LG VX4700The LG VX4700 for Verizon Wireless is part of a near-identical triplet of LG phones. Its siblings, the LG VX4650 for Verizon and the LG AX4750 for Alltel, share many similarities, but they also have some important differences. The VX4650 lacks the VX4700's support for Verizon's push-to-talk (PTT) service, and the AX4750 has a different color scheme. Otherwise, there are no variations between the three. All of them are topped by a powerful penny-size speakerphone that produces surprisingly potent sound for both PTT and regular voice calls. You also get an easy-to-activate Driving mode that lets you bark speaker-dependent voice commands to safely operate the phone and converse while keeping your hands on the wheel. Priced at $99 with a two-year contract and $149 for a one-year commitment, the VX4700 is definitely worth the cost, and the inclusion of PTT support makes it only $30 more than the VX4650. The LG VX4700 looks a bit different from your average flip phone. Though it's of average size and weight (3.8 by 1.9 by 0.9 inches, 3.7 ounces) and has a stubby external antenna, the prominent round speaker on the top of the handset is immediately apparent. While the tapering shape of the speaker evokes a vaguely Fifth Element art-deco sci-fi vibe, its placement comes with pros and cons. Some flip phones with PTT, such as the Samsung SPH-A760, have speakers mounted in the clamshell top, which forces you to keep the top closed so that the speaker faces you. The front flap of the VX4700, however, opens around the speaker, leaving it facing you at all times, enabling you to use PTT with the top up or down. The downside of this arrangement is that the speaker takes a chunk of real estate out of the top of the phone.\n\n\n The VX4700 is average size.\n\n\nSet in a mirrored frame, the 1-inch-diagonal external display shows the time, the date, the battery life, the signal strength, and caller ID (where available). The screen is monochrome, but it's quite readable, even when the backlighting is off. The internal screen, however, inspired mixed emotions. We were disappointed that it measured just 1.5 inches diagonally, but it is bright and exceptionally readable. \n\nThe soft keys are 1.5 inches from the actual screen, creating a slight disconnect between choice and action. A five-way toggle gives you access to the Web browser, Verizon's Get It Now download store, messages, and the calendar/scheduler. Other controls consist of the Talk and End keys and a Clear button. A cool blue backlight illuminates the keypad buttons. Located at the tapered end of the body, the buttons are a bit small, but fortunately, they're slightly raised above the surface of the phone, which inspires a bit more confidence when dialing. The lettering on the numbers is also fairly small, though, making text entry troublesome for the farsighted. \n\nLeft-handers will use their thumb and right-handers their index finger to operate the top-mounted orange PTT key. Both operating-grip positions are more comfortable and intuitive than with side-mounted keys found on other PTT phones. Pushing the PTT key activates the speaker, but there's another button on the right side that activates and deactivates the speaker. A separate key with a microphone on the left spine turns on the Driving mode, which is then automatically activated as soon as you open the clamshell. This button also doubles as the memo-recorder button when the VX4700's top is open. The left-spine volume toggle, however, is a bit too flush for confident control by feel. Headset users should note that the rubber plug protecting the top-mounted standard 2.5mm earphone jack proved impossible to pry out without a sharp object. And since the plug is not on a hinge, consider it gone once removed. The LG VX4700 comes with a respectable set of features. You get a 499-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers and three e-mail addresses. You can also assign contacts or one of 36 monophonic ring tones. Unfortunately, you don't get any polyphonic ring tones, but you can download them from Verizon's Get It Now download store. \n\nThe speakerphone, the voice commands, and the driving mode are the raison d'être for the VX4700. Flip open the clamshell in Driving mode, and you're prompted to speak one of the dozen or so commands, including dialing by digit, retrieving voicemail, reviewing and redialing missed calls, retrieving contact information, announcing time and date and phone status, and even turning off Driving mode.\n\n\n The round speaker dominates the VX4700.\n\n\nAside from voice commands, the VX4700 is loaded with the usual array of extras, including a vibrate mode, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, text and enhanced (but no multimedia) messaging, a 4-minute voice-memo recorder, speed dialing, a calendar with scheduler, a notepad, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, and a world clock. Also, an optional Data Connectivity Kit lets you use the phone as a laptop or a PDA modem with a USB cable.\n\nThe phone includes 10 wallpaper selections and a variety of other customizable display options, including clock styles, fonts, color themes, clock types, and even 16-character personalization "banners." There are no included games, but you can download titles along with additional screensavers, wallpaper, and ring tones from Verizon. Using Verizon's 1xRTT CDMA network, we tested the dual-band/trimode (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS) LG VX4700 in Manhattan while wandering the streets and traveling in both trains and cabs. Vocal quality was mostly loud, clean, and clear, with occasional warbling. Verizon's usually reliable signal rarely lagged or lapsed during conversations or while surfing the Web. Ring tones were sufficiently loud as well.\n\nOur test model had a serious glitch; in phone mode, the phone indicated "speaker on" when it was off and vice versa. Once we figured this out, the speakerphone and the earpiece produced plenty of volume regardless of the environment. In fact, even when the speakerphone was off, the earpiece generated so much volume that we had to hold it away from our head. At the other end, callers complained that sound was annoyingly echoey over the speakerphone. Sighs of relief were heard when we turned the speaker off. \n\nVoice commands were nearly flawless without optional training--a pleasant surprise. As long as we spoke loudly and clearly, the VX4700 effortlessly confirmed, then carried out our every command with only one or two repeats. Our only complaint: There was no way to tell the phone to go into Driving mode. That required physically flipping the top or pressing the side button.\n\nIt took 30 seconds to get to the Verizon Web home page and only slightly less to surf from page to page--a bit slower than we expected but on par for 1xRTT connectivity. Downloading a package of British Invasion ring tones took around 30 seconds and the Batman Begins game a little more than a minute. But gameplay on the small screen was squint-inducing. \n\nThe promised 3.2-hour talk time is serviceable, but we would have preferred more. In our tests, we managed just 3 hours on a single charge. The promised eight-day standby time isn't great either, especially considering the lengthy 3.5-hour charge time. In our tests, we eked out an unimpressive six days. According to the FCC, the VX4700 has a digital SAR rating of 1.14 watts per kilogram and an analog SAR rating of 1.26 watts per kilogram.