LG did a minor overhaul of the QWERTY keypad with satisfying results. The keys felt more tactile, and we liked that they are square rather than oval. Here again, there are dedicated Shift, symbol, and Enter keys, but LG ditched the VX9800's menu shortcuts control in favor of a new E-mail button that gives one-touch access to the wireless sync feature. LG also added a second space bar to the left of the Z button, but we'd prefer it to be in the middle as it is on the Sidekick.
The EnV's feature set is impressive and offers some goodies not available on the VX9800. But first, we'll address the basics. The 1,000-contact phone book (double the capacity of the VX9800) has room in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can save contacts to groups and pair them with a photo and one of 18 polyphonic ring tones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, voice commands and dialing, instant messaging, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, a notepad, a tip calculator, and a voice memo. For more demanding users, the EnV also comes with e-mail, wireless syncing, a speakerphone, and text-to-speech dictation. Bluetooth 1.2 is onboard as well with profiles for headsets, dial-up networking, file transfer, object push, and A2DP stereo sound.
As an EV-DO phone, the EnV supports the full range of Verizon's 3G services including the V Cast video service and the V Cast music store. The music player's interface is identical to those on other Verizon phones, but it's worth noting that you can't access the V Cast or music downloading menus from the external display. You also have the option to purchase a variety of Verizon applications including VZ Navigator, ChaperoneParent, and Backup Assistance and a host of alternative services such as Fox Sports Mobile Pro and Accuweather. There's even an application called TinyBartender that will give you drink recipes on the fly. And of course Verizon's Get it Now Internet service has even more programming choices.
The EnV's 2-megapixel camera is impressive and comes stocked with a wealth of options. You can take pictures in four resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240) and choose from four color effects and four white-balance settings. There's also a 2.5x digital zoom (unusable at the highest resolution), a brightness control, a night mode, a self-timer, and three shutter sounds (plus a silent option). The autofocus is a particularly nifty feature; it helped us to the keep the phone steady and eliminated blurriness when taking our shots. On the downside, you can access the photo-editing options only with the internal display, which is a bit inconvenient for self-portraits.
The camcorder takes clips with sound in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) with editing options similar to those of the still camera. Clips meant for multimedia messages are limited to 15 seconds; otherwise you can shoot for up to an hour. Speaking of which, the EnV comes with 64MB of shared memory for saving photos, but you're better off saving to a memory card. Photo quality was quite good overall. Colors remained bright, and object outlines were distinct--we could even read text from a computer screen in one of our shots. There was also enough brightness, though the flash hardly helped in darker situations. Videos were decent if you held the camera steady, but it couldn't handle quick movements.
You can personalize the EnV with a variety of included wallpapers, display themes, clock formats, and sounds, or you can buy more options if you want them. There are no included games, but you can always buy titles via the WAP 2 wireless Web browser; just remember that Verizon uses BREW instead of Java. In yet another change from the VX9800, the EnV's QWERTY keypad has five keys colored in gray that you can use for playing selected games.
Within San Francisco, reception was strong, and the EV-DO connection was solid. Games and files downloaded in seconds, and Web browsing was speedy. Streaming video quality over the V Cast network was average--improved over the LG Chocolate but not quite as good as the LG VX8300. The stereo speakers provided great sound that was in sync with the images, but the video itself was rather pixelated and choppy, even on the sizeable internal display. Overall, though, it's fine for short stints, and we were pleased the streaming clips never froze or paused. On the upside, music quality was more consistent. The audio was loud and clear both through the phone's stereo speakers and through a headset. The music downloading service was sluggish occasionally, but it wasn't bothersome.
The LG EnV (VX9800) has a rated talk time battery life of 4 hours and 30 minutes and a tested talk time of 4 hours and 45 minutes. It has a promised standby time of 19 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the EnV has a digital SAR rating of 0.7 watts per kilogram.