Until now, that is. After a long hiatus, it looks like Sprint and LG have come together at last with the brand-new LG Muziq. It comes with a built-in FM transmitter, a 1.3-megapixel camera, EV-DO support, and a microSD card slot, as well as access to Sprint multimedia content including Sprint TV, the Sprint Music Store, and streaming music from Pandora. We also like that we could multitask applications while listening to the music. A slender and easy-to-use phone, there were a few design issues that we could've done without (such as thin keys on the side and the touch-sensitive music controls), but the LG Muziq is overall a quality music phone with excellent performance. The LG Muziq will be available for a very affordable $99 with a two-year service agreement with Sprint.
As far as sequels go, the LG Muziq is far more than just a Fusic II. Featuring a much more streamlined design, the Muziq has discarded the white-and-navy color scheme of the Fusic in favor of a glossy black exterior and glowing red music player controls similar to those of the LG Chocolate. At 1.94 inches wide, 3.8 inches long, 0.61 inch deep, and weighing in at 3.14 ounces, the LG Muziq is a slender and lightweight phone that feels comfortable in the hand and cradles nicely next to the ear. The overall design is rectangular, with clean lines and a smooth finish that's unfortunately prone to fingerprint smudges. We're happy to see a vibrant 262,000-color 1.3-inch diagonal external screen on the LG Muziq. Not only does it display the customary date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID info, it also acts as a camera viewfinder, and it will show the currently playing track whenever the music player is activated. It also supports photo caller ID, which is a nice touch.
The camera lens, flash, and status LED sits above the display, while the music player controls are beneath it. The music player controls are circular, much like the LG Fusic and the Sanyo M1, but they are touch-sensitive, which is similar to the controls on the Chocolate. We're generally not fans of electrostatic touch keys like these because there's always a danger of accidentally pressing a key unless you have a key guard lock. For the Muziq, there are options to either activate or deactivate the key guard lock, so that allows for some flexibility. Another downside to electrostatic touch keys is the lack of tactile feedback, but the Muziq solves this problem with a slight haptic feedback whenever you touch the music player controls. We really appreciate this innovation, as it helped us be aware of when we've actually pressed a key. So while we're not entirely sold on the touch-sensitive music player controls (we still prefer real tactile feedback), we do like the key guard lock options, and we prefer the haptic feedback over nothing at all. Rounding out the phone's exterior are the volume rocker and charger jack on the left spine, while the right spine is home to a music player key, a camera key, a headset jack, and a microSD card slot. Even though all the side keys are raised above the surface, they seem a little too thin for our liking.
Flip open the phone and you're presented with a lovely, 2.2-inch-diagonal TFT display with 262,000 colors as well. The display is bright and colorful, though the graphics seemed a little washed out. The menu interface is well-laid-out and easy to understand. When the Muziq theme interface is activated, there's even a row of onscreen program shortcuts on the main display that lead you to the Main Menu, Sprint's On Demand service (complete with a little dialog pop-up box of the latest news and weather information), the music player, and the messaging application. You can change the font size of text messages, browser text, plus notepad text. You can also adjust the backlight time.
The navigation controls on the LG Muziq are pretty spacious. There are two soft keys, a circular four-way toggle with a center menu/OK key, the Talk and End controls, a back button, and a speakerphone key that also doubles as a voice command shortcut key, plus a dedicated camera key. When the Muziq theme interface is not being used (say, if you were using the Sprint or LG theme interface instead), the toggle doubles as shortcuts to four user-defined features. The alphanumeric keypad is quite spacious as well, and even though both the keypad and the controls are nearly flush with the phone's surface, there are slight delineating bumps in between each key that help with dialing by feel.
The LG Muziq has a pretty impressive feature set to go along with its stylish good looks. But before we address its multimedia capabilities, we'll start off with the basics. The LG Muziq's phone book stores around 500 contacts, which is a little skimpy for a phone like this. Each entry has room for five phone numbers, e-mail and Web addresses, and a memo. You can save callers to groups or pair them with a photo or any of 31 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, an alarm clock, a calculator, a scheduler, a notepad, and a world clock. There are also a number of higher-end features including a wireless Web browser, voice memo recording, voice commands and dialing, mass USB storage, e-mail, instant messaging, a speakerphone, stereo Bluetooth, a memory card manager, EV-DO support, and a music composer so you can create your own ringtones. The LG Muziq is also Sprint's first phone that allows use of a 4GB microSD card, which is great for storing music and image files.
