Editor's update Nov. 2008: Like the Rumor but want EVDO? Check out our review of the Samsung Rant, whose design is similar to the Rumor's.
Non-smartphones with a QWERTY keyboard and texting-focus are popular now that messaging has become a very big part of the cell phone experience. The LG Rumor falls into this category with its easy-to-use QWERTY keyboard, excellent reception and voice quality, decent music and gaming features, and a great 1.3 megapixel camera. What’s even more attractive is the LG Rumor currently sells for $49.99 on Sprint’s web site with 2-year contract. The Rumor isn’t glamorous, but it has all the right ingredients to become a texting cult-classic phone. The LG is a dual band digital CDMA phone and it supports Sprint’s Vision (1xRTT) but not Power Vision (EV-DO) for data. It comes with a 2” display, a microSDHC card slot, built-in GPS that works with Sprint Navigation, Bluetooth and a full set of PIM applications. The LG Rumor comes in four colors: black, green, blue and white.
Design and Ergonomics
As a texting utilitarian, the LG Rumor looks well built but plasticy compared to its high end older cousin on Verizon, the LG EnV. The 4.3 x 2.0 x 0.7 inch phone feels solid and the 4.13-ounce weight feels good in hand. The phone is large enough to afford a regular-sized number keypad, a 2” display and a QWERTY keyboard that slides out. The QWERTY keyboard has 3 rows of letter keys but no dedicated number row. Press down the orange function key to type numbers and punctuation. A single Shift key is on the left and the Entry and Back key are on the right. The keyboard layout is normal with one exception: the “B” letter key is on the right side of the Space bar. Bright backlighting makes the keyboard easy to see in the dark. Other than the oddly located “B” letter, we had easy time typing fast on Rumor’s keyboard. There are two shoulder buttons for in-application menu commands when the keyboard slides out and the phone is in landscape position. The LG Rumor has a 2”, 262K-color TFT screen that looks reasonably bright. It automatically switches to landscape mode when you slide out the keyboard.
When the QWERTY keyboard is shut, the LG Rumor looks like a normal candy bar phone. The number keys and spacing are large enough for easy dialing, but they lay pretty flat making it a bit difficult for touch dialing. The usual Call Send and End, Back buttons and a dedicated speaker buttons flank a comfy 5-way d-pad. The side buttons and ports include a microSD card slot that’s compatible with up to 4GB cards, a 2.5mm headset jack, volume rocker and camera launch key. The 1.3 megapixel camera and the rear-firing speaker live on the back of the phone. The phone’s battery is integrated into the back cover. The LG Rumor currently comes in two colors: black with a blue keyboard and white with a silver keyboard. The black phone has a soft-touch coating that feels nice in hand.
Phone Features and Reception
If you are looking for a texting device that has good phone performance, the LG Rumor doesn’t disappoint. The LG Rumor is a digital dual band CDMA phone that’s currently sold on Sprint. The phone’s reception is quite good, usually getting full signal strength in strong coverage areas and half or more in spotty coverage areas. The LG has excellent call quality (unless you are in poorly covered areas) for both incoming and outgoing voice and the volume is super loud. The Rumor comes with a phone book that can store up to 500 contacts and each entry can store 5 numbers, 3 email address, a picture ID, ringer, memo, URL and more. The contacts can also have speed dial numbers and the phone allows 98 speed dial entries and 34 unique ringers. Other PIM (personal Information Management) tools include Alarm Clock, Calculator, scheduler, notepad, World Clock, Ez Tip calculator, D-Day counter and Unit converter.
We like that the LG Rumor supports location-based services with a built-in GPS and Sprint TeleNav navigation and Map software. You do need to pay for the TeleNav services ($2.99/day or $9.99/month), but the services are excellent. The aGPS on the LG Rumor has quick fix times and accurate positioning. The navigation services give you turn-by-turn directions as well as voice guidance and come with a large POI (Point of Interest) database that’s reasonably up-to-date.
Texting and Multimedia
The LG Rumor is built with a focus on texting inside and out. The slide out QWERTY keyboard takes little time to get used to and it’s much easier for typing messages than T9. The Rumor supports SMS text messaging and SMS voice messaging, email (POP, IMAP and Web-based), Web-based IM client (for AOL, Windows Live and Yahoo! Messenger) and Chat&Dating. The LG also supports MMS for sending photos and videos via messaging and there is a quick link to the Facebook mobile portal page. In addition to messaging, the Rumor also has a WAP web browser that works great with WAP sites but is painful when accessing full HTML pages over 1xRTT.
The Rumor isn’t a strong multimedia phone compared to devices like the LG Muziq or the Samsung Upstage, but it does have support for music playback and Java gaming. The built-in music player supports MP3, AAC, MP4 and other music formats, and offers basic repeat and shuffle tracks features. Since it lacks EVDO (Power Vision), the LG Rumor doesn’t have support for the Sprint music store, which means you can’t buy music over the air. You can load tracks onto microSD cards and play on the LG. The rear-firing speaker sounds decent when playing music and the 2.5mm headset jack is mono. Gaming is responsive when playing Midnight Pool, Pac-Man and other games. The d-pad works very well as a game controller and sound through the speaker is loud.
