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LG Decoy (Verizon Wireless) review: LG Decoy (Verizon Wireless)

LG Decoy (Verizon Wireless)

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
9 min read


LG Decoy (Verizon Wireless)

The Good

The LG Decoy comes with a built-in Bluetooth headset that stows away in the back of the phone. It has nice tactile keys, an easy-to-use interface, and features include a 2-megapixel camera, EV-DO, stereo Bluetooth, a music player, and V Cast support. It also has pretty good call quality. The Bluetooth headset also supports A2DP, so you can use it for calls as well as music.

The Bad

The LG Decoy has a very glossy finish that makes it prone to smudges, and the display can be difficult to see under bright lights. The included Bluetooth headset has skinny volume controls, and does not have noise reduction or echo canceling technology.

The Bottom Line

The LG Decoy is an excellent phone on its own, but the addition of a built-in Bluetooth headset puts it over the top.

As hands-free calling laws go into effect around the country, Bluetooth headsets are slowly becoming a must-have accessory for those who wish to continue chatting on the phone while on the road. Even now, Bluetooth headsets have reached a critical mass, with many people opting to wear headsets even when walking around the office. But if you're not the kind to wear your headset all the time, you might encounter a few problems. Headsets can be a hassle to find in a hurry, especially if you have to fish around in your bag to get at such a tiny device (which isn't such a good idea when driving). They're also easy to misplace, and most people don't remember to charge them until it's too late.

Well, LG has come up with an incredibly ingenious solution by building a Bluetooth headset directly into the phone. That's right; the LG Decoy is the first ever cell phone to have a built-in stowaway Bluetooth headset. It's conveniently docked in the back, and you can pop out the headset when you need it, and just snap it back in when you don't. As gimmicky as it may seem, we absolutely love this idea of having two devices in one. We did find the headset quality to be rather lacking, and the Decoy's surface is a little too reflective for my liking. In the end, however, if you want to get a cell phone and Bluetooth headset in one convenient package, the Decoy is definitely the device to get. It's currently available for $179.99 with a two-year service agreement and a $50 discount.

At first glance, the Decoy looks like one of the glossiest phones we've ever seen. Indeed, its entire front surface positively gleams with a reflective mirror finish, right down to the navigation keys and the steel-tinged joystick toggle. Measuring 4.01 inches high by 1.97 inches wide by 0.67 inch thick, the Decoy is not a very compact phone, but it has a nice enough size to accommodate its large 2.2-inch display. It does weigh about 4.05 ounces, which makes it feel very solid in the hand. Though we can appreciate the glittery appeal of such a shiny surface, we found that it is very fingerprint prone, and that it's difficult to see the display especially on a bright and sunny day.

The LG Decoy has a very shiny reflective surface.

As we mentioned, the Decoy has a generous 2.2-inch 262,000 color display front and center on the phone. It's bright, vivid, and shows off the colorful menu interface very well. You can adjust the font size as well as the backlight time, but not the brightness or contrast. Thankfully, you're not subject to Verizon's clunky old menu interface--the Decoy offers tab, list, and grid menu interface options so you can arrange it how you like.

Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a center joystick, a dedicated speakerphone key, and a Clear key. On standby mode, the center joystick also leads to three user-defined shortcuts (to the bottom, left, and top). If you toggle it to the right, it will lead you to a My Shortcuts folder, which can also be customized to your liking. Though we found the keys to be quite slippery, they had enough definition that they were still easy to find and press. We also found the joystick toggle to be very responsive. We could be quite gentle in pushing it around, as it is sensitive to even the slightest of gestures.

You slide open the phone by pushing the bottom lip of the front surface up. That will reveal the full alphanumeric keypad, as well as the Send, voice command, and End/Power keys at the very top. These topmost keys were the hardest to get to, since they're positioned right up against the bottom of the slider. Otherwise, we found the keypad to be very pleasant to use. Unlike most slider keypads which are flat, the Decoy has keys with curved textured bumps that we could easily find by feel. The volume rocker and charger jack is on the left spine, while the microSD card slot and dedicated camera key are on the right.

The LG Decoy has a built-in Bluetooth headset on its back, as well as a camera lens and a self-portrait mirror.

But the most important aspect of the Decoy lies on its back. When you turn the Decoy around, you will see a rectangular bump jutting out from the top part of the phone. This is actually a built-in Bluetooth headset, stowed away in a custom built dock. Press down on a tiny latch at the top, and the headset will pop out. The headset itself is incredibly slim and flat, measuring 1.6 inches long by 0.8 inch wide by 0.2 inch deep, and weighs less than an ounce. It has a multifunction button on the front, which also houses an LED indicator light, and the volume rocker sits on the right spine. On the back is a simple springy ear piece that actually fits quite comfortably in the ear, resting just outside the ear canal.

Pairing the Decoy with the headset couldn't be easier. When the headset is first removed, you will be automatically prompted to pair the headset by pressing down on the multifunction button for a few seconds. After that, you're connected and ready to go. From then on, whenever you remove the headset from the dock, you will automatically be in headset mode. And whenever you snap it back in the dock, headset mode will be turned off as well. If you like, the Decoy also comes with a plastic "cavity cover" to cover up the dock when you're using the headset. Even though you can charge both the headset and the phone simultaneously, there's also a separate headset charging dock if you want it.

