Sunday, November 26, 2006

LG 3280 Review (finally here!)

Everyone who did not get a chance to listen to the podcast, rejoice! Here is the main thing that probably everyone really wanted to knnow but might not have been able to access, due to the podcast being...well...a podcast: a review of nothing other than the LG 3280.

First off, I have to give this phone a rating as a solid option if you want to get into Tracfone, or rather want to get into Verizon's network, except on prepaid. Which is what you're doing with the LG 3280, because it's SingleRate. But more on that later...before I talk about that, I want to say a little bit about the other new things that the LG 3280, which incidentally is a rebadged, rebranded version of the Verizon (plus a bunch of regional CDMA carriers) LG vx3300, has to offer on the Tracfone scene.

The LG 3280 sets a lot of firsts for Tracfone. Besides being the first SingleRate CDMA Tracfone, it's the first Tracfone to be made by LG, and the first in five or six years to be made by a company other than Nokia or Motorola. I'm guessing that Tracfone switched to LG for CDMA, at least at this point, because Nokia is slowly but steadily moving out of the CDMA business, and while the Nokia 2126 (or 2125 or 2128...they're the same phone) is a solid phone with good features, it's getting a little bit old and will probably dry up stock-wise eventually. So Tracfone is introducing LG on the relatively high end ($50 for the 3280 vs. $30 for the 2126) early on to get people used to having a different user interface for their Tracfone. SingleRate is probably the carrot Tracfone is dangling to get people to make the switch. Why?

Because of a little, tacky sticker on the LG 3280 when you buy it, or rather what the sticker tells you. That sticker, sharing the glory with another clear badge telling the world that this is a Qualcomm (CDMA) 3G (um...2.5G thanks...1xRTT) phone, says two words: "OTA CAPABLE". At first blush, this may not be such a big deal. But this capability means that firmware upgrade may be applied to the phone, and thus new features added, "in the field". And new features are sure to be added...

I get this idea that new features are sure to be added for several reasons. The first is that the phone has a hundredths place in the airtime balance display. Right now this hundredths place isn't used for anything; everything is still conducted in tenths of units (texts) or whole units (calls). However, this system allows for fine-grained billing structures heretofore unavailable to Tracfone. Now Tracfone can instritute quarter-unit decrements with aplomb, or go to even smaller increments (pay-per-KB web access anyone, via a firmware update?). Or they can institute a dollars-and-cents mentality; a call will cost $0.15 a minute instead of 1.0 units a minute. Just thoughts...

The second reason is that, in the hundred and forty-four "info pages" of the Tracfone prepaid system, there seem to be mentions of web and picture messaging charges, a la Motorola c261\v176...with the same prices. If you have an LG 3280, these pages can be accessed by entering *#104, then hitting OK, and scrolling up and down from there. Interesting, to say the least.

The third reason, or half-reason, is that the "Buy Airtime" function of this phone (!) is currently unavailable on the phone. Yes, this phone has the option, though unavailable at this time, to buy airtime directly on the phone through the prepaid menu...don't know the exact specifics yet but it looks good. A firmware update would be ostensibly required to turn this feature on.

I'm guessing thast Tracfone will, using this capability, add features and services and such to the LG 3280 (and future ohones) as they make better agreements with the underlying carriers. I'm digging it.

So we have here one advanced phone. And SingleRate takes things up a notch...

We're talking about real, honest-to-goodness SingleRate here. Whether your phone says local or roaming, you're still only charged one unit per airtime unit. And this is on CDMA, too. Text messages are also cheaper now, at 0.30 (note the extra decimal place, everyone) to send and receive, down from 0.5 units so as to be the same as the pricing on new GSM phone models. But the sweet fact remains that you can now go anywhere on Verizon's America's Choice II network (read: Verizon contract coverage) and talk for the same rate as...well...everywhere else. I'm not saying that Tracfone is cheap, but now nobody can complain about small local coverage...the US is your home area...all of it...beat that, Cingular (no wait...they can't hear me...the chainsaw they're using to raze the bar is too loud).

