The LG Voyager’s mission is to unseat the iPhone as the hottest touchscreen handset out there. It addresses many complaints about Apple’s controversy magnet and has many of the same goodies, including an email client and a music player. And although the Voyager’s touchscreen interface isn’t as slick as the iPhone’s, features like stereo Bluetooth, GPS, video recording, a spacious QWERTY keyboard, and mobile TV support actually give it an edge. Limited video support, lack of WiFi, and inadequate contacts and calendar syncing may keep it from stealing too much thunder from the iPhone, but we still think the Voyager is something to call home about, especially if you’re committed to sticking with Verizon.
Features and Design
The LG Voyager’s nice curves and beefy body (4.6 x 2.1 x 0.7 inches) are reminiscent of a classic American car — big but beautiful. The 2.8-inch, 240-by-400-pixel exterior touchscreen invites iPhone comparisons, and the similarities don’t end there; unlock the screen by touching the virtual Unlock button and tap the center, and you’ll see an icon layout that will look familiar to Apple fans. There’s also a locking switch on the side, but we preferred using the on-screen button.
Although the Voyager’s touchscreen supports swiping for scrolling pages or dragging sliders, it doesn’t have Apple’s multi-touch interface or supremely responsive feel. But it does vibrate (haptic feedback, which you can disable) when you dial or use the pop-up virtual keyboard — something the iPhone conspicuously lacks.
Dialing on the touchscreen is a snap thanks to a virtual keypad that appears when you tap the phone icon. The screen occasionally mistook our swipes for taps when we scrolled through our contacts, but overall touch navigation was pretty smooth. There’s a touch calibration feature, but we didn’t notice a difference before and after using it.
The Voyager opens sideways to reveal an internal LCD (also 2.8-inch and 240 x 400 pixels) flanked by a pair of stereo speakers and set in front of one of the finger-friendliest QWERTY keyboards we’ve seen on a phone. There’s also a directional pad and OK button on the right, as well as call controls. Unfortunately, in flip mode you lose access to the volume buttons on the left (hinged) side of the phone, making it a pain to adjust volume while watching video on the internal screen.
Inside, there’s 183MB of flash memory, which looks pathetic in comparison to the iPhone’s 8GB until you uncover the microSDHC slot, which supports tiny memory cards up to 8GB. Of course, for $349 USD (with 2-year contract), the Voyager should really come with at least a 2GB card.
Image Courtesy of LG
To sync the phone with your PC, you have to install the drivers on the included CD. You can also install the VCast music software, which is a cross between iTunes (layout) and Windows Media Player (sync method). You can also use WMP 11 or any other MTP-enabled music management software, like MusicMatch Jukebox. Alternatively, you can load the phone in USB Mass Storage mode, but only in Windows.
We attached the included USB cable to the phone and our MacBook Pro (running Windows XP) and , it took us 2.5 minutes to load a 192Kbps MP3 copy of Bob Dylan’s Blonde On Blonde — that’s not terrible for 100MB, but it’s still a little slow for gadget fans. The VCast software automatically converted any of our MP3s that were encoded at more than 192Kbps to a lower bit rate, though Windows Media Player 11 did this noticeably faster.
The Voyager supports MP3, WMA, protected WMA, unprotected AAC, and AAC+ for audio. But although it can play MP4, 3GP, and WMV videos, resolution is strictly limited to 320 x 240 — bizarre given the phone’s pair of 2.8-inch widescreen LCDs.
In addition to side-loading media onto the phone, plenty of content is available from Verizon’s VCast service. Downloading Cannonball Adderley’s “Work Song” (tracks are a hefty $1.99 USD each) over the air took about 2 minutes. That’s slower than the iPhone’s WiFi iTunes store but normal for Verizon cell phones. We’re not as excited about the quality or pricing of the VCast video downloads, but we do like that you can save songs and videos to the phone’s internal memory (enough for a few albums in AAC format) or to a microSD card.
We’re annoyed at how difficult it is to sync contact and calendar information with programs like Outlook. We were unable to do it via USB, though we could set up Bluetooth file transfers and send Vcards and Vcal entries, which are compatible with most calendar and email programs. This is one area where the Voyager falls miles short of the iPhone.
Call and Response
We’re picky about audio quality for our phone calls, and it’s something we hate about the iPhone. The Voyager does marginally better in that area, and people could understand us with average clarity on the other end, but we’re still not 100 percent satisfied with the earpiece’s audio.
