With the exclusive LG Glimmer, Alltel continues to chip away at its reputation as a regional carrier with a ho-hum handset selection. Sleek and sophisticated, this touchscreen slider is a good choice for those who want multimedia capabilities and don't mind spending the majority of their time roaming from one supported network to the next.
The Glimmer's looks belie the functionality under its hood. Slim and sleek, it doesn't look like geekware in your palm or against your ear, and at 4.5 ounces, it won't sag a shirt pocket. The touchscreen and RAZR-like membrane keypad both work surprisingly well, even for fat fingers. Unfortunately, there's no way to slide open the Glimmer with one hand without putting a big thumbprint on the bottom of the screen.
The 262,000-color, 2.8-inch display is bright and crisp, even in sunlight. That's a plus when you're using the Glimmer outdoors or in a car, where it's likely to sit on a dashboard in direct sunlight when taking advantage of its built-in GPS. The user interface was very intuitive. The out-of-box experience is excellent; you don't need to consult the manual to figure out how to use basic features or more advanced apps such as Alltel Navigation. The only major shortcoming is the slider bar on some menus: It's so narrow that it can be a hassle when trying to drag it to scroll through a menu.
A Testing Twist
We tested the Glimmer on a road trip from Columbia, Mo., to Asheville, N.C., and back. Along the way, we discovered a big asterisk next to Alltel's claim of operating "America's largest wireless network." Despite driving nearly halfway across the country, we were never actually in a market where Alltel owns the network. Instead, all of our tests were done on networks owned by Alltel's roaming partners, which include Sprint and Verizon Wireless.
Multimedia on the Glimmer
The Glimmer supports MP3, WMA, AAC, and AAC+ formats. The phone has a 3.5mm headphone/mic jack but doesn't come with headphones. We used Bluetooth to transfer a studio-quality bootleg of "Better" by Guns N' Roses from a laptop without any difficulty, and it sounded surprisingly good. We listened to it with stock headphones, and the audio quality was excellent--definitely good enough for extended listening. The phone has 128MB of internal memory, but less than half of that is available for storage; when we tried to transfer a 57MB MP3 file, we got an error message that not enough memory was available. Fortunately, the Glimmer supports microSD Cards up to 4GB, but one isn't included. The slot is buried under the battery cover but thankfully not under the battery itself.
Pictures from the 2-megapixel camera were okay, although they seemed closer to what we'd expect from a 1.3-MP sensor. The photos were good enough for party pics, but you won't be leaving your digital camera at home when heading on vacation.
Not surprisingly, multimedia and data services worked best on EV-DO, which unfortunately was unavailable on much of our journey. We watched Animal Planet and news clips from ABC News Now, and well as clips from other channels. Alltel's Axcess TV service, which offers more than 40 channels and costs $11.99 per month, looked pretty good except when we were roaming in 1xRTT territory.
Browsing and Communication
Web browsing on the Glimmer is limited. When you launch the Axcess Web browser, it directs you to a basic carrier deck of tunes, pictures, e-mail, sports, and news, none of which is designed to provide in-depth information. When we clicked News, for example, the browser returned a few text headlines and links to such sites as USA Today. When we clicked on USA Today, it returned several text headlines and a thumbnail of the leading news story. Loading non-mobile sites was generally slow. On a CDMA network, CNN.com and Laptopmag.com each took 20 seconds to load, and even then, all we saw on CNN.com was the logo and a thumbnail followed by text links.
The Glimmer supports AIM and Yahoo instant messaging clients via Alltel's Axcess service. You can also send pictures, videos, regular texts, voice-to-text, and alert messages. We don't like that each feature comes with its own tiered-pricing plan. You can get an all-you-can-eat subscription, however, which includes Web browsing, for $19.99 a month.
The Glimmer includes Bluetooth 1.2, and it synced effortlessly with the Garmin nvi we used to navigate our trip to Asheville. The 10-million POI database comes from TeleNav and includes ATMs, banks, Wi-Fi hotspots, theaters, airports, and hospitals. It rarely lost contact with the GPS satellites. On the trip back, we skipped the nvi and used the Glimmer's preloaded Alltel Navigation app, which was a cinch to set up: The app automatically gets your current location via the built-in GPS, so all you have to type in is the destination. The turn-by-turn directions--presented graphically and via voice--were accurate even in areas with construction and detours, even with the Glimmer sitting in the console rather than on the dash. Whenever a call came in, the Glimmer automatically routed it to our nvi for hands-free calling.
Glimmering Voice Quality
While we were surprised that Alltel's network was virtually nonexistent on our 800-mile trip, its partners provided good service throughout. Voice quality was excellent, and calls never dropped, even on remote, mountainous stretches of interstate. The only drawback was that, even when cranked up, the speakerphone sometimes lacked the volume to cut through road noise.
The Glimmer's battery performed as promised, about 3 hours while we talked, surfed the Web, used GPS, and watched some TV. The car charger ($17.99) is not included, but we highly recommended investing in it, because that big and bright screen will drain the battery quickly.
The Glimmer packs plenty of functionality into a slim, sleek design--and without the annoying navigation wheel that plagues its sibling, theChocolate. At $129, it's a good value, but if you plan to use data and multimedia services on a regular basis, first make sure that you live in a market where Alltel or its roaming partners offer EV-DO.