One could argue that as the Razr was to Motorola, the Chocolate was to LG. It was the first real iconic phone from LG, gaining plenty of hype because of its slender look and candy bar moniker. The Chocolate was also one of the first to really showcase Verizon's V Cast Music player, with its unique touch-sensitive music player controls and focus on the multimedia experience. We weren't too thrilled with the first iteration, but its sequel, the LG VX8550 Chocoate, was sweetened up to our liking thanks to its mechanical scroll wheel and easier-to-use controls.
But LG wasn't comfortable resting on its laurels. In an effort to broaden the Chocolate's appeal, LG has decided to produce a flip version of the iconic phone, dubbed the LG Chocolate 3. (We at first thought the LG VX8600 was the flip-phone successor to the LG Chocolate, but we were mistaken). Verizon is also marketing the LG Chocolate 3 as the marquee phone for its new V Cast Music with Rhapsody service, so the Chocolate 3 is amped up with music-focused features like a 3.5-mm headset jack plus a built-in FM transmitter. Though we're big fans of its multimedia features, we have to say its design has lost some of the luster and sex appeal of its predecessors. The LG Chocolate 3 is available from Verizon Wireless for $129.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate and a two-year service agreement.
As the first flip phone in the Chocolate line of handsets, the design of the Chocolate 3 is markedly different from its predecessors--the only remaining similarity appears to be the iPod-like scroll wheel on the front of the device. Measuring 3.87 inches high by 1.94 inches wide by 0.64 inch thick, it is also the least "chocolate bar"-looking of the lot, with a wide yet slim rectangular body. While we appreciate LG going in a different design direction for the Chocolate 3, this new design makes the Chocolate 3 look and feel like just any other slim flip phone on the market, and it doesn't seem as special and iconic as its predecessors.
Like the LG Decoy, the Chocolate 3 has a reflective mirrorlike finish on the entire front surface of the phone. It's so reflective that it almost obscures the 1.76-inch 262,000-color external screen located right above the scroll wheel. The external screen displays the typical caller ID, date, time, and battery and signal strength information when in standby mode. You can adjust the backlight time and clock format, but not much else.
From the external screen, you can then access a limited menu. The menu options are presented in rotating pattern, so it's easy to navigate just by using the scroll wheel. Menu options include the camera, the calendar, the messaging in-box, the My Music folder, and the My Pictures folder. This way, you can take a quick glance at things like your recent messages or the day's events without having to open the phone. Also, since there's no dedicated camera button, this is the only way to access the camera feature when the phone is closed. Of course, you can also access the music player interface either via the My Music folder or simply by hitting the dedicated Music button on the right spine. The display shows the album art of the song, plus you can play, pause, rewind, or fast forward the music by clicking on the scroll wheel (more on the music player in the Features section).
Underneath the display is the aforementioned mechanical scroll wheel. It feels reminiscent of the one on the VX8550 Chocolate, and that's a good thing. The spun metal surface of the wheel makes it feel tactile, and the wheel spins freely without a lot of resistance. We could press the wheel in four different quadrants (up, down, left, right) and the middle button quite easily, as well. Almost too easily, in fact; this is why the Chocolate 3 has a Keylock/Hold button on the right spine to prevent accidental presses. Unlike that of the two other Chocolate phones, the Chocolate 3 does not have any touch-sensitive navigation keys, which is just fine by us.
The left spine of the Chocolate 3 is home to a 3.5mm headset jack (very nice!), the volume rocker, a voice command key, and the charger jack. The microSD card slot plus the Music and Keylock buttons are on the right. A camera lens sits on top of the external screen. There's no self-portrait mirror, but that's OK since the external display also acts as a viewfinder. There's no flash LED, however.
Flip open the phone and you'll find an attractive 2.2-inch 262,000-color main display. Images look sharp and colorful, and the clean lines of the graphic menu interface complement the display very well. You can adjust the backlight time, the font size, the clock format, plus the menu layout.
Underneath the display is a simple navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a circular toggle plus OK button, a dedicated speakerphone key, a dedicated camera key, plus the Send, Clear, and End/Power keys. The up, down, and left directions on the circular toggle doubles as shortcuts to three user-defined functions. For even more shortcut options, the right arrow leads to a My Shortcuts folder, which you can list with any four favorite shortcuts.
