The new LG EnV for Verizon Wireless has been one of the most anticipated cell phones of the autumn season. As the successor to the popular LG VX9800, the EnV (or VX9900) inherits its predecessor's QWERTY keyboard, high-end feature set, and admirable performance while offering a number of refinements that make it both new and improved. Again, we have some design complaints, but for messaging and multimedia addicts who've outgrown a T-Mobile Sidekick, the EnV is a solid choice. For now it's priced quite fairly at $150 with service.
LG must have learned from its previous mistakes when it designed the EnV. Yes, the phone is still boxy like the VX9800, but smoother lines give it a sleeker and more professional look. At 4.64x2.08x0.78 inches, it's thinner and narrower than its predecessor (4.57x1.97x1.0 inches) even if it is a tad taller. And though it's still hefty at 4.6 ounces, it is noticeably lighter than the VX9800 (5.19 ounces) and feels more comfortable in the hand. As with the VX9800, you can talk on the EnV while it is open, but it's rather awkward to do so.
The 65,000-color external display has the same color resolution as on the VX9800, but at 1.25 inches diagonally, it's actually smaller. Though we get that a smaller phone means a smaller screen, we suggest that users with visual impairments should test the phone first. You can use it to navigate through the phone's menus, but the small screen size means we had to do a lot of scrolling to find the feature we wanted. Also, since not all menu options are available, we had to open the phone repeatedly just to access certain applications. In standby mode, it shows the date, time battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. You can change the backlight time and the dialing font size.
The camera lens and flash sit on the back of the phone, and this time LG added a lens cover--nice. As with the VX9800, the phone's ergonomics are like that of a real camera--particularly when you hold it horizontally. Again, there's a dedicated camera shutter control on the left spine, and we're glad to see the volume rocker adjusts the zoom instead of changing the orientation, as it did on the VX9800. The former arrangement was just awkward. The external display is your camera viewfinder, but it's worth noting that unlike those of most cell phones, the display has a landscape orientation. That means you must flip the phone on its side to take portrait shots instead of the other way around.
The navigation array and keypad buttons show improvements as well. Besides having a more spacious overall layout, they're also bigger and more tactile. The four-way toggle doubles as a shortcut to four user-defined functions, while an OK button sits in the center. There are also two soft keys, the Talk and End/Power controls, and a Clear key. The latter also functions as the voice-dialing button, which is a bit strange. A side-mounted voice-dialing control would be much more intuitive. The text on the keypad buttons is a tad small, but the buttons are brightly backlit. Fortunately, they're also raised above the surface of the phone, and it's easy to dial by feel. Completing the exterior of the EnV are a volume rocker and a camera-shutter control on the left spine. Both controls were tactile and easy to find by feel. The memory card slot--now Micro SD instead of Mini SD--hasn't been moved from the right spine nor has the headset jack just above it. The covered charger port is on the bottom of the EnV.
The hinge mechanism has a solid construction, and we like that it opens a full 180 degrees. Yet due to the bulge of the camera lens and the new way the hinge opens (the front flap now wraps behind the rear flap), you can't rest the phone on a table evenly. That is annoying. What's more, it's difficult to use the left spine controls unless the phone is completely open.
The EnV's 2.25-inch, 262,000-color internal screen is on a par with its predecessor. It's bright and vivid with readable text, and it's great for viewing graphics and taking photos. You can change the backlighting time, and we were glad to see LG add several choices for the font, size, and color. In an unexpected twist, the main menu page uses icons instead of the tabs found on Verizon's standard interface. It's a nice change, considering that we've never warmed to the tabs, although once you're inside a submenu, the dreaded tabs appear again. Stereo speakers sit on both sides of the display.
The internal navigation array is again set just to the left of the QWERTY keyboard. It's almost unchanged except that it's now black instead of silver. The toggle and central OK button are large and easy to use, and the toggle can be set as a shortcut to four user-defined functions. You also get another set of Talk and End/Power buttons, while in a smart move, LG separated the Clear button and the speakerphone control into two separate keys. The thin soft keys just below the display still are a bit small, but due to the new placement of the hinge, they're no longer scrunched up next to the display. The extra room makes them more tactile and comfortable to use. Though the placement of the aforementioned OK button way to the left of the display was a bit disconcerting on the VX9800, we're used to it by now.
LG did a minor overhaul of the QWERTY keypad with satisfying results. The keys felt more tactile, and we liked that they are square rather than oval. Here again, there are dedicated Shift, symbol, and Enter keys, but LG ditched the VX9800's menu shortcuts control in favor of a new E-mail button that gives one-touch access to the wireless sync feature. LG also added a second space bar to the left of the Z button, but we'd prefer it to be in the middle as it is on the Sidekick.