Reviewed August 11, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
After two generations of slider Chocolate phones (Chocolate VX8500 and Chocolate 2 VX8550), LG has switched gears and introduced the third generation Chocolate as a flip phone replete with multimedia features that include access to the brand new Verizon music store powered by DRM free Rhapsody songs, an FM radio, V CAST Video with ESPN MVP and 3D games. The flip phone is easier to use, and the super-sized external display will turn a few heads. Add a built-in GPS with VZ Navigator support, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR that includes A2DP stereo, and an upgraded 2 megapixel camera, you’ve got the best Chocolate phone yet.
The LG Chocolate 3 is a digital dual band CDMA phone sold by Verizon Wireless. This music phone also has EV-DO Rev. 0 for data. The LG Chocolate 3 comes in two colors: black and light blue.
After the innovative slider phone design with touch controls that troubled some users, LG is ready to go back to the basics. The LG Chocolate 3’s slim flip form factor reminds us of the LG MUZIQ for Sprint. We like the large control-wheel that makes it easy to navigate the outer display. What’s better on the LG Chocolate 3 than the MUZIQ is that the Chocolate 3’s external display is bigger. The 1.76-inch 260K color TFT screen has 176 x 220 resolution and you can use the control wheel to access the music player, my pictures, camera, calendar and inbox. The screen is large enough that it’s easy to view content. Nice! No longer dressed in chocolate bar wrapper colors, the LG Chocolate 3 currently comes in two colors and our suspicion is that LG won’t stop there, and we will likely see more color variations in the future. The front cover of the black model is actually a deep navy blue cover that looks good but is easily shmeared by fingerprints and hand grease.
Side buttons abound: the LG Chocolate 3 has a 3.5mm audio jack, volume up and down buttons, voice command/voice recorder launcher and the blade charging/accessory port on the left; and microSD card slot, music launcher and screen lock for the front cover control wheel on the right. The Chocolate 3 also has dedicated launch keys for the camera and the speakerphone on the keypad. The phone feels great in hand and offers easy one-handed access to controls and the keypad. The back of the phone has a very soft and smooth surface that’s pleasant to touch.
Chocolate as a Mobile Phone
The LG Chocolate 3 has great call quality and a very loud earpiece and speakers. The reception is similar to last generation Chocolate 2: it gets a strong signal in well-covered areas and 1-2 bars in spotty areas. The signal indicator is very jumpy as you might see 4 bars drop to 2 or vice versa while standing at the same spot. Even with low bars to none on 1x (Verizon and Sprint use 1x for voice), we could make and receive calls. Likewise, the phone didn’t drop any calls and voice quality remained good. The LG Chocolate 3 supports common call management features such as call waiting, conference calling and speed dialing (999 speed dials), and it comes with a phone book that can store up to 1,000 contacts with five numbers, two e-mail addresses and a Picture ID for each entry. The LG Chocolate 3 also has VoiceSignal’s excellent VSuite software that gives you not only voice dialing but also voice readout of your messages, numbers, calendar items and much more. You don’t need to pre-record any voice tags and you can launch the voice dialing by pressing (short press) the voice command button on the left side of the phone (a long press of the same button launches the voice recorder). Voice command also works with Bluetooth headsets (press the headset button to initiate voice dialing).
We tested several current Bluetooth headsets, and voice dialing worked well with all. The LG Chocolate 3 has Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR and supports a wide range of profiles including mono and stereo Bluetooth headset, car kit and DUN profiles. It can also store up to 20 pairing partners. The voice quality through Bluetooth headset is good but not exceptional. When working with the Plantronics Discovery 925, the Chocolate 3 had slightly digitalized voice on both incoming and outgoing ends, but was otherwise clear and loud. The DSP through the Plantronics worked reasonably well but we could still hear a good level of road noise and passing cars. The range was quite good however, reaching 20 feet without any voice distortion. When working with the Jawbone 2 Bluetooth headset, the LG sounded better for incoming voice but outgoing voice volume was low and had some digital distortion. The DSP didn’t perform as well with the Chocolate 3 as with several other phones; even with Noise Assassin on wind noise was still very noticeable. The range was excellent with the Jawbone 2, reaching over 25 feet before audio started to breakup.
