Alltel has long been the fifth wheel when compared with the big four national carriers. It doesn't have its own network in as many states as the others, and its cell phone lineup has traditionally been rather mediocre and stale (with a few notable exceptions such as the LG Scoop and the Motorola Rokr Z6m). That has all changed with Alltel's latest newcomer, the LG Glimmer. Not only is the Glimmer making its nationwide debut with Alltel, but it's also one of the finest LG phones we've seen till now. For one thing, its design combines two things we love: the glamour of a touch-screen display and the convenience of a slider keypad. The Glimmer is also brimming with high-end features such as a 2-megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth, EV-DO support, and GPS navigation. We did wish it offered a better Web browser, and it lacks proper e-mail and instant message support, but the Glimmer still stands as a well-designed, excellent performing phone. You'll have to pay for it, though, since the Glimmer retails for $249 with a two-year service agreement.
If the LG Shine and the LG Prada got together to have a love child, the LG Glimmer would be its offspring; it combines the slider keypad from the Shine with the beautiful touch screen from the Prada. The Glimmer certainly lives up to its name, sporting a gun metal chassis with a brushed stainless steel finish as well as an incredibly vibrant touch screen. At 4 inches by 2.05 inches by 0.59 inch, the Glimmer also weighs a little heavier than most phones at 4.48 ounces. It feels sturdy in the hand, and it slides open and closed smoothly.
The Glimmer's touch screen is indeed the star of the show. Measuring around 2.8 inches diagonally, the display supports 262,000 colors with graphics and icons that simply pop from the screen. Like many displays, it also shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. It also acts as the camera viewfinder. You can adjust the backlighting time, as well as the font size for the browser and the notepad.
Like the Prada, the entire phone's navigation is done via the touch screen. On the landing page, there are four icons along the bottom. From left to right, these icons access the main menu, activate the phone function, open the messaging menu, and open the contacts list. When the phone is closed, the phone function activates an onscreen dialpad; when the phone is open, it brings up a list of phone number shortcuts (from Recent Calls, Speed Dial, Message In-box, and the Contacts list). Along with the four icons is a small arrow icon on the left. This arrow leads directly to a customizable shortcuts menu--we suggest using it for frequently used applications such as the browser or the calendar.
Using the touch screen is quite intuitive, and involves simple tapping and scrolling. A slightly firm touch is required, plus there's a bit of a vibrating feedback when something is selected, which we like quite a bit. If you're having trouble with the sensitivity of the touch controls, you can reset the touch calibration in the Settings menu. On select menu options, there's a right-hand scroll bar that we can swipe up and down to scroll through the page. We didn't like this too much, though, as the scroll bar is pretty skinny, and it takes a bit of maneuvering to avoid selecting an option by mistake. The Web browser has onscreen arrow keys on the bottom to assist in scrolling, which we would've liked to have seen in all the applications.
Along with using the slider keypad to text, you can also choose to text via the touch screen. It supports T9, so we're able to tap out words and phrases using the onscreen dialpad without a problem. We did wish there was a virtual QWERTY keyboard of some kind, though, as that would've made it easier to tap out messages. Also, we wish there was a way to switch the screen orientation from portrait to landscape mode.
Rounding out the exterior of the phone is a Hold button on the left spine, while the right spine is home to a dedicated camera key, a volume rocker, a charger jack, and a headset jack. The microSD card slot is inconveniently located behind the battery cover. On the back of the phone is a camera lens with a flash and self-portrait mirror.
Slide the phone open and you'll find a slim keypad similar to that from the LG Shine as well as the Motorola Razr. The Talk, Back, and End/Power keys are along the top followed by the dialpad underneath. Like most slider keypads, the keys are pretty flush to the surface, but thankfully LG had the forethought to have raised bumps in between each key. Also, the Talk and End/Power keys have raised letters. Though we still wouldn't recommend dialing by feel, the raised keys do make it easier to dial and text.
