When phones were bottle openers: Revisiting my LG Chocolate 2 – CNET

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A message to be sung in the tune of Uncle Kracker’s “Drift Away” (2003).

Nic Golden Henry/CNET

At the bottom of a box in my in-laws’ basement, I found the phone that I used from 2009 through 2012: the LG VX8550, better known as the Chocolate 2. It’s smaller than most phones today and presumably named after its resemblance to a chocolate bar. Its most iconic features were its iPod-like scroll wheel and the way it slid upward to reveal a number pad. 

This phone was heavily marketed by Verizon as an MP3 player as well, trying to promote Verizon’s VCast music store. (Remember ringback tones? They were the electronic tunes your phone would play in place of a ringing sound.) In CNET’s original review of the Chocolate 2 in 2007, we called the 2.2-inch, 240×320-pixel display “simply stunning.”

I only had to slide it open once to feel an intense pang of nostalgia. I was taken back to a simpler time when my phone wasn’t as much of a distraction, or a pocket computer, but just a simple tool. Back in those days, I used it to make calls, to text people using the much-missed T9 Word predictive text system and, occasionally, take a photo or two.

I wedged the phone’s charger into the dust-filled slot and, who would’ve thought, the little thing turned on. First, the Verizon logo popped up, followed by a colorful light spinning around the famous scroll wheel, and then, I couldn’t believe it, but my old background of the city skyline appeared, taken from my first apartment in San Francisco. 

Quite a dramatic startup, if you ask me…

Nic Golden Henry/CNET

Two button presses later, I found that all three hundred-plus of the photos I took over those three years, were still there. Sure enough, there were baby-faced selfies from before I could grow a proper mustache, plenty of photos of my cat who’s still around and even ice cream cakes I made at my college job at Ben & Jerry’s. I particularly like this photo I took of my old friend, David, boosting at our hometown skatepark:

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It’s a butt shot, which is usually a no-no, but I’m still impressed that I managed to to capture it on the Chocolate 2.

Nic Golden Henry/CNET

My original plan after finding the Chocolate 2 was to actually use it, in place of my iPhone, for a week. I desperately wanted to call myself and see if my ringback tone still worked. But when I visited the Verizon store, the staff told me that the network this phone uses has long been swapped out to make way for newer technologies, like 5G. So my experiment was nipped in the bud.

But there’s still plenty we can look at without making the switch: The camera still works. I can bounce around on the keypad to test my T9 word muscle memory. I can slide it open and closed over and over, which is still so satisfying. And I test out a feature I’d be too scared to try on the expensive, glass phones of today: Can it still open a bottle?

Spoiler alert: Yes. Yes, it can. 

Over 10 years of not doing this made me scared to try it again. But it still works! The phone and also the bottle opener.

Nic Golden Henry/CNET

Watch the full resurrection of my LG Chocolate 2 in the video above, including a camera comparison with the iPhone 11 Pro and the ringback tone that drove everyone nuts.    

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