The overall keypad, both the navigation array and the alphanumeric keys, felt quite slippery and flat. There were slight delineations between each key, which helped with dialing and texting, but we still wouldn't recommend dialing by feel.
The LG Chocolate 3 comes with a USB cable plus an AC adapter.
Like all the other Chocolate phones, the LG Chocolate 3 is one music-focused phone. But first, the basics. The LG Chocolate 3 comes with a 1,000-entry phone book, with room in each entry for five numbers and two e-mail addresses. The entries can then be organized into caller groups, assigned a photo for caller ID, or paired with one of 21 ringtones or one of six alert tones. Other features include a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, voice command and dialing, a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world clock, a notepad, and a vibrate mode. More advanced users will like the wireless Web browser, e-mail, instant messaging, USB mass storage capabilities, and a support for a robust array of Bluetooth profiles--they include stereo Bluetooth, phonebook access, dial-up networking, printing, file transfer, and more. It also has support for VZ Navigator, Verizon's location-based turn-by-turn service.
Since the LG Chocolate 3 has EV-DO support, it has access to Verizon's full array of V Cast services, which include streaming video courtesy of V Cast Video, as well as music downloads thanks to the newly launched V Cast Music with Rhapsody. You can download songs over the air directly to the phone for $1.99, which also includes a simultaneous download to the PC. To save money, you can download songs to the PC for 99 cents each, and then transfer the songs to your phone via a USB cable. The Chocolate 3 has a whopping 1GB of internal memory, plus you can supplement it with a microSD card slot that takes up to 8GB cards. Though you can stream music to your PC via the $14.99 a month Rhapsody service, you can't stream music wirelessly to your phone.
The music player interface is fairly simple, and it appears the same on both the main and external display. The album art dominates the screen, while the player controls appear along the bottom. As we mentioned earlier, you can use the scroll wheel to control the music as well as scroll through the list of songs. Music settings include shuffle, repeat, six equalizer presets, and music only mode (this turns off the cell phone radio so that you use the phone only as a music player). You can create and manage your own playlists, plus there's a rhythmical cursor option that has an effect of a colorful cursor as the music is playing. Also a very nice feature of the music player is that there's a built-in FM transmitter for three different bands--88.1 Mhz, 96.1 Mhz, and 106.1 Mhz. Just select one, tune your radio to it, and the music will transmit to your radio. The music player supports WMA, MP3, and unprotected AAC and AAC+ file formats. You can multitask while listening to the music as well.
The LG Chocolate 3 has a 2.0-megapixel camera, which is an improvement over its predecessors. It can take photos in four different resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240), five different white-balance settings, five different color effects, and three different spot photometry modes. Other options include a brightness setting, a self-timer, plus the choice of three shutter sounds (plus a fourth silent option). Photo quality was pretty good, but nothing spectacular. Images looked sharp enough, but they did seem slightly washed out. There's also a built-in camcorder that can record up to two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) in two different times (up to 30 seconds for MMS and up to 1 hour or available memory). Video quality was expectedly low-quality and shaky, as expected from a camera phone. That said, it's okay for simple candid shots.
Personalization options are aplenty with the LG Chocolate 3. There's a variety of wallpapers, alert sounds, and display themes to choose from, and if you aren't satisfied with what you get, you can always download more via the Web browser. No games or applications come with the phone, but again, you can download them via the Web.
We tested the (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) LG Chocolate 3 in San Francisco using Verizon's service. We were very impressed by the call quality. Callers had no problem hearing us; we sounded loud and clear with very little static at all. We also heard them without much problem, though there was the occasional static in the background. Speakerphone quality was predictably tinny and hollow, but callers could still hear us quite well. We were able to pair the Chocolate 3 with the Aliph Jawbone 2 without a problem.
Music quality was decent as well. The bass was a little lacking, but the overall quality is good enough for short stints while waiting in line or riding the bus. Of course, we recommend the use of a pair of good headphones for the best listening experience. Download speeds were more than satisfactory--a 1.8 MB song took a little less than a minute to download. Streaming video quality from V Cast is about the same as other phones with the same service--rather pixelated for fast-action movies, but very little rebuffering time.
The LG Chocolate 3 has a rated battery life of 4.5 hours talk time and 14.5 days of standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 5 hours and 7 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG Chocolate 3 has a digital SAR rating of 1.26 watts per kilogram.