So here's the review of the LG Flare, finally out, a few days after I got the phone (Monday early afternoon, paid for by your visiting my sponsors: BabbleBug and the Google-syndicated stuff).
The battery bars are still max'd out at the moment so I'll have to return back to this review for battery life stats, but for everything else on this Bluetooth-toting basic flip phone, the jury is no longer out, and this is evinced by the following review...
First, the build quality is nice. I would shy away from calling it "perfect", as there's a tiny amount of wobble in the hinge when the phone is closed (which I've seen in most LG phones I've had) but it's darned close. One thing about the buttons though: they're a bit more firm than usual to my touch, as in extra pressure is needed to get them to register. The feedback when they're pressed is great, however I wouldn't do a ton of texting on this unit.
But as I was saying, the fit and finish of this phone is great, superb if you compare it to the rest of Virgin Mobile's lineup, especially to the Kyoceras. Admittedly, this phone is basic, with no camera and...no camera (aside from the Wild Card's keyboard this phone looks to support everything Virgin Mobile has to offer shy of a camera) so there isn't a lot of stuff to do wrong, but for $30 I'm impressed. The phone is also quite small, nice and thin, and rather light, though not too light (there is such a thing). Styling, breaking away from the teeny-bopper designs characteristic of typical Virgin Mobile phones (though this seems to be fading a bit), is black with silver accents (aside from the red Virgin Mobile logo that lights up the external screen...which is color...when the phone is open) and looks very professional, posh, etc. It's still plastic, and yes that black front will attract fingerprints (thus requiring an OCD amount of wiping to keep it looking good) but when I first saw the price sheet on this phone *somehow* and it said $50...well...this, I would say, is a $50 phone. Especially considering that its precursor, the LX150, is being sold on other prepaid services for the same, or higher, prices, than the $30 at least.
If you're wanting photos, they'll be at the end of this review, by the way.
Anyhow, reception on this phone is pretty good. Then again, I'm happy to say that Sprint has excellent coverage around these parts, but at least the Flare doesn't show signs of weakness. I'm pretty sure it would hold up in less phone-friendly areas, too; its internal antenna is fine for receiving the PCS-band signals Sprint gives off. Voice quality, distinct from reception, is merely okay; the fourteen-minute call (during which I topped up $10 on top of the $2.50 starter airtime) I made with it sounded on the harsh side, but then again I'm used to the iPhone and my Sprint HTC Mogul, which I told to use a better voice encoder awhile back. Still...
The phone also has Bluetooth, though the only thing you can do with it is hook up to a headset or handsfree device of some sort. I'd say Bluetooth reception is merely average, maybe a little low, but then again I'm using cheap Insignia headphones as a headset. Maybe I should get a real headset sometime and see how that fares with my various Bluetooth-enabled phones :)
Feature-wise, you get nothing out of the ordinary on a basic flip phone aside from Bluetooth and the color external display, which pretty much fades into the surrounding blackness when it is off. The web browser is fine for something running on the 1xRTT system, but then again 1xRTT is slow compared with EvDO (yes,, I know, "well duh", but this was made in 2008 yaknow). Probably to keep people from sucking down 5MB of data in one sitting, or even one month, something I also found impossible with other Virgin Mobile phones (like the Kyocera Cyclops and the original UTStarCom Slice). Text messaging is fine, though, on further looking seems like you'll need another phone to do IM or download applications. Ah, the life of a basic phone.
In case you're wondering, however, this phone isn't cursed with the lack of ringers experienced by some other low-end VMo phones. This little guy has a halfway decent assortment and of course you can buy more at obscenely overpriced rates from the online store, whose entrance fee (if you want to buy via phone) has been raised to 15 cents per day. Hey, they don't say "nickel and dime" for nuthin'...and yes, the ringer quality and loudness is perfectly fine, though not amazing in any way.
A few notes on the activation process for this phone: it is done over the air, or is that way as the primary method, rather than requiring you to type in programming information as with older phones. you just activate online, hit ##VIRGIN, start the activation and follow the on-screen, web-based instructions. Nifty if ya ask me. Also, this is the first Virgin Mobile phone I've had to use an MEID instead of an ESN. The first phone I got to do such a thing was the Nokia 2366i awhile back. Guess LG ran out of their block of ESNs and thus had to move on to the (much longer) MEIDs as phone serial numbers (something GSM did a long time ago, though heir system is called IMEI).
In closing, this is a great phone to go with the new Minute Pack options that Virgin Mobile just rolled out. it seems to be a fine phone for voice calling, and can get by okay with occasional text and web usage (and casual cell phone gaming...like PacMan etc). Bluetooth is a real plus for such a phone, and since the Flare has it, and it's reasonably easy to use, it works out. So if you're contemplating grabbing one of the "Minute Packs" that Virgin Mobile offers, and think that talking is going to be what you're gonna do on your phone (and your talking will be limited to Sprint's rather broad service area) this is a prime candidate that will almost undoubtedly cost less than the headset it's paired to. Just don't think you're going to save the world via high-speed simultaneous IM and stereo Bluetooth audiobook reading with this phone...or ay Virgin Mobile phone for that matter.
In my book, that's a thumbs-up.
By the way, once the battery runs out on this phone, I'll be giving it away to a lucky winner. Details to follow tomorrow...as in after 9:00 a.m. Mountain Time (it's still the 27th in my book).