Reviewed May 12, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
LG first released the VX9800 (The V) back in late 2005 and that phone earned a cult-like following and spawned several follow-up devices. The VX9900 (the enV) came a year later and the VX10000 Voyager was released late last year. All devices won users with strong messaging features including very useable full QWERTY keyboards and rich multimedia features. In the spring of 2008, LG and Verizon announced the LG enV2, the latest QWERTY keyboard phone following in the V/enV line. Feature-wise, the enV2 isn't that much different from the enV, but look-wise the new model will win over users who are fashion-conscious and have traditionally turned away from the long and bulky "V" series of phones. The enV2 still has a large Internal display, but the external display is shrunk down and the full QWERTY keyboard is squeezed smaller. The phone comes with a 2 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, aGPS with VZ Navigator support and V CAST content support. The LG enV2 is a digital dual band CDMA phone offered by Verizon Wireless, and has EV-DO for fast data. It currently comes in two colors: black and maroon.
Design and Ergonomics
I've reviewed a lot of phones and the first thing I said when I unboxed the enV2 was "I want one!" The enV2 has a great design that's more modern than the enV and The V, and it looks exceptionally sturdy and well built. The maroon color looks very attractive, and it's worth it to note that the device photos on Verizon's web site don't do it justice (the color is closer to magenta in the photos than its actual lush maroon color). Though not terribly thin, the enV2 is much shorter than both the enV and the Voyager, and it's a lot thinner than the enV thanks to the new camera design. With flip closed, the enV2 looks more like a brother to the Venus than its full QWERTY keyboarded device family. The front of the phone has a number keypad, call send, OK, call end/power buttons along with music launcher and voice dialing/recorder keys. There is no d-pad on the front save for up and down scroll keys as you won't need a d-pad for the tasks you can perform on the small external screen which measures only 1.45" and 160 x 64 pixel resolution. You can make phone calls, launch the music player and listen to music, record voice notes and use the camera without opening the clamshell. For all other tasks you will need to open the flip. The number keys are enormous in contrast to the small screen and have milky white backlight.
Open the side flip to use the full QWERTY keyboard which has 4 rows of keys including dedicated number keys. The keyboard has one Shift, Sym and Fn key along with two space keys (one on each side of the keyboard), a 5-way d-pad, call control buttons and a dedicated speaker launcher on the keyboard. The two shoulder keys live above the QWERTY. LG has flatten the keys on the enV2 keyboard and took away some of the speediness that the enV offered its users.
The internal display still dominates the flip and stereo speakers live on either side of the display. Left side buttons (camera key and volume buttons) are still half blocked by the flip, same as the enV. The microSD card slot and the 2.5mm audio jack live on the right side of the phone while the mini-USB charging/syncing port lives on the bottom. Here is good news for those who want to watch video with the phone sitting on a desk: the camera lens is now flush with the back of the phone and won't make the phone wobble like on the enV.
Phone Features and Reception
Both the enV and the Voyager had good voice quality and reception, and the enV2 continues that tradition. The LG gets very strong signal in well-covered areas and decent signal strength in spotty areas. It can get signals inside a building and has not dropped a call. Voice quality is quite good but not exceptional with some white background noise often found on CDMA phones. Volume is loud via the earpiece and through the built-in speaker. While voice performance is good, data performance varies depending on the areas of coverage. In strong EV-DO coverage area, the LG enV2 feels speedy with fast music downloads and takes very little time to buffer V CAST video. Web pages and email messages also download fast. In contrast, the enV2 took considerably longer to download music or buffer video in spotty EV-DO coverage areas, and the video playback wasn't very smoothly either.
The enV2 has all common call management features including call waiting, airplane mode, speed dialing (993 entries total) and contacts. The phone book can store up to 1000 contacts, each entry can store 5 numbers, 2 email address and a picture ID. Additional tools include the usual Verizon apps: Calculator, Ez Tip Calculator, Calendar, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch, World Clock and Notepad. The enV2 also comes with VoiceSignal's excellent Voice Command software that offers not only voice dialing but also voice commands to bring up applications, contacts for messaging and checking the phone's status. The voice dialing and voice command worked very well in our tests and even over Bluetooth headsets.
The V-line of phones (The V, the enV and the Voyager) are quintessential messaging devices even though they pack plenty of multimedia power, and the enV2 is no exception. The phone has some nifty features designed specifically to help with texting and managing messages and email. The QWERTY keyboard on the enV2 will save anyone who wants to do serious messaging and email from T9 input. The enV2's QWERTY keyboard isn't as roomy as the one on the Voyager (bigger device, more room for keys) and the keys are a too flat compared to the ones on the enV. Layout-wise, the keyboard on the enV2 is almost identical to the enV keyboard, except the 5-way d-pad and call send, call end, CLR and speaker launch keys are now flat on the enV2 instead of inset like those on the enV. We prefer the keyboard experience on the evV to the enV2.