As you can see, I'm excited about SingleRate, since the phone will, albeit reluctantly, switch to our excellent local co-op's cellular signal (Five Star Wireless) and charge the same rate for calls and texts! Yay Tracfone!

But now to the phone...

I might as well start with what counts: reception, call quality and battery life. On all three, I'm impressed. My 3280 may not be able to cath a signal quite as well as my parents' Nokia 2126s, even with its stub antenna (Nokia always seems to make really good phones), but it works great nonetheless, with great call quality. The only dropouts and lost calls i've had are in naturally low-signal areas.

As far as battery life goes, I usually, with light usage, get six days on a charge. Which may be merely average for GSM. But it's really, really good for CDMA.Then again, there's no excuse for battery life to be anything but good, since the phone has no external caller ID display and thus has very little to power for most of the time the phone is on. But, nonetheless, six days on a charge is very good.

However, if the phone slips into analog mode (which it can do, as it is a tri-mde phone), you'll have to kiss good battery life goodbye. The phone simply doesn't last long on analog...but then again no phone does these days so I'm not holding this foible against the 3280.

Going on, the phone is designed well and feels solid, like the highst-end Tracfone should feel. THe Nokia 2126 set this standard and naturally, since it's more expensive, the LG must rise to this challenge. It does. However, the battery cover on my phone has developed a wierd discoloration on part of it. Nothing huge, but wierd nonetheless.

As far as features go, this phone is great for Tracfone CDMA but not so great everywehre else. It has polyphonic ringtones, which can be loud, and monophonic ringtones, which can be ear-splittingly loud, a la Nextel. Which is great for people that need that sort of thing. It also has a vibration motor in it, and the vibrate function is nice and strong.

The phone is a flip with a color internal screen but, as has been the case for every color Tracfone, has no external caller ID display. This omission might be due to the Motorola v176's not having such a display...thus Tracfone didn't want to over-promote their CDMA side. The typical extras, ranging from voice recording (including in-call recording of the other party...very useful for certain stuff) to using those recordings for ringtones, to voice dialing, to standard and tip calculators, to limited PDA functions, are all here too. However, games are wierdly omitted...firmware update anyone? The phone also has, naturally, two-way speakerphone, which can be used (again a la Nextel) to play voice recordings with...which is great; the Motorola v176 is reputed to have only a one-way speakerphone.

The phone isn't a Razr, but it isn't too thick either, and fits well in the hand and looks passable. Changeable faceplates are a nice bonus, and Tracfone includes two in the package. One is silver and one is dark gray. Both bear the Tracfone logo...but the faceplates are neat nonetheless.

The phone's screen isn't exactly huge, but it is bigger than that of the Nokia 2126. Then again, this phone is a flip so a bigger screen is to be expected...though the LG 3280 screen isn't as big as the Motorola v176's or c261's screen, at 128x128 (I think) vs. 128x160 (I know). But LG, as always, puts this real eastate to good use with a user interface that is quite useable. LG may not be as elegant as Nokia in making user interfaces, but it's a lot better than Motorola, Kyocera and UTStarComm and, being a former LG user myself (LG 5225 and 225, from STi Mobile), I'm fine with the UI LG puts on this Tracfone. It's clear, fast and pretty, so I'm not in the least complaining.

I guess that's it for the review of the LG 3280. Again, it is definately and always SingleRate, unlike any of the other CDMA phones, including the Nokia 2126, even with the new packaging (though the 2126 is still a great phone). If anyone has any questions about the 3280, just comment on this post and I'll answer them! As I said, I'm catching up here, except in greater detail, to what I said on the podcast, and I decided to start with something everone was wanting. So enjoy!

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

100% Perfection in Posting. Keep up the good work!

Wes said...

Everything said about this phone sounds excellent. I purchased this phone last month because I was fed up with my Moto v60 Tracfone. This phone is much more attractive, functional, and it just works better all around.

I really like the sound of Firmware updates. This phone is definitely the most versatile one that Tracfone has released in the past few months, and LG is a very good, efficent maker of phones. I don't like the fact there's no vibrate only function for the ring, and if there is, I haven't found it, and the lack of an exterior display can get annoying in case you want to know who's calling, but the ringer ID fixes that problem somewhat.

