With the exception of the LG Vu Plus, LG hasn't released a new messaging phone for AT&T in almost a year. Enter the LG Neon II, which debuted around the start of CTIA Fall 2010. A sequel to the LG Neon of last year, the Neon II has a slightly different keypad design, a four-row QWERTY keyboard instead of three, and it now supports 3G. However, it still has that quirky touch screen that only works with the phone dialer, the 2-megapixel camera remains the same, and we're not huge fans of the touch-sensitive soft keys. The LG Neon II is available for $29.99 after a two-year agreement and a $50 rebate.
The LG Neon II resembles its predecessor with its overall shape and size. Measuring 4.06 inches long by 1.96 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick, the Neon II has a simple rectangular silhouette, with rounded corners and straight sides. It's not quite as glossy as the original Neon, though; the Neon II is wrapped in a smooth matte plastic all the way around. The Neon II weighs in at around 3.7 ounces and feels good in the hand.
The 2.4-inch display on the Neon II has a 320x240-pixel resolution and 262,000-color support, which is identical to that of the first Neon. The screen looks crisp and colorful, with bright images and sharp text. You can adjust the size and color of the dialing font, the menu font size, the backlight timer, the brightness, the menu style, and the appearance of the clock and calendar on the home screen.
As we mentioned, the Neon II's display does act as a touch screen, but only for the phone dialer application. To activate it, you press the phone dialer key, and a virtual number keypad will appear. You can then dial a number by tapping the digits on the screen. There's also a vibration setting for the virtual keypad--you can turn it on or off, and you can adjust the vibration level. It was quite intuitive and easy to use thanks to the large digits. However, we have to echo our sentiments from the first LG Neon and wish the touch-screen functionality were available for the entire phone and not just the dialer.
Underneath the display is where the Neon II really diverges from its predecessor. Instead of separate physical keys for the navigation array, the Neon II has touch-sensitive soft keys and a unique thumb key toggle. The touch-sensitive soft keys are flat to the surface, and unlike the virtual keypad, you can't adjust the vibration level. You also can't adjust their sensitivity level. This was a bit of a problem for us, as we had to press the keys quite hard to get them to respond.
The aforementioned thumb key reminds us of the pointing stick mouse found on a lot of ThinkPad laptops. It resembles a tiny hockey puck, and you use it by sliding it around like a joystick. To select something, simply press down on it. We found it easy enough to use, and didn't miss the traditional up-and-down toggle that much. The toggle can be mapped to four user-defined shortcuts; pressing it down triggers the Web browser when in standby mode.
Surrounding the thumb key are the usual Send and End/Power keys, the Clear/Back key, as well as the aforementioned phone dialer key. On the left spine are the volume rocker and 3.5mm headset jack, the charger jack is on the top, and on the right are the microSD card slot, the camera key, and the multitasking key. The camera lens and self-portrait mirror are on the back.
The display slides to the right to reveal a full four-row QWERTY keyboard on the left. This is an improvement over the original Neon, which only had three rows of keys. The keyboard has the usual QWERTY keys plus two soft keys, a dedicated messaging key, four arrow keys, and a Web browser key. It also has LED indicators for when the Shift or Function key is activated, which proved useful when we were typing. The keyboard feels quite roomy and we like that the keys are circular and raised above the surface. Our one minor complaint is that the space bar is a smidge too far to the left.
The LG Neon II has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, three e-mail addresses, four messenger ID names, a Web address, three street addresses, a memo, a birth date, an anniversary reminder, plus you can add the contact to a caller group. You can also assign a photo for caller ID or one of 20 polyphonic ringtones. Of course you get the usual basic features like a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a calendar, a notepad, a calculator, a world clock, a tasks list, a stopwatch, a tip calculator, and a unit converter.