Music Experience, Chocolate Style
There are a couple of things that make the Chocolate 3 better than previous Chocolate phones when it comes to the music experience: one is the wider music format support and another is the new V CAST Music with Rhapsody music library. The Chocolate 3 can play music in MP3, WMA, unprotected AAC/AAC+ files, so you’re set if you’ve got a music library in either the iTunes or Windows Media Player that you’ve ripped from CDs or obtained DRM-free. You can load songs onto a microSD card or sync with the phone and play them on the Chocolate. The newly launched V CAST music with Rhapsody has a lot more songs (over 5 million) than the regular V CAST music store, but it will cost you a monthly fee of $14.99 if you want to use the subscription-based service. For DRM-free purchased songs, the price per track is $1.99, higher than the 99-cent per song price tag when using Rhapsody on the desktop to purchase the songs. The Chocolate 3’s music player adds some trendy features such as album art and visualization on both the main display and external display.
How does the music sound on the Chocolate 3? Good via the built-in phone speaker but excellent through wired headsets and Bluetooth stereo headsets. The front facing dual speakers are smaller than the last gen Chocolate thanks to its smaller and slimmer body, and it sounds a bit thinner and less lush than the last Chocolate’s speakers. But that’s not to say the sound quality isn’t good. These are actually very decent speakers for music playback and the volume is very loud. The Chocolate 3 has a 3.5mm headset jack which is hard to find on a smaller phone nowadays, and we tested two-ring and three-ring ear buds and all sounded great with full audio and high volume. We also tested the Samsung SBH500 Bluetooth stereo headset via A2DP and the music playback sounded excellent with booming bass and pleasing highs.
The LG Chocolate 3 has 1 gig of internal memory and the phone partitions most of that to store music. It also has a microSD card slot that supports SDHC cards. We tested a couple of high capacity cards with the Chocolate 3 and had no trouble loading music or saving photos to the card.
The LG Chocolate 3 adds one more music feature to its music-playing arsenal: an FM transmitter that allows you to broadcast your music from the Chocolate 3 to an FM radio like the one in your car. The Chocolate 3 also supports V CAST Video, which offers on-demand videos from news, music videos and TV programs. V CAST Video performance is good on the Chocolate 3 as long as your EVDO coverage is decent. Videos play smoothly with audio mostly in sync with video. Also onboard is 3D gaming. You can buy games or subscribe to them using the phone’s Media Center icon. Games played smoothly in our tests and we liked the large keypad and d-pad as game controls.
GPS with VZ Navigator
The LG Chocolate 3 sports a simultaneous-GPS provided by the Qualcomm chipset and it works with Verizon's VZ Navigator very well. The GPS calculations were very accurate in our tests and the new VZ Navigator 4.1.1 gave excellent directions and updated real time traffic reports. For those who are new to this, VZ Navigator, powered by Networks in Motion, is a map and navigation service provided by Verizon. You can get it on any phone that has GPS and support for the VZ Navigator for a monthly fee ($9.99/mon) or a daily fee ($2.99/day). The new 4.x version adds real time traffic and warns you of traffic delays on your routes. The voice guidance was very loud on the Chocolate 3 overcame all the , and it noise in a moderately quiet car. The map and POI (point of interest) database has also been updated in VZ Navigator 4.x as we noticed some new POIs that weren't included in the older version. There is support for place messaging service that allows you to send messages with GPS location and directions.
In addition to multimedia and GPS, the LG Chocolate comes with Verizon's standard mobile applications for feature phones. These applications and services include a WAP web browser, web-based email services (MSN, Yahoo!, AOL), mobile IM and PIM applications such as Calendar, calculator, EZ tip calculator, alarm clock, stopwatch, world clock and notepad. Like the most recent feature phones on Verizon, the LG Chocolate also sports the new Flash interface that features animated themes.