The enV2 supports SMS, MMS for picture and video messaging, mobile email and web-based email as well as mobile IM. The mailbox has a sort function, copy and paste text in messages, auto complete (type the first letters to see a list of contacts or email addresses), QWERTRY keyboard shortcuts, Fn key shortcuts and font size adjustment. The enV2 also increased the max number of messages you can store in your messaging boxes: 300 messages in Inbox, 100 messages in Sent box, 20 messages in the Draft folder. You can also have the messages read aloud to you.
Multimedia and Navigation
The LG enV2 took a couple of steps backwards in the multimedia department compared to the enV, but it is still a decent multimedia phone. While the LG Voyager added mobile digital TV (via MediaFLO), the enV2 has support for just V CAST content which includes video on-demand (news, sports, gossips and more) and even full length TV episodes such as Samantha Who, 30 Rock, The Office and much more. In well-covered EV-DO areas, V CAST video clips download fast and plays reasonably smoothly. You will notice some frame drops in video playback, as result the videos look slightly choppy. Like most tasks on the enV2, you will need to open the flip to watch videos. The 2.4" TFT internal display is virtually unchanged from the enV display, supporting 260K colors in QVGA resolution. The display is bright and very color saturated, and pictures, videos and games look good on the screen.
Like most V CAST phones, the enV2 comes with an MP3 player that supports MP3, WMA, AAC and AAC+ formats. If you have ripped music in Windows Media Player or iTunes, you can move them to a microSD card slot or copy them via USB to play on the phone. The V CAST music store also offers over 3 million songs (some times even exclusive tracks) for $1.99 each and you can download them over the air to your phone directly or to your PC and sync to your phone. The enV2 has about 52MB internal memory to store music and comes with a microSD card slot that works with SDHC cards up to 8 gigs. Music playback via the built-in speaker isn't as good as it was on the enV as the enV2 speakers are physically smaller and sound tinny. Since the LG doesn't come with a wired stereo headset, we tried several 2.5mm wired stereo headsets and none were compatible. Thank goodness for the enV2's Bluetooth A2DP support that allows you to listen to music wirelessly via a Bluetooth stereo headset. We tested the enV2 with several stereo Bluetooth headsets including the Samsung SBH500 and the Nokia BH-503, the phone sounded very good (though not as superb as the Voyager) via all headsets: audio was full with exception of some thin trebles such as on stringed instruments, and channel separation was good. The range between the Bluetooth headsets and the LG reached 15-20 feet.
Like the Voyager, the enV2 has aGPS and supports Verizon's VZ Navigator services ($9.99/month add-on). The LG was quick at finding current locations, routing and rerouting trips, giving turn-by-turn directions and trip maps in our tests. The map data also comes with a large number POIs and has voice guidance if you don't want to look at the screen while driving. The built-in speakers were loud enough to hear over road noise, but they were a little blown sounding even when the volume was set to medium level.
The enV took great photos by 2 megapixel camera phone standards thanks mainly to the autofocus lens. The enV2, sans the big camera lens and the autofocus, takes good photos that are competitive with other 2 megapixel camera phones currently on the market but aren't as good as the enV's. The pictures look sharp in general. Outdoor shots have balanced exposure with slight over sharpening and colors look fairly accurate with a very slight cool tone. In some shots light-colored objects white-out, which is a problem for most camera phones. The indoor shots have more noise than the phones taken with the Motorola MOTO Z9, and look a little hazy. The colors look balanced however. The enV2 can take photos in 1600 x 1200 (default), 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 resolutions and offers all the essential camera settings.
The enV2's camera can also take video with audio at 320 x 240, 176 x 144 (default) resolutions in either MMS length or max length limited by available storage. Camcorder offers color and white balance settings as well. The video clips look decent with audio in sync to the video, and the playback is reasonably smooth.
Camera is one of the applications you can run on the phone without opening the flip. While it's more convenient for users who just want to take a quick snap, using the camera without opening the flip feels a little strange as you see only a portion of the photo you are taking. Think of a pillbox bunker view as your viewfinder. It is useful for self-portrait shots, though.
