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LG Rumor blackWhat’s Good: Compact, rugged design with full QWERTY keyboard; Easy to use; Auto-rotating display; Good SMS, IM, and Email integration

What’s Not Good: Limited functionality beyond voice calling and messaging; No Power Vision access makes for slow Web browsing; Reports of laggy software and keyboard issues (I encountered none); Weak camera

Bottom Line: Rumor is a basic candy bar phone with a focus on messaging, and in this regard it really shone in my tests.  I found the handset easy and fun to use so long as I kept to its strengths: Messaging and more messaging with voice calling and limited Web  and media functionality thrown in.  Rumor’s comfy QWERTY board, rugged design and soft-grip finish, and auto-rotating display make it a solid choice for cell phone users who value texting as much (or more) as voice calling.

Specs:
Make/Model: LG Rumor
Network: CDMA
Data: EV-DO (1x RTT)
Carrier: Sprint (Locked)
Size: 109 x 51 x 17.8 mm
Weight: 117 g
Form Factor: Candy bar with Horizontal Slide-Out QWERTY Board
Display: 2” Color LCD, 176 x 220 resolution, 262,000 Colors
Memory:  16 MB built-in, microSD card slot
Notable Features: A-GPS with location based services; 1.3MP camera; Email and IM clients; Auto-Rotating Display

 


Introduction

LG Rumor GreenA growing number of consumers use their “cell phones” more for messaging than for actual voice calls.  Texting, IMing, and Emailing from handsets has become more and more popular amongst privacy-minded teenagers, business folk, and people like me who sometimes just don’t like talking on the phone.  As such, when shopping for a new handset many people now try out the keypad before holding it up to their ear - messaging-related ergonomics and software are just as important as call quality for more and more would-be cell phone buyers in today’s market.

Sprint and LG have addressed the text-minded shopper with their new Rumor handset.  Rumor features a full-QWERTY keyboard and messaging-centric software in a compact design that eschews full smartphone functionality in favor of simplicity and a low price point.  While Rumor lacks the high-speed data access and advanced functionality of higher-priced models in Sprint’s lineup, its ease of use, rugged, comfortable form factor, and text-friendly keypad makes it a solid choice for users who text first, talk second, and barely if ever use their handset to browse the Web or snap pictures (though you can do those things on Rumor, too).


Design & Features

Rumor is, on first glance, a somewhat chubby candy bar phone with a standard dialing pad, D-Pad, display layout on the front and a camera on the back.  My review sample is finished in all-black with chromed silver plastic trim, and the soft touch paint used throughout made the handset really easy to hold onto.  Sprint also offers Rumor in white and green color schemes.Lg Rumor Green angle view

What sets Rumor apart from your basic bar phone - and justifies its somewhat chunky profile - is the slide-out QWERTY thumbboard.  Turn the handset on its side the long way and push the top panel up and Rumor reveals a full 32-key layout done up in a blue-on-blue finish with easy to read white labels on the buttons.  With the keyboard extended I found Rumor pretty comfortable to hold horizontally— the handset fit nicely between my hands with my index fingers bent around the back of the phone and my thumbs poisted in typing position.  Rumors rounded edges were comfortable against the skin of my hands, and while the QWERTY keys are a bit on the small side, I found them more than good enough for accurate thumb-typing.

Extending the QWERTY board auto-rotates the phone’s display and fires up the messaging application by default.  Unlike the experience on most smartphones, Rumor’s auto-rotation kicks in immediately, and by the time I had the device physically rotated in my hands I’d been met with a choice of messaging options including integrated IM, Email, and Facebook clients as well as the standard SMS, MMS, and Voicemail software.  One minor note about using Rumor in messaging mode - the positioning of the D-Pad on the phone’s front panel makes it easy for left- or right-handed use in vertical orientation, but basically demands that you use your left thumb when holding the phone horizontally.  Though I’m not sure how designers could have positioned the D-Pad differently without making the device much larger overall, it would have been nice to be able to use my right thumb to navigate menus in messaging mode.

Beyond its focus on messaging, Rumor offers entry-level feature phone applications such as WAP-only Web browsing, a media player with microSD memory card slot and 2.5mm stereo headphone jack, and basic personal information management and gaming.  Rumor also offers some higher-end features including Stereo Bluetooth support, A-GPS with voice-enhanced navigation services, and an optional $2.99/mo feature called “Social Zone,” which provides mobile access to a bunch of online communities. 