Better Camera, Not by Much
Previous LG Chocolate models had 1.3 megapixel cameras that were above average. The LG Chocolate 3 finally moves up to 2 megapixels, and bumped the quality up—though not by much. Images look brighter than the photos taken with older Chocolate phones but they are overexposed. The camera lens feels slow, photos don’t show a lot of detail and whites and highlights are blown out. There’s also chromatic aberration in the form of purple fringing that we don’t usually see in decent camera phones anymore. The pictures have a purple color bias overall. The camera software on the LG Chocolate 3 offers plenty of options for white balance, color effects and other options. It also offers night mode and it can use the external screen as the viewfinder for taking self-portraits.
The camera phone can also take videos with audio in QVGA or 176 x 144 resolution. You can record 30-second videos for MMS or 1 hour video for saving. The video quality is decent, and the QVGA videos are slightly grainy but no there are no apparent frame drops or out-of-sync audio.
The LG Chocolate 3’s Lithium Ion battery capacity remains at 800 mAh, and the rechargeable battery is user replaceable. The runtime isn’t robust but decent enough to last you through five days of light use and at least three days of heavy use. The claimed talk time is up to 4.5 hours and the claimed standby time is up to 14.5 days. Using GPS with navigation and watching V CAST Video streaming over EVDO will drain the battery faster than running anything else on the Chocolate 3. If you need more juice on the go, Verizon offers a spare standard battery for $39.99 and an extended battery (1500 mAh) for $49.99.
The LG Chocolate 3 is a worthy upgrade, especially for those who had issues with the touch controls on prior generation Chocolates. But beyond that, the new Chocolate phone has GPS that works well with VZ Navigator, 1 gig of storage internally with microSD SDHC expansion, a large and very nice looking external screen that gives you access and control to several applications when working with the front control wheel, and it’s faster for Bluetooth connections and file transfer. The camera is so-so and the loudspeakers aren’t really improvements.
Pro: Very slim and light flip phone. Great GPS performance. Audio through headsets is excellent. Huge music library to buy music from and you can play them on more phones.
Con: The camera needs work.
Price: $99.99 with 2-year contract after mail-in rebate.
Display:Internal LCD: 260K Color TFT, 320 x 240 pixels, 2.2”. External LCD: 260K Color TFT, 176 x 220 pixels, 1.76”.
Battery:Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 800 mAh. Claimed talk time: up to 4.5 hours. Claimed standby time: up to 14.5 days. Extended 1500 mAh battery for purchase at $49.99.
Performance:1GB internal memory. Phone book can store 1000 entries.
Size:3.87 x 1.94 x 0.64 inches. Weight: 3.36 ounces.
Phone:CDMA digital dual band (800 MHz and 1900 MHz). 1xRTT and EV-DO for data.
Camera:2 megapixel with up to 2x digital zoom. Still image resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 pixels. Image editor for zoom rotate and crop images. Can take video with audio. Video resolutions: 320 x 240 and 176 x 144 pixels. Video recording time: 30 seconds for MMS an dup to 1 hour for saving.
Audio:Built-in mic and speakers, supports MP3 music tones. MP3 player onboard to play MP3, WMA and ACC/ACC+ files. Can record voice memo (1 minute or 1 hour with up to 1,500 memos. Supports vibration alert.
Networking:Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR (Enhanced Data Rate). Save up to 20 Bluetooth pairings. Supported profiles: headset, hands-free, dial-up networking, advanced audio distribution (stereo), phone book access, basic printing, object push for vCard and vCalendar, file transfer and basic imaging.
Software:Verizon Flash-based UI and theme. MP3 player onboard and VZ Navigator support. PIM tools include Calendar, calculator, EZ tip calculator, alarm clock, stopwatch, world clock and notepad.
Expansion:1 microSD card slot. Supports SDHC cards up to 8GB.
In the Box:The LG Chocolate 3 phone with standard battery, AC charging brick, USB charging/syncing cable and printed User Guide and quick reference guide.