The handwriting recognition works like the graffiti method--just write as you normally would and it will convert your scribbling into text. Yet, it's not smart enough to identify numbers from letters, and uppercase letters from lowercase---we had to keep switching between the different modes instead. We recommend using the included stylus as writing with our finger resulted in a lot of mistakes.
The dedicated camera key, volume rocker, headset jack, and charger jack are on the left spine, while the microSD card slot is on the right. On top of the Versa is the screen lock key. We're a little disappointed the Versa has a 2.5mm headset jack instead of the standard 3.5mm headset jack. The camera lens and LED flash are on the back. The stylus is clad in faux leather, and you can attach it to the Versa like a cell phone charm.
The Versa comes with a generous 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can categorize callers to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 22 polyphonic ringtones for caller ID. Other basics include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world clock, and a notepad. There's also a drawing pad, which lets you sketch little drawings with a variety of pen colors and sizes. You can send the image via a multimedia message if you wish.
More advanced features include mobile e-mail, mobile instant messaging (AOL, Yahoo, and Windows Live), voice command and voice dialing, voice recording, USB mass storage mode, an RSS reader, and GPS functionality via Verizon's VZ Navigator. Mobile e-mail can only be accessed via the browser interface, and is limited to certain Web mail services like Windows Live, Yahoo, AOL Mail, AIM Mail, Verizon.net and a few others, but certainly not Exchange, so the Versa can't quite compete with a smart phone.
The Versa also comes with Visual Voicemail, which lets you pick and choose which voice mail message to listen to, plus you can delete, reply to, and forward each message. You can even reply with a voice message of your own if the other person is also a Verizon Wireless customer. You can view information like date and time of receipt, message duration, and more, in order to prioritize your response. Verizon lets you store up to 40 messages for 40 days. Unfortunately, Verizon charges a $2.99 monthly fee for this, which we think is too much since AT&T and Sprint charge nothing for their respective services.
You also get full Bluetooth support, with stereo Bluetooth, file transfer, and the ability to use the phone as a modem. Bear in mind that you will need the $59.99 a month Mobile Broadband Connect plan to tether the Versa to your laptop.
Aside from the Flash experience, the browsing experience was disappointing. As we said earlier, the touch-screen's response is pretty terrible on the whole. For example, we had to tap at the menu icon several times before it would appear. This seems to be a browser-only problem, since we had no such issues with the QWERTY keyboard and the menu interface. Also, while the browser would load WAP pages just fine, it crashed on full HTML pages on more than one occasion, prompting us to hard reset the phone by taking out the battery. Because the Versa has a relatively small screen compared with the Apple iPhone, there was also a lot more scrolling involved when navigating large Web pages. In short, the Versa's browser left us less than satisfied. On the upside, we like that you can use the volume rocker plus the onscreen controls to zoom in and out of Web pages, and we could smoothly pan and scroll through them too.
As a phone on a 3G EV-DO network, the Versa supports Verizon's broadband services like V Cast Video, Verizon's streaming video service, and V Cast Music with Rhapsody, Verizon's music download service. The Versa's music player is a lot like the one on the Dare; it's not housed within the V Cast interface and is easy to use and navigate. There are shortcut icons to Play All (the full playlist), Shop (the V Cast Music store), and Sync (USB syncing), and the player automatically organizes the songs by genre, artist, and album. Settings include repeat and shuffle, plus you can create and edit your own playlists. You can play the song in the background while you're navigating other parts of the phone, plus music player controls appear on the home screen so you can control your songs and change tracks without opening the music player. The player interface itself is quite simple, with the typical play/pause and track controls plus album art if you buy the song from the Verizon V Cast store.
Each song in the V Cast Music store costs $1.99, and it includes a download to the PC as well. You can purchase a song directly from V Cast to your PC for only 99 cents, and if you have a Rhapsody music subscription, you can load your subscribed tracks to your phone. The Versa supports up to 16GB microSD cards, so you can have additional storage for your MP3s.
We'll admit that we expected more than a 2-megapixel camera with the Versa, since the Dare had a 3.2-megapixel camera. That said, photo quality was good for the most part; images look sharp and colors are vibrant. You can take photos in five resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 800x400, 640x480, and 320x240), five white balance presets, and five color effects. Other settings include autofocus, spot/average photometry, three shutter sounds (with a silent option), a self-timer, flash, and a panorama mode. There is also something called SmartPic technology, which helps to enhance images with face color compensation and light compensation in low-light situations. The latter is especially useful since the LED flash isn't that great. Another nice feature is face detection, to ensure your subject's face is in focus.
After taking a picture, you can edit it with the built-in image editor. You can zoom in, rotate, crop, change the contrast, sharpen, and blur your photos. There's a drawing tool so you can doodle over your images, plus you can add fun frames and stamps. The built-in camcorder can record up to three resolutions (176x144, 320x240, and 640x240 VGA)--the VGA format is only for storing on the device, since MMS can't support files that large yet. You can record videos up to 470KB for MMS. Settings are similar to that of the still camera.
Personalization options are plenty with the Versa. You can customize it with wallpaper, graphics, sounds, and more. You can download more options via the Web browser. The Versa does not come with any games.
We tested the LG Versa in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless's network. Call quality was good overall. Callers could hear us loudly and we could hear them, with very little static in the background. Our voices sounded rather harsh though, and not at all natural. Speakerphone quality was also not great, with a rather hollow and tinny sound. Callers could still hear us just fine though. The audio quality of the speakers is the same with the music player, with a rather weak bass. We would opt for a stereo headset for better sound quality. The LG Versa is compatible with M4 and T4 hearing aids.
We were impressed with the EV-DO Rev. A speeds. Web pages loaded in seconds, and it took about a minute to download a 1MB song. Streaming video quality was surprisingly good as well, especially the ones from YouTube. There was little buffering time, if any. The video itself was rather blurry and pixelated, but that's to be expected.
The LG Versa has a rated battery life of 4.83 hours of talk time and 17.9 days of standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 5 hours and 20 minutes. According to the FCC, the LG Versa has a digital SAR rating of 1.38 watts per kilogram.