Reviewed November 28, 2007 by Lisa Gade, Editor
The LG Voyager (model number VX10000) is Verizon's new "iPhone killer". OK, no iPhones have died that we know of, though a few may have been harmed in early lab testing. You get the idea, we probably hate the phrase as much as you do and will avoid endless comparisons because in fact, nothing else does work and look like an iPhone. What the Voyager does have is a large touch screen with tappable icons, an on-screen pop-up keyboard and "vibe" that lets you know the phone knows you've touched the screen (follow that? It's actually pretty cool).
In truth, the Voyager is the latest re-working of the LG enV line also offered by Verizon Wireless. It looks like a rather large candybar phone on the outside (sans number pad) and opens laptop style to reveal a full QWERTY thumb keyboard and a large display flanked by stereo speakers. Quite different from the iPhone concept, and perhaps a more useful one to heavy texters. Both the inner and outer display are 400 x 240 pixels (up from the enV's 320 x 240) with 262k colors, and only the outer display is touch sensitive. Like the enV, the Voyager is the middle-man between a feature phone and PDA phone with its new HTML browser being the biggest perk (the enV had the usual WAP-oriented Mobile Web 2.0 browser that was no better than any other Verizon feature phone's browser).
The enV was pretty good at multimedia thanks to a decent music player, powerful stereo speakers and V Cast video support. The Voyager goes for it all, adding V Cast Mobile TV (broadcast digital TV, not to be confused with EVDO streaming clips), larger displays, stereo speakers inside and out (the enV had them only inside) and AAC (unprotected iTunes music format) support. The phone has a microSD card slot that's compatible with cards up to 8 gigs in capacity, making it a viable portable music player in terms of song capacity. As with most phones, the music player's features can't compare to a dedicated MP3 player: Verizon's music player offers just the basics such as playlists, shuffle, repeat and sort by artist/genre/album. There's no EQ, album art or background music playback. The Voyager does have A2DP Bluetooth stereo and the phone sounded superb and loud when playing music through the Plantronics Pulsar 590 stereo headset. Likewise, music sounded fantastic using a wired 2.5mm Plantronics stereo headset (Verizon doesn't included a wired headset in the box).
Though the Voyager looks large and feels big in the hand, it's the same length as the enV and a tiny bit thinner, though it gains a few tenths of an inch in width. Gone is the enV's (and its predecessor the LG VX9800 "The V") external keypad. Instead you'll use an on-screen dialer with a finger just as you do with a Palm OS Treo, Pocket PC phone or iPhone. The external touch screen goes to sleep and locks itself, so you'll first need to wake up the phone and unlock the display by tapping an on-screen button before tapping the phone icon to bring up the dial pad. The dialer screen has a shortcut to contacts and sending text or MMS messages to a phone number.
The Samsung i760 Pocket PC phone, LG Voyager and RAZR V3.
There's no tactile feedback when pressing a touch screen, and that's why some folks prefer traditional hardware keypads. LG came up with an innovative solution: vibe-- the display vibrates when you touch it and the phone makes a pleasant and not annoyingly loud sound. Certainly this is 1) entertaining, 2) sometimes helpful. Why only sometimes? Whether or not you've pressed an on-screen button or dead space the phone vibes and makes a sound. This means you could be tapping on absolutely nothing and the phone will give audible and tactile feedback... not helpful. The only window that doesn't vibrate when you haven't pressed an actual UI element is the application launcher. On the standby screen, touch any spot other than the 4 buttons on the bottom edge and the application launcher opens. The 4 buttons on the bottom of the standby screen launch the messaging client, dialer, application launcher and contacts.
We're impressed that all menu items and applications that are available on the inner display are not only available on the outer touch screen but have been re-worked to use the touch screen. Everything is large and finger-friendly. This includes the music player, Mobile TV, contacts and settings. The only times we were prompted to open the flip was to purchase software via Get it Now, to play downloaded games and to use the downloadable Mobile Email application. The other available downloadable application, VZ Navigator works fine on the external display. If games developers conjured up a few touch-friendly games things could get interesting, but we have no idea if that will happen.
How well does the touch screen work? Well, it's no iPhone and not exactly a PDA phone screen like the Treo 700p or Samsung i760. Unlike a PDA phone, you don't feel the need to whip out the stylus for more precise input, and unlike the iPhone there's no global gesture support for zoom and response times are OK but not super-fast. The web browser supports finger scrolling (drag your finger anywhere on the page, no need to use the tiny scroll bars). The screen requires a firm touch, and since it's small with menu and other control elements bordering on the web page, we found ourselves accidentally activating menus and other functions we hadn't intended to when scrolling. The web browser menu items are a bit too small for even thin fingers and we found ourselves hitting the wrong menu selection frequently. Scrolling through photos in My Pictures also requires coordination since the scroll bar is very close to the image thumbnails. It's by no means a poor experience and practice helps, but it's not as fool-proof and pleasant as the iPhone nor as precise as a PDA's touch screen with stylus.