The enV2 has Bluetooth v1.2 and supports variety of Bluetooth profiles that support Bluetooth mono headsets, stereo headsets, car kits as well as Bluetooth keyboards and mice. Other supported profiles include phone book access, basic printing, DUN, basic imaging, object push for vCard and vCalendar and file transfer. We tested the enV2 with several Bluetooth headsets using the Hands-free profile and it paired with all easily. Voice quality was average when working with the Jabra BT8040 as the voice wasn't clear but could certainly hold a conversation. In very noisy environment (someone running a power washer across street), it was hard to hear or be heard on the Jabra even when the volume was turned max. The Plantronics Explorer 330 had better voice clarity but still not crystal clear, but volume was much louder on both incoming and outgoing end which made it easier to hear over loud noise. Voice dialing and voice command worked flawlessly over Bluetooth. The range between the enV2 and the Bluetooth headsets was quite good by Bluetooth standards, reaching over 20 feet.
Battery capacity remains unchanged from the enV and the Voyager and the enV2 gets very good battery life. The phone comes with a standard Lithium Ion rechargeable battery at 950 mAh capacity. The battery is user replaceable and you can charge it with the included world AC charger (100-240V). Claimed talk time (5 hours and 20 minutes) and standby time (21 days and 16 hours) are slightly higher than both enV and Voyager thanks to the smaller external screen and more efficient power management. Our battery tests showed that the claimed numbers were slightly overestimated but the battery life was very good. Music playback, Bluetooth radio, texting and taking photos don't drain battery life dramatically. Watching V CAST video, downloading music from the V CAST music store and running VZ Navigator drain the phone's battery at accelerated rates. If you watch V CAST video for 30-40 minutes, download a few songs, make 30-40 minute of calls and navigate you way through 2 short trips you will need to charge the phone every other day. But if you only use the phone for a few short calls, send some messages and check out a couple of web sites per day, the battery can last you quite a few days on a charge. Verizon sells an optional extended battery that's 1500 mAh for $49.99 should you need more juice.
When the Voyager came out, it seemed like a natural upgrade to the enV as it had a QWERTY keyboard and offered more multimedia features and a touch screen on top of strong messaging. But with the release of enV2, the upgrade path is forked. Capability-wise, the enV2 offers little to enV owners; but it's not about the features, it's about the design. The enV2's new design makes the device slimmer, more compact and more modern. For new users who want a full QWERTY keyboard phone and have no use for the bigger external display, the enV2 is a good choice. Even though it doesn't pack as big a punch as the LG Voyager, the enV2 still might charm its way into your gear bag with its good looks and the reasonable price.
Pro: Very attractive phone and good quality build. Good reception and voice quality. Support for V CAST and VZ Navigator. New messaging features make it even easier to work with messages and email. Very good battery life.
Con: The small external display limits tasks without opening the flip. Keyboard is a bit too flat. The camera phone takes grainy indoor photos. No wired headset included for music playback.
Price: $179.99 with 2-year contract; $129.99 with 2-year contract after online discount.
Display:Internal screen: 2.4". 260K Color TFT. Resolution: 320 x 240 pixels. External LCD: 260K Color TFT, 160 x 64 pixels, 1.45 inches diagonal.
Battery:Lithium Ion rechargeable. Battery is user replaceable. 950 mAh. Claimed talk time 5 hours and 20 minutes. Claimed standby: 21 days and 16 hours max. Optional extended battery, 1500 mAh.
Performance:Phone book can store up to 1000 contacts. 52MB internal storage.
Size:4.0 x 2.13 x 0.65 inches. Weight: 4.23 ounces.
Phone:Digital dual band 800/1900 MHz CDMA. EV-DO for data.
Camera: 2 megapixel camera with up to 10x digital zoom. Photo resolutions: 1600 x 1200 (default), 1280 x 960, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 pixels. Can take video with audio. Video Resolutions: 320 x 240, 176 x 144 (default) pixels.
Audio: Supports MP3 music ringtones and 72-Note Polyphonic ringtones. MP3 player onboard to play MP3, WMA, AAC and ACC+ files. 2.5mm audio jack. Has voice memo.
Networking:Bluetooth v1.2. Profiles Supported: headset, hands-free, dial-up networking, advanced audio distribution (stereo), phone book access, basic printing, basic imaging, object push for vCard and vCalendar, file transfer and human interface.
Software:Verizon UI supports Flash. V CAST music, video, VZ Navigator (for a fee), Contacts, Calculator, Ez Tip Calculator, Calendar, Alarm Clock, Stopwatch, World Clock and Notepad. Voice Command, email, IM client and web browser are also included.
Expansion:1 microSD card slot, supports SDHC up to 8GB.
In the Box:The enV2 phone with standard battery, AC charger (100-240V) and printed manual and guide.