The new LG enV (say that time five times fast) for Verizon Wireless has been one of the most anticipated cell phones of the autumn season, and it just landed in our hot little hands. As the successor to the LG VX9800, the enV (or VX9900) inherits the popular QWERTY keyboard, but it adds a number of feature and design improvements. The enV officially goes on sale Monday, November 27, just in time for the holiday shopping madness. We expect it to fetch $150 with service. Here are our initial impressions.
Though the enV inherits the VX9800's overall form factor, LG seems to have learned from some of its previous mistakes. Yes, the enV still is boxy, but smoother lines give it a more appealing look. Its thinner and narrower than its predecessor even if it is a tad taller. And though it's still hefty at 4.6 ounces, it's noticeably lighter than the VX9800 and feels more comfortable in the hand.
The 65,000-color external display has the same resolution as on the VX9800, but at 1.25 inches diagonally, it's actually smaller. You can use it to navigate through the phone's menus, but with its small-size menus, we had to do a lot of scrolling to find the option we wanted.
The camera lens and the flash sit on the back of the phone, and this time LG added a lens cover. Like with the VX9800, the phone's ergonomics are like that of a real camera--particularly when you hold it horizontally. Again there's a dedicated camera shutter on the left spine, and we're glad to see that the volume rocker adjusts the zoom instead of changing the orientation, as it did on the VX9800. The former arrangement was just awkward. The external display is your camera viewfinder, but it's worth noting that unlike most cell phones, the display has a landscape orientation. That means you must flip the phone on its side to take portraits instead of the other way around.
The navigation array and keypad buttons show improvements as well. Besides being more spacious overall, the individual keys are also bigger and more tactile. The text on the keys is a tad small, but the keys themselves are brightly backlit. Fortunately, they're also raised above the surface of the phone.
Inside, the 2.25-inch, 62-color internal screen is on a par with its predecessor. It's bright and vivid, with readable text. In a strange twist, the main menu page uses icons instead of the tabs found on Verzion's standard interface. This is a nice change, but when you're inside a submenu, the tabs appear again. Stereo speakers flank either side of the display.
The QWERTY keypad was a tad easier to use than the VX9800's. The keys felt more tactile, and the spacious layout is easy to understand. Also, there's now a dedicated speakerphone key--nice. The soft keys were still a bit small, but it's not a huge deal.
The hinge mechanism has a solid construction, and we like that it opens a full 180 degrees. Yet due to the bulge of the camera lens and way the hinge opens (the front flap now wraps behind the rear flap), you can't rest the phone on a table evenly. That is annoying.
The enV's feature set is impressive and offers some goodies not available on the VX9800. Inside, you'll find EV-DO support for Verizon's 3G multimedia services, VZ Navigator compatibility, A2DP Bluetooth, a speakerphone, wireless e-mail sync, text-to-speech dictation, a 2-megapixel camera, and a music player.
That's all for now, but stay tuned for more on this promising phone.