The Encore has the ATT.net proprietary HTML browser built in. Though it isn't as advanced as the browsers you would find on smartphones, it does render most Web sites in full HTML. The browser also has shortcuts to breaking news stories, the current weather, and local sports scores right on the welcoming screen. The default search engine is Yahoo, and you can't change that. For more on the browser, check out our review of the Pantech Pursuit.
Since the Encore has 3G, it is also blessed with AT&T Mobile Video, AT&T's streaming video service, and AT&T Mobile Music. That last houses the music player as well as the AT&T Music Store, AT&T Radio, Music ID, music videos from MobiVJ, an AT&T-hosted music community, and the music app store. The music player is fairly rudimentary, with a bare-bones interface. Still, you can create and edit playlists on the fly, and you can set songs to repeat and shuffle. You also have up to seven equalizer presets to choose from. You can send the music player to the background as you work in other parts of the phone. The Encore only has 32MB of internal storage, so you might want to invest in up to a 16GB card for more media.
The Encore has a 3-megapixel camera which can take pictures in six resolutions (2,048x1,536, 1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, 400x240, and 320x240). Other settings include noise reduction, color effects, white balance presets, three image quality modes, three shutter sounds plus a silent option, a self-timer, brightness, and night mode. Even with all these settings, though, picture quality turned out to be rather grainy and sad. Images looked blurry and colors looked muddy. Low-light photos were especially bad. You can also record video--in two resolutions, in MMS mode or up to available storage space. You can also use this to stream live one-way video via AT&T's Video Share service.
The LG Encore comes with a number of different apps and games--YPMobile, Where, My-Cast Weather, Wikimobile, PicDial, MobiTV, AllSportGPS, Brain Exercise, Diner Dash Flo, Ferrari GT, I-play Bowling, and Tetris--and if you want more you can get them from the AT&T AppCenter. You can get wallpaper and more ringtones that way as well.
We tested the LG Encore in San Francisco using AT&T's service. Call quality was good. Incoming calls sounded loud and clear, though we did detect a bit of static and distortion that is typical of most cell phone calls. We didn't hear a lot of background noise, which is good. Voice quality was a little on the harsh side.
Callers reported similar quality on their end. Our voice sounded a bit harsh and crackled at times, but it was overall quite clean and smooth. Volume was loud enough, though they did hear the occasional hiss and scratch. Speakerphone calls were surprisingly good. Callers could hardly tell we were on speakerphone and said we sounded mostly the same.
We found the LG Encore to have decent performance most of the time, but we did notice that transitions can feel a little sluggish. Worse, we had the Encore crash on us twice when we were using the browser.
We experienced choppy 3G service, but when we did get a good-enough signal, the performance was quite good. We loaded the CNET mobile site in just 15 seconds and managed to stream a video without much buffer time. However, video quality was rather pixelated and choppy.
Audio quality of the music was not bad. The phone's tinny speaker doesn't quite do the music justice, though, so we would recommend using a headset for richer tones.
The LG Encore has a rated battery life of 3 hours of talk time and 10 days of standby time. The Encore has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 36 minutes. We don't yet know the digital SAR of this phone, but we'll update the review once we find out.