We have to say we loved this idea. The built-in Bluetooth headset is certainly not the best Bluetooth headset we've seen--the volume rocker is really skinny, it feels a little chintzy and lightweight, and you don't get fancy noise-canceling technology. But the convenience factor simply can't be beaten. You no longer have to worry about losing your headset, and you don't have to worry about it having a low battery, since it simply charges with the phone.

Next to the Bluetooth headset dock is a camera lens as well as a self-portrait mirror.

Aside from the built-in Bluetooth headset, the Decoy has plenty of features going for it as well. It has a generous 1,000-entry contacts list, with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can also save callers to groups, pair them with a photo for caller ID, or one of 23 polyphonic ringtones and alert sounds. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone (which can be activated prior to a call), text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a tip calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a stopwatch, a world clock, and a notepad. More advanced users will appreciate voice commands, instant messaging (AIM, Windows, and Yahoo are supported), Web e-mail (only MSN, AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon), a mobile Web browser, and the capability to use the Decoy as a USB mass storage device. Another great add-on is VZ Navigator support, which provides turn-by-turn directions.

We also really like that the Decoy has plenty of Bluetooth profiles opened up. Not only does it have stereo Bluetooth support, but you can also use the Decoy as a Bluetooth modem. Other supported Bluetooth profiles include phone book access, object push for vCard and vCalendars, file transfer, the capability to send contacts and calendar events, and support for printing and sending pictures.

The Decoy also has EV-DO support, thus allowing it access to Verizon's full array of V Cast broadband services like V Cast streaming video and the V Cast Music store. The user interface and player controls are similar to that of other V Cast phones; the music player for instance displays album art and songs can be sorted by genre, artist, and album. Also, if you wish to buy a track from the online music store, each song costs about $1.99, and can be downloaded over the air to the phone as well as to your home PC. If you wish to upload your own songs, make sure they're in WMA, MP3, or unprotected AAC and AAC+ formats. Do note that the Decoy only has about 50 MB of internal storage, so you should consider investing in a microSD card for additional media storage. The Decoy supports up to 8GB microSD cards.

The LG Decoy took mediocre photos.

Also in the Decoy is a 2-megapixel camera and camcorder. You can take photos in four resolutions (1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240), five white balance settings, and five color effects. Other camera settings include a night mode, a self-timer, three shutter sounds plus a silent option, photometry, and brightness. After taking a picture, you can edit it a little with the built-in image editor that lets you zoom, rotate, and crop the image. Photo quality was pretty mediocre. You need to hold the phone perfectly still to avoid blurry shots, and colors looked rather overcast and unnatural. As for the camcorder, you can record video with sound in 320x240 or 176x144-pixel resolutions. Multimedia message clips are capped at 30 seconds, but you can otherwise shoot for as much as your memory card can hold. Video quality was predictably choppy, grainy, and pixelated, especially when there was a lot of movement.

You can personalize the Decoy with wallpaper, banners, sounds, and more. There's a variety of graphics and alert tones for you to choose from, plus you can always download more from Verizon via the Web browser. The Decoy does not come with any games, but you can download some via the Web browser as well.

The Bluetooth headset on the Decoy has its own set of functions as well. They include answering, ending, and rejecting calls, last number redial, voice command support, call waiting support, a low battery status indicator, plus the ability to transfer calls to and from the handset (as mentioned earlier). Another very nice bonus is the fact that this mono Bluetooth headset has A2DP support, meaning it can also be used to listen to streaming music. Though it's not the best music listening experience, it's handy when you don't have a stereo headset around.

We tested the Decoy in San Francisco using the Verizon Wireless service. We were impressed overall by the call quality. Callers heard us loud and clear, with very little static and echo in the distance. Similarly, we heard them just fine as well, though there was a slight hiss in the background at times. When the speakerphone was on, callers reported a slightly more muddled sound, and had trouble hearing us at times. This was dependent on how far we were from the phone--the closer we were to the microphone, the less distortion there was.

We also really liked the sound quality of the Bluetooth headset. No, there's no fancy noise-canceling technology here, so we don't recommend using it in a particularly noisy or crowded environment. But for quieter environments like the car or the office, the headset works just fine. In fact, aside from slightly more echo and static, callers couldn't hear much of a difference between handset and headset use.

We were also pleased with the EV-DO speeds. We managed to download a song in under a minute, and V Cast videos loaded without a lot of rebuffering. Streaming video quality is comparable to other V Cast phones, with blurry and pixelated videos, especially when there was a lot of movement. That said, it's good enough for a quick video clip when in a bus or train. As for sound quality, the speaker on the Decoy output decent sound, but as with most phone speakers, the music had a very tinny and hollow quality to it. We recommend headset use for the best sound quality.

The LG Decoy has a rated battery life of 3.83 hours talk time and 13.75 days standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours and 10 minutes. The Bluetooth headset on the Decoy has a rated battery life of 2 hours talk time and 3.33 days standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the LG Decoy has a digital SAR rating of 1.22 watts per kilogram.


LG Decoy (Verizon Wireless)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8