To make texting easier, the LG Xenon has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard on the side. Just slide the phone to the right, and a full four-line QWERTY keyboard will appear on your left. When you slide the keyboard out, the screen orientation will change from portrait mode to landscape mode. We really like the keys on this keyboard--they're well-spaced and feel very tactile, making it easy to type with speed. We especially like that there are specialized keys on the keyboard, like a dedicated text message key, a dedicated mobile e-mail key, a Web browser key, a phone book key, an @ symbol key, and a .com key. The latter two are especially useful when entering e-mail addresses, and of course the .com key is good for entering Web URLs. If you prefer not to use the keyboard, you can choose to enter in text via a virtual T9 keypad, but we see no reason to do so.
Underneath the display are the Call and End/Power keys, plus a task manager key that lets you switch between open applications. On the left spine is the volume rocker, the charger jack is on the top, and the right spine is home to the microSD card slot, the hold/screen lock key, and a dedicated camera button. On the back of the Xenon is the camera lens and LED flash. There's no self-portrait mirror, however.
The LG Xenon has a rather skimpy 500-entry phone book, with room in each entry for two phone numbers, an e-mail address, and a memo. You can assign contacts to caller groups, have a photo for caller ID, and one of 10 polyphonic ringtones or one of 10 message alert tones. Basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a voice recorder, voice command, a notepad, a world clock, a tasks list, a stopwatch, a tip calculator, and a unit converter.
More advanced users will like the stereo Bluetooth, instant messaging (with AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live accounts), mobile e-mail, and A-GPS. The mobile e-mail is housed within a Web-based interface and will only support e-mail from certain accounts like Yahoo, AOL, AIM, Windows Live Hotmail, AT&T Yahoo, BellSouth, Comcast, Earthlink, Juno, Mindspring, and NetZero. We weren't able to use Gmail, especially since the Xenon doesn't support POP or IMAP. As for A-GPS, the Xenon comes with AT&T Navigator, AT&T's turn-by-turn location-based service.
As with most touch-screen phones, we expect there to be a full HTML browser to make use of the larger screen real estate, and on that point, we're not disappointed. We also like that you can open up multiple browser windows, which act like tabbed browsing. Like on a regular browser, you can change the font size, toggle pop-up windows, turn off images, and more. However, the Media Net browser on the Xenon proved to be clunkier than we would like. Even though it renders most pages just fine, it sometimes won't load CSS designs properly and the page would look a little strange. You have to zoom in and out of pages using the little magnifying glass icon, which can be a bit tedious after a while, as there was often a lag. Also, because the screen is so small, you'll have to scroll a lot more through pages. Thankfully, the arrows on the QWERTY keyboard make this easier.
Since the Xenon comes with 3G/HSDPA, it is compatible with AT&T's array of broadband services, which include AT&T's Cellular Video, which lets you watch streaming video clips from content providers like CNN and CBS, AT&T Video Share, which lets you make one-way video calls to another Video Share-compatible phone, and of course AT&T Mobile Music, a music portal with an online music store, courtesy of Napster. Also in the AT&T Mobile Music offering is XM Radio Mobile, a streaming service for satellite radio subscribers, Music ID, a song ID service, music videos courtesy of MobiVJ, a music fan community, and a ringtone maker.
AT&T Mobile Music also houses the music player. It has a pretty generic interface, found on most AT&T music phones. It does have the typical music player controls like repeat and shuffle mode, and the ability to create and edit playlists. You can transfer songs via a USB cable, or purchase them over-the-air via the aforementioned Napster. It supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, and WMA formats. It has a built-in 80MB of memory, but there's a microSD card slot in case you want additional storage.
You can also store photos on the microSD card, which is useful, since the Xenon has a 2-megapixel camera. You can take pictures in four different resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240), three quality settings, five color effects, and five white balance presets. Other settings include a night mode, a timer, brightness, a flash toggle, and the choice of three shutter tones plus a silent option. The photo quality is pretty good. Colors did look a little muted, but the image looks tack sharp. There's also a camcorder that can record in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) with similar options to the still camera. You can record in three modes; General mode, which just takes up however much memory you have, MMS, which is a shorter video clip, and Video Share, which is the one-way video calling service we mentioned earlier.
You can personalize the LG Xenon with a variety of wallpaper, color schemes, clock and calendar formats, alert tones, and more. The LG Xenon comes with a few applications like MobiTV, which lets you watch live streaming TV, Mobile Banking, and My-Cast Weather. There are also games like Bubble Bash, Diner Dash 2, I-play Bowling, and Monopoly Here & Now. You can always download more personalization options, applications, and games from the Media Net store.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) LG Xenon in San Francisco using AT&T's service. Call quality was very impressive. Callers could hardly hear any static or background noise, though they could still tell we were on a cell phone due to the slightly robotic quality to our voice. On our end, we did hear a bit of static and echo, which were amplified when we turned on the speakerphone. It wasn't too bad, but still noticeable.
Speaking of speakerphones, callers thought we sounded just fine over speakerphone. They did report a bit of an echo effect, but that's normal. On our end, the sound from the speakers was a bit hollow, but we could still hear them just fine. The speakers definitely don't do the music justice, though, as the audio sounded tinny and hollow. We definitely recommend using a stereo headset instead.
We were mostly impressed with the 3G speeds, though we think it could be a little faster. Loading a complex Web page like CNET.com took around a minute and a half, though simpler Web pages loaded much faster. Buffering video from AT&T's Cellular Video took about 30 seconds as well, though there was no rebuffering after the video started playing. Video quality did appear pixelated, but that's more on AT&T's end than the fault of the phone.
The LG Xenon has a rated battery life of four hours talk time and 11 days in standby time. It has a tested talk time of 5 hours and 21 minutes. According to the FCC, the LG Xenon has a digital SAR rating of 0.686 watt per kilogram.