What's hot: 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, GSM world roaming.
What's not: Vanilla Windows Mobile is dated, dull and not terribly finger-friendly.
Reviewed May 24, 2010 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Verizon has an impressive smartphone lineup-- from the capable HTC Touch Pro2 to the Moto Droid and Palm Pre Plus, if you want it, it seems they've got it (as long as it's not an iPhone you're after). And that's the LG Fathom's biggest problem; Verizon's selection and even LG's own solid Ally eclipse this Windows Mobile touch screen phone. The specs are good: 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU, a high resolution 800 x 480 resistive touch screen, a large hardware QWERTY keyboard, GPS, WiFi and Bluetooth, EV-DO Rev. A and GSM roaming too. But the design is just plain bland as is vanilla Windows Mobile. Yes, it's Windows Mobile Pro 6.5.3, and this is the first US phone to get that .3 tacked to the end, but the changes are marginal. The Windows Start Menu button is enlarged and moved to the bottom of the display as is the once too small "x" close box. Tabs have grown bigger to be more finger-friendly, but the built-in applications' user interfaces are still tiny and stylus-centric.
If you're a Windows Mobile person, you may well like the Fathom since it's fast and stable, but if you're not a hardcore WinMo guy or gal, there are more compelling phones on Verizon's network. For example, the HTC Touch Pro2 (also with GSM) offers the same specs except CPU, and it has a larger display and a more modern and enjoyable TouchFLO 3D user interface. If you're considering Android, Verizon's line is deep with the excellent HTC Incredible, Moto Droid and LG Ally singing their collective siren song. And then there's the Palm Pre Plus running one of the most exciting and fresh operating systems on a mobile phone with excellent Exchange sync built-in.
Since this is bare naked Windows Mobile, you will need a stylus for many things. Thankfully the LG has a stylus silo that's rather ingeniously located on phone's back running horizontally rather than the usual vertical. Though there's a capable hardware keyboard, you can use an on-screen software keyboard everywhere text input is possible and there's an xT9 option.
The hardware keyboard is large and clicky, and it's nearly identical to the Android-powered LG Ally. It's a 4 row keyboard with a dedicated number row, and we found it easy to use, though we disliked having to hit the Fn key to enter a period and comma. The backlighting is bright and the keys are clearly visible in the dark. The d-pad on the right is handy for navigating text precisely without having to whip out the stylus.
LG keeps buttons to a minimum with call send and end buttons and a Windows Start Menu button up front, the power button up top (much better than combining it with the call end key), volume controls on the side, a camera button and a side button for the task manager.
Wirefly price (no rebate required):
We wouldn't call the Fathom an attractive phone by a long shot. The Ally was innocuous, but not ugly. The Fathom isn't as attractive as the Ally. The front has a rough brushed metal finish and the back is blue-black plastic with a dot pattern. The phone does feel very solid and durable, and the slider is tight with no play.
The display is sharp given the high 480 x 800 resolution crammed into a small 3.2" display. Text is quite small and we prefer larger displays when working at this resolution. The touch screen is remarkably responsive to touch and if we didn't know better, we'd mistake it for a capacitive touch screen. Scrolling is smooth and we had no problem selecting the smallish icons in the Windows program launcher, though tiny web links and drop-down lists are better handled with the stylus.
Here's our 10 minute video review of the LG Fathom. We cover the hardware design, compare it with the Ally, test out the user interface including the calendar, and demo VZ Navigator and IE Mobile with Adobe Flash support.
Phone, Reception and Data
The Fathom has moderate reception that sits squarely in the middle among Verizon phones. In our just OK coverage area it managed to hold onto a 50% signal and didn't drop or distort calls. Incoming call quality is good with the exception of local echo (I could hear my voice echoing back through the earpiece when call volume was above 50%). The earpiece is sufficiently loud unless you're at a stadium and the speakerphone is decent. Outgoing call quality is very good.
