Reviewed July 12, 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
When Sprint introduced the LG FUSIC last year, they had the right idea: make a cell phone that’s also a strong music player with over the air track download, FM transmitter and Bluetooth stereo support. But the FUSIC’s design, with its white plastic body and colorful face plates gave some folks the impression that it targeted younger users and at the very entry-level. On July 15th 2007, Sprint customers will get the FUSIC’s replacement: the LG MUZIQ, a much more stylish and slim phone that offers many of FUSIC’s great music features plus more. The MUZIQ (pronounced “music”) sports a very different look: dressed in black, it appeals to more serious crowd. The external touch-control music keys remind us of the LG VX8600 and LG Chocolate. The MUZIQ offers a full set of multimedia features including music, video, on-demand content and more. Those who liked the features on the FUSIC but were turned off by the looks might just fancy the MUZIQ.
The LG MUZIQ is a digital CDMA phone that’s offered by Sprint in the US. It also has support for Sprint’s Power Vision (EV-DO) network for data services such as music downloads, Sprint TV, web, messaging and application downloads.
Design and Ergonomics
The MUZIQ scores a smooth and shinny black body that is slimmer and lighter than the FUSIC, a 2.2” bright display and external touch controls that light up like the LG Chocolate. The new look might be perfect for both youthful FUSIQ owners ready to move on to their next slick phone and us “boring” adults.
The 1.3 megapixel lens sits above the display and the speakerphone lives on the lower left corner outside of the touch control circle. The side buttons and ports look clean: volume controls and the charge/sync port are on the left side; and the camera launch button, music launch button, microSD card slot and headset jack are on the right. The battery is under the door on the back.
Phone Features and Reception
The LG MUZIQ is a digital dual band CDMA phone that operates on Sprint’s 800/1900 MHz network and has EVDO for data. It gets about the same signal strength as the Treo 700p and a bit stronger than the Samsung UpStage phone. In well covered areas the MUZIQ can get up to full bars and in marginally covered areas it will pull in 1/3 to half of full signal strength. Calls are clear and loud on both incoming and outgoing ends. The voice quality is better than the Treo 700p and we’ve not had any dropped calls in the Dallas area. The LG MUZIQ offers a nice set of call management features including call waiting, three-way calling and call forwarding. The Contacts database can store up to 99 speed dial numbers which enable one-touch or two-touch dialing. The contact database can store up to 500 contract entries, each can have 5 phone numbers in addition to email, group assignment, URL and a memo (street address, a note, etc.). Though there is voice dialing software, there isn’t a dedicated key or button to launch the voice dialing quickly. You will need to go to Tools to launch Voice Control and dial numbers, bring up messaging and perform other tasks controlled by the voice command software. If you can take your eyes off the road to go through two levels of menu navigation you can probably find the contact you wish to dial in the Contacts database anyhow. One saving grace is that you can use voice dialing via Bluetooth headset or car kit which means you can launch the voice command software with one button on the headset without taking your eyes off the road. You can also check out Sprint’s voice command services which you will need to pay a fee for.
The LG MUZIQ wants to be your mobile phone and music player, as the fashionably phonetically spelled name implies (unlike Motorola, at least LG uses vowels). It offers external music touch controls, a micro SD card slot compatible with cards up to 4 gigs, 99 cents per song over the air music download and Sprint’s desktop music manager. Also in the package, you will get a 3.5mm stereo headset adapter with built-in microphone. Very nice! For an entry-level phone, the MUZIQ has a strong set of music features. The music player can play MP3, AAC, AMR, MP4, M4V, KOZ and more formats, but doesn’t support WMA format. You can pause the music playback and take phone calls, access other applications and resume play when you are ready for music again. The external display is capable of displaying sound track name; progress bar and you can use the external touch control to switch tracks and play/pause the playback. You must open the flip if you want to completely quit the music player though. The front facing speaker (located on the front flip) is loud and clear for sharing music with friends and the $0.99 per song is still the cheapest over the air song download among US cell phone carriers. Though you can get $0.99/song on the Apple iPhone on AT&T, it’s not an over the air download. In addition to the music player, there is also a basic music composer on the MUZIQ phone where you can hum or play the virtual keyboard to compose melody lines.
