Most of you have probably seen the AT&T commercials for the LG Expo and its cool projector accessory. Unfortunately, the projector isn't included with the phone (it's a $179 add-on), but that doesn't mean the Expo isn't worth a look. In fact, quite the opposite is true. With a speedy 1GHz Snapdragon processor and sleek interface, the LG Expo is one of the best Windows phones on the market today for business users. Admittedly, there are some minor issues, such as the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack, but the LG Expo packs all the necessary features and manages to do so in a more compact and sleek package than the HTC Tilt2. The LG Expo is available now from AT&T for $199.99 with a two-year contract and after a $100 mail-in rebate.
LG did a really nice job with the design of the Expo, combining both a full QWERTY keyboard and sizable touch screen into a relatively compact frame. The smartphone measures 4.45 inches tall by 2.16 inches wide by 0.63 inch deep and weighs 4.46 ounces. It's certainly not the smallest phone in the world, but compared with the similarly featured HTC Tilt2/HTC Touch Pro2, the Expo's more pocket-friendly stature is definitely noticeable and welcome. Plus, it's easier and more comfortable to hold while on a phone conversation and has a very solid construction.
With its more compact design, screen size is the first luxury to go. Unlike the Tilt2, which has a 3.6-inch display, the Expo features a 3.2-inch, WVGA (800x480 pixels) resistive touch screen that displays 16 million colors. Given the display's smaller size, we did end up using the stylus more often than we did on the HTC device. Also, like the Samsung Omnia, the stylus isn't housed within the body of the smartphone. Instead, you have to attach it via lanyard to the upper left corner of the smartphone, so you have an extra piece dangling off the side of the device. It's not a deal breaker, but we prefer a more streamlined design.
Despite these minor inconveniences, we really liked the LG Expo's display. It's vibrant and sharp, so we had no problems viewing media, text, or Web pages. Its matte finish also cuts down on a bit of glare. Its touch screen was responsive and the Expo has a built-in proximity sensor and accelerometer, though it only works in certain applications and takes a couple of seconds to switch from portrait to landscape mode.
As a Windows Mobile 6.5 phone, you get the new user interface enhancements of the updated operating system, such as the simplified Home screen and honeycomb Start menu. In addition, LG offers its own S-Class interface, which we saw back at GSMA 2009. You can switch the phone's default user interface completely over to LG's user interface through the Settings menu, but there's a bit of a learning curve (an online tutorial can walk you through all the features). Alternatively, there's an LG Menu on the Start page that separates all the phone's features into four rows of categories: Communications, Multimedia, Applications, and Settings. Within each row, you can swipe left to right and vice versa to access any of the applications.
Below the display, you get several navigation controls, including Talk and End keys, a back button, and a fingerprint navigation sensor that lets you unlock your phone with a fingerprint as well as navigate the menus. Though the security features is nice, the control doesn't really work as a navigator. It's too small to comfortably scroll up and down or side to side for that matter, so we barely missed it. We also wish that there was a Start menu shortcut so we didn't have to fiddle with the stylus to tap the Start icon at the top of the screen.
To access the full QWERTY keyboard, you simply push the screen to the right. The slide mechanism is smooth and the screen locks securely into place. The keyboard is excellent, its buttons are nice and wide, making it easy for even for those with wider thumbs. The keys also provide a nice tactile feedback and aren't too stiff to press, and there's no awkward placement of buttons to interrupt the flow of typing. If you're simply sending a short text message and don't feel like opening the phone, there is an onscreen portrait keyboard option, but be warned, it's pretty cramped.
There's a volume rocker on the left side, while you'll find a microSD slot, a multitasking button, and a camera activation-capture key on the right side. The multitasking key is particularly usefully as it brings up page that shows you thumbnails of all your open apps and lets you easily switch between them or exit out of an app completely. On top of the device, there's a power-lock button and a microUSB port that doubles as the power connector and audio jack, which means, yes, you have to use an adapter if you want to plug in regular headphones. To its credit, AT&T throws in an audio adapter in the box but it's still a cumbersome solution. Hopefully, LG will consider adding a 3.5mm headphone jack on its future devices.