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Not too many phones can wow us these days, especially if it isn't a tricked out smartphone or a multimedia touch-screen wonder. However, the LG dLite sparkled and dazzled its way into our inner adolescent heart. More closely resembling its Korean cousins than any of its American siblings, the dLite is utterly girly in every way, with blinking lights, pastel colors, and cartoonish wallpaper. Its features aren't earth shattering by any means--there's a 2.0-megapixel camera, a music player, threaded messaging, a social networking app, and a few other basics--but the charm and whimsy of the phone's design won us over in the end. If we were still in our tweens, we would totally beg our parents to get us this phone. The LG dLite is available for an affordable $49.99 with a new two-year agreement with T-Mobile.
There is no question that LG designed the dLite to appeal to an extremely feminine sensibility. In fact, it feels as if it belongs in a Barbie dream house or in the hands of a Disney princess. It comes in either a bright bubblegum pink or a pastel sky blue on the outside, while the inside is a creamy white. At 4.3-inches long by 2.0-inches wide by 0.6-inch thick, the dLite is surprisingly long for a flip phone, and might be too big for young hands. It has very straight sharp sides with a slight curve at the top and the bottom. Weighing 3.5 ounces, it still felt pretty solid in our hands despite its plastic construction.
If the phone is on standby, you won't see any sort of display on the phone's exterior, just the LG and T-Mobile branding. Once you activate it though, either by opening the phone or pressing a button, you will notice a horizontal LED matrix display hidden underneath. It displays the current time by default, but it will also display incoming caller ID in a scrolling animation. You can have other LED animations as well, like that of a Space Invaders-esque video game or dancing stick figures. You also get animations for new messages or to let you know the music player is active. We found these LED animations amusing and entertaining, but we did wish for just a few more external controls, especially for the music player.
Located at the very bottom of the dLite's exterior, right underneath the T-Mobile branding, is what looks like piece of curved clear plastic. However, when you activate the phone, you'll find that it is actually a unique edge-lit LED surface that LG calls "Secret Lighting." There appears to be four LEDs embedded within the phone's edge that illuminates the clear plastic, resulting in a very pretty luminous glow.
The "Secret Lighting" is only activated when you first open or close the phone and when there's an incoming call or message. You can customize this "Secret Lighting" to display in one of five different patterns--Light Spreading, Light Collecting, Light Flowing (left to right), Light Flowing (right to left), or Light All--and in one of seven colors.
The benefit of such a long phone is that you get quite a big display. On the inside is a 2.8-inch diagonal display that looks a bit bigger than it is because of its length. It's blessed with a 240x400-pixel resolution screen that can display 262,144 colors, which results in crisp and vibrant images. You can adjust the brightness, the backlight time, and the style for both dial and menu fonts.
However, what really catches our eye with the display is its utterly unique interface. Indeed, the graphics and icons are unlike anything we've seen before in a phone. The wallpapers, menu themes, and icons, appear to have been custom made with whimsical illustrations that remind us of children's books and pretty craft stationary. For example, the default font is designed to look like it is handwritten, and the default dial digits look like stitched cloth. You get an array of eight static and six animated wallpaper to choose from, and some of the animated wallpapers have clocks and calendars that change according to the date and time.
Underneath the display are the navigation controls, which consist of a round toggle and a middle OK key, two soft keys, a browser key, and a task manager key, all of which are round as well. The toggle doubles as shortcuts to the recent call history, a new audio postcard, mobile backup, and a new text message. From standby mode, the middle OK key leads to T-Mobile's MyFaves interface that lets you add your favorite contacts.
Right below that are keys for Send, Back, End/Power, and the number keypad, all separated in rows of three. Each row is in a curved oval-like shape, and though the keys are clearly outlined, they feel a little flush to the phone's surface. Still, they were spaced enough apart that we could still dial and text without too many mistakes.
On the left of the phone is the volume rocker, which feels very skinny, and the same goes for the camera key on the right spine. Also on the right is the charger/headset jack, while the camera lens is on the rear. You have to remove the battery cover to access the microSD card slot.
We wished there was a 3.5mm headset jack since the phone has a music player. We also found the placement of the camera lens a little problematic. Since the phone does not have an external display to act as a viewfinder, you have to use the main display to see the photo you're taking. This presents a problem, since the camera lens and the main display are not in line with each other, so you have to guess at the right position to hold the phone.
