When Verizon Wireless first announced its V Cast Mobile TV service earlier this year, we have to admit we were taken immediately with the LG VX9400. Like many others, we loved the LG phone's swivel design and large display. And while the first Mobile TV phone, the Samsung SCH-U620, turned out to be pretty decent, we still waited with anticipation for the VX9400. As expected, the handset's design is certainly a plus when it comes to the TV-watching experience, but it also is a bit awkward when it's time to make a call (that will happen from time to time). Audio quality was good, however, and the phone comes with a raft of features. You can get it for $199, which is pretty reasonable, all things considered. To find ringtones and accessories for these phones, plus advice and tips on how to use them, check out our cell phone ringtones, accessories, and help page.
At first glance, the VX9400 looks like a basic slider phone. A large (2.2-inch, 320x240 pixels) display hides the dialpad, leaving only the navigation buttons visible on the front of the unit. But instead of sliding up, the VX9400's display swivels to the left, thus exposing the numeric keypad. When opened, the phone has a T-shaped appearance with the screen assuming a landscape orientation (more on that later).
The LG VX9400 isn't exactly svelte. At 4.04 inches by 1.93 inches by 0.73 inch, and 4.06 ounces, it's both larger and heavier than the Samsung SCH-U620, but it's not exactly a brick either. The display, which is slightly bigger than the SCH-U620's, is bright, vibrant, and ideal for watching videos. Thanks to the 262,000-color resolution, graphics and pictures also looked good, though the display is difficult to see in direct light. The VX9400 uses Verizon's complicated menu organization system, though the interface is a bit more attractive than on previous phones from the carrier.
While you simply tipped the SCH-U630 on its side to watch videos, the VX9400 uses the aforementioned swiveling display. It's big on the cool factor but it complicates the act of making phone calls. If you want to dial a number to place a call, you'll have to open the phone to do so. Then you'll want to close the swivel before holding the phone to your ear. Yes, you can talk with the display up but if you do so, the microphone at the top of the display will shift to its right side, which is just out of range of your ear. You can make calls directly from the address book with the display closed but if you're making a call that requires you to enter automated menu options, then the swiveling back and forth can get annoying quickly. You'll also want to change the default settings for answering and ending calls to make sure opening and closing the swivel doesn't end calls automatically.
The navigation array was spacious, tactile, and easy to use. A four-way toggle surrounds a central OK button; you can set the toggle to act as a shortcut to four functions. The other controls consist of two soft keys, a Clear button, and the Talk and End/power buttons. The button just above the "End" key with the TV icon launches the Mobile TV service. It's worth noting that it can be a bit disconcerting to use the navigation array with the display up. Since the keypad sits between the controls and the screen, we had to think about where the soft keys were before we pressed them. Also, it is a bit strange to have the Talk and End keys at the bottom of the phone. We found the dialpad to be too flat and smooth for touch dialing.
The 5-inch long TV antenna tucks into a slot on the top-left corner. The left spine features a volume rocker, a voice-command button, and a 2.5mm headphone jack. The right spine houses buttons for the speakerphone and camera, as well as a microSD card slot for memory expansion. Besides the aforementioned speaker near the display, the VX9400 also features a speaker on the rear of the phone just next to the camera, lens, and flash. It's an inconvenient arrangement as it means one of the sound outputs faces away from you when you're watching videos. On the upside, the back of the phone has a nice rubberized feel for comfortable handling.
The star of the VX9400, of course, is the V Cast Mobile TV service. With the $15 per month Basic package, you get eight channels: CBS Mobile, Comedy Central, ESPN Mobile TV, Fox Mobile, MTV, NBC 2Go, NBC News 2Go, and Nickelodeon. Not all the offerings are "live" as in simulcast; some of the content is timeshifted; other content is delivered specifically for mobile viewers. Mobile TV is currently available in 25 U.S. markets with more to come. For full details see our full review of Mobile TV.
The LG VX9400 is a full-featured handset but we'll start with the basics first. The address book holds 500 contacts with up to five numbers and two e-mail addresses for each contact. You can save contacts to caller groups and pair them with a photo and one of 15 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a calculator, an alarm clock, a nicely designed world clock, a note pad, the ability to instant message, and LG's nifty tip calculator.
For worker bees, the VX9400 also has full Bluetooth with stereo and object exchange profiles (they really should be standard on all Verizon Bluetooth handsets), e-mail, and a speakerphone. Voice dialing is absent, but you can even check your balance, usage, and payment information with the My Account feature. Why this service isn't available from all carriers is beyond us.