Another method for entering text would be via handwriting, or a graffiti method. The handwriting recognition works quite well, but we did have some problems with it. For one thing, we had to keep switching modes between capital letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols--it wasn't smart enough to figure out the characters on its own. Also, it's a lot easier to handwrite with a stylus, or if you have long fingernails--using just our fingertips resulted in more mistakes.
The Dare also has a proximity sensor that will automatically turn off the LCD while in a call to prevent accidental touch input, similar to the iPhone. It also has a light sensor that adjusts brightness automatically to conserve on battery life. As mentioned above, the Dare has an accelerometer that will rotate the display 90 degrees counterclockwise for certain applications like the browser, the texting keypad, and other applications. For the picture view screen and the music player, the screen can be rotated 360 degrees.
On the left spine of the Dare is a Hold key, a microSD card slot, a speakerphone key, and a USB charging jack. On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, while the volume rocker and dedicated camera sit on the right spine. On the back of the phone is the camera lens and LED flash. There's no self-portrait mirror though.
The Dare comes with a generous 1,000-entry contacts list with room in each entry for five numbers and two e-mail addresses. You can also save callers to groups, and you can pair them with a photo and one of 26 polyphonic ringtones. Other essential features include text and multimedia messaging, a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world clock, and a notepad. More advanced features include full Bluetooth support with stereo A2DP, the capability to use the phone as a modem, and file transfer. There's also mobile e-mail, mobile instant messaging, a USB mass storage mode, voice command and voice dialing, voice recording, and GPS functionality via Verizon's VZ Navigator service. Mobile e-mail is restricted to popular Web mail services such as Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL, so it's not nearly as robust as using a smartphone.
A nice bonus feature on the Dare is a drawing pad. This pad lets you sketch little doodles or draw a rough map with a variety of pen sizes and colors. You can then send this image to your friends via MMS if you wish.
The Dare has a full HTML browser. It won't support Flash, but that's fine for a phone such as this. As we mentioned earlier, you can rotate the phone to display the browser in landscape mode, which makes entering URLs a lot easier via the QWERTY keyboard. However, the browser experience is nowhere as clean as the Safari browser on the iPhone. Zooming in and out is a pain--we had to use either the onscreen controls or the volume keys to do so. Panning the browser page with our fingers took some time, as the screen responded slowly. Also, since the display is small, we often had to do a lot of scrolling to see everything. Alternatively, if we zoomed out to see the browser page in full-screen mode, the text would be too small to read (The camera key can be used to see the full screen overview as well). You can bookmark pages as well as send URLs to your friends via e-mail, which is a nice touch. However, the overall experience left us cold, and we almost would rather opt for the stripped-down mobile versions of the Web sites instead.
Of course, since the Dare is on the Verizon EV-DO network, it also has access to Verizon's broadband services in the form of V Cast Video and V CastMusic. The V Cast Video and V Cast Music experience is the same as that on other phones. However, the music player interface is quite improved over what we've seen before. There are shortcut icons to Play All, Shop, and Sync, which correspond to the full playlist, the V Cast Music store, and USB syncing respectively. Songs are automatically categorized by genre, artist, and album, and settings include repeat and shuffle. When playing a song, you get the typical play, pause, and track shuttle controls, plus you get to see album art as well. There's even a pseudo Cover Flow that lets you flick through songs by moving your finger across the screen. The Dare also has something called Background Mode Music that lets you listen to music in the background while doing other things--the music pauses when you receive calls, and when the call ends, the music will resume where you left off. The Dare has a microSD card slot that supports up to 8GB of additional storage.
Arguably, the best feature of the Dare, however, lies in its 3.2-megapixel camera. You can take pictures in five resolutions (2,048x1,536, 1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240), five white balance presets, five color effects, four ISO settings (Auto ISO, ISO 100, ISO 200, and ISO 400), and six preset scenes. Other camera settings include spot or average photometry, multishot, three shutter sounds (with a silent option), auto focus, a self-timer, flash, and four different shot types (Normal, Panorama, Split, and Frame). It even offers face detection to ensure someone's face is in focus and noise reduction, which reduces the amount of artifacts in an image. Most notably, however, is something called SmartPic technology, which enhances images with face color compensation (dubbed Smart Beauty), as well as light compensation (dubbed Smart Light)--especially in low light situations.
The Dare has an excellent Schneider-Kreuznach certified lens that promises excellent photo quality, and it delivers. Images looked sharp, with accurate colors, and everything looked in focus. After you take your picture, you are presented with an array of image-editing options, such as zooming, rotating, cropping, changing the contrast, sharpening, and blurring. You can even use your finger to doodle over the image, or edit it with frames, effects, and stamps.
The built-in camcorder isn't too shabby either. It's one of the first camera phones to record up to three resolutions (176x144, 320x240, and 640x240 VGA)--the VGA format is only for storing on the device, since MMS can't support files that large yet. You can record videos up to 470KB for MMS. Settings are similar to that of the still camera. Another bonus option is the ability for high-speed video recording. You can record videos in 120 frames per second (fps) and then play it back with 15fps slow motion. This is the first phone in the U.S. that has this functionality. Video quality was surprisingly decent. The action movements looked blurry with some jerkiness, but it's not that bad for a camera phone. You can trim videos plus add fade effects as well.
You can personalize the Dare with lots of wallpaper, graphics, sounds, alert tones, and more. The Dare doesn't come with any games, but you can download them, as well as more graphics and sounds, via the Web browser.
We tested the LG Dare in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was absolutely excellent. Voices sounded loud and clear, with almost no static and echo. Callers said we still sounded like we were on a cell phone, but other than that, there was no distortion. Even when we used the speakerphone, callers said there was little to no difference in sound quality. On our end, callers sounded great as well. Speakerphone quality was a tad on the tinny and hollow side, but we could still hear them just fine. We also paired the Dare with the Plantronics Discovery 925 Bluetooth headset without a problem.
We were very impressed with the EV-DO Rev. A speeds. Web pages loaded in mere seconds, and it took about a minute to download a 1.5MB song. V Cast videos loaded without a lot of rebuffering, though streaming video quality still looked pretty pixelated. Sound quality was very good as well; the speaker has decent sound output, but we would rather use a stereo headset instead.
The LG Dare has a rated battery life of 4.6 hours of talk time and 15 days of standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours and 57 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG Dare has a digital SAR rating of 1.09 watts per kilogram.