Reviewed November 19, 2008 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The LG Incite came out of left field in a world current dominated by the likes of HTC Touch Diamond, Touch Pro, Samsung Omnia and BlackBerry Storm touch screen smartphones. It's interesting that ATT decided to do something a little different and offer the LG Incite CT810 Windows Mobile 6.1 Pro touch screen phone rather than the Diamond or Omnia. The Incite runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional, and it has every high end feature except a hardware keyboard. There's a 3 megapixel autofocus camera, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth with a full set of profiles, and accelerometer, a sharp and outdoor visible display and a Qualcomm 528MHz CPU. Most unusual for a US smartphone is an FM radio-- nice! The Phone supports CV streaming media, , AT&T Navigator, AT&T's Music store and XM Radio Mobile.
The Incite is a slate design touch screen PDA phone-- there's no hardware keyboard. It's very small and light. In fact it's about the same size and weight as the Samsung Eternity touch screen feature phone. It's a shiny bugger, with a bright chrome back and sides and an extremely glossy front face. Alas the chrome is paint over plastic, and the Incite doesn't look like a pricey piece. The technology inside is good stuff though. We were very impressed to find that the Incite has an accelerometer, haptic (vibration) feedback that's adjustable to one of three levels, a light sensor to set screen brightness (this can be disabled) and most impressive: a proximity sensor. That feature, previously found on few phones other than the iPhone supposedly due to Apple holding patents, is probably every phone user's favorite. Place a call and the screen does not immediately turn off. But put the phone to your face and it does turn off. Move the phone away from your face, say to enter a number for a phone tree system, and voila the screen is back on.
The Incite sports the same 240 x 400 resolution as the Omnia and Samsung Eternity feature phone, but in a smaller 3" LCD. Fonts are small and images are sharp given the resolution relative to screen size, though everything is readable. What we don't like is that there aren't any HTC-like options for an enlarged Start Menu, and as a result it's hard to select a menu item using a finger. There is a stylus but no silo (much like the Omnia, though we didn't feel the need for the stylus as much with the Omnia). The tiny stylus attaches via a small cord to the phone.
The Windows "x" close box and top menu controls like volume and the task manager are also hard to select with a finger. We do like that LG has added finger scrolling support most everywhere, so there's no need to use those too-tiny scroll bars. There's also a jog wheel on the upper right side for hardware-based scrolling. Note that the LG Incite does not have a d-pad!
The 3.5mm stereo headphone jack up top.
The hardware call send and end buttons are quite small. This is another phone that eschews buttons: there are no Windows Start Menu or OK keys. On the sides we have just the volume controls, jog wheel, camera button and screen lock key. The jog wheel with center action press goes a long way toward improving one-handed operation and subduing our grumbles about the screen being less responsive than the HTC Fuze's and Omnia's. Don't linger too long on that jog wheel press: a long press starts MS Voice Command.
Custom Today Screen, Launcher and Keyboards
On the upside, LG does include their own launcher and home screen enhancement for Windows Mobile. It seems no self-respecting WinMo manufacturer leaves out the obligatory skinning of this aging (in terms of UI) operating system. Their software is indeed useful, though not nearly as sexy as HTC's TouchFLO 3D or the Omnia's widgets. There's a launcher bar at the bottom of the home screen for the phone dialer, contacts, email, favorites applications and an icon that takes you to the full home screen replacement overlay. This has tabs for phone and communication related items, multimedia and web, utilities and more apps and settings. All icons are large enough to be called finger-friendly, though they're not huge. The first press selects an icon (you'll see a little ring around a selected icon, as in the screen below with the ring around AT&T Music) and the second tap launches the application. This double-tap is less than ideal, but LG set it up this way because you can do things to selected icons (change or delete them).
LG's program launcher.
The custom Today Screen has buttons at the bottom for calls, contacts, email, favorite programs (you can select your favorites) and a shortcut to the full LG launcher (shown, left).
We like LG's on-screen keyboards. There's actually one keyboard labeled XT9 that's a large SureType keyboard when the phone's display is in portrait view.
LG's custom keyboard is an XT9/SureType style in portrait mode and a large QWERTY in landscape mode.
When the phone is in landscape orientation, you get a very roomy full QWERTY keyboard. We love it, but the one drawback is that the 240 pixels leave little room above the display to actually see what you're typing. It's not so bad in notes or SMS, but it will obscure form fields in web logins and when entering contact data and etcetera.