Some customers will be disappointed to learn that Rumor is a Sprint Vision device, which means it’s only capable of 1x RTT data access and won’t work on the faster EV-DO network like the carrier’s “Power Vision” devices.  As such there’s no access to Sprint’s Music Store or TV offerings, and no browsing of the “real Web,” to be found here.  Rumor’s more than speedy enough for Email, Instant Messaging, and browsing of “mobile” (WAP) Websites, but it pales in comparison to Sprint’s more advanced phones or the Samsung Alias, Verizon’s messaging-focused VCast handset.


Usability & Performance

LG Rumor WhiteI tested Rumor on Sprint’s CDMA network in the San Francisco Bay Area with generally quite good results.  Signal strength and voice quality were very good in most cases, and callers were able to hear me loud and clear with only very occasional minor static.  The integrated speakerphone was okay in a pinch but not great, and the handset worked well with mono and stereo 2.5mm headsets (not included).  I also wired some higher quality 3.5mm headphones to Rumor by way of an adapter, and was pleased with the results when listening to music via the phone’s media player.

I was able to easily pair Rumor with a variety of mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets.  Wireless range and voice quality over Bluetooth were good.

Though I’ve read some reports online complaining about keyboard lag and software bugs on Rumor, I experienced nothing but smooth sailing in my tests of the device.  The handset’s display auto-rotated and its messaging app launched without a hitch every time I slid the QWERTY board out, and the device registered my keystrokes just as fast as I could tap them out with my thumbs.  In general I was very pleased with the performance of the phone relative to its capabilities.

That said you’re not going to be happy with Rumor if you want a full-on smartphone or an advanced multimedia or Web browsing handset.  Rumor’s 1.3 MP camera lacks a flash or self-portrait mirror and the photos it took for me were average at best - low-light performance was notably poor.  While the camera is capable of video capture, the results were similarly low-quality.  Rumor’s display is also on the lower end of phones in its class, though its decently well suited to the phone’s features.  The 176 x 220 resolution display is smaller and of lesser quality than the 320 x 240 screen that’s become standard on mid-range devices, its fonts tend to look a bit outdated, and it’s hard to read in bright, direct light.  Then again, it’s perfectly usable for messaging and phone-related tasks in most indoor situations.

While I understand that Sprint wanted to keep Rumor’s price point as low as possible to widen its appeal to budget-minded parents of the teenagers the device is being marketed to, I really do wish they’d included Power Vision access.  Sprint’s Music Store is one of the best in the business, and for the number of teens and young adults I see every day tapping away at their thumbboards while plugged into earphones, I’d imagine that texting + music = revenue generation.  A Rumor with EV-DO access to 99 cent per track over the air downloads would seem a teenager’s dream - or, rather, a marketing person’s dream in the face of selling gadgets to teens.  Again, the Samsung Alias for VZW comes to mind as another compact, messaging-focused device that bests Rumor in the areas of multimedia and high-speed Web/data access.


Conclusion

All in all I really like Rumor.  It’s designed to do two things well — make phone calls and send messages — and it succeeds on both counts.  While power users want their handsets to do everything including high-speed Web browsing and advanced multimedia playback, Rumor isn’t for power users.  Like it’s cousin, the Alltel Scoop, Rumor is meant for budget-minded folks who text as much as they talk, if not more.  As such it packs a very usable full QWERTY keypad into a candy bar form factor that feels good in the hand and is only a bit more bulky than your standard “dialing only” phone.

Yes, Sprint could have made Rumor better by adding Power Vision (EV-DO) and Music Store access and enabling a full HTML Web browser.  But that would have jacked the phone’s price up and put it into competition with Sprint’s smartphone lineup.  Instead, with Rumor you get simplicity and ease of use and sacrifice some features and screen quality as a trade off.  You can still use Rumor to play music side-loaded onto a microSD card and access WAP sites for quick information updates, and the custom Facebook and Social Zone clients extend its reach into the mobile social networking community.  All in all I think it’s a fair exchange, and one purposefully meant to appeal to a segment of the market that wants a certain kind of SMS-based bang for as few bucks as possible.

LG Rumor group image


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