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HANDS ON: Sprint PCS LG PM-325 Bluetooth Phone

LG PM-325 Bluetooth PCS Phone

 

January 2005 - If you have a Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PC, and you’re a Sprint PCS customer, the LG PM-325 offers the first opportunity for wireless Internet on the go with your Pocket PC. Most wireless carriers have offered at least one Bluetooth-enabled phone since the technology came into wide-spread use, but Sprint PCS has held out, choosing not to offer Bluetooth to its non-business customers. With the release of the LG PM-325, the door to mobile Internet on your Pocket PC is now wide open.

Not only is the PM-325 the first Bluetooth phone available from Sprint PCS, but it also sports a design that Sprint customers haven’t yet seen. The result: a mobile phone with something for everyone.

     
   

Introduction

LG has been releasing better and better phones of late, and the PM-325 proudly continues this trend. Operating on the Sprint PCS network, the LG PM-325 is a Vision-compatible dual-band, tri-mode CDMA phone. Solidly designed around a small and modern form factor, the PM-325 offers a great deal of performance, functionality and pocket-friendliness for the price.

The LG PM-325 weighs a scant 3.32 ounces with its internal battery. When closed, the unit is 3.87 inches long; with the keypad extended, the unit expands to 4.75 inches. The phone measures .87 inches from front to back.

As stated, the PM-325 offers onboard Bluetooth, allowing it to be used with Bluetooth headsets or as a wireless modem with Bluetooth-enabled Internet-ready devices. A wireless phone without a camera is yesterday’s news, so the PM-325 includes the now inescapable onboard digital camera. A 1.08” x 1.41” 16-bit color display makes for colorful menus and web pages, offering the same viewing area as many larger phones. If pressing buttons isn't your thing, voice calls can be placed simply by speaking a name, and the PM-325 can record up to three minutes of voice memos. If you’ve talked someone into letting you take his or her photo, the PM-325 can be configured to have that person’s picture appear onscreen when they call you. And, like all modern wireless phones, there are games, screensavers and ring tones galore, both out of the box and available for download.

The included 1000mAh Lithium-Ion battery is good for 3.2 hours of talk time per charge with over 5 days of standby.

Design & Construction

The PM-325 is designed around a sliding design, with its keypad sliding down to both extend the length of the phone for better mic placement and to fully expose the color display. When closed, the PM-325 is one of the smallest phones we’ve seen, and is perfectly designed for quickly stowing in a pocket or bag. The slide-down keypad isn’t cluttered with useless keys and is well backlit for easy use in darkness.

 

Though we’ve only been testing the PM-325 for a couple of weeks, the sliding portion of the phone has held up very well. Many devices with extendable sections are flimsy, but this doesn’t seem to be the case here. There is little-to-no give when the extended keypad is pressed, nor does the keypad rock back and forth.

The button configuration on the LG PM-325 is very clean. A four-way navigation pad is the largest button on the face of the unit. The pad provides shortcuts to your contacts, calendar, etc., allows you to navigate the system menu, and acts as a quick settings button when in camera mode. The OK button predictably rests in the center of the navigation pad, which confirms commands. Two keys flank the navpad with functions assigned onscreen, depending on what feature you are using in the phone’s software. The remaining keys are standard, with number keys from 0-9, Talk and End keys, and a Back key.

The sides of the PM-325 are also free of clutter. The left side houses a volume control and the voice memo button, leaving the remaining three sides clear of any buttons or controls.

The digital camera lens is embedded in the rear of the unit near the top. The battery cover makes up the rest of the back piece. Rather than using a battery that actually becomes part of the phone's exterior, the PM-325 utilizes a separate battery cover with a fully-internal battery underneath.

Making the Call

We’ve used several LG wireless phones at various times over the years, and each failed to impress. The LG phones released in the past year, however, have gotten increasingly better marks from wireless customers, and the PM-325 certainly made us believers. Not only is the unit well designed, it offers excellent call quality as well.

In the same location, the PM-325 had a full signal (five bars) while our Sanyo PM-8200 (an excellent phone) had only three out of four signal bars. We never had a single dropped call with the LG, nor did any of our calls break up during conversation. Replication of our results will obviously depend on your local geography and the number of PCS towers in your area, but we used the PM-325 on a 100 mile road trip without incident.

The PM-325 & Pocket PCs

The PM-325 is ready for Bluetooth Dial-Up Networking (DUN) right out of the box, which means, in short, the PM-325 can be used as a wireless modem with your Pocket PC to access the Internet anywhere in the Sprint PCS service area. The process of setting up the PM-325 with our Dell Axim X50v Pocket PC was surprisingly painless.

After pairing the Dell X50v and the LG PM-325 in the Bluetooth Manager software, the connection can either be set up to allow the PM-325 to connect to a 3rd Party ISP, or you can connect directly to the Sprint Vision data service. This is done by entering #777 in the “Phone Number” field of the “Dial-Up Connection” menu. This command will instruct the phone to connect to the Sprint PCS Vision data network rather than dialing an actual number.

Internet speed over the Sprint PCS Vision network isn’t nearly as fast as a DSL or Cable connection, but it’s fast enough for emailing and lite web browsing - more comparable to a dial-up connection. We used the Vision connection to search Google, check our POP email, update AvantGo channels and more, all from a local park.

When no data is incoming or outgoing for twenty seconds, the PM-325 automatically disconnects from the Vision service. The next time you tap a link, request a file or initiate any activity over the Internet, the PM-325 automatically reconnects and fetches the target data. This doesn’t really affect those with unlimited connection time, but if you have a limited amount, this can really cut down on the amount of time that you’re actually connected to the Vision service.

The only complaint regarding the Bluetooth compatibility of this phone is that there is seemingly no way to sync the phone book or PIM data with another Bluetooth device. This would be a great add-on for future software upgrades.

Software

The LG PM-325 offers the standard 199-entry phone book, allowing you to make quick calls from numbers stored in the phone. In addition, the phone offers a calendar with an audio reminder, integrated email, a world clock, a notepad, standard numeric and tip calculators, voice memo recording and more. The phone is also set up to interface with AOL Instant Messenger, MSN Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger IM services.

The phone ships with games like JAMDAT Solitaire, Ms. PAC-MAN, and Tetris. Trials of other applications like MobiTV, ESPN Bottomline and Real Network’s rTV are also included. Of course, additional games and applications can be downloaded directly to the phone.

The Onboard Camera

The PM-325’s onboard camera is industry standard, offering images with VGA resolution. There is no LED flash on the PM-325, so you’ll need ample light to take photos.

While taking pictures, the camera software makes it easy to zoom, adjust the white balance and color levels, adjust brightness, set the quality of the photo, and even change or eliminate the shutter sound. You can even set a self timer so that you can be in the picture yourself. Attaching voice captions to photos is also easy, as is setting a picture to appear on the screen when you receive calls from a particular number.

As is the case with all current camera phones, the LG PM-325 won't be replacing your Canon Powershot, but it's nice for snapping quick pics on the go.

Bottom Line

The LG PM-325 is one of the best wireless phone’s we’ve used, offering great functionality in a very small form. The first consumer phone from Sprint PCS to offer integrated Bluetooth, the PM-325 offers not only the freedom of wireless Bluetooth headsets, but also the option to be used as a wireless modem with a Bluetooth-enabled Pocket PC or laptop.

If the price is right, and you’ve been looking to upgrade, now is the time.

   
Onboard Bluetooth w/ DUN
No Bluetooth Phone Book Sync
Attractive, Small Design
Easy-to-Use Software
 
Uncluttered Key Placement
 
   

 
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