Despite the imminent release of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft is showing no sign of stopping development of Windows Mobile 6.5 devices. The latest phone to join the Windows Mobile family is the LG Fathom. The Fathom runs Windows Mobile 6.5.3 and is one of a few Verizon Wireless smartphones to have dual-mode GSM/CDMA chipsets. This means you will be able to slip an international SIM card in it and use it while you're traveling abroad. Though we are not terribly impressed with its resistive touch-screen display, the Fathom has a slider QWERTY keyboard and a slew of other cool smartphone features that might tide you over while you wait for Windows Phone 7. The LG Fathom is available for $149.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.
With a full touch-screen display and a sliding QWERTY keyboard, the LG Fathom has a design similar to its Android cousin, the LG Ally. The phone measures 4.5 inches long by 2.2 inches wide by 0.7 inch thick; it's all black and a bit blockier than the Ally, with a more bricklike aesthetic. It weighs 5.4 ounces, which contributes to its solid feel in the hand. The stone texture on the front bezel is a nice touch.
Dominating the Fathom's front is a 3.2-inch resistive touch screen with a WVGA 800x480-pixel resolution. We are disappointed that LG didn't opt to use a capacitive display on the Fathom, as the resistive screen just isn't as smooth and responsive as we would like. However, you can go through an alignment wizard that helps improve the accuracy of your taps, and a resistive display does allow for a stylus.
The display looks really good. It displays vibrant and colorful graphics, and text is crisp and legible as well. You can adjust the backlight, and there's a built-in accelerometer so that the screen orientation changes as you rotate the phone. You also have the option to turn the accelerometer off.
As it's a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone, you get the simplified Home screen and honeycomb style main menu, and you can also tap the system information bar at the top to tab through open applications. Unlike the LG Expo, you won't get a custom LG S-class interface here; just the standard Windows Mobile 6.5 interface for the most part.
The one unique interface feature is the gesture shortcut area on the standby lock screen. You can just "draw" a particular letter, and the Fathom will launch the appropriate application automatically. For example, if you draw the letter i, Internet Explorer will open, and if you draw the letter n, the Notes application will open. This works as a quick shortcut, but we did wish we had more control over which gestures mapped to which applications.
Underneath the display are the Talk, Main Menu, and End keys. The 3.5mm headset jack, volume rocker, and charger jack are on the left spine, and the microSD card slot, task manager key, and camera key are on the right. On the top of the phone is the Power/Lock key. On the back is the camera lens along with a slot for a removable stylus.
If you slide the display to the right, you'll reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. The sliding mechanism feels very smooth, and we like that it clicks securely into place. The keyboard has four rows, so you get a dedicated number row, along with the usual Function and Symbol keys. We appreciate the large spacebar key in the middle, as well as the dedicated Messaging shortcut key. The keys feel very roomy and we like that each of them is raised above the surface. On the right side of the keyboard is a square navigation toggle plus a speakerphone key and a Back key. Our one complaint about the keyboard is that we wish there were a dedicated period key.
Since the LG Fathom is an international phone, it comes with four adapter clips in addition to the regular AC adapter and a USB cable. To switch out the SIM card, you'll have to remove the battery from the back.
The Fathom also has a proximity sensor that locks the touch screen while you're chatting on the phone, plus a luminous sensor that adjusts the brightness of the screen depending on the surrounding light level.