When the flip is open, the external display shuts off and the internal one takes over with no delay. The keyboard is nearly identical to the enV's and is extremely usable. The keys have decent travel with a tactile click, and a tone sounds each time you press a key (you can adjust the key press volume and disable it too). There's a dedicated number row, a 4-way d-pad with center action on the right side of the keyboard and two soft keys just below the display. Our only complaint is the strange spacebar location (one on each end of the bottom row rather than a single spacebar in the center), the right spacebar's overloading with the voice command key (hold it down a little longer than normal and you'll get the voice command prompt... we'd like a longer delay before this triggers) and the volume keys that are partially blocked when the flip is open (this was a problem on the enV as well).
Those are the volume keys, keyguard lock and camera button hiding in the crevice between the two halves of the clamshell.
The front cover has only call send and end buttons and a clear key that does double-duty as the voice command key (we'd like to press the key longer before activating voice command). The SDHC microSD card slot that's compatible with cards up to 8 gigs capacity lives on the phone's right side along with the 2.5mm headset jack. The volume rocker, keyguard slider and camera button are on the left side. The Mobile TV telescoping antenna is on the bottom as is the charger port that doubles as a USB port (cable included). The phone uses the same $30 Music Essentials kit as the LG enV which includes a wired stereo headset, software CD with Music Manager and USB driver and a USB cable for syncing music.
Phone, Data and GPS
A phone can slice and dice, wash your car and play Pavarotti but it still must be good at one thing to pass our most important test (and likely yours): it has to be good at making calls. The Voyager had excellent voice quality in our tests and volume is quite loud. Even with only one bar, calls were clearer than most other Verizon phone's we've recently reviewed. The speakerphone isn't deafening but it is clear and free of distortion. If you start a call with the flip closed then open it, the Voyager automatically turns on speakerphone if no headset is in use. Close the flip and the call transfers to the front display and speakerphone turns off (it does not end the call). Calls through a wired headset and Bluetooth headsets likewise sounded loud and clear (we tested the phone with the Plantronics Discovery 655 and the Jawbone).
Back of phone with antenna extended.
The phone does support Bluetooth DUN for those who wish to use the phone as a wireless modem for a notebook. It doesn't come with any syncing software. If you wish to sync to Outlook, Verizon's $20 Wireless Sync is the solution (it also handles email) for Windows users (sorry Mac users!). There are 3rd party freeware apps like BitPim which will no doubt support the Voyager soon.
For those in need of direction, the Voyager has a GPS that works with Verizon's $9.99/month VZ Navigator service. The phone found us quickly and provided clear and accurate directions to a variety of destinations in the Dallas metroplex. Navigator can map addresses in your contacts, intersections, airports and to saved favorites. It also has a POI database and can send your GPS location to a friend's phone via SMS.
Call clarity is paramount, with the camera and entertainment generally taking 2nd and 3rd place in importance. The LG's camera looks good from the specs: 2 megapixel with autofocus lens (an autofocus lens generally greatly improves image sharpness). But the photos themselves didn't impress us: outdoor shots had an overly cool color bias and indoor shots were as grainy as a 1.3MP fixed focus camera phone's images. Usually indoor images taken under incandescent light are overly warm but often the Voyager took cool indoor shots too. The photo of the kitty below was among 3 taken, 2 of which were cool and the one below had accurate to slightly warm tones. The pool shot looks almost surreal thanks to the color cast.
The phone can take photos up to 1600 x 1200 resolution along with lesser resolutions suitable for photo caller ID and MMS. To launch the camera app, give the side camera button a short press. You'll see a message telling you to hold the phone horizontally to take photos (we tried holding the phone vertically and it still worked fine), then the entire outer screen becomes the viewfinder. There are options for self-timer, shutter sound (including off), spot metering though there is no flash. The Voyager can shoot video at QVGA 320 x 240 maximum resolution at 15fps with mono audio as well as 176 x 144. You can set the camera to save images and videos to internal memory or a microSD card. Like all Verizon feature phones, the LG can send images and video via MMS.
V Cast Video and Mobile TV
The Voyager has a few high end multimedia tricks, in case the large touch screen, stereo audio and camera weren't enough. Sure, there's V Cast Video for streaming on-demand video clips and Verizon's music store where you can buy tunes directly on the phone. But even more interesting, the Voyager joins the Samsung u620, LG VX9400 and Motorola Z6tv to offer broadcast digital TV using Qualcomm's MediaFLO technology. This is broadcast over-the-air programming and not streaming digital content served over EVDO. Extend that telescoping TV antenna, pay approximately $10/month additional on your cell phone bill (on top of the $15/month V Cast service) and you've got 8 TV channels to watch: NBC, CBS, ESPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, NBC News2Go and FOX. The video is large and lovely on the Voyager's excellent 262,000 color external display and with the antenna fully extended we got very good reception, making for the best V Cast Mobile TV experience yet. Yes, there are commercials and some programming is time shifted (and repeated so you get more than 1 chance to catch a show).
