The LG CU500 Phone is one of Cingular's new non-smart 3G phones, and can be purchased relatively inexpensively with a contract. (Amazon sells them for 0.01 with a 2 year contract, cingular charged $50 the last time I checked.) Although it doesn't have a mini-qwerty keyboard and good email support like the Blackjack, 8525, or Treo 750, it also costs $200-400 less. The LG CU500 is in the same class as the Samsung A707 SYNC and the Motorola RAZR V3xx in that it supports 3G, playing music, and Cingular videos.
Size & Feel
The CU500 is a small and light flip phone. About 50% thicker than the v3xx, it is essentially the same size as the A707. It is small enough to keep in a hip pocket, but you won't forget it's there. It feels good in your hand, and the buttons are well separated and easy to operate by feel.
The 1.3MegaPixel camera is located in the center of the hinge flip, which allows it to rotate so that you can use it to capture images in front of you, or spin it around to focus on yourself. In Australia, where LG sells this phone as the TU500, this feature is used to enable video conferencing, but that is not supported on the Cingular network in the United States. The only way they could have made the built in swivel camera better is if it had a sensor to detect when you had flipped the camera around and automatically flipped the image right-side-up. (As it is, you have to select the "Reverse View" option from a menu.) I have included here two photos taken by the camera for you to judge image quality for yourself :
3G Data / Videos / Music
Being able to download Cingular Videos on the 3G network is very nice! After buffering for five seconds, the videos essentially stream, playing all the way to the end without annoying pauses or drops. Music playback is easy to control with hot buttons on the front of the phone, and you can multi-task with music in the background while browsing the web, composing an SMS or playing a java game. (You can even play a java application while talking on the phone if you have a headset.)
The phone can be used as a modem to a computer or PDA via Bluetooth or over a USB cable. If you have a stereo bluetooth headset that supports the A2DP profile you can listen to music and videos over bluetooth. However, if you have an older style monophonic bluetooth headset, you can only use it to make and receive calls, and not listen to videos or audio. The Motorola v3xx will allow you to downsample the high quality stereo audio signal to a standard monophonic bluetooth headset if you do not have a stereo headset, which is a nice feature if you just want to listen to CNN on a train and don't want to carry (or buy!) a full bluetooth headphone.
GUI / Ease of Use
Although the display (at 176×220) is slightly smaller than the A707 and the v3xx (which have a resolution of 240×320), it really doesn't affect video playback (the videos are 176×144 in any case) and the GUI does not feel cramped. I found the controls to be very easy to use and I was able to find all the features I wanted. The dedicated volume, camera, and music buttons all work as you would expect. The boot-up process makes you wait (27 seconds), but once the phone is up and running the response on menus is snappy.
- Standard 2.5mm headset jack which also works with stereo headphones.
- Swivel camera allows for front/back picture taking.
- Easy to hack with BitPim (Linux/Mac/Windows phone editing software) to fix Java, add your own Ringtones or wall-papers, etc.
- Quad-Band GSM means it will work anywhere in the world with no problems.
- No Voice dial.
- Proprietary charging connector, must buy LG chargers.
- No SyncML support.
- No built in Email client (But can access Cingular Mail via WAP).
- Can not send music/video audio to mono bluetooth headsets.
- Not only is the TransFlash card slot behind the battery, but it's very difficult to remove a card once you put it in. (Of course, most people will just install the card once and forget it, but if you ever want to swap cards out you will have to remove your battery and have a pair of tweezers.)
I really liked the fact that this phone's filesystem could be edited using BitPim from Linux, but the lack of a SyncML client and the inability to downsample stereo sound to a mono bluetooth headset made me choose the v3xx over this phone. If you don't care about SyncML, and will be using a wired stereo headset, or already own a stereo bluetooth headset, I think you will really like the LG CU 500.