Now that Cingular has brought push-to-talk (PTT) technology to the GSM world, its popularity has gone beyond industry professionals to the young and hip crowd. Of Cingular's first PTT phones launched early this year, the only two cell phones available were the LG F7200 and the Samsung SGH-D357. Designed to appeal to a business crowd in a security-conscious world, they lacked a VGA digital camera and focused on basic work-friendly functions. Well, now there's another member in the Cingular PTT family: the LG CG300. Like the other two handsets, the LG CG300 has a pretty basic design and is relatively small compared with many of Nextel's PTT clunkers. Yet, it also offers Cingular customers a bit more variety by including a built-in VGA camera. You can get it from Cingular for $50 after a rebate and a two-year contract. Otherwise, it will run you $99.
As said previously, the design of the LG CG300 is simple and nothing to write home about. It has a black and silver color scheme, a slightly curved body, and a sturdy antenna stub. At 3.58 by 1.9 by 0.94 inches and 3.8 ounces, it's not terribly bulky, and it fits easily--if a bit snugly--in the pocket. The phone feels pretty comfortable in the hand, and when opened, it cradled our ears without any discomfort.
One design feature of the LG CG300 that stands out is the large speaker at the top. Although it makes the phone look like a walkie-talkie, which goes nicely with the PTT functionality, it isn't very attractive. Underneath is the thumbnail-size external screen (96x64 pixels) that is monochrome in standby mode but displays a bright fixed-color background when the phone is open and during a call. The color filter can't be deactivated, but it's easy to see in both environments. The external screen displays the time, battery and signal strength, and caller ID (but not photo caller ID). On the left spine are the headset jack, a PTT button, and a volume rocker; on the right spine is a dedicated camera button. In a nice touch, a dedicated speakerphone button is located on top of the phone. The VGA camera, the flash, and a tiny self-portrait mirror are on the back, but you have to be careful not to cover the lens with your finger.
When opening the LG CG300, you're presented with a disappointing 65,536-color, 1.75-inch-diagonal (128x160 pixels) internal display. Although it's fine for scrolling through the simple menus, it has an overall washed-out appearance, especially when compared to other phones with 262,000-color displays. You can adjust the backlight time and the contrast, but there are no brightness or font-size settings. Underneath the display are the navigational controls made up of two soft keys, a shortcut to the photo gallery, a dedicated camera button, and a five-way navigation toggle that also provides shortcuts to text messaging, instant messaging, the contacts list, and the MyStuff folder. When in standby mode, the OK button defaults as a Web-browser shortcut, but none of the shortcuts are user-configurable, unfortunately. At the bottom of the array are the Talk and End/power keys, with the Cancel key in between. Below the navigational controls is the spacious keypad, which has buttons that are raised enough to dial by feel. All the keys are tactile due to their large size and spacious layout. Also, they glow a bright blue for easy dialing in the dark.
The LG CG300 comes with a small 255-entry address book, and each entry can accommodate three phone numbers, an e-mail address, a note, and a picture. The inclusion of a picture ID doesn't make too much sense to us, since the external display can't show photo caller ID. Each entry is assigned to different caller groups, but only the groups will accommodate one of the 10 polyphonic ring tones and 10 monophonic ring tones. Organizational features include a calendar, an alarm clock, a voice memo, a calculator, a notepad, a world clock, a unit converter, and a tip calculator. You also get instant messaging (with AOL, ICQ, and Yahoo), text and multimedia messaging, a 30-second voice recorder, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, and Bluetooth. There's also a neat feature that lets you send photos wirelessly to a Bluetooth-enabled printer. Although the CG300 has a dedicated speakerphone button, you can activate it only after you make a call--weird. For a complete description of Cingular's new push-to-talk service, please see our review of the LG F9200.
While the LG CG300 comes equipped with a disappointing VGA camera, it was a nice change from the previous Cingular PTT phones that ditched cameras completely. You can take photos in 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120 resolutions. Other camera options include a brightness setting; Auto, Daylight, Incandescent, Cloudy, and Fluorescent white-balance options; three color effects (Color, Sepia, Mono); a 5- and 10-second self-timer; a multishot feature of up to 3 shots; and three different shutter sounds (there's also a silent option). The camera's flash is simply a bright flashlight that you can turn or off. Photos were predictably washed out and grainy but fairly standard for those of a VGA camera. The CG300 comes with 7.9MB of built-in memory, which is fine for a few snapshots, but you might quickly fill it up if you have a camera trigger finger.