Phone, Web and Social Networking Features
The LG Octane has middle of the road reception but never dropped a call during our test period. Voice quality is quite good with loud volume and clear voice. The phone has a hardware menu button to launch Contacts on the external keyboard and the Contacts app can store up to 1000 entries. The phone supports text, picture, video and voice messaging, as well as Verizon’s visual voicemail service. For driving safety, the LG Octane has voice command software for voice dialing and checking status of the phone that works very well without any voice training. Other PIM apps and tools include Calculator, EZ Tip Calculator, Calendar, To Do List, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch, World Clock and Notepad.
The LG Octane has a web browser (in Media Center) that can display full HTML pages. The web browser has good speed loading large pages via Verizon’s EV-DO 3G, and it offers mobile view mode as well as a full page view mode with a zoom option. You are not going to see a whole lot on a 2.6” 320 x 240 pixel screen, but you get a nice virtual cursor that you can use to scroll around the page. Text is very legible and all images are displayed.
Like most phones today, the LG Octane comes with social networking software. Social Beat, powered by iskoot, allows you to sign in to Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, and get all your feeds and updates in one place. The LG Octane comes with Bing search that offers excellent location based POI searches but horrendous online searches that are full of paid results and endless ads.
The LG Octane has a music player that can play music in MP3, WMA, AAC and AAC+ formats. We tested a variety of tunes in these formats including songs ripped in iTunes (no DRM) and Windows Media Player, and all played nicely off microSD cards. The audio on the LG is very good and it sounds loud and full via the built-in stereo speakers. We wish the phone had a 3.5mm audio jack instead of a 2.5mm since the phone doesn’t come with any headset. The LG Octane works with Verizon’s V CAST music with Rhapsody store, and you can buy tracks over the air.
The LG Octane also has V CAST Video, which is an on-demand video service. The quality of V CAST video playback isn’t impressive. There are noticeable frame drops and audio is often out of sync with video even when the phone has at least half bars on 3G. V CAST video services offer lots of channels in entertainment, sports, weather, and many categories, and there are many full episode TV shows.
The LG Octane also comes with a couple of EA games, Scrabble and UNO, and you can get more from the Verizon app store. The phone’s large d-pad and the full QWERTY keyboard provide a nice gaming experience on a 2.6” screen.
The LG Octane has a GPS built-in, and it gets GPS position fixes quite fast and accurately. While the hardware is good, the software has some issues. VZ Navigator has navigation and maps, but you have to rely on Bing for local searches, and that makes for a very confusing navigation experience. For example, if you search for Walmart in VZ Navigator with your current location fixed, it will find Walmart stores in some other states. So what to do? Launch Bing, and do your search in Bing local search, then go back to VZ Navigator to get your turn-by-turn directions. Verizon did this because Bing’s local search works very well, and we absolutely agree. But the integration between Bing search and VZ Navigator isn’t there. Most users won’t guess that they’d have to launch another application for destination searches in VZ Navigator.
Once you’ve mapped out your route, VZ Navigator gives turn-by-turn directions in trip summary and on the map (2D or 3D). Directions are accurate, routing and re-routing work well and quickly, and voice guidance is on target.
The LG Octane has a 3.2 megapixel camera that takes decent photos with good colors. There is a noticeable level of noise in the pictures and some over exposure. The camera software offers many settings including shot mode (panorama, intelligent shot, etc.), flash settings, white balance, effects as well as a self-timer and shutter sound options. The camera phone can also record videos in QVGA or 176 x 144 resolution. Videos look reasonably smooth and viewable even when the videos were shot in low light conditions.
The LG Octane has a rechargeable battery that’s 950 mAh in capacity. Battery life is quite good with claimed talk times up to 6 hours, though our tests showed the phone lasted about 5 - 5:30 hours. If you run V CAST content, like V CAST video or download V CAST music, your battery life will be shorter. And if you run navigation a lot, it will also run down the battery faster. But overall you will need to charge the phone every few days if you make a moderate number of phone calls and spend a moderate amount of time online. Claimed standby time is two weeks, and we only got about 10 days. The phone charges quickly using the included AC charger.
In a mobile market that’s increasing dominated by smartphones, even entry-level smartphones are down to the price point of high-end feature phones. That means US carriers are making feature phones like the LG Octane more attractive in pricing and deals. The LG Octane is just out, and Verizon is already doing BOGO deals (get one phone and get up to 3 free phones) with a contract. The LG Octane will certainly please LG enV users who are looking to upgrade but don’t want to get a larger device like the LG enV Touch. The Octane is pocketable even with two screens and two keyboards, one of which is a full QWERTY with a 5-way d-pad. The hardware specs bring this phone to the LG enV Touch level with a better camera. The LG Octane offers V CAST content and the GPS is fast and accurate. There are a couple of caveats though: one is the lack of integration between VZ Navigator and Bing that sees you launching two apps to do the job of one; and another one is that 2.5mm audio jack with no headset in the box.
Pro: Easy to use keyboard, solid and attractive build.
Con: Confusing navigation in VZ Navigator, 2.5mm audio jack without any headset in the box.
Price: $99.99 with 2-year contract after rebate and discount. $249.99 without contract.
Web sites: www.lgmobile.com, www.verizonwireless.com