At first, wacky cell phone ergonomics reflected nothing but the desire of manufacturers to differentiate their handsets from the rest of the look-alike clamshells and candybars. But as technology has progressed and counterintuitive functions such as PDAs and cameras have been added, cell phone industrial designs have started to reflect their additional non-cell phone functions. The LG-VX9800 by Verizon, for instance, flips open like a toy laptop, sort of a smaller version of the Nokia 9500 Communicator. It has a tiny QWERTY keyboard on the base and a 2.25-inch landscape LCD screen with a pair of stereo speakers on either side, which makes it ideal for video and TV watching; however, messaging, not video, is the VX9800’s primary non-cell phone function. The VX9800 is not a good music phone, and it’s too chubby for jeans pockets. If you need a messaging phone, choose a real Blackberry. If you need a Verizon multimedia phone, go with the LG VX8100 or Samsung SCH-A950.
Features and Design
As noted, the VX9800 resembles a little laptop. On its face, however, with its 1.75-inch LCD screen and standard albeit tightly-packed dialpad, the VX9800 looks like any other candybar cell phone. At 5.1 ounces, the VX9800 is about a third heavier than most standard clamshells, and measuring 4.57″ by 1.97″ by 1.0″, about a third larger.
Even though the VX9800 is a rather bulky device, the round keypad keys are generously spaced for mistake-free typing for everyone but the fat-fingered. Another feature besides the QWERTY keyboard is the 1.3-megapixel camera on the rear. However, the camera ergonomics are a bit awkward. With your finger on the shutter release, you have to be careful that your other fingers don’t block the lens. The shutter release button gets wedged against the flip top when open, which you’ll actually want to do since the inside LCD screen makes a better viewfinder than the external display. The neighboring volume toggle also gets jammed against the open top, which makes it difficult to turn the sound up or down.
Inside, the VX9800 comes with the basic organizational applications, such as a 500-contact phone book, a calendar/scheduler, an alarm and world clock, a regular and tip calculator, and a notepad. Also included are a miniSD card slot to supplement the built-in 128 MB of internal memory, Bluetooth, a full duplex speakerphone, voice dialing and voice command. Oddly, also included is the T9 predictive text input, which is usually found on regular non-QWERTY cell phones to facilitate messaging creation; why this is included on a device with a QWERTY keyboard is anyone’s guess.
Newer versions of the VX9800 are compatible with Verizon’s music service, but older versions can be upgraded at your local Verizon dealer, which means you can add not only music to your older VX9800, but MP3 ringtones as well.
For messaging, the only reason you might consider the VX9800 is because you get mobile instant, text and picture messaging, MSN, AOL, and Yahoo! e-mail, and, last but not least, synchronization to POP3 and IMAP email accounts.
Image Courtesy of LG
As you’d expect, Verizon’s EV-DO network is speed-of-sound fast for streaming and downloading. Music videos usually take less than a minute to download, depending on the length of the clip, and V CAST TV clips take less than 15 seconds on average, all about par for a V CAST phone.
The landscape-shaped screen is a real boon for video viewing, although you will see some splotches when a video is blown up to fill the screen (this is normal for larger cell phone screens, since cell phone videos have a low MPEG-4 resolution). The twin speakers generate only enough volume to be heard in a silent room, and the sound quality won’t remind anyone of Bose–not that we expected much better.
For calls, we experienced more conversation dropouts than we expected from Verizon’s usually reliable digital network. Voice quality from the phone’s earpiece had more echo than we liked and sounded tinny. When using the speakerphone, the stereo speakers actually sounded better than the earpiece. You will be better off with a Bluetooth or the included wired earbuds for conversation.
The poor pictures produced by the digital camera were not surprising. No matter how still we held the VX9800, we could not produce an image that wasn’t blurred.
What was surprising was the VX9800’s relatively long battery life–four hours of talk and more than eight days in standby.
The numberpad is simple enough to use; the camera comes with a built-in flash.
The clunky VX9800 is an interesting failure. A Blackberry is a better messaging phone, while the LG VX8100 and the Samsung SCH-A950 are both better music phones. Our belief is that LG and Verizon will move on from this experiment to more successful QWERTY designs.
- QWERTY keyboard
- EV-DO compatible
- V CAST video and music service compatible
- Stereo headphones included
- External memory card slot
- Bulky and heavy
- Poor camera ergonomics
- Poor call quality