LG has really impressed us this year with a number of innovative handsets that offer rich feature sets and beautiful designs--the LG VX8550 Chocolate and the LG Voyager VX10000 are just two that have especially garnered our affections. Now LG has come out with the LG Venus, a stunningly beautiful phone with a unique dual-screen design that features onscreen touch-sensitive controls. Its features aren't too shabby either, with a 2-megapixel camera, a music player, 3G support, V Cast support, and more. It's also not terribly expensive at $199.99 after a $50 discount and a two-year contract with Verizon Wireless. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
At first glance, the LG Venus looks a little like the LG Prada with what appears to be a full 3-inch display. A closer look, however, reveals that there are actually two screens--the one on top is a regular QVGA display, while the one underneath is a touch screen that shows onscreen navigation controls. Measuring 4 inches by 2 inches by 0.62 inch, the Venus has quite a sleek, slender figure with curved corners and faux-leather covering on the back. This gives it a nice and luxurious feel in the hand and a comfortable grip.
As we mentioned above, there are two displays on the front; the upper screen is the primary display, while the lower acts as a touch navigation array. The upper screen measures 2 inches diagonally and is simply beautiful to behold. It supports a luscious 262,000 colors, and graphics and animation look fantastic. We are also fans of the Venus' menu interface theme with its simple and minimalist design--quite the improvement over the classic Verizon theme. You can adjust the display's backlight, the font size, and the clock format, but not the brightness or contrast.
The really special thing about the Venus, however, is its unique navigation interface. Measuring about 1.5 inches diagonally, the lower screen displays touch-sensitive navigation controls with different layouts depending on the application. For example, on the default standby page, the touch-screen layout has the Menu button in the middle with shortcuts to messaging, contacts, a shortcuts folder, and recent calls arranged around it. The shortcuts folder contains up to four user-defined shortcuts to different applications. On the menu interface page however, the onscreen layout changes to an OK button in the middle and up and down arrows positioned above and below it. Similarly, when the music player is activated, you will see music player controls on the display, and when the camera is activated, you will see camera controls instead.
We were very skeptical with the usability of the onscreen controls. For one thing, we had to constantly hit the unlock button when the phone went to sleep. Also, the lack of tactile buttons does mean that you have to pay more attention so you can avoid accidental presses. We were also disappointed that you couldn't alter the touch-sensitivity of the controls. That said, the controls require a light yet firm touch, so accidental presses didn't happen that often. Also, the touch-screen interface does feature haptic controls, and you can adjust the vibration levels depending on how much feedback you want. So on the whole, we think the touch-screen navigation works really well, though it's still a little too gimmicky.
Slide open the phone and you'll find a very spacious and tactile number keypad with the Send, Clear, and End/Power keys on the top row. The slider mechanism felt quite sturdy when opening and closing the phone as well. All keys are very well-spaced apart with a lovely raised curved texture that makes it quite easy to dial by feel. The keypad also has alternating colors, which we think is a nice touch. The volume rocker, voice recorder button, and headset and charger jacks sit on the left spine, while the right is home to a microSD card slot, a dedicated Music player key, and a dedicated camera key. On the back is the camera lens.
The LG Venus is more than just a pretty face; in fact, it has a very impressive feature set that complements its design nicely. But before we get to that, we'll start with the basics. The Venus has a 1,000-entry contacts list with room in each entry for five phone numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can organize them by caller groups, and pair them with a photo or any of 16 ringtones and five alert tones for caller ID. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stopwatch, a notepad, a tip calculator, and a voice memo recorder, plus voice command support. On the higher end, there's also e-mail, PC syncing, USB mass storage, instant messaging, a wireless Web browser, and stereo Bluetooth. A nice departure from Verizon, the Bluetooth supports file transfer, object push, and dial-up networking protocols. In addition, the Venus has built-in GPS so you can use it with Verizon's own location-based service called VZ Navigator for turn-by-turn directions.