For a texting-centric phone, we weren’t exactly surprised to see a built-in 1.3 megapixel camera on the LG Rumor while 2 megapixel camera phones have started to crowd the feature phone market. What did surprise us however was that the LG’s camera takes great still photos by 1.3 megapixel camera phone standards. Our test photos had balanced colors, sharp images and relatively low noise levels compared to other 1.3 mp camera phones we’ve seen in the past. Even indoor shots had good colors and looked sharp. The only noticeable handicap this camera phone has is contrast, which leads to white-out in photos that weren’t taken particularly in bright sunlight. The LG’s camera application offers plenty of options if one wishes to tweak the camera settings, which include view mode, shutter/cue sound, brightness, white balance, color tone, quality, self-timer and image enhancer. The camera phone can take still photos in 1280 x 960, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 resolutions.
The LG Rumor is also capable of taking video with audio in 176 x 144 and 128 x 96 pixels and in 10-second, 20-second and 2-hour lengths. Video quality is decent, has good frame rates and the video is in sync with the audio. The phone can store photos and video in internal memory or on a microSD card (up to 4GB card supported).
The LG Rumor has Bluetooth v2.0 and it supports headset, hands-free, DUN (dial-up network), object push for vCard and vCal, basic printing, file transfer and phone book access profiles. The LG can save up to 20 pairing partners and we tested it with Bluetooth headsets including the Cardo S-800 and the Plantronics Explorer 330 Bluetooth headsets. The Rumor paired with both headsets with ease and saved pairing info on both headsets. The voice quality is good via both Bluetooth headsets with decent volume. The voice was slightly muffled using the Cardo S-800 compared to the clear voice using the phone’s own earpiece and mic, though the Cardo S-800 had similar issues with many phones we tested. The DSP worked well, filtering out most road noise and wind noise. The volume isn’t as high as the phone’s own volume via the Cardo, but the range between the headset and the LG Rumor reached over 20 feet which was impressive by Bluetooth headset standards. The Plantronics Explorer 330 performed better for voice quality when working with the LG Rumor. The voice was clearer on both incoming and outgoing ends, but volume was still just moderate. The DSP worked well also on the Plantronics and the range was about 15 feet.
The LG Rumor comes with a standard Li-Polymer battery (model LGLP-AHFM) that’s 950 mAh in capacity and a small world charger. Battery life is great with at least 4 hours of talk time and 2 weeks in standby. We expected good battery life from the LG as it doesn’t have EV-DO and the related online multimedia streaming features that usually drain a battery rapidly. Neither music playback nor leaving Bluetooth on had a big impact on battery life in our tests.
If you're looking for a texting phone with strong mobile calling capabilities, the LG Rumor fits the bill. While not luxury, the Rumor offers a few key extra: GPS, Bluetooth, (very) basic multimedia and a microSDHC expansion slot. At the current price, you’d be hard pressed to find a texting centric phone with these features that sells for less.
Pro: Great reception, call quality and volume. QWERTY keyboard is easy to use. GPS works well over Vision. Excellent camera performance by 1.3mp standards. Good battery life.
Con:The overall user interface and menu structure still take too many clicks to get things done. Voice over Bluetooth isn’t the best we’ve heard. We’ve tested several units, and many have system crashes when access Sprint’s Vision network.
Price: $49.99 with 2-year contract for online orders on Sprint’s web site.
Display:262K color TFT, 176 x 220 pixel resolution. Screen Diag.: 2”.
Battery:950 mAh Li-Polymer rechargeable battery, user replaceable. Claimed talk time: 4.5 hours.
Performance:16MB internal memory. Stores up to 500 contacts in phone book.
Size:4.3 x 2.0 x 0.7 inches. Weight: 4.13 ounces.
Phone:Digital dual band CDMA PCS, 800/1900 MHz. 1xRTT for voice and data. No EV-DO support.
Camera:1.3 megapixel camera. Can take still images in 1280 x 960, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 resolutions. Can take video with audio. Video resolutions: 176 x 144 and 128 x 960 pixels. Video length: 10 sec., 20 sec. or 2 hr long.
Audio: Built-in mic and speaker. Supports 32-chord polyphonic ringtones. Have vibrating and silent modes. Can record voice notes. Has built-in music player that supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, M4A, MID, AMR, QCP, 3GPP, MP4, 3G2, M4V and PMD files.
Networking:Bluetooth v2.0. Supports headset, hands-free, dial-up networking, object push (vCard/vCal), basic printing, file transfer and phone book access profiles. USB.
Software:List-based menu interface. Contacts, calendar, scheduler, notepad, World Clock, Ez Tip calculator, D-Day counter and Unit converter are included. Music player, WAP browser, SMS, MMS, VoiceSMS, web-based email, IM and Chat.
Expansion:microSD card slot, supports 4GB cards.
In the Box:The LG Rumor phone with standard battery, AC charger, User Guide and other printed material.