You can't send out text messages on the handset, though. For that, you'll have to use the touch-screen interface. Just hit New Message in the Messaging application, tap "Enter Text here," and you'll be presented with a virtual QWERTY keyboard. It's just like any virtual QWERTY keyboard, plus it has a button that toggles between the letters and the numbers/symbols. You can use your fingers for typing, but we prefer the stylus for more precision. You can also attach an image for a picture message if you want.
The Verizon Hub is more than just a landline replacement. It also promises to be the communications center of your home, a digital photo frame, and even a mini television set. It has a 500 Mhz dual MicroPro processor, 128MB of RAM for storage, with 2MB just for ringtones. You can store up to 128 address book entries, with room in each entry for three phone numbers, a street address, and an e-mail address. You can organize your contacts by groups, add a photo for caller ID, and choose from one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. The call log holds up to 100 incoming/100 outgoing calls.
Call features include 10-digit dialing, call waiting, caller ID block (where you block your own caller ID from being shown), international call block, a Do Not Disturb function that will redirect calls to voicemail or just accept calls from a preapproved list, call return (or *69), and simultaneous ring, which lets incoming calls ring up to three additional phone numbers. The first phone to pick up will connect the call. You can also set a Backup Number, which is important because the Hub won't work in the event of a power or network outage. The Verizon Hub is E911 compatible.
The Hub also has Visual Voice Mail, which is what it sounds like. You can delete, reply, and forward voice mails in a visual interface without having to listen to messages. You can manage your voice mails from the Hub or the My Verizon Web site. This is included with the monthly wireless plan, unlike the Visual Voice Mail feature on Verizon's cell phone plans.
You can send text and picture messages from the Hub, plus you can receive text, picture, and video messages. But you can only do so with Verizon Wireless cell phones, or with another Verizon Hub. You can also access your e-mail on the Hub. We mentioned earlier that you can use the Hub as a digital picture frame. You can load pictures on it via the USB connection on the Hub or drag and drop them on the My Verizon Web site. It supports JPEG, GIF, WBMB, PNG, and BMP formats.
You can use the Hub with a couple of Verizon's location-based services. There's Chaperone, which lets you locate a family member's cell phone in real time, and Traffic, which uses a real-time traffic service to let you know the traffic situation in your area. With the Chaperone application, you can even see a map of where your family member is.
A few other applications include the Calendar, where you can set events and send text reminders to the people in your contacts list, the calculator, and the Movies app. For the latter, you can see a list of movies that are showing in your area, plus the showtimes in local theaters.
The Hub truly becomes a communications center, or family bulletin board, with the Verizon Relay feature. All the text, picture, and video messages from your family members will end up on the Relay message board as little yellow Post-it notes, Polaroid pictures, or video thumbnails. This makes it really easy to communicate with your family members, send each other reminders, and more.
But perhaps the most exciting feature on the Hub is the ability to watch streaming video clips from V Cast, thus turning your Hub into a mini television. The amount of content is pretty amazing. There are essentially four categories of videos: News & Sports, Entertainment, Food & Dining, and Lifestyle. These four areas are divided further into categories like Health, Fashion, News, Sports, and more. Content providers range from CNN to the Food Network, and there are dozens if not hundreds of video clips to choose from.
Why is this so exciting? Well, imagine your Hub in the kitchen. You can watch recipe instructions on video, so you can cook right alongside it. Or if you want to entertain your kids, you can select the Cartoon Network channel. Or maybe you feel like watching little news clips while waiting for the oven to beep. Not only can you view V Cast videos, but you have access to Internet Radio for streaming audio content. All this and it's still a phone, so you won't miss any incoming phone calls or text messages. So now not only is your phone a communications center, it's also a mini entertainment system, too.
Call quality was surprisingly good. Callers said we sounded loud and clear, and voices sounded natural with very little background noise. Speakerphone calls were equally good, though we did get the occasional static blip in the background.
V Cast video quality was OK, but not great. If you watch the videos in the little screen next to the sidebar, they look good. But once you enlarge the videos to full screen, you will see a lot of pixelation and noise.