LG vx9900 EnV
At a Glance
The LG vx9900 EnV is a standard cell phone with a secret: At first glance, it looks like a slightly bulky, run-of-the-mill candy bar-style phone. But this phone opens horizontally to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. Available from Verizon Wireless for $250 with a two-year contract, the EnV is an impressive messaging and multimedia device.
When closed, the handset sports a small display, basic navigation controls, and a numeric keypad. The phone's exterior has a nice-looking silver finish, but its external screen is disappointingly small. At just 1.25 inches diagonally, the display is hard to see, and the empty space surrounding it could have been put to better use. The keys, though small, are easy to enter phone numbers on.
Despite feeling slightly thick and heavy, the EnV provided reasonably good call quality. I occasionally noticed background fuzziness on some calls, but most callers were easy to hear. Talk-time battery life was only fair: the EnV lasted 5 hours, 5 minutes in our lab tests--longer than the vendor-stated talk time of 4.5 hours, but not as good as many standard cell phones we've tested recently.
When the EnV springs open, however, you see its full potential: Inside are a spacious QWERTY keyboard, a bright 2.25-inch screen, and keys for accessing the phone's many features. If you don't need a full-fledged PDA phone with mobile office applications but still want a QWERTY keyboard for easy typing, the EnV is an excellent choice. It comes with a dedicated e-mail key for quick access to Verizon Wireless's VCast Wireless Sync e-mail service. This app costs an additional $20, but lets you easily sync your phone with your POP3 or IMAP e-mail account. The EnV also includes mobile versions of AOL, MSN, and Yahoo instant messaging clients.
In addition, the EnV supports Verizon's VCast music service, which offers over-the-air song downloads for $1.99 each. The service is nicely laid out and easy to navigate, though you can't access all of its features when the phone is closed. From the external screen, you can play your existing collection of songs; but to browse the store and purchase new music, you must open the phone, which can be inconvenient. You can transfer your own music to the phone, too, but the phone doesn't ship with a microSD Card for storage, a USB cable for connecting the phone to your PC, or a headset for listening to your tunes; you'll have to purchase each of these accessories separately. A Music Essentials Kit--which includes a USB cable, a headset, and software for managing your music collection--is available from Verizon for $30. You'll need to buy an adapter if you want to use your own stereo headphones with the handset.
The built-in, 2.0-megapixel camera takes adequate photos. The lens sits on the back of the handset and is protected by a sliding lens cover--a nice touch. The camera's autofocus tool captures still shots well, but the resulting shutter lag of up to 2 seconds can cause you to miss a moving subject. However, you can switch this feature off, and use the phone in fixed-focus mode instead. The phone's shutter-release button (on its right side) doesn't allow you to start up the camera, and you have to dig deeper than you should in the phone's menu system to reach this instruction. Still, the button is positioned nicely when you hold the phone horizontally for use as a camera; and the EnV also captures serviceable video clips.
The phone supports Verizon's 3G EvDO service, which makes for reasonably speedy Web browsing, and Verizon's VZ Navigator service, which (with an additional subscription) offers turn-by-turn GPS-based directions.