add songs to the music player, you'll have to transfer them via USB or to a microSD card. The Bliss supports MP3, WMA, AAC, and AAC+ file formats. You can send the music player to the background while you're multitasking in other parts of the phone.
The 2-megapixel camera on the Bliss can take pictures in four resolutions, three quality settings, five white balance presets, and five color effects. Other settings include multishot mode, fun frames, a self-timer, a night mode, and three shutter sounds, plus a silent option. Photo quality was not bad. Images looked sharp, but colors were muted and seemed a bit overcast. The video recorder can record videos in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) in two lengths: a short one for MMS, and a longer one for saving. You can also mute the audio if you want. It has white balance, color effects, and quality settings similar to the still camera. The Bliss can support up to 16GB of additional storage in the form of a microSD card in case you like to take lots of pictures.
You can personalize the LG Bliss with a variety of wallpaper, alert tones, and more. If you want, you can download more from U.S. Cellular's EasyEdge store. The same goes if you want to download more games. The Bliss comes with three: Dart, Homerun Derby, and Pac-Man.
We tested the LG Bliss in San Francisco with U.S. Cellular on a roaming service. Call quality was impressive overall. On our end, we heard our callers loud and clear with nary a blip of static. There was a bit of background buzz, but nothing distracting.
On their end, callers reported similar call quality. They said volume was good and our voice sounded clean and natural. When we turned on the speakerphone, callers said voice quality was noticeably harsher and not quite as natural, but it wasn't a big deal. For us, they sounded rather tinny and distant due to the phone's small speakers, but that's to be expected with most speakerphones.
The phone's speakers didn't do justice for audio playback either. Music sounded rather flat and there wasn't much bass at all. We would certainly recommend using a headset to enhance your audio listening experience.
We weren't able to get full EV-DO in our area, but we did get at least 1xRTT speeds. It certainly isn't as fast as we would like, but it was serviceable most of the time. Loading a full Web page like CNET's front page took around 42 seconds, for example. As we said above, scrolling and navigating around a Web page isn't as smooth as we would like, probably due to the slower speeds.
The LG Bliss has a rated battery life of 4 hours and 30 minutes talk time and 13 days standby time. The Bliss has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 53 minutes. According to the FCC, the Bliss has a digital SAR rating of 1.21 watts per kilogram.