Like the Samsung Gravity T, the dLite also has an "etiquette pause," or as LG calls it, "Motion Mute." Using the phone's internal accelerometer, the dLite will automatically mute any incoming calls or alerts as soon as you turn over the phone. This is handy for silencing the phone during a meeting or just when it wakes you up in the morning.
The LG dLite has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for two numbers, an e-mail address, a messenger ID, a Web address, a company name, a street address, a birthday, an anniversary date, and a memo. As always, you can add a contact to a caller group, pair it with a photo or an image, and with the dLite, you can also customize each contact with one of 35 polyphonic ring tones and message alert sounds. You can also use your own MP3s as ringtones. You can also customize each contact with one of 12 different LED matrix animations, as well as a custom "Secret Lighting" pattern.
Other phone essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a calculator, a world clock, a tasks list, a stopwatch, a tip calculator, and a unit converter. More advanced features include voice command, stereo Bluetooth, T-Mobile's Web2go mobile Web browser, and instant messaging. You can also send audio postcards, which are voice messages sent with a framed photo. Of course you also get text and multimedia messaging, which is conveniently organized via threaded conversations.
For e-mail, you can either choose AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo Mail as your e-mail provider, or go your own route by entering your provider's POP3 or IMAP4 server settings. There's GPS with the dLite as well, plus location-based apps such as TeleNav, Google Maps, and Where. Like a lot of T-Mobile phones these days, the dLite also has a Social Buzz application that is designed to house all your social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace into one interface. You just enter in your log-in information and then you can tab through your different social networks and get quick status updates in a mostly text-only interface.
The dLite has a music player, and you can load songs via a USB cable or a microSD card. The player interface is pretty straight forward. You can set songs on repeat or shuffle, create and edit playlists, and you can choose from four preset equalizer settings. There's also a visualizer if you want to add flair to your music listening experience, and you can minimize the player to the background as well. Another nice entertainment option is a YouTube app that comes with the phone.
The dLite has a 2-megapixel camera that can take pictures in four resolutions, three quality settings, five white balance presets, and four color effects (with an option for none). Other settings include a night mode, a timer, brightness, and a shot mode. There's a camcorder on here as well, that can record in either 320x240- or 176x144-pixel resolutions. After taking a photo, you can save it or send it via MMS, Bluetooth, e-mail, or to an online album (Flickr, Photobucket, Snapfish, and Kodak are the phone's defaults). Unfortunately, its picture quality was rather dismal. Not only did it suffer in low light, but also its colors looked dim, dull, and had an overall reddish tint. Video quality wasn't much better-they were choppy and pixilated for the most part.
Aside from the beautiful wallpaper that comes with the phone, you can customize the LG dLite with your own graphics or sounds if you wish. You can download games and apps from the T-Mobile store as well-in fact, you get a few that come with the phone. They include demo versions of Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man, Guitar Hero 5 Mobile, Bejeweled, and Where's Waldo. You also get full versions of Bubble Bash 2 and Photobucket Mobile.
We tested the LG dLite in San Francisco using T-Mobile. The phone's call quality was very impressive. On our end, we didn't hear any static or interference, and the people on the other end sounded crisp and crystal clear. Its call volume was good too. The voice quality did sound a tad harsh, but nothing out of the ordinary.
When we first called our callers, they said they could hardly tell we were on a cell phone. They didn't hear any static or background noise, and said we sounded just like we had called them on a landline. Calls made with its speakerphone were positively received as well. For us, our callers did sound a bit tinny and echo-heavy, but that is pretty standard for most speakerphones. Our callers said we sounded good and natural on the speakerphone as well.
As for audio playback of music, the dLite did acceptably well over the phone's tiny speakers, but it was still very flat and tinny on the whole. While we wished the phone had a 3.5mm headset jack, the dLite comes with a wired headset that plugs into the Micro-USB jack, and you can use a stereo Bluetooth headset too. We would certainly use the headset for listening to music when possible.
We were pleased to see that the dLite has support for T-Mobile's 3G network, which we found nice and speedy. We loaded YouTube videos with only just 4 seconds of buffering, though the video quality was terribly pixelated and blocky. CNET's mobile Web site loaded in 11 seconds, and BBC's mobile site loaded in just 8 seconds.
The LG dLite has a rated battery life of 5.5 hours talk time and 15 days standby time. We were impressed with the dLite's tested talk time of 6 hours and 1 minute. According to FCC radiation tests, the dLite has a digital SAR of 0.67 watts per kilogram.