LG has gone back to the future for its “new” enV Touch. Why the quotes? The enV Touch isn’t new. It’s essentially an update of LG’s first iPhone competitor, the Voyager VX10000, introduced in 2007. Physically, the two horizontal flip phones are nearly identical, with a touchscreen outside and a smaller non-touch screen inside above a four-line QWERTY keyboard. While aesthetically plagiarized, the enV Touch is endowed with an excellent camera, music player and a plethora of customization options. But it’s also plagued by bothersome little quirks that, individually, don’t seem like much, but begin to annoyingly add up.
Features and Design
Like the Voyager, the black enV Touch takes a belt-and-suspenders approach to cellphones. On the outside, it has a 3-inch touch screen above the send, back and end keys. When text input is needed, a widescreen touch QWERTY conveniently pops up. Flip it open horizontally, and you get a four-line QWERTY keyboard supplementing a second, internal screen, which doesn’t respond to touch.
The left spine is home to volume toggle, bracketed by a camera button, and a lock key below.
Among its more modern attributes are a 3.2 MP camera with LED flash, Dolby Mobile to boost the sound of its music player (which includes a Rhapsody option), plus a 3.5mm earphone jack, visual voicemail (which Verizon charges $2.99 extra a month for), a multi-page HTML Web browser, Easy Pair Bluetooth 2.1, VZ Navigator A-GPS navigation, full texting, IM and push email options, document viewer, and blog support and RSS.
Ports & Connectors
On the right spine are the 3.5mm earphone jack and the microSD slot, which can handle up to a 16GB card. On the chin is the microUSB charging jack.
Can a phone serve as a workable PMP?
Thanks to the Dolby Mobile, music tracks have a verve, a clarity and a sound stage superior to any other cellphone we’ve used, including the vaunted iPhone. Music also plays in the background as you surf the Web and read or compose e-mail, but not as you view or take pictures. Music annoyingly stops when you get an incoming mail alert, and won’t resume until you dismiss the pop-up.
V Cast videos are smoothly rendered on both screens, with high contrast and rich colors. You’re better off watching on the internal screen, since you get louder and clearer sound from the twin speakers, but sometimes the sound is a tosh off-sync.
As is usual for LG phones on Verizon, conversations on the Touch are crystal clear, with quality near land-line levels.Phone Functionality
LG’s menu navigation system is clever but, like the physical aspects of the Touch, redundant. Instead of getting a scrollable page of menu options, you tap an on-screen tab that produces a two-page menu of shortcuts. You can add or eliminate shortcuts from these pages. Then, you can drag shortcuts from these shortcut pages to the main home screen. The logic and necessity of this double-shortcut adding and dragging escapes us.
LG’s touchscreen scrolling has never been as smooth as the iPhone’s, or HTC’s Android phones. We frequently accidentally activated whatever function our finger first settled on to initiate a scroll.
The Touch suffers from other annoying quirks, as well. For instance, its accelerometer works for switching between the widescreen QWERTY and the portrait dialpad as well as for viewing Web pages, but it doesn’t auto turn photos.
Of more import, there’s no threaded messaging. Neither QWERTY gives you an automatic cap letter after a period. When composing text or email on the inside QWERTY, the soft send key doesn’t send the message, but produces a pop-up grid of symbols. You have to close the lid and use the external screen’s commands to send. Using AOL, there’s a menu choice to “Write Mail.” For Gmail, you “Compose.” And so on.
Mobile optimized pages load between three and five seconds; most non-optimized pages usually in less than 10 seconds, all depending on graphic content. Default text size is unreadably small and zooming doesn’t always help. You have to go into preferences and choose text wrap. Why wouldn’t you want text to wrap?Camera
The Touch’s external display screen tends to wash out in bright sunlight. But its shutter release is fast, reducing motion blur. Photos are bright and clean, with realistic colors and high contrast. While edges are sharp, they look oddly indistinct, as if some digital trickery were at work to sharpen the detail.
In our unscientific tests, we got a whopping six hours and 22 minutes of talk time, nearly twice as much as the rated 3.43 “usage” hours. The discrepancy lies between “talking” and “usage.” Both screens soak up a lot of juice, which likely means multiple daily recharges.
A better Web browser and a little more beta testing of the operating system would have smoothed out the pile of minor-but-bothersome kinks, but enV Touch seems like an anachronism in waiting. As soon as Verizon offers the Palm Pre and Android phones, rumored sometime this fall, Touch and phones like it will be viable only as discounted or free phones.
- Excellent sound for music and voice
- Speedy EV-DO Web access
- High-quality 3.2 MP pictures
- Touch and physical QWERTY keyboards
- Short battery life
- Tiny text in Web browser
- Redundant menu navigation interface
- No threaded messaging