So why would one want a slider keypad if you could already dial and text via the phone's touch screen? The answer is simple: convenience. Not everyone likes using a touch screen to dial and type out messages, and for those people, the ease of using mechanical keys via the keypad is a huge boon. For that alone, we think the Glimmer stands out from most touch-screen phones out there.
Sure the design of the Glimmer is its star attraction, but its features aren't too shabby either. Featuring high-end multimedia capabilities as well as Alltel's broadband services, the Glimmer is a far cry from all style and no substance. Starting off with the basics, the Glimmer supports a healthy 1,000-entry contacts list, with room in each entry for five phone numbers, an e-mail address, a home page address, and notes. You can also assign each caller to a group, a photo for caller ID, plus one of 33 polyphonic ringtones. Other basics include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a world clock, a tip calculator, a calculator, a notepad, and a unit converter. On the higher end, there's also voice command/voice dial support, a voice recorder, stereo Bluetooth, plus a wireless Web browser (It's called the Axcess Web). The Glimmer also has built-in GPS navigation.
One of the defining features of the Glimmer is its EV-DO support and therefore access to Alltel's stable of broadband services. For example, there's Axcess TV, which offers made-for-mobile programming in partnership with MobiTV. Channel partners include VH1, MTV, ESPN, as well as our very own CNET. However, Axcess TV costs $11.99 a month on top of your regular monthly plan. Axcess TV On Demand also offers on-demand viewing of hit shows such as The Office and the Daily Show for a premium (the Basic package is $3.99 a month, and the Premium package is $5.99 a month). As for audio, you can opt for Axcess Radio, which streams live music, or if you have an existing XM account, there's also a XM Radio Mobile application you can download.
The one downside to the Web experience, however, is the Glimmer's dialed-down Web browser. It doesn't offer the full HTML browsing experience of the iPhone or the LG Voyager, and is just a simple mobile browser with mostly text and links. Though this is common in most cell phones, we were expecting a little more from the Glimmer because of its large touch-screen display and EV-DO support that would be conducive to a better browsing experience.
The Glimmer has a pretty standard music player, but it does support MP3, WMA, AAC, and AAC+ formats. You can sort your music with playlists, as well as the typical album, artist, and genre categories. There's also a repeat and shuffle mode. The Glimmer comes with 128MB of internal memory, which is alright for a short list of songs, but you should consider getting a microSD card for additional storage. The Glimmer supports microSD cards of up to 4GB.
We really like the Glimmer's camera. Not only is it a 2-megapixel camera with a variety of settings and options, but it also has a really nice user interface, all managed via the touch screen. You get a choice of four resolutions (1,600x1,200; 1,280x960; 640x480; 320x240), and you can choose from three quality settings. Other features include a night mode, a self-timer, five color effects, an adjustable brightness and white balance setting, multishot, and shutter sounds. Photo quality was very good--images appeared sharp, with good lighting and accurate colors. They still appeared slightly hazy and smudgy, but it wasn't that bad. It suffered a little bit under low-light conditions, but the flash helped to make things brighter. There's also a built-in video recorder that shoots clips in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) and three quality settings. Record time varies from 15 seconds (which is typical for multimedia messages) to an hour, or as memory allows. Other settings include brightness, white balance, color effects, and cue sounds.
The Glimmer can be personalized in a number of ways. There's a variety of wallpaper, color schemes, banners, and ringtones to choose from. There's even a shuffle mode, where you can frequently change up your ringtone or wallpaper randomly if you like. The LG Glimmer doesn't come with any games.
We tested the dual-mode, dual band LG Glimmer (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) in San Francisco using Alltel's roaming service. We were really impressed with the call quality. There was very little static, and callers could hear us loud and clear without a lot of distortion. We had no issues hearing them as well. Speakerphone experience was another matter, though, as voices sounded a lot more muffled. We managed to pair the LG Glimmer with the Iqua Sun Bluetooth headset without a problem.
Music quality was decent. The phone's speakers produced tinny sounds but loud volume, so we suggest using a headset for better quality. EV-DO performance was surprisingly sluggish at times, and buffering time for videos took a while. The quality of the live video itself was all right: slightly pixelated but watchable.