For those not in a Mobile TV coverage area, there's Verizon's standby V Cast video service which offers a wide variety of clips (many are free). While we prefer AT&T's Cellular Video programming selections, V Cast TV is suitable entertainment for the commute or to catch up on sports and news. Since this is streaming video over EVDO, compression and occasional hiccups and data buffering make for a less perfect picture than Mobile TV, but the Voyager's large display improves the experience.
Like the enV VX9900, the Voyager has a 950 mAh Lithium Ion battery that lives under the back cover. Battery life is similar to the enV and other recent high-end Verizon features phones. If you use the phone lightly (30 min./day on the phone, browse the web for 30 minutes/day, watch TV for 30 minutes/day and listen to music for 1 hour/day) it should last 2-3 days on a charge. If you're into V Cast videos, runtimes will be shorter (EVDO and video playback are hard on the battery). Claimed talk time is 4 hours which was on target in our tests (assuming you use the phone for little else).
We liked the LG VX9800 and enV, but the Voyager takes that line up several notches in the multimedia and innovation departments. The large external touch display works well, though not perfectly for touch control and at 400 x 240 pixels and 262k colors, it's Verizon's best phone for watching V Cast Video and Mobile TV. We can't say that the Voyager really competes with the iPhone-- the iPhone is unique when it comes to features and user interface, and the LG offers a keyboard and the usual set of cell phone features the iPhone misses (sending MMS for one). If you're considering both Verizon and AT&T and have a hankering for both phones, we heartily suggest you visit a store and play with them first to get a sense of how different they really are. The Voyager has one of the best cell phone keyboards on the market, a compelling multimedia presentation with great music playback quality (we'd still like to see a more feature-rich player), very good Mobile TV and V Cast. Those who wish to watch full YouTube are out of luck-- you'll need to stick with YouTube mobile (m.youtube.com) and the video player doesn't support lots of formats for home-burned video. Call quality is excellent and reception good, and we find it easy to recommend the Voyager.
Pro: Great outer and inner displays. Outer touch screen with vibe is innovative and fairly functional. Fantastic QWERTY keyboard, excellent sound quality, very good call quality and A2DP stereo Bluetooth support. Verizon's UI is simple and easy to learn, though some common tasks require too many taps or clicks of of the d-pad. For those in need of direction, VZ Navigator works well on the phone for turn-by-turn directions.
Con: Large and heavy compared to feature phones. Touch screen response sometimes lags and vibration isn't as helpful as you might think. Camera is just so-so.
Price: $349 with 2 year contract (currently $299 when purchased online from Verizon's web site).
Display:Internal and external LCD displays are both 262K Color TFT, 400 x 240 Pixels, 2.81". External display is a touch screen with vibrating feedback.
Battery:950 mAh Lithium
Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. Claimed usage time: up to 4 hours. Claimed standby: 20 days.
Performance:Undisclosed CPU, approx. 156 megs available internal memory.
Size: 4.64" x 2.12" x 0.71". Weight: 4.69 ounces.
Phone:CDMA dual band digital with EVDO rev. 0 and 1xRTT for data. Has speakerphone, voice command and dialing software and speed-dial (99 numbers).
GPS:Supports VZ Navigator.
Camera:2.0 MP with autofocus lens. Camera Resolutions: 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240. Video Resolutions: 320 x 240, 176 x 144. Up to 2.5x digital zoom, can save images and video directly to a microSD card.
in speaker, speakerphone, mic and 2.5mm standard stereo headphone
jack. Voice Recorder, Verizon's V Cast music player (supports MP3, WMA, AAC and AAC+) and V Cast video player. Has Mobile TV broadcast digital TV with retractable antenna.
Bluetooth 1.2. Profiles: headset, hands-free, dial-up networking (DUN), A2DP (stereo), phone book access, basic printing, object push for vCard and vCalendar, file transfer, basic imaging, human interface (HID).
Software:Verizon UI. V Cast Music and Video, Get it Now app suite, VZ Navigator (turn by turn directions for a fee), Mobile TV, calculator, Calendar, Alarm Clock, Stop Watch, World Clock, Notepad, EZ tip Calculator, voice command, email, IM client and web browser.
microSD card slot, compatible with cards up to 8 gigs.
In the Box:Phone, standard battery, charger, USB cable, software CD and manual.