The LG Versa from Verizon Wireless is a touch-screen phone with a difference. Promising to be the most versatile phone we've ever seen (hence the "Versa" moniker), it comes with the option of adding external modules to increase its functionality. Out of the box, for example, the Versa comes with an attachable QWERTY keyboard, but if you prefer not to have the extra bulk, just detach it and you can still type with the virtual keyboard on the touch screen. LG plans to have additional modules in the future, such as external speakers and a game pad controller.
Even without the modules, the Versa is a very good touch-screen phone by itself. It has an animated interface, where you can customize up to three home screens. The Versa has a full HTML browser with support for Flash Lite, so you can watch your favorite YouTube clips on the go. Other features include a 2.0-megapixel camera, access to V Cast Video and V Cast Music, EV-DO, GPS, stereo Bluetooth, and more. Though the browsing experience was less than satisfactory and we're not pleased with the lack of Wi-Fi, we're quite impressed with the Versa and with the promise of future modules. The LG Versa is available now for $199.99 with a two-year service agreement and a $50 rebate.
By itself, the LG Versa looks almost exactly like the LG Dare. Measuring 4.17 inches long by 2.07 inches wide by 0.54 inch thick, the Versa is slim and sleek, plus the back battery cover has a nice soft touch surface. Like the Dare, it has a large 3-inch-wide touch-screen display on its front face, plus the Call, Clear/Voice command, and End/Power keys. We liked the screen size for the most part, but it does make surfing the full HTML browser less than enjoyable (more on that in the Features section). The Versa is around 3.81 ounces, which won't weigh you down.
The display supports 262,000 colors and 480x240 pixel resolution, which result in vibrant graphics with plenty of detail. You can adjust the backlight time, the menu fonts, the dial fonts, the display theme, the banner, the wallpaper, and even the image of the charging screen (Literally, this is the image that's on the screen while the phone is charging). Instead of just one home screen, you can have up to three (or up to four if you attach a module). You have one home screen for all your application shortcuts, one screen with media shortcuts and Web bookmarks, and another with contact shortcuts (also called Favorites). Do note, however, that you're only limited to these three home screens; you can't create your own home screen that's a mix of different kinds of shortcuts. And as previously mentioned, you get a dedicated screen when using the keyboard module. In order to switch home screens, just swipe at the display and the screen will rotate like a 3D cube. Each home screen has shortcuts to the message in-box, the phone dialer, the main menu, and the phonebook along the bottom row.
Customizing each home screen is pretty easy. There's a gear icon on the right of each home screen; tap that, and you'll be brought to a settings page for that particular home screen. For the Favorites home screen, you can choose a contact from your phonebook; for the Media home screen, you select from the Pictures, Videos, Music, or Bookmarks folder; and for Shortcuts, you pick from the entire list of applications. To remove shortcuts, just select the ones you don't want and then tap the Trash icon. You can have different wallpaper for each home screen as well. The keyboard module home screen is the only one you can't customize. It shows shortcuts to the browser, e-mail, a new text message, the calendar, mobile instant messaging, and the notepad.
The Versa's touch screen provides tactile feedback. There's a calibration wizard for adjusting the screen's sensitivity to your liking, and you can alter the vibrate type (short, double, or long), the vibrate level (low, medium, high, or off), and the accompanying sound effect. You can choose from four sound effects, plus a silent option.
The touch interface was pretty responsive on the whole, but we still had problems in certain applications. For example, in the browser we had to tap at the menu 8 or 10 times before it would pop up. This is perplexing, since the touch screen is much more responsive when navigating the interface and when dialing and texting.
Speaking of dialing, the phone dialer interface consists of the standard numeric keypad plus a speakerphone button, a voice command button, a Clear button, and links to the recent calls list and the contacts list. When you're done dialing, you can hit either the green Call button, the physical Talk button, or bring up a menu of additional options (like adding a 2-second pause, or to start a new text message). You can also hit the Save button for saving a new number to the phonebook.
The Versa has a built-in accelerometer that will rotate the display 90 degrees in either direction when the phone is held horizontally. This works with all applications and menu interfaces except for the home screens; for that, you'll need the keyboard module.
If you're a frequent texter with a need for a QWERTY keyboard, you're in luck. The Versa comes with a bonus QWERTY keyboard module right in the box. Just remove the battery cover and align the keyboard contact pins with those along the right side of the phone. We didn't like that you had to remove the battery cover in order to add the module.
Clad on all sides in faux leather, the keyboard attachment looks like it belongs in an executive's attache case. We're OK with the design, but it might not appeal to some people. The module acts like a case, and has cutouts for the camera on the back. On the front is an external monochrome 0.94-inch OLED display with date, time, signal and battery strength, plus caller ID information. There are also two call buttons underneath that. The Versa is about an inch thicker with the module attached and is about half an ounce heavier.
When the keyboard module is attached to the Versa, not only will you have access to the aforementioned keyboard module home screen, but the display's orientation switches to landscape mode automatically when you're holding the phone horizontally. The keyboard itself is a pleasure to use with a roomy design and tactile keys. There's a dedicated alias (@) key that doubles as a .com key, a dedicated speakerphone key, and arrow keys for navigation. There are number keys along the top of the keyboard, and a button for typing symbols. To remove the module, just slide the lock mechanism on the left side of the Versa.
If you decide not to use the keyboard module, the Versa has several other ways of entering text via the touch screen. You can use either the virtual T9 keypad, handwriting recognition, or the virtual QWERTY keyboard. In order to use the keyboard, just rotate your phone 90 degrees in the counterclockwise direction and the QWERTY keyboard will appear. Tapping each key will magnify that key momentarily. There are dedicated alias (@), .com, comma, and period keys, plus arrow keys for navigation and a Shift key for capital letters. You can also switch to a numbers and symbols keyboard by hitting the abc/123 key. You can copy and paste text, but you won't get an autocorrect feature. At the end of the day, however, the physical keyboard is much easier to use than the virtual keyboards.