Verizon Wireless unveiled four new handsets it plans to have on the market for the Holiday 2007 season, but unless I missed something, there wasn't an iPhone killer among them.
On Tuesday, Verizon Wireless invited various reporters, such as myself, to a hotel in New York City to take a look at new handsets expected to launch before Thanksgiving just in time for the holiday season. Company representative said that these phones were just a sampling of what's to come, with more handsets expected to hit store shelves in the next couple of months. Maybe I am being a bit too harsh, but I wasn't really blown away by any of the phones that Verizon showed off.
The new Samsung Juke will work as the company's entry-level music phone. It's cute. If the LG Chocolate is the size of a candy bar, the Juke is the width of two Kit-Kat candy bars stuck together. Instead of flipping the phone up or sliding away the top piece to reveal the keypad, users will "flick" or swivel a piece of the phone to the side to punch in numbers. Honestly, I had a hard time figuring out how to open it and someone had to show me. But as far as a basic phone goes, the Juke is cute and it's design is kind of interesting, although it reminded me of a fatter version of Motorola's Krzr.
Verizon Wireless also said it will be offering for the first time. This is great. But the phone is already more than a year old, and it's been available from AT&T and T-Mobile for several months. The big difference, Verizon execs say, is this version of the Pearl operates over Verizon's 3G network. That should make Web surfing and emailing faster on Verizon's network than it is on AT&T's and T-Mobile's networks.
Then there are the two new LG phones, which look like Verizon's best attempt at getting something cool on the market to compete with Apple's iPhone. But honestly, I think they both fall very short from the mark.
First, there is the Venus by LG. This slider phone essentially looks like the LG Chocolate, but it's a little sleeker and more stylish. Instead of buttons on the bottom half of the front panel, it has a touch screen. But this touch-sensitive screen is limited in its abilities, and it really doesn't do anything that a set of buttons couldn't handle. To make it a little easier to tell if you've actually made a selection, LG has added a little vibration that you can feel under your finger when something is selected.
Then there is the Voyager by LG. This is the highest-end device that Verizon Wireless is showing off for the holidays. The phone's entire face is a touch screen, but you can flip up the top half of the phone to get to a full QWERTY keyboard. While the touch screen looks cool, it simply doesn't hold a candle to the functionality of the iPhone. You can't pinch sections to blow them up, and the picture doesn't automatically adjust depending on how the phone is held. It looked to me that all you really could do with the touch screen is basic navigation.
As for the rest of the phone's functionality, it operates over the 3G network to allow for fast Web browsing. It provides personal e-mail and the Verizon representative said it could be synced with work e-mail, too. The phone, which is considered a top-of-the line "multimedia" phone, also has built-in speakers. So when you lift the top of the phone to get to the keyboard, the speakers are on either side. The phone also works with Verizon's live TV service called VCast TV, which uses Qualcomm's MediaFlo network to deliver real time TV programming.
Pricing for the Voyager and most of the other phones isn't yet available. So it's difficult to compare pricing with Apple's $400 iPhone. At any rate, I don't think that people impressed by the iPhone and hoping to get one this holiday season will be happy with any of these Verizon Wireless phones in their stockings.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story referred to the LG Voyager as the LG Navigator. The name of the phone is Voyager. Verizon Wireless offers a navigation application called VZ Navigator.