When it comes to industrial design, most mobile handsets fall into the candy bar or flip phone categories, but people interested in both could grab the LG Versa. It has an attachable keyboard shell that’s easy to connect and turns the single-screen touchscreen phone into a horizontal model with a full QWERTY. Luckily, the well-functioning keyboard isn’t just a gimmick, making the LG Versa a solid, if not awe-inspiring option for your smartphone dollar.Features & Design
The LG Versa has a candy bar phone form factor, which is quickly becoming the de facto shape for such devices. It measures four inches by two inches, just over a half-inch thick, and has a metallic black and silver design. It weighs just under four ounces, despite looking and feeling a lot lighter, as well.
The touchscreen pretty much takes up the front of the device, with the three-inch display edged by a slight black border. There are only three buttons below the screen – the green go button, the call/microphone button and the red stop/power button. As with most phones, one simply holds down the stop button to turn on or power down the phone.
The left side has a headset jack, a camera button, the volume keys, the cover unlock and recharge hole. The right side is smooth, only having a microSD slot. The top is just as simplified, having an unlock keys button.
The LG Versa is a CDMA 800 MHz phone, so it works in less overseas areas than a tri-band or quad-band phone. On Verizon, the LG Versa has a fairly fast Internet server and full web browsing capabilities.
Setup & Use
The LG Versa doesn’t ship with many frills. Inside the box are the phone, a mini-USB cord and an attachable wall outlet, as well as a leather-encased stylus. It also includes a shell casing with an attachable horizontal keyboard on the inside. Headphones and other accessories are sold separately.
The startup screen has a series of four clearly-organized screens along with three static icons at the bottom. LG calls the system “3D”, but it is more like a triangle – the three screens can be flipped with the push of the stylus. The three screens are media, favorites and shortcuts. The media section has various Internet links, favorites is filled with the user’s selected apps and shortcuts can hold links to preferred software or websites.
The static icons remain at the bottom of the screen and are actually the most used. These icons are for messages, phone services, contacts and applications.
The messages icon goes straight to a solid, uncluttered text messaging feature. Items are arranged like physical file folders, the manila tag organized by date, and further by a summary of the sender, time and message. Tap on the envelope and the message opens along with options to reply, erase or forward.
Actual phone dialing works well, particularly voice activation features. Tap the phone icon (or press the physical call/mic button right below the touchscreen) and the phone will ask you what you would like to do. Say “Call xxx-xxx-xxxx” and, after confirming your choice, the handset will dial the appropriate number. Other options include text messaging and retrieving voicemail. Of course, voice activation is not a new feature, particularly among smartphones, but rarely has it been so simple to access – here, it’s even easier than using the keypad.
The contacts section utilizes a manila file folder field, not unlike the text messaging list. It can be navigated quickly with the stylus and even quicker with the attachable keyboard.
Finally, the applications section is the fastest way to overview everything the phone can do. The eight icons are big, bright and color-coded, with text underneath for clearer understanding. Here are found the media center, messaging, contacts, recent calls, navigator, music, browser and settings options.
The media center provides access to music, video and other multimedia functions. Verizon streamlines multimedia through the proprietary V-CAST system. Everything works fine on this end, but the device would be much stronger if, like other smartphones, it actually came with more multimedia support out of the box – say, proprietary or even licensed software to help organize the photos, movies and other data Versa touts as a selling point on the box.
The navigator loads the V-CAST mini Web browser, a quick way to get your news, weather and other general information. It is streamlined for Verizon phones and, while not remarkable, does a reasonable job of delivering on all promised counts. Worth noting as well: The browser itself is fast and solid, proving even more stable than what you’d find on some competing 3G phones.
All of which leads us to the most unusual and, perhaps, impressive part of the Versa – the detachable keyboard. Take the back lid off of the phone – an easy process – and you can place it into the included keyboard shell, effectively turning the Versa into a horizontal phone. (You can also turn the device horizontal during regular use, but it doesn’t make a big difference at that point.) It is a snap to put in and to take out. Aside from going horizontal, the keyboard adds a new default screen with quick icons – calendar, email, browser, mobile IM, notepad and new message. (Mobile IM is compatible with AOL, MSN and Yahoo!) Regardless, the keyboard works very well, and actually seems to generate a faster response than the stylus.
Mind you, the stylus is decent enough to use as a basic navigational tool. It is about two inches long, leather-bound, and remains embedded in the protective shell during use. The challenge isn’t so much stylus response as it is the width of the stylus case itself – it is thin, but measures about a half-inch across, equal to the depth of the phone. It initially feels kind of unwieldy in the hand, but the process of wielding it does get easier after an hour or two of use.
Finally, the camera is surprisingly supple for a 2 megapixel, and straightforward to use. Press the camera button on the left-hand side of the phone and, turning the camera horizontal, the touchscreen becomes the viewfinder. Press the camera button again and the picture will be taken. Icons then appear to save, email or trash the pic. The video option is just as simple.
The LG Versa is $449.99 MSRP with month-to-month calling, higher than the average smartphone, but Verizon offers a $319.99 MSRP one-year and a $249.99 MSRP two-year commitment, respectively. At launch Verizon also was giving a $50 discount, making the phone as low as $199.99, a very reasonable price for a smartphone of this caliber. Bear in mind, though: You’ll want to allocate additional money to purchase a microSD card to save multimedia and, perhaps, headphones to enjoy it. More information is available at verizonwireless.com.
The LG Versa is a solid smartphone with a good camera, fast Internet access and nifty aesthetic. The attachable keyboard makes it a highly original offering as well. The chunky stylus and lack of peripherals like included headphones take the Versa down a notch, as the hyped multimedia is less well-organized than in other comparable phones. Even so, the Versa is worth opting for at a discounted price, although the full price puts it up against much more versatile contenders.
- Attachable keyboard
- Good voice recognition
- Solid camera
- Clunky stylus
- Lack of included peripherals
- Multimedia organization