There’s yet another perk in music playback: the built-in FM transmitter (not to be confused with FM radio). While the music player is playing a music track, go to Options menu and select FM transmitter on. Then put the phone close to your car radio or home stereo, you will hear the music pipe through the phone. The frequency range for the FM transmitter is 88.1 through 107.9 MHz and the phone has to be very close to the radio for it to work without noticeable interference.
The LG’s large and bright display is great for viewing photos and watching video. Sprint includes Sprint TV with the MUZIQ which provides on-demand streaming video sized for cell phones. There’s plenty of free content including prime time TV shows like Lost, Desperate Housewives, sports, news and much more (a Power Vision data package is required however). There are also lots of channels and programs that you can subscribe to for a fee. There are also many Spanish channels. The video quality varies depending on the quality of the production and the speed of your data network. Some videos had major frame drops and playback delays in our tests including many clips from E!, but others like Lost played find. The video sound through the phone’s built-in speaker is good, but since the speaker is facing away from you when the flip is open, it’s some times hard to hear the audio.
To store music, photos and video you take with the phone’s camera, you can use the microSD card slot that supports up to 4GB microSD cards. The phone will format the card the first time you save photos, video, music to it, and files will need to be in certain folders for the phone to play music, view photos and video.
The MUZIQ has a built-in 1.3 megapixel camera, just as did the FUSIC. The camera offers three resolutions (960 x 1280, 480 x 640, 240 x 320) and three quality levels (fine, normal and economy). The LG’s camera has very granular zoom levels (1x to 15x) and a weak built-in flash. Photo quality is good; there is some noise in outdoor shots, but not bad at all for a 1.3 megapixel camera. The camera adds a little contrast to the photos and it sometimes darkens scenes. But it captures plenty of data in outdoor shots to allow constructive editing on desktop. Indoor shots show much more noise compared to outdoor shots, which is common. The built-in flash is quite weak, and thus doesn’t help indoor shots much. You can store the photos on the phone or on a microSD card, send them to people as MMS (up to 25 contacts at a time), upload them to Sprint’s picture mail or other online photo albums, or use them as picture ID photos, incoming call images, screen savers and more.
The MUZIQ’s camera is also capable of recording videos with audio. You can choose from 2 resolutions (144 x 176 and 96 x 128), three quality levels and two video lengths (Video Mail and Long Video). Video quality is decent with some blue tint in low light environments. The speed is very good (no blockiness or dropped frames) and the audio is in sync with video. Like the photos, you can send the video clips to other people, upload them to online albums, store them on a memory card or on the phone.
Though the colors are dramatic, the actual scene wasn't nearly this dark or contrasty.
The LG MUZIQ has integrated Bluetooth 1.2 and supports an impressive set of profiles for a feature phone at this price point. The most noticeable addition to the Bluetooth profiles is A2DP, which allows users to listen to music or video audio tracks via a wireless Bluetooth stereo headset. Other profiles supported include Headset Profile, Hands-Free profile, DUN (Dial-Up Network), OPP (Object Push for vCard and vCal), A2DP/AVRCP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile/Audio/Video Remote Profile), Basic Printing Profile, FTP and Phone Book Access Profile. We tested the phone with several Bluetooth headsets including stereo Bluetooth headsets and it easily paired with all.
When working with the Plantronics Explorer 330, the LG had good sound quality on both incoming and outgoing ends. The DSP on the Explorer 330 worked well with the MUZIQ and we heard minimal road noise in a hard top car. The volume was loud enough for most environments and range was about 15 feet between the phone and the headset. When working with the Sound ID SM100 EarModule the MUZIQ sounded good but we heard more background noise, especially wind. The Sound ID’s DSP wasn’t strong on the phones we’ve tested it with, but the MUZIQ had more noticeable wind noise and other background noise. We also heard some echoing on both incoming and outgoing ends. The range was about 5 feet between the Sound ID headset and the MUZIQ, not good, but that’s the fault on the headset not the phone.
It’s great to see an entry-level phone that supports A2DP for working with wireless stereo headsets via Bluetooth. We tested the MUZIQ with the Plantronics Pulsar 590A and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth stereo headphones. The MUZIQ paired with both fine but it didn’t play music through the Plantronics Pulsar 590A. It plays music fine through the Motorola S9 in stereo with loud volume. Sound quality is good but the Motorola S9 has white noise and hissing (this is the Motorola S9’s issue, we get the same white noise with other A2DP phones). When a call comes in the music will pause and you can take or ignore the call; when you finish with the call you can resume the music play. There is an option to switch between the phone and the headset while in a call.
