LG Versa: Unboxing the "iPhone Beater"

Chicago (IL) – With smartphones gaining popularity, and the touch-screen concept growing, LG and Verizon Wireless are aiming high in the hopes of producing an iPhone beater, and not just being a competitor. The LG Versa, the phone that I consider to be the product of procreation between the LG Dare and the LG Voyager, is pretty close to doing just that. The company promises that the phone will be the MVP (most versatile phone) on the market; users are provided with the opportunity to increase the phones functionality, and customize it on a daily basis for their wireless needs. Priced at $199.99 (after a mail-in rebate of $50) and a new two-year customer agreement, the phone hit store shelves on March 1. For now, you’ll have to purchase the phone at a Verizon corporate store, as in the past I have noticed phones arrive at authorized retailers much later.

SLIDESHOW:

LG Versa (4 images)
Samantha Rose Hunt is the resident cellphone enthusiast here at TG Daily. Having bought more than 18 cellphone over the last two years, some might consider her a cellphone addict, but others, like us, believe that she can compare the value of a cellphone to the user much better than most of us and her opinion on a new cellphone certainly carries weight. We asked her to give her opinion on the Verizon Wireless LG Versa.

Verizon states:

“Customers can get the most out of their LG Versa with Verizon Wireless’ Nationwide Premium calling plan. Starting at $79.99 monthly access, the Nationwide Premium calling plan includes unlimited messaging, VZ Navigator, Mobile Email and VCAST VPak, plus unlimited megabytes for Mobile Web and Media Center. Mobile Broadband Connect can be added to their plans for $59.99 monthly access for 5 GB, and Visual Voice Mail is available for $2.99 monthly access, per line, plus airtime or megabyte charges and messaging fees, depending on a customer’s plan.”

Design

Describing LG’s Versa is a little difficult, as it changes. Upon first glance the handset looks just like the LG Dare, though it is a bit smaller, measuring 4.2 by 2.07 by 0.5 inches (HWD). It weighs a mere 3.8 oz. The touch screen is 3 inches, with a 240 x 480 pixel display. The screen is a higher resolution than the Dare’s, but it’s also smaller giving it a sleek, sophisticated look. It’s possible to adjust the backlight time, dial fonts, menu fonts, the banner, wallpaper, and even the images that are displayed on each screen.

On the back is a 2 Megapixel camera lens, and LED flash. The chrome sides have a volume adjustment and dedicated camera key, a microSD card slot, screen lock key, and a 2.5mm headset jack (they could have included a standard 3.5mm headset jack, but oh well). There is also a place to attach the included stylus, and a lock switch.

The lock switch is utilized to remove the Versa’s back panel. Once you’ve removed the back panel from the device you can then insert it into a hybrid keyboard/case, which is composed of texturized plastic which looks like a leather casing. This gives the Versa a QWERTY keyboard. On the outside of the case is a dim external screen which displays the time and caller ID information. The keyboard has small keys, so those with larger fingers might actually find it difficult to use when texting.

The QWERTY keyboard is not the only attachable module planned for the phone. In April, Verizon promises to deliver an attachable gamepad, however information regarding the price and functionality of that module is unclear. Additionally, the company hopes to deliver external speakers.

The add-on modules could give this phone the opportunity to be fully functional, with the ability to act as both an MP3 player and Portable Game System.

The Touch Screen Itself

Tactile feedback is provided by Versa’s touch-screen. A calibration wizard allows you to adjust screen sensitivity to that which suits you. Additionally, you can change the type of vibrate, the level of the vibration, and the sound effect you hear when utilizing the screen and more.

In my experience the touch interface is extremely responsive. However, there were certain issues that I noted. Sometimes while browsing I had to touch multiple times to get the phone to recognize the task I was trying to complete. This only happened on the social networking sites Facebook and Tumblr. However, it gave me no trouble when navigating the phone itself, or texting and dialing — suggesting that the high compute background services on those pages are stealing GUI cycles.

Rather than having just one home screen, you’ll have three, with each one being fully customizable. You have a shortcut screen which allows you to pick and choose which applications can be quickly navigated to, one for media shortcuts, and one for bookmarks on the Web. You are however, limited to these screens and there is no option for creating your own personal screen which blends those options.

Customization of the home screens is quite simple. There is a gear icon on the right side of the screen which directs you to a settings page. Once there you can decide what you’d like to have shortcuts to on your phone.

Using the phone

The Versa is equipped with a built-in accelerometer which rotates the phone’s display from portrait to landscape mode depending on how you hold it — either vertically or horizontally.

When attempting to make a call there is a phone dialer with a standard numeric keypad, the clear function, a button which enables voice command, and a speakerphone option. When making a call you can hit call, or push the talk button.

When inputting information into your phonebook, texting, or searching the web, you have the option of the QWERTY keyboard or utilizing the handwriting recognition mode which converts your writing into text. I had a little bit of trouble with this feature. It is not smart enough to identify between numbers, letters, and symbols so you have to change the mode manually. The phone is equipped with a stylus for this activity.

Read on next page:  Phone features, The Browsing Experience

Phone Features

The Versa is equipped with a 1,000 contact phone book. Each entry allows for the input of two email addresses, five telephone numbers, a personalized ringtone, and even a personalized photo for your caller ID.

Other basic features include text and media messaging (both photo and video), polyphonic ringtones, vibrate mode, calculator, tip calculator, calendar, alarm clock, speakerphone, stopwatch, clock, notepad, and even a world clock. If you’re bored and want to doodle, you can utilize the drawing pad which allows you to utilize a variety of pen colors. The images drawn can then be sent via text message or simply admired longingly before punching up clear.