The Incite has a 528MHz Qualcomm CPU, just like the HTC Fuze and Diamond. That's a pretty fast CPU, but the UI sometimes makes the phone seem a step behind. The tap, then tap again steps to launch programs from LG's launcher, the too-small UI items and less sensitive screen that sometimes require more than one press make the phone seem less than brilliant. With a screen recalibration using the lightest of light touches with a stylus and a few days practice, controlling this little beast gets easier and the phone thus felt more responsive but still less than ideal. The accelerometer can be slow when in IE and NetFront but works reasonably well in less demanding applications. The Incite CT-810 has 128 megs of RAM to run programs and 256 megs of flash memory with ~70 megs free to store programs and files. There's a hot-swappable microSD card slot on the phone's side and it supports SHDC cards.
Beware that Windows Mobile doesn't exit programs when you press the close box, but rather minimizes them. Get 10 programs running concurrently and any Windows Mobile phone will slow down. LG includes a handy utility that can exit rather than minimize apps to avoid this problem.
Multimedia performance is good: CV streaming video played well at full screen (the browser hands CV files off to Windows Media Player Mobile. Playing locally stored MPEG4 files (avoid MPEG4 encoded with H.264 though) was a pleasure: the sharp screen and fast CPU handled files up to 600kbps just fine.
Phone and Data
Phone call quality is excellent on 3G and volume is loud. We've seen a few LG GSM phones with less than impressive reception, but we're happy to report that the Incite has good reception that's on par with the unlocked GSM HTC Diamond and BlackJack II. It's not stellar like the best Motorola phones and Nokia phones, but it's solid. The Incite is a quad band GSM world phone with EDGE and 3G HSDPA on the US (AT&T 850/1900MHz ) and overseas 2100MHz bands.
Left side: USB port under cover, volume controls and reset hole. The USB port is a mini LG connector, not a standard mini-USB port.
Opera 9.5 has been getting all the bundling love but this time we've got the very good NetFront 3.5 bundled as the default web browser. It does an excellent job of rendering HTML web sites, supports finger scrolling and requires no zooming in to start reading a web page. Internet Explorer Mobile is also there, for quick and dirty browsing. Internet download speeds are good, averaging 700kbps according to the DSL Reports mobile speed test. It's a bit faster than the Samsung Epix but slower than the HTC Fuze.
Messaging is the usual Windows Mobile and AT&T affair: robust email support for POP3, IMAP and Exchange along with MS Direct Push email, threaded SMS messaging and OZ instant messaging (AIM, Windows Live and Yahoo).
The Incite has an internal GPS and comes with a GPS utility that shows GPS signal strength and AT&T Navigator powered by TeleNav. The GPS took 2 minutes to get a first fix out of the box (we're not sure if it's using assisted GPS and there's no utility to download GPS data for speedier fixes). Happily warm fixes were much faster at 10 seconds or less. The GPS and AT&T Navigator worked well together in our driving test (Navigator is a subscription app that costs $9.99/month and requires a data plan to download maps over the air). Likewise Google Maps worked fine and got a warm fix in 5 seconds. For a warm fix, the GPS managed to find 7 satellites indoors near a window-- pretty good.
The camera got us all hot and bothered: 3 megapixel autofocus sounds yummy. Alas the photos were over-sharpened and had Disney-esque color shifts outdoors at times. Focus times however are relatively quick for an auto-focus camera phone. Colors tend to be too cool (blue bias) and sharpening can be lessened by selecting a lower image quality setting (fine instead of super-fine).
The LG Incite has a 1300 mAh Lithium Ion battery that's user replaceable. Battery life for a Windows Mobile 3G phone with a fast CPU is quite good. The Incite lasted us 2 days with moderate to heavy use. Streaming CV or YouTube drains the battery more quickly, as does WiFi, but even with 30 minutes of streaming video over WiFi, the phone lasted 2 days.
In the end, we wish that AT&T had picked up the Samsung Omnia or HTC Touch Diamond rather than the LG Incite. But The CT-810 does add variety to their lineup (the Diamond might have been redundant with the Fuze), and it is small and light. In fact, it looks more like a feature phone than a smartphone. The user interface, accelerometer and slightly numb screen just can't compete with the Fuze in the smartphone camp and the Samsung Eternity in the feature phone camp.
Pro: Very sharp screen with excellent colors and better than QVGA resolution. Love that proximity sensor. Very small and light. Good software bundle including NetFront, MS Voice Command, Sprite Backup and Picsel Viewer for PDFs. Can finger scroll anywhere in the OS. Has a standard 3.5mm stereo headphone jack and Bluetooth stereo A2DP.
Con: Phone looks plasticky. Requires a stylus more often than HTC's TouchFLO 3D phones, yet there's no stylus silo so you've got to hang it from the included tiny lanyard. The UI isn't very polished in terms of successfully overlaying Windows Mobile or in being finger-friendly. Camera images so-so.
Price: $199 with 2 year after $100 rebate (requires PDA data plan or messaging plan). $499 with no contract.