Think of the LG Voyager less as a would-be iPhone killer and more as what the latest Sidekicks should have been--a solid messaging device with first-class multimedia features. Although the touchscreen could have been better implemented and the Web browser is a bit slow, we like the versatility of having both touch- and keyboard-based input. And when you add in features like silky-smooth V CAST Mobile TV, GPS, and up to 8GB of storage for your tunes, you have much more than a worthy upgrade to the LG enV. You have the best non-smart phone in Verizon Wireless' lineup.
The Voyager resembles the enV in many ways; At 4.6 x 2.1 x 0.7 inches, it's a smidgen larger and has a full QWERTY keyboard and speakers on either side of the internal display. However, the dual 2.8-inch displays on the Voyager are much larger, and the external display does away with all buttons in favor of a touchscreen. The cover of the frontal touch display is plastic and requires only a light touch in order to register a fingerprint. An old-school 4.5-inch antenna pops out of the unit for enhanced V CAST Mobile TV reception.
You can do most anything from the external touchscreen that you can do from the inside one, which doesn't have touch capabilities. We like that the outer display responds to each touch with a gentle buzz. Once you unlock the display by touching the padlock icon, you're greeted with four icons along the bottom of the screen (messaging, phone, menu, contacts). Touching the menu button launches a screen with eight icons, but there's a separate shortcut menu filled with 12 icons you can launch by simply pressing the middle of the screen when you're on the main screen. This was confusing at first.
In general, selecting various options--like Camera, My Music, and Mobile TV--was pretty simple, and we appreciated the tactile feedback. On the other hand, sometimes we accidently selected an option when we meant to scroll through a menu with a swipe. The iPhone is much better at distinguishing between gestures and taps. In addition, the touchscreen isn't nearly as accurate as the iPhone's; we found it difficult to select the article we wanted to read on NYTimes.com from a list of text links.
We did find the touchscreen keyboard option pretty painless to use and more forgiving than the iPhone's. But what makes this a better messaging device than pure touchscreen devices is the full-size QWERTY under the Voyager's hood. The keys are plenty large, and there's room for a full separate row of number keys. Overall feedback was excellent, and we could type quickly.
The Voyager comes preloaded with AIM, Windows Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger, which are all available from the Messaging menu under MobileIM. We tried Yahoo and found the performance to be plenty fast, and we liked that we were notified of incoming messages when we on the main screen.
V CAST Mobile TV (starting at $15 per month and available in 46 cities) looked very good on the Voyager's big screen, and we didn't notice any stuttering. Channels changed in under three seconds, and there are ten of them: CBS Mobile, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox Mobile, MTV, NBC 2Go, NBC News 2Go, Nickelodeon, V Cast Videos, and a preview channel. There's also a program guide, so you can see what's on. When we tuned into Fox News Live, the picture quality was superb, and we could easily make out headlines on the news ticker.
Music sound quality was also quite good, although Verizon Wireless doesn't include headphones and uses the smaller 2.5mm jack instead of the standard 3.5mm size. You can store and play MP3s, WMA, and unprotected AAC files on the device's relatively robust 184MB of memory, but most users will opt for a microSD card (the Voyager supports up to 8GB). Note that files need to be placed in the My Music folder for the Voyager to recognize them.
Downloading Sean Kingston's "Take You There" took us about 1 minute and 20 seconds, and Rancid's "Ruby Soho," a shorter track, took about 50 seconds. Both download times were about the same as most other V CAST phones we've tested. We loved using the touchscreen for playing music; navigating through songs was easy, and the buttons were large enough. We just wish that we could multitask while music is playing--and that tracks cost less than $1.99 a pop. (Sprint charges only 99 cents each.)
Surfing the Web on the Voyager was a mixed bag. When you open the Browser, you'll see a VZW homepage with a menu of eight options that includes News, Sports, Weather, Entertainment, Optimized Web, and Connect. Connect brings up quick links to Yahoo Mail, Windows Live, Gmail, and AOL Mail, as well as Facebook. Optimized Web attempts to format HTML pages for this device, and in general it did a pretty good job displaying content in one easy-to-read column.
You can also view full HTML pages, which is done either by selecting Menu and then Go to WWW or unchecking Optimized Web. But you'll have to be more patient. For example, NYTimes.com took 36 seconds to completely load using this method, versus only 21 seconds via Optimized Web. On the other hand, some may prefer the more desktop-like formatting without Optimized Web, in which case you can scroll around pages by dragging your finger.
We really enjoyed the 2-megapixel camera. The pictures were crisp, and colors weren't too washed out, but we recommend using the camera in well-lit environments only. You can record 320 x 240-pixel resolution videos, which default to 30 seconds for MMS messages. Although the external display lets you view yourself while you're taking a picture, like a mirror, you can't use this display for the video camera.
The accurate and fast VZ Navigator service ($2.99 per day, $9.99 per month) is available for the Voyager, offering spoken turn-by-turn directions and local search capability. You can also opt to send your location to friends in a text message, and a Follow-Me option tracks your movements, so you can see where you've traveled. The directions we received while driving were loud and clear through the stereo speakers, and we appreciated the large turn indicators on the 2.8-inch screen.
Call quality was crisp. Even in bustling Times Square, friends could hear us perfectly on the other end. One friend commented on the superb quality and said we sounded clearer than we did on our iPhone. We were able to hear other callers just as well. Stereo Bluetooth also worked well for listening to tunes wirelessly, although callers told us we sounded a bit muffled.
The battery life of the LG Voyager was acceptable. We surfed the Web, watched TV, talked on the phone, and left it idle, and still had some charge left after a 24-hour period. In addition, we were able to watch TV for more than 2 straight hours and still had half a charge left.
The LG Voyager is a phone, mini TV, messaging device, and GPS navigator all in one. For the price we would have liked to see a smoother browsing experience, but Verizon Wireless customers looking to jump on the touchscreen bandwagon finally have a device to call their own. The Helio Ocean sports more elegant software and is a better messaging device, but if you want to watch high-quality video on the go and you'd like the option to touch or type, the LG Voyager is the better choice.
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