The phone also touts advanced features such as instant messaging (AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live), mobile e-mail, voice command and voice dial, USB mass storage, a voice recording program, GPS via VZ Navigator from Verizon, and an RSS Reader.

Mobile e-mail does not deliver directly to the phone as with a Blackberry. Instead, users will have to access their email accounts via the Web browser. Users are limited to specific webmail providers Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, Verizon.net, AIM, and Windows Live.

Bluetooth support is available, with stereo Bluetooth, file transfer, and even the ability to utilize the phone as a modem. In an effort to do this however, you will have to use the $59.99 a month Mobile Broadband connect plan to transfer data between your laptop and the phone.

The 2 Megapixel camera is obviously not the best it could be, but it’s sufficient for a cellphone. Considering the Dare is equipped with a 3.2 megapixel camera, Versa’s camera seems a little weak. You can snap photos in five different resolutions (1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 800 x 400, 640 x 480, and 320 x 240), utilize five different white balance presets and five color effects. The Photo quality is decent, as images appear sharp and the colors are vibrant. Other features of the camera include auto-focus, customizable shutter sounds, a self-time, panorama mode, flash, and face detection.

The camera is equipped with SmartPic technology, which enhances images automatically with face color and light compensation in situations where the light is low. With the LED flash not always working the best, this is a great feature.

Once you have snapped a photo it can be edited with the built-in image editor. The editor allows you to zoom in, rotate, crop, sharpen, blur, and change the contrast of your photos. Just like Dare, you can doodle on your images and add frames and stamps.

Video recording with the camcorder feature allows for three resolutions (176 x 144, 320 x 240, and 640 x 240 VGA).

Verizon offers services such as VCast Video, VCast Music with Rhapsody, and their own personal music download service. The music player on the Versa is easy to utilize and navigate. You can play your music, shop the store, and sync the player automatically. Music in your music file is organized by artist, genre, song and album. Music can be played in the background of the phone as you navigate through the interface and even surf the web. Music controls can be viewed via the home screen — meaning you can change tracks without opening the music player.

If you already have a Rhapsody music subscription, your paid tracks can be loaded directly to your phone. The Versa will support microSD cards of up to 16 GB, which allows for significant additional MP3 storage, however Verizon has stated these cards are “coming soon”. Purchasing songs from the VCast Music store costs $1.99 per song, and you can also then download the song to your computer, which is in a 256 kbps MP3 format.

My favorite feature is the Visual Voicemail. As a self-proclaimed “Voicemail Ignorer”, this will no longer be necessary. For an additional $2.99 per month, you are granted the ability to pick and choose which voicemail messages you listen to. You can listen, delete, reply, and forward each voicemail right from the phone’s interface without calling in to listen. You are even able to reply to other Verizon Wireless customer messages with a message of your own. Verizon allows you to store up to 40 messages for a period of 40 days. The downside to this service is its monthly fee — as other carriers provide it for free.

The Browsing Experience

Though I never thought these words would come out of my mouth, Teleca’s Obigo browser, which is usually far from desirable, delivers an excellent webpage rendering. Pages display on the phone just as they do on a desktop web browser. I noticed incredibly quick load times, and the ability to scroll around with my finger and zoom in and out made browsing quick, and easy. I was thoroughly impressed. I was able to update my blog, check the weather, and stay up to date with news with absolutely no issues. It even allows for tabbed browsing.

You can access your browser history, send a URL via text or e-mail message, and even search the text on a webpage.

An even more exciting feature for the browse it the Flash experience. The Versa browser supports Flash Lite 3, and the H.264 video standard, which means that although all video formats don’t work, I was able to watch videos with excellent quality — including YouTube.

Read on next page:  How did the phone perform?, Conclusion

How did the phone perform?

I personally tested the device in my home town on the Verizon Wireless network (East Coast). I noticed no issue with the quality of incoming or outgoing calls. I had a slight echo occasionally when utilizing the phone, and did notice that the noise reduction outside was lacking. Callers had no trouble hearing me; however I sometimes had trouble hearing them.

The battery life was a little lacking for me. I tend to go hard on my cellphones, not wanting to put them on the charger, always being on the go, and at night I usually sleep with a phone bedside leaving it off the charger. I noticed this morning that the phone was nowhere near as charged as my LG Voyager, which typically is left for 4-5 days between charges.

The battery life should be 4.83 hours of talk time and 17.9 days of standby time, and according to the FCC the Versa has a digital SAR rating of 1.38 watts per kilogram.

When playing music on the phone I was impressed. The speakers are loud and crisp, and the audio is decent for a phone. However there is always room for improvement in this area.

When surfing the web I was also impressed, as it was quick and simple. Downloading was also fast. It took lest than a minute to download a song, and about thirty seconds to download a ringtone. The delivery of streaming video was also impressive; watching a YouTube video on the phone was no different than watching it from some desktop PCs — though some videos were slightly blurry. Of course there was a brief period of buffering time, which is to be expected, before playback began.

Conclusion

Overall, my experience with the LG Versa was a positive one, and having tested both this device and the iPhone, I can honestly say that with its sleek design, this small device has everything the iPhone boasts as far as the device is concerned. With applications available via Verizon, you can add games, e-mail syncing, chaperone applications among others, but this area is still lacking.

I think that if you’re looking for a device that isn’t exactly a member of the smartphone family, this is great, and can definitely compete, if not outperform.

As an iPhone replacement this phone is the only one on the market. If you can forgo some goofy applications, and don’t have a true need to check out word docs, pdfs, etc on your phone, then I say this is the way to go. The web browsing, ability to utilize the phone for social networking, communicating via e-mail and IM,the ability to take pictures and record video are all there, and all outdo the iPhone.