The LG Decoy, a new slider from Verizon Wireless, is one of those gadgets that make us say, “Why didn’t we think of that?” Stowed discreetly on the back side of the phone is a Bluetooth headset, which automatically pairs with the Decoy when turned on. Moreover, it offers lots of other goodies, including Verizon’s VZ Navigator, V CAST Music and Video, and Mobile Web. The headset itself has some problems with noisy environments but overall this combination should be satisfying to those who like the idea of never having to hunt for their Bluetooth device in a pocket or purse and those who would rather carry one charger for their phone and headset.
The Decoy makes a strong first impression. At 4 inches long, it’s considerably shorter than some other sliders, such as the 4.5-inch Motorola Z9, and its 4.1 ounces feels light in the hand. Even with the headset stored in the back, the device is 0.7 inches thin. The glossy gun-metal front has a sparse selection of buttons—speaker and clear buttons, two soft keys, and a five-way joystick—with a brilliant 2.2-inch display (albeit, one that smudges easily).
Depending on which way you push it, the joystick can activate four functions from the main screen: texting, calendar, shortcuts, and the Bluetooth activation wizard (simply hold down the headset’s main button and the Decoy automatically pairs the two). Unfortunately, the slightly recessed joystick could be easier to use.
Sliding the phone open reveals a keypad with large, tactile buttons in black, which glow lavender when in use. The bottom edge of the phone rises above the keys, forming a cradle for the number pad. On the sides of the phone are large volume controls, a camera launch button, and covered mini-USB and microSD slots.
Good Headset Integration
The back of the phone has a completely different personality: a cobalt blue satin finish with, of course, the matching headset built neatly into the top center. Conveniently, the headset snaps into place and charges along with the phone when connected to an A/C adapter. The headset itself, which is easy to pop out of the phone, is kind of wide, but also short and quite thin (1.6 x 0.9 x 0.3 inches). It has just a single Answer/End/Power button and volume controls on the upper edge. The hard earpiece felt surprisingly comfortable and sturdy in our ear. While not the prettiest headset out there, it’s on a par, style and comfort-wise, with many budget $50 models.
The 2-megapixel camera is housed in the upper right corner (upper left if you’re holding the lens away from you). It can be easy to block the lens with your finger when the slider is open.
Verizon’s famously bland interface doesn’t get a full makeover with the Decoy, but it sure looks sleeker than before. The blue-themed welcome screen is uncluttered—we think the large, colorful area is perfect for displaying your own photos. The menu, accessible by pressing the joystick, has a cobalt blue background (matching the headset) with large colorful icons that fit on one screen. From this menu, users can access Contacts, Messaging, Recent Calls, Calculator, Media Center, E-mail, Mobile IM, VZ Navigator, and Settings. Intuitively, the soft keys allow you to enter menus, and the Clear button allows you to return to a previous screen. Our only gripe: we wish the power button were on the outside—not inside—of the slider. We also wish that Mobile Web had its own icon and wasn’t buried in the Media Center folder.
Across the board, we preferred the Decoy’s voice quality without the Bluetooth headset; our callers said we sounded loud and clear indoors, and slightly less so when calling from a bustling street corner. On our end, when we made calls without the headset, our friends sounded loud and clear, but distant and echoey.
When we wore the Decoy headset, the call continually cut out for brief intervals, even when calling from a relatively quiet environment. To be fair, when we tested the Decoy headset against the Jabra BT3010 ($49.37), a good budget headset, the two fared similarly in both our volume and clarity tests (that is, both were sufficiently loud but clipped a few words here and there).
All in all, the Decoy’s headset is nice to have, but we don’t prefer it to either the phone itself or higher-end, noise-canceling headsets. When walking outside on a sunny day with just a mild breeze, one caller said they couldn’t hear us over the wind.
Like most Verizon Wireless handsets in this price range, the Decoy supports Verizon’s VZ Navigator service, which allows users to plot routes, search for local points of interest and movie times, and get traffic reports. Unlike the Motorola Z9, whose AT&T Navigator service took several minutes to determine our location, VZ Navigator was able to calculate our route in seconds. Although easy enough to follow, the maps weren’t as clear as AT&T’s.
When it came to searching, we were disappointed that VZ Navigator didn’t auto-complete popular destinations, such as McDonald’s. The search fields were easy to understand, but having to type in every destination name was tedious. You can, however, search by category (say, “food,” and then “fast-food restaurants”) and generate a quick list that way.
Music and Multimedia
The phone also comes with Verizon’s V CAST package, including Music and Video. Downloading the song “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse took 43 seconds. The sound quality was good and sounded loud on the speaker (we were fine setting the volume to its lowest setting). Buffering a two-minute clip of The Office took 9 seconds. The video was fluid, but the resolution was poor, even when we watched it in landscape mode. For short clips, though, your eyes should be able to handle the blurriness. It’s worth noting that the mono Bluetooth headset will play back both music and video, even though you may want to plug in 2.5mm wired headphones or connect stereo Bluetooth headphones instead.
Web Browsing, E-mail, and IM
The Decoy comes with the Mobile Web browser. When you sign in, links appear for news, e-mail, entertainment, sports, and weather, but there’s no search bar. You have to press the Search link to get to a URL box. Such quirks aside, the browser was fast: CNN.com with pictures loaded in 7 seconds, and NYTimes.com (without pictures) and Facebook Mobile loaded in 5 seconds.
Three mobile IM clients are preloaded on the Decoy: AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live. Signing into AIM was simple enough, but the large font means we had to do a lot of scrolling once logged in. Unfortunately, we couldn’t change the size of the letters, although it’s possible to change the colors of incoming and outgoing IMs. We didn’t like how the cursor was slow to move on after we typed a letter.
The Decoy comes with five e-mail options: Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon.net. We would have liked to see Gmail, too, so we didn’t have to go through the browser to check e-mail. As with Mobile IM, we had to do lots of scrolling, but using the soft keys to navigate the interface was simple.
Good Pictures, So-So Video
We were impressed with the quality of the Decoy’s 2-MP photos. It showed accurate light and colors, even in low-light situations when we forgot to enable Night mode. We like that adjusting the exposure is as easy as pressing up and down on the joystick, and we’re also fans of the various settings, including a self-timer, five white balance modes (including Auto), and five color modes, including normal, negative, aqua, sepia, and black-and-white. In movie mode, you can zoom by pressing the joystick to either side. Oddly, though, the zoom controls aren’t readily available on the LCD in camera mode.
We weren’t impressed with the weak sound quality in our recorded videos. Our 20-second clip was fluid, but the lens wasn’t always fully focused. We like that you can use the zoom during filming, but it’s jerky.
Short Battery Life
The battery is rated for 3 hours and 50 minutes of talk time and more than 13 days of standby. The Decoy’s battery didn’t last long in our testing. After letting it charge overnight, it was down to two bars out of four after only 8 hours of intermittent use.
LG Decoy Verdict
The LG Decoy is the first phone to include a built-in Bluetooth headset, and the final product is as stylish as it is innovative. We like the bright, colorful screen, speedy Web browsing, built-in GPS, and V CAST Music and Video package. But given the headset’s mediocre call quality (owing, certainly, to a lack of noise-canceling technology), the $179 price tag seems high given this phone’s otherwise average feature set. We’d wait for the cost to come down before snatching up this combo.