A reliable phone for people who just want to talk, the adorable LG VX3450 would make a perfect cell for older kids, the elderly, or anyone looking for a simple, voice-only handset.

Sure, its display could be brighter, but this solid cell is easy to use and offers good call quality.

The VX3450 is a friendly, blobby little thing that looks almost as if it was made out of Play-Doh. It certainly stands out from other phones on the market, and that's good.

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I'd say its design has a certain friendliness and sense of humor. On the outside of the 3.4- by 1.9- by 1-inch, 3.3 ounce phone, there's a speakerphone and a monochrome display showing the time or caller ID information in big black-and-white numbers.

Flipping it open reveals a small, clear 128-by-128 display and slightly rubbery, big, and well-spaced buttons. As I said before, the display is a little on the dark side, but it's (just) readable outdoors.

This phone is easy to use and devoted to clear communication. It's tri-mode, which means it works in rural areas where you get only analog coverage. Reception is good to very good, just a smidgen behind the Motorola E815, the phone I use as a benchmark.

I found the volume to be excellent, meaning loud and with the somewhat trebly, harsh clarity typical of LG's Verizon Wireless phones.

Both the earpiece and the speakerphone are very clear, and you can turn on the speakerphone before you make a call, an option I like. You can use voice dialing with a wired mono headset that plugs into the phone's standard 2.5mm jack.

The VX3450's MIDI ringtones are also ear-shattering, and the vibrate mode is pretty powerful. Although you can't download ringtones — this phone doesn't have a WAP browser, so you can't download anything — you can use the 30 built-in tones, compose your own simple tones with a built-in composer application, or use voice recordings as ringtones.

You also have the option of setting four different ringtones: one for callers you know, one for callers you don't, one for callers with no caller ID, and one for blocked numbers.

The phone's menus are extremely basic, with bold animations showing one option at a time. And there are very few options here.

A simple phone book lets you attach a limited number of icons to your contacts, for a sort of poor-man's picture caller ID. The VX3450 can also send and receive text messages, and messages with embedded icons and ringtones. Sorry, folks, there are no games.

Verizon is selling the VX3450 in part as a replacement for the Migo kiddie-phone, but I don't find it a compelling phone for small children. Though it's trackable using Verizon's Chaperone, it lacks the kind of parental controls you see on Disney's DM-L200 or even Sprint's Sanyo SCP-2400.

Rather, the VX3450 is a great, cheap phone for anyone who wants an easy interface, good call quality, and a cute design, without features you won't need or use.

BOTTOM LINE: If all you want to do is to make phone calls, the LG VX3450 gives you a cute, simple solution.

PROS: Very easy to use. Good call quality.

CONS: Display could be brighter.

COMPANY: LG Electronics U.S.A. Inc

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS: Continuous talk time: 3 hours 40 minutes

SPEC DATA:

Price: $179.99 List
Service Provider: Verizon Wireless
Operating System: Other
Screen Size: 1.5 inches
Screen Details: 1.5", 128x128 CSTN 65k color main screen; 1" 96x64 monochrome external screen
Camera: No
Bluetooth: No
Web Browser: No
Network: CDMA
Bands: Analog, 850
High-Speed Data: 1xRTT
Special Features: Kids

EDITOR RATING: Four out of five stars

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