The single-rate is very handy and saves a lot of frustration, but this phone has only been in ROAM mode one time, whereas my other one did it all the time. It was so annoying.

$50 is DEFINITELY worth it.

Anonymous said...

There is a vibrate only option on this phone if you hold down the * key for 3 seconds. It works great!

Anonymous said...

sooo what ur saying is that if ur roaming it still only costs 1 unit??

and its not like othe rflip phones where it answers the call automatically when u open it right? cuz that owuld suck because of no external display.

Anonymous said...

The tracfone LG 3280 isn't yet available if I enter my home area as Hartford, CT. Can I still buy one from Tracfone, activate it in area where it is available (like NH for example), and use it in CT?
Thanks, John

Analise said...

The phone isn't avaliable in my state either (CO) :( Are they only releasing them in certain states? Or does CO just have to wait a while :( ?

Anonymous said...

I moved to western ND and my Motorola V170 wouldn't work in this area, so Tracfone sent me a new LG 3280 to replace it. I haven't had a chance to see if the single rate will work, but I've noticed I get charged a unit for unanswered calls or busy signals. In other words, as soon as I hit send, the units start. That wasn't the case with the Motorola V170. Is this normal??

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know were to get a user manual for the LG3280. I misplaced mine.

Anonymous said...

I got this phone this summer and it works pretty good. I live about 3 miles from the Michigan/Indiana border, and roaming comes up all the time. But based on previous entries I'm not supposed to be roaming? Thanks for this posting!!

Anonymous said...

I live in Vt and just purchased the LG3280 TracPhone. Verizon covers this area but more in the Chittenden County area of western Vt. I'm new to cell phones so don't really under stand the technology. This phone is CDMA, I believe most of Vermont is not. Did I make a mistake? If so, what tracPhone would you reccommend for this area? Thanks to anyone who can assist.

Ian said...

Check out the forums for help on that sort of thing, anonymous #2!

Anonymous said...

I have few comments on this LG 3280. First the facts -- I had a V170 and Tracfone replaced it with this 3280 - free also. I live in NW Ohio. I am currently in Jupiter, Fl. I can not find the switch to TURN OFF the speaker phone. The other problem is the battery or lack thereof. Charge all night and after that I can have the phone on for 4 hours - then it dings and tells me to charge battery. Any help would be fine.

Anonymous said...

Is the LG 3280 Bluetooth compatible? I can't seem to find anything about this in the manual.

Also, where can I buy accessories for this phone? I checked at the LG site and the phone is not even listed.

Ian said...

On the first anonmous comment, you might be in an analog area and that's why the battery life is s bad. That or you have very low signal strength. As I said in my review I found the battery life on the 3280 to be great. On the speakerphone off button, just hit the up button on standby and that's it.

On the second anonymous comment, the LG 3280 doesn't have Bluetooth. It is also essentially the same phone as the vx3300 so all accessories that are compatible with that phone can be used with the 3280.

Anonymous said...

I still can't turn off the speakerphone part.I get to speakerphone volume and i can only get it to low. I tried the standby up trick, but i can't find standby in the menu. Any thoughts or hints?

Ian said...

Standby = home screen, where you see how many units you have etc.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a bunch! Was driving us crazy how to get the speaker off!

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your comments about how to shut off the speaker phone. I read the owner's manual cover to cover and it didn't say a thing about it. It was driving me nuts! I had the volume turned all the way down and it was still blaring away in my ear. You saved my hearing. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

My 3280 suddenly now is in roam mode. I figure I must have hit some button, but don't remember what one. How do I turn it off and resume normal service area mode. There was a service failure in our area the other day.Two days in a row ,in fact. Think this had anything to do with it?

Anonymous said...

Anyone had luck with getting a ringtone on it? Using the voice recorder produces a VERY bad recording. Thanks!!

Stan said...

I own a LG3280 and love it and want to buy another for the wife- Where? I have exhausted all the research and tricks I know, e.g. putting in various zip codes, calling and pleading with tracfone. Guess an ad in the Montana paper would stil be long shot, to say nothing of expense.
Anyone have one for sale or know of a zip code where they are still offered?