When we reviewed the LG Rumor last year, we found a lot to like about the Sprint cell phone. Its well-designed keyboard made for easy messaging, and it offered a decent selection of features including a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and a music player. The lack of 3G was a bit disappointing, but on the whole it was a solid device. Now Alltel wants to get in on the fun as well with its new LG Scoop. Bearing the same design and features set as the Rumor, the Scoop brings a much-needed messaging-centric handset to Alltel customers. It is $219 if you pay full price, but you can get it for as low as $49 with service if you buy it online.
The LG Scoop has an attractive candy bar design that hides its full keyboard behind its sliding front face. At 4.35 inches by 2.02 inches by 0.71 inch and 4.2 ounces, it's exactly the same size as the Rumor. That means it's a bit on the bulky side but still sturdy and portable. The Scoop comes in three colors: citrus, slate, and turquoise. We reviewed the slate model but the features are the same on all versions.
The 2-inch display supports 262,000 colors (176x220 pixels). As we said with the Rumor, it's not the most vivid display around but Alltel does a decent job with the nifty animated wallpaper. The menu interface (available in two styles) is easy to use, and we like that Alltel included support for its Celltop application. You can change the brightness level, the font type, and the dialing font size.
The navigation array is also the same as on the Rumor. There's a circular toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a dedicated speakerphone control, a back button, and the Talk and End keys. On the whole, it's a pleasant arrangement, yet we had a complaint with the small soft keys. They blend in with the back border surrounding the display so they can be difficult to see in dim lighting. What's more, they're flush with the surface of the display, which makes it difficult to use them by feel. Fortunately, the remaining controls are large and tactile. The keypad buttons in particular are well-spaced with a bright backlighting.
Sliding the Scoop's front face to the left will expose the QWERTY keyboard. We were glad to see that LG and Alltel didn't change a thing, for we still consider the Rumor's keyboard to be one of the best around. Happily, the Scoop's keyboard is equally spacious and easy to use. We'll gripe here again about the lack of a dedicated punctuation key but that's a minor issue. Sliding the keyboard rotates the display's orientation automatically.
Completing the exterior of the phone are a headset jack and a microSD card slot on the right spine and a volume rocker and a dedicated camera shutter on the left spine. The charger port sits on the bottom of the Scoop, and the camera sits on the rear face. Like we did with the Rumor, we'll have to knock the Scoop for not having a camera flash or a self-portrait mirror.
The Scoop stores 500 contacts with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can assign callers to groups or pair them with a photo and one of 24 polyphonic ringtones. Basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calendar, a tip calculator, a notepad, a calculator, a speakerphone, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a unit converter. Higher-end options include voice dialing, Bluetooth, a voice recorder, instant messaging, USB mass storage, PC modem support, and e-mail through the wireless Web browser. Bluetooth is also on board but the Scoop does not offer a stereo profile. Also, there's still no 3G.
The 1.3-megapixel camera is similar to the Rumor's but it offers a different set of options, including more image resolutions settings. In fact, you get a choice of five resolutions (1280x960, 640x480, 320x240, 176x144, and 160x120), 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, 18 fun frames, and a 2x zoom. The video recorder shoots clips in two resolutions (176x144 and 128x96) and offers a few editing options. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 15 seconds; otherwise, you can shoot for up to an hour depending on the available memory. And speaking of which, the Scoop offers 64MB of internal memory, and the microSD card slot will accommodate cards up to 4GB.
Photo quality was quite poor, unfortunately. Similar to the Rumor, our images were too blurry. Also, objects lacked clear definition, and colors were muted and washed out.
The Scoop's music player is pretty generic. You won't find a lot of features save for an equalizer, an airplane mode, and playlists. Fortunately, the player supports multiple file types (MP3, AAC, and AAC+), and it's easy to get music on the phone. Like the Rumor, the Scoop does not support wireless music downloads, but that's not really an issue since Alltel doesn't offer a music download service anyway.
You can personalize the Scoop with a variety of wallpaper, color schemes, and banners. The phone doesn't come with any games but you can download them from Alltel's Axcess Shop with the WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser.
We tested the dual-band LG Scoop (CDMA 800/1900) in San Francisco using Alltel's roaming service. Call quality was decent and on a par with the Rumor. We encountered less static than on the Sprint handset but voices sounded tinnier. It was a just a slight difference, and it was nothing that was too distracting, but the change was noticeable. On the other hand, the volume was very loud, and we had no trouble hearing our friends, even in noisy situations.
On their end, callers could hear us fine. They could tell we were using a cell phone but that's not an uncommon experience. Automated calling systems could understand us without any problem but it was best when we were inside. Speakerphone calls were fine but as on the Rumor, they were a tad muffled.
Music quality was about average. The external speaker doesn't have great output so we suggest using a headset for the best experience. The phone's menus were the slightest bit sluggish, particularly when we were moving the cursor between the various icons.
The LG Scoop has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time and seven days standby time. It has a tested talk time of 4 hours and 36 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG Rumor has a