The LG MUZIQ comes with a rechargeable Lithium Ion battery that’s 800 mAh in capacity (model LGIP-470A). You can access the battery under the battery door by releasing the latch. The included AC travel charger (100-240V) uses LG’s proprietary connector. The claimed talk time is 4 hours, which was on target in our tests. The LG has good active-use battery life but in standby mode the battery lasts only 3 to 4 days. Watching Sprint TV over EV-DO for 45 minutes uses only a quarter of a full charge, and that’s the most battery draining activity. Listening music, taking photos and keeping Bluetooth radio on have normal impact on battery life. With moderate use, the phone should last 2 to 3 days on a charge.
In addition to the music player, Sprint TV and other cool apps, the LG MUZIQ comes with excellent On-Demand which is powered by Handmark. You get local information including local weather with current radar view of your local area and movie times from your local theaters once you put your zip code in. There is also national news, stocks, sports content and more.
PIM (personal information management) tools include Contacts, Scheduler, Alarm clock, calculator, notepad, World clock and voice memo. The LG supports SMS, MMS, VoiceSMS and web based email. There isn’t IM client bundled with the phone, but you can purchase any of the major IM client for a small fee over the air. A WAP browser is included for web viewing.
While there isn’t a full GPS onboard, you can download the Sprint Navigation application (which is powered by TeleNav) for a fee. The MUZIQ comes with an 8-day trial for this application which offers maps in 2D and 3D views, turn-by-turn navigation with voice guidance and POI (Points of Interest) database. Since there isn’t a full GPS, you can’t have the map follow your movement, but you can get directions by inputting addresses or using POIs to get driving directions along with route summaries, 2D/3D maps and more. In our tests, traffic checking had trouble because there was no GPS but other TeleNav features worked well.
A very solid entry-level feature phone that has a strong multimedia focus and enough applications to make it more interesting than just a boring cell phone. Sprint’s 99 cent music track price is attractive and Sprint TV is an added bonus. The phone looks more mature and stylish than the FUSIC phone that it replaces.
Pro: Slim and stylish design that will attract more users than the FUSIC. Large and bright display is great for video watching and photo viewing. Great number of Bluetooth profiles support including A2DP, though it didn’t get along with the Plantronics Pulsar 590A, which is generally very compatible with most A2DP phones and PDAs. Strong software bundle.
Display:Main display: 1.37 x 1.73 inches TFT screen, 176 x 220 pixels resolution. External display: 0.81 x 1.02 inches TFT screen, 128 x 160 pixels resolution.
Battery:Standard Lithium Ion battery. 800 mAh in capacity. The battery is rechargeable and user replaceable. Claimed talk time is 4 hours and claimed music-only mode is 10 hours.
Performance: Undisclosed processor. Contacts can hold up to 500 contacts.
Size:3.80 x 1.94 x 0.61 inches. Weight: 3.14 ounces.
Phone:CDMA digital dual band (800/1900 MHz) with EVDO for data.
Camera:1.3 megapixel camera with flash. Can take photos in 960 x 1280, 480 x 640, 240 x 320 pixels resolutions. The camera can also record video with audio.
Audio:Built-in speaker and mic. 2.5mm stereo headset jack and LG included a 2.5mm to 3.5mm stereo headset adapter with built-in mac. Music Player is included. Music playback formats supported: 3g2, mp4, 3gp, amr, aac, mp3, mid, qcp, 3gpp, pmd, m4v, m4a, koz. FM transmitter on board.
Networking:Bluetooth 1.2. Supported profiles: Headset Profile, Hands-Free profile, DUN (Dial-Up Network) Profile, OPP (Object Push for vCard and vCal), A2DP/AVRCP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile/Audio/Video Remote Profile), Basic Printing Profile, FTP and Phone Book Access Profile.
Software:Icon-based menu interface. Contacts, calendar, notepad, voice memo, alarm clock, world clock and calculator. Music player, Sprint TV and On Demand included. SMS, MMS, VoiceSMS, web browser, Mass storage (to PC), PictBridge, Voice Command onboard.
Expansion:1 microSD card slot. 64MB card included, supports up to 4GB card.
In the Box:The LG MUZIQ phone with standard battery, USB cable, 3.5 mm stereo headset adapter with microphone, AC charger, 64MB microSD card and adapter, music Manager CD, printed User Guide and other documents.