Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Cell Phone Gnomes

Per my previous post, I've had many frustrations with my Telus LG8100. Since I gave Telus the boot yesterday, I had to get a new phone. Unfortunately, CDMA phones don't typically work on GSM networks. That and my LG8100 was a piece of crap that kept turning itself off when I didn't want it to. At any rate, this meant that I once again, I was in the market for a new cell phone. My new toy is the GSM version of the LG Chocolate, the TG800.

This phone is definitely better than that stupid paperweight of a phone that I used to have. One big improvement is the fact that the phone actually has a ringer + vibrate option. Unfortunately, not all LG phones are created equal, and, being on my third LG phone in 3.5 years it appears that LG doesn't like that its employees actually talk to each other.

I've included above a picture of the LG phones that I've had so far: the LG6070, the LG8100, and the LG Chocolate.

By far, the best LG phone I've had so far. It wasn't heavy on the bells and whistles - no built-in camera or MP3 player. The ringtones were just plain MIDI files. This phone, however, had a good set of core features.
Ringer Options. Ringer + vibrate was available, which was great. I never missed calls.

Phone Book Setup. Very easy to set up the phone book. You could set multiple numbers to a contact - 2 home, 2 office, 2 mobile. In addition you could set a different ringtone for each person on your contact list.

Speed Dial. Set from the contacts menu. You could assign >8 speed dial numbers, and you could 2 numbers from the same contact to separate speed dial locations.

Size. Small phone, a definite plus.

Built-in MP3 Player. None, and I'm fine with that.

Power Adapter. Nice and compact.

Definitely the wost LG phone I've had so far. Even though it's a Bluetooth phone, good 'ole Telus disabled OBEX so that you couldn't transfer files to/from the phone. I'd say this is still LG's fault for allowing phone service providers to enable/disable this feature.

Ringer Options. No ringer + vibrate. VERY annoying. It was even more annoying that I only found this out about 20 minutes after I purchased the phone. Why the hell would LG add this feature to the 6070 only to take it away for the 8100. It makes no sense.

Phone Book Setup. Very similar to the 6070. Kudos to LG for not messing that one up.

Speed Dial. Again, LG didn't seem to mess that one up. Bonus.

Size. BIG FRIGGIN' BRICK. This phone is huge and doesn't fit anywhere nicely. Big boo to LG, and even bigger boo to me for thinking that a gigantic brick phone is acceptable in this day and age.

Built-in MP3 Player. Cute little feature, but I've got a slick iPod, so I really don't give a crap, even if this phone could belch out the national anthem. To top it all off, there appears to have been no key lock functionality on the phone, so everytime I'd have it in my purse or in my pocket, the stupid front buttons would get inadvertently pressed, which would wind up launching the MP3 player app. Fortunately I never loaded any MP3s onto that phone, so my battery was spared the extra drainage.

Power Adapter. VERY different from the one on the 6070. WHY??? Just make one that will work on all phones, for crying out loud!!! And to top it all off, I had to buy a new car charger too.

LG Chocolate
Definitely a nice improvement over the LG8100, but it still lacks some of the nice features of the 6070. A real shame. I'd say this is definitely between the 6070 and the 8100. One thing it has going for it is that it is pretty damn slick-looking.

Ringer Options. Ringer + vibrate have made a comeback, although it's not THAT intuitive on how to access the ringer options. The phone does have multiple profiles (standard, vibrate only, silent, etc.), which is nice.

Phone Book Setup. LG totally dropped the ball on this one, as far as I'm concerned. The new phone book is completely unintuitive. First of all, I had a hard time trying to figure out how to add multiple numbers under one contact. Secondly, I had a hard time trying to assign a photo to a contact. Apparently the phone only accepts 70x70 photos for the phonebook (the LG8100 accepted any size photo). Furthermore, dialing a number other than the default number for a contact proved to be completely unintuitive, to the point where I thought it was impossible to do on this phone - thank goodness that this was not the case, or else I would be PISSED. Lastly, you can no longer assign a ringtone to a contact. Instead, you assign ringtones to groups. Unfortunately, you're only limited to 7 groups, so you're a bit stuck if you really like your ringtones.

Speed Dial. Definitely the WORST feature of this phone. You can only assign 8 speed dial #s (slot 1 is programmed for voicemail for Fido phones), and you can only assign the primary phone # to a speed dial slot. If you know otherwise, please let me know!!!

Size. Good size...doesn't feel like a paperweight.

Built-In MP3 Player. Don't really care. I'm just glad that the MP3 player app doesn't start up when it sits in my purse or in my pocket.

Power Adapter. Yet another one to add to my collection.

So, the point I'm trying to make is that LG clearly has some good UI features on its phones. Unfortunately, they seem to enjoy taking out good features and replacing them with unintuitive features, and I can't figure out why. The only thing I can figure is that when LG designs these phones, they put a bunch of monkeys in a room with the engineers and they have a big pillow fight to see whose features make it onto the new phone. There's no other explanation. Well...maybe they make these phones highly programmable so that the mobile phone service providers can enable and disable certain features. Maybe their guys engage in a pillowfight with a bunch of monkeys to see whose features make it on. Just my guess...

At any rate, LG people, if you're reading this, stop adding bad features to your phones. For crying out loud, hire a usability expert or two. It's not fluff work, you know. Just ask the fine folks at Apple. They can teach you a thing or two. Just bribe one of their guys to come over. Otherwise, I'll really have to stop wasting my money on your phones.

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