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LG Wave - AX380 (Alltel) review: LG Wave - AX380 (Alltel)

LG Wave - AX380 (Alltel)

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
6 min read

Even though Alltel isn't quite considered a major national carrier, it still has a number of cool handsets in its lineup. The latest one is the LG Wave, a midrange cell phone that is supposedly curved to mimic the curl of a wave. We certainly don't deny that it has an appealing design, especially with the touch-sensitive music controls right on the front and a unique dual-tone color scheme. Still, we're not fans of the slick keypad and the screen could look a lot better. However, the LG Wave comes with a healthy dose of features--a megapixel camera, a music player, EV-DO, plus Alltel's unique Celltop interface--for an affordable $79.99 with a new service agreement.


LG Wave - AX380 (Alltel)

The Good

The LG Wave is a small, lightweight handset with a bevy of features that include a megapixel camera, a music player, stereo Bluetooth, and EV-DO support.

The Bad

The LG Wave has slick buttons and touch-sensitive music player controls.

The Bottom Line

The LG Wave is a simple yet stylish phone with midrange multimedia features and an affordable price point.

We don't quite buy the analogy that the LG Wave is curled like a wave, but it is quite a curvaceous device, with rounded corners and a soft curve rising from top to bottom. We especially like the fade-to-black color scheme it has on the front. Measuring 3.5 inches by 1.93 inches by 0.89 inch, the Wave is a decidedly small phone, and since its chassis is made from a lightweight plastic, the Wave only weighs in at around 3.03 ounces. The lightweight feel does make it seem a tad cheap and toylike, but we didn't mind, as it felt fine in the hand and when held next to the ear.

The LG Wave has a small camera above the external display.

The LG Wave comes with a small but functional 1.25-inch diagonal external screen right on the front. It displays all the typical information like date, time, battery life, signal strength, and caller ID. Since it supports 65,000 colors, the display also supports photo caller ID plus act as a camera viewfinder. It also displays the currently playing track when the music player is activated. A few tiny icons along the top of the screen indicate whether you have a new message, whether the phone is on vibrate, and whether you're in a roaming zone.

When the music player is activated, a row of touch-sensitive music player controls will appear underneath the display. These glowing red keys consist of the rewind/track-back key, the play/pause key, and the fast forward/track forward key. You can configure the sensitivity of these keys plus add sound effects to them so you know when you've pressed the right key. We haven't been huge fans of touch-sensitive keys, and it's no different here. We really miss the feeling of tactile keys, and it's kind of a pain to unlock the keys every time you want to change a track. The least they could've done is to have a vibrating or haptic feedback for the keys, but even that isn't present.

A camera lens sits above the external display, but there is no flash. On the left spine are a headset jack, a volume rocker, and a dedicated music player key, while the right side is home to a microSD card slot, a dedicated camera key, and the charger jack. You can unlock the aforementioned music player keys by hitting any of the keys on the side.

Flip open the phone and you'll find a simple 2-inch diagonal 262,000 color display. The screen is bright, colorful, and shows off the phone's animated menu icons. You can adjust the display's backlight time, the menu style, font styles, and dialing font sizes, but there is no brightness setting. The Celltop menu interface is especially enticing; it consists of interactive, changeable windows, or "cells," that act as shortcuts to things like your call log or message in-box. There are even other features, such as displaying weather or news information. You can read more about the Celltop feature in our review of the Samsung SCH-u520M.

Underneath the display is a navigation array that consists of two soft keys and a circular toggle that act as shortcuts to the contacts list, Axcess Apps, the browser, and the music player. There's also a dedicated speakerphone key, a dedicated camera key, a Back key, and the Send and End/Power keys. We thought the keypad felt rather slick and slippery, with a rather crowded array as well. That said, there was enough textured delineation between each key so you could dial by feel if you wanted.

The LG Wave has a number of features that would please anyone looking for a midrange phone. The address book holds about 5,000 contacts with room in each entry for five phone numbers, a couple of e-mail addresses, and a memo. They can also be categorized into groups, paired with a photo for caller ID, or one of 36 polyphonic ringtones. Other basics include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a tip calculator, a notepad, a calculator, a stopwatch, a world clock, and a unit converter. For those who want a little more out of their phone, the LG Wave also has stereo Bluetooth, a voice recorder, voice command, PC syncing, USB mass storage, a wireless Web browser, and EV-DO support. The LG Wave also has built-in GPS for location access support.

Photos taken with the LG Wave had a slightly overcast look.

As a multimedia phone, the Wave comes with both a 1.3-megapixel camera and a fairly basic digital music player. The camera is able to take pictures in five resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, 176x144, and 160x120) and three quality settings, with a slew of other settings that include 10x zoom, brightness, night mode, a self-timer, white balance, color effects, different shutter sounds (with a silent option), and multishot mode. Picture quality was decent, but with a slight overcast look and an orange tinge, so it wasn't too impressive. There's also a built-in camcorder with two different resolutions (176x144 and 128x96), plus brightness settings, white balance settings, up to 10x zoom, and two recording times (15 seconds for multimedia messages and 1 hour for regular recordings). Video quality was rather shaky and pixelated, with blurry images, but that's to be expected for a camera phone. Thankfully, there's a microSD card slot for additional storage.

The built-in music player is fairly basic, with a generic interface that displays the typical music controls plus an option for playlist creation. There's a music library, where songs are immediately organized by artist, genre, album, and recently played. We did like that it has a customizable equalizer with 6 preset equalizer modes. You can transfer music onto the phone via a microSD card. Other multimedia features include Alltel's Axcess TV and support for XM Satellite Radio.

Personalization options include a variety of wallpapers, screensavers, and the customization of the home screen with calendars and clocks. You can also download more graphics, alert tones, and sounds via Alltel's web browser.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) LG Wave in San Francisco using Alltel's service. Though call quality was pretty good, callers could still hear slight background noises, and reported that our voices sounded a little tinny. Speakerphone volume level was fine, though there was still an audible metallic echo effect. That said, we could still hear each other clearly. We paired the LG Wave with the Plantronics Voyager 520 without any problems.

The LG Wave has a rated battery life of 3 hours of talk time, which seems rather low. However, our tests did reveal a talk time of 4 hours. It has a rated standby time of 8 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG Wave has a maximum digital SAR rating of 1.08 watts per kilogram.


LG Wave - AX380 (Alltel)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 7