Data speeds over Verizon's EV-DO 3G network are good and the phone boasts Rev. A for fast data. Internet Explorer Mobile isn't the fastest or best browser available for Windows Mobile-- we'll take Opera Mobile any day but you'll have to buy that separately since it's not included as it is with HTC Windows Mobile phones. But IE Mobile does have Flash support and that means you can actually play Flash videos such as those served by YouTube directly in the browser (watch our video review to see it in action). Flash managed about 15 fps which is pretty good for a mobile browser, and the LG's 1 GHz CPU really helps.
The usual Windows Mobile messaging application is on board and that handles POP3, IMAP and Exchange email including push email via MS Direct Push.
The LG has a fast CPU and that means good video playback performance for stored videos. The bad news is that the display is small, so you won't exactly get that mini-home cinema feel as you do on the HTC Droid Incredible. The media player is the stock Windows Media Player Mobile which looks and acts as old as the hills. The music player is dull, though it does have playlist support and can sync to Windows Media Player on the desktop. The video player is capable in terms of playback performance but looks dated and has few options. It supports WMV and MPEG4 video files.
The camera, though low resolution, takes pleasing photos, just as with the LG Ally. Colors are accurate and saturated, the image is sharp and white out is relatively controlled for a mid-range camera phone. The smartphone can also shoot video up to VGA resolution and save up to one hour long videos to a microSD card (not included).
Thanks to a generous 1,500 mAh Lithium Ion battery, the Fathom has no trouble making it through the day with moderate to heavy use. That said, if you plan to use the GPS for long trips, get a car charger since the GPS is one of the most power hungry phone features. LG makes an extended 2,200 mAh battery if you need more staying power.
If the stars are in perfect alignment and you need a Verizon world phone, love plain old Windows Mobile and need a hardware keyboard, then the LG Fathom could be for you. It's fast and stable, the build is sturdy and the display is sharp, though small. But the Fathom is no looker and there's no special feature or features that set it apart from Verizon's already strong smartphone lineup. If you're not particularly an old school Windows Mobile person but do want a smartphone with a keyboard, we suggest you look at HTC's Touch Pro2, the Pre Plus, the Motorola Droid and LG Ally. And if you need world roaming, the Touch Pro2 and BlackBerry Tour are strong competitors.
Pro: World roaming, first phone with the .3 release of Windows Mobile 6.5, solid build, decent keyboard, GSM overseas capability, good speed.
Con: Boring, dated and stylus-centric UI. Clunky looking, lacks the exciting new operating systems or custom UIs of other smartphones on Verizon.
Display:3.2" resistive touch screen. Resolution:
480 x 800, supports both portrait and landscape modes via accelerometer and keyboard slider. Has ambient light sensor, haptic feedback and proximity sensor.
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable.
1500 mAh. Optional extended 2200 mAh battery available separately.
x 2.20 x 0.65 inches. Weight: 5.36 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital with EV-DO Rev. A for data. Quad band GSM for worldwide roaming (Vodafone SIM included, locked to Verizon/Vodafone). 3G HSDPA/HSPA on the 2100MHz band.
Camera:3.2MP with autofocus lens and LED flash. Can shoot video up to VGA resolution.
in speaker, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder and Windows Media Player Mobile included. Has speaker independent voice commands and dialing.
WiFi 802.11b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR. Bluetooth profiles include headset, hands-free, dial up networking (DUN), A2DP stereo, phone book access, basic printing, object push for vCard and vCalendar, FTP, basic imaging, HID and serial port.
Mobile Professional 6.5.3.
Microsoft Mobile Office suite including Mobile versions
of Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Internet
Explorer, and Outlook. Also included are the standard Windows Mobile calculator, messaging, Bing search, Windows Media Player Mobile, Microsoft MyPhone, Marketplace, ActiveSync, Task Manager and Solitaire. LG and 3rd party apps: Adobe Reader LE, World Clock, RSS Viewer and Nuance Voice Command. Verizon software: VZ Navigator, City ID, Mobile Email and Visual Voicemail.