As indicated by its name, the LG Muziq is primarily a music phone. Its external music player controls on the front certainly make that clear, and even though we had issues with the touch-sensitivity of the keys, we really like music phones that have the controls right on the outside. The music player interface is closely tied to the Sprint Music Store, so you can simultaneously download songs to your PC and wirelessly to the phone. You can also use Sprint's Sync Manager software (PC-only, however) and the included USB cable to transfer songs from your computer to the phone. Songs are automatically grouped by title, artists, and genres, and you can create your own playlist if you wish. The interface is rather generic and plain, but at least you can do things like repeat songs or put them on shuffle. But you're not tied to just MP3s for music choices. Thanks to the Muziq's compatibility with Sprint's broadband network, you'll also get access to streaming radio from Pandora, which is an online music service, plus Sirius satellite radio.
Thankfully, the LG Muziq comes with an airplane mode, so you can still listen to music with the phone's calling functions turned off. Another neat trick of the Muziq is that you can send the music player to the background, so you can multitask (for instance, scrolling through your contacts list or sending a text message) while listening to music. However, do note that the music player will pause when accessing certain applications such as the camera, the Web browser, Sprint's On Demand application, and Sprint TV. When you exit the app, the music will resume where it left off. The LG Muziq even comes with a built-in FM transmitter that lets you stream your music wirelessly through your car stereo or any other FM radio within 10 feet. If you prefer to use your own headphones, you're in luck, since the LG Muziq comes with a 3.5mm-jack headset adapter. The adapter has a microphone attached to it, so you can make and receive calls with it too.
As we mentioned, the LG Muziq has EV-DO support. This means it has full access to Sprint's mobile broadband network and a wide array of Sprint 3G services. There's Sprint's Power Vision with its streaming video services, Sprint TV, which offers movie trailers and programming from channels such as MTV and Cartoon Network, plus Sprint Movies, which delivers full-length pay-per-view movies to your cell phone. We're not convinced that you'd really want to watch a two-hour movie on such a small screen, but at least you'll have the option. One of Sprint's services that we really liked was the On Demand service that provides you instant access to information like news, stocks, sports, and weather updates, completely localized to your zip code.
Even though the LG Muziq is all about music, it comes with a camera too. The 1.3-megapixel camera can take pictures in three resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240), three quality settings, brightness and white balance controls, flash, and four color modes, plus you have the choice of four shutter sounds or no sound at all. The camcorder mode records clips in two lengths: 30 seconds for video mail, and in a regular video, for as long as there's available memory. You can record video in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96), and it has similar editing options as the still camera. Photos taken unfortunately had a slight orange tinge to them, but there is an "image enhancer" option in the phone that improves the quality somewhat. Video quality was similarly disappointing, with jerky and blurry imagery, but that's to be expected from a camera phone.
Personalization options are plentiful with the LG Muziq. You can customize it with a variety of screensavers, clock styles, sounds, alerts, and wallpaper, with the option to buy more from Sprint's store. The LG Muziq comes with five games: Midnight Bowling, and demo versions of Ms. Pac-Man, Rock Empire, Tetris, and the World Series of Poker. If you wish to download more, you can always purchase them via the Muziq's Web browser.
We tested the dual-band, dual-mode (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) LG Muziq in San Francisco using the Sprint service. Call quality was excellent when talking via the handset--callers sounded crisp and clear, and they reported little to no fuzziness on their end. It still sounded as if we were talking on a cell phone, but not excessively so. Speakerphone quality was a different matter--we thought it sounded a little low, and callers said we sounded rather muffled and had to ask us to speak up. We paired the LG Muziq with the Plantronics Pulsar 260 stereo Bluetooth headset and are pleased to report that we managed to stream music wirelessly successfully.
EV-DO speeds on the LG Muziq really make surfing the Web a dream. Pages loaded in mere seconds, the streaming video wasn't pixelated, and there was hardly any rebuffering. Music quality was admirable as well, though songs still sounded a little faded and tinny. The LG Muziq is great for a quick music hit, but we would still prefer a dedicated music player instead.
The LG Muziq has a rated battery life of 4 hours of talk time and as long as 10 hours of music-only mode. Our talk time tests revealed the LG Muziq has a talk time of 4 hours and 22 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG Muziq has a digital SAR rating of 1.22 watts per kilogram.