The built-in speakers are loud but tinny with no low end — very useable for speakerphone, but not for all kinds of music. The bass on John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” and The Killers’ “Read My Mind” disappears completely, though the bottom end of Jay-Z’s “Takeover” still holds some of its punch. Horns, voices, snare drums, cymbals, and guitars come through loud and clear with less distortion than we expected from such small speakers.
Our test videos (Episodes of Weeds at 320 x 240 in MP4 format), looked acceptable on both screens, with adequate color on each 262K-color LCD. We are disappointed by the lack of widescreen support, given the screen’s 16:9 aspect ratio.
Image Courtesy of LG
Mobile TV looks just about good enough to justify the extra $15 USD a month. Watching an NCAA basketball game was easier than an English Premier soccer match (go Manchester United!), but scores at the bottom of the screen were readable, at least to our sharp eyes. Shows like MTV’s Made and Reno 911 looked the best, with good color and less-noticeable motion artifacts. We didn’t have any trouble with reception around New York City, but you can extend the 4.5-inch telescoping antenna that pops out of the bottom of the phone.
The headphone jack is only 2.5-mm, which means you’ll have to pick up a 3.5-mm adapter that’s compatible with the Voyager to use your own headphones. We opted instead to use our Etymotic ety8 and JBL Reference 620 Bluetooth stereo headphones, and we got listenable results for music, though we could easily hear the effects of the Bluetooth 1.2 compression. Audio was generally well-synced with video via Bluetooth, though it occasionally slipped out of sync for a few seconds during mobile TV watching. But at least the Voyager supports A2DP for stereo music playback, unlike the iPhone.
4 hours of talk time and around 20 days of standby isn’t bad, though it does mean you’re going to run out of juice pretty quick if you use Bluetooth, mobile TV, and music/video playback a lot. We had to charge every 1.5 to 2 days unless we watched a lot of mobile TV, which knocked us back to daily charge cycles.
The built-in email client currently supports MSN, Yahoo!, and POP3 or IMAP accounts. We much prefer using the built-in client to the Web-based interface on the VZW browser, and message retrieval speed was reasonably good. Still, none of it trumps Apple’s Mail application for handling multiple accounts and syncing with your computer. We also logged into our AOL Instant Messenger account and used the mobile IM client, and we were pleasantly surprised at how fluid messaging was. The client also supports Yahoo Messenger, and MSN Messenger.
Web browsing on Verizon’s EV-DO network is fairly speedy, and the updated Verizon browser is less visually offensive than its predecessor. But we really wish it could hop over to a WiFi connection for faster browsing on nearby networks.
We loved using the Verizon VZ Navigator GPS around New York City and New Jersey, though we recommend the monthly $9.99 USD fee rather than the $2.99-a-day plan. There’s nothing quite like having turn-by-turn directions read to you out loud by your phone. The touchscreen makes the GPS even handier, though the Voyager’s limited ability to distinguish between swipes and taps occasionally frustrated us here.
The 2-megapixel camera takes neither as sharp a picture as the iPhone‘s nor as high-res as the Nokia N95’s, and the autofocus is agonizingly slow. But in well-lit situations our test pictures were clear enough and had acceptable color for a cell phone camera. Good luck capturing moving subjects though; the time between pressing the shutter button and the image capture averaged around 4 seconds in our testing. You can also shoot 320 x 240 videos; our test movies looked adequate, but you’re not making an Oscar-winner with the Voyager.
To get the most out of the Voyager, you’ve really got to use the email, IM, SMS, and mobile TV features. The Voyager has a lot to offer, but we’re not getting rid of our dedicated music player, and PDA fans will find this phone less handy than more sync-friendly models. Compared with the iPhone, the Voyager gives you marginally better call quality, stereo Bluetooth, GPS, and a very finger-friendly keyboard, as well as many of the same features, though it lacks WiFi. It’s not as flashy or slick as the iPhone, but the Voyager is a worthy phone for multimedia junkies and chronic typers.
• Spacious keyboard is excellent for IM, email, and texting
• GPS, Mobile TV, email, and IM work very well
• Easy navigation in touch or flip mode
• Touchscreen can give you haptic feedback
• Limited video support
• Can’t sync addresses or calendars with computer via USB
• No WiFi
• No microSD card included in package