Editors' note: The LG EnV2 is offered as the LG Keybo by Telus in Canada.
We'll admit that the LG EnV2 was a bit of a surprise to us when we first heard about it. We had initially thought the LG Voyager was the final successor to the high-end messaging phone line from LG and Verizon Wireless. (As you'll recall, the original was the LG VX9800, which was succeeded by the LG EnV VX9900, and then finally followed by the LG Voyager late last year). As it turns out, though, the LG EnV2 is the true successor to the LG EnV franchise. The Voyager was more of a complete revamp--it sports a full touch-screen interface, V Cast Mobile TV, a full HTML browser, and more. By comparison, the EnV2 is a much more modest upgrade--sure it has a sleeker and slimmer appearance, but its features are virtually identical to the original EnV. As such, we think the EnV2 is for those who want to move on from the EnV, but just aren't ready to invest in the Voyager just yet. It's also a lot cheaper at $129.99 with a two-year service agreement. To find accessories for this phone, see our cell phone ringtones and accessories guide.
At first glance, the EnV2 looks almost nothing like its predecessor--it's almost as if the EnV had gone under extreme cosmetic surgery. It's a candy bar handset with a flip-open QWERTY keyboard like the original EnV, but that's where the similarity ends. Measuring 4 inches long by 2.13 inches wide by 0.65 inch thick and weighing 4.23 ounces, the EnV2 is about 40 percent thinner and 30 percent lighter than the EnV. But that's not all--the EnV2 now has a flat front surface and keypad configuration that makes it look a little like a fancy calculator. Holding the phone in the hand feels comfortable, thanks to the soft touch surface on the phone's back. Indeed, the EnV2 leaves its boxy and blocky predecessor in the dust with this slim, sleek, and utterly chic makeover.
Not only was the phone itself shrunken down to size, the external display suffered a miniaturization, as well. The display may measure 1.45 inches diagonally, but its resolution is only 164x64 pixels. Normally we would complain about such a tiny screen, and we did wish it was a tad larger, but the skinny display makes space for the extremely roomy keypad, which we'll go over later. For such a small screen, though, we really liked how it looked, thanks to the 262,000 color support. You can view the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID just fine. You can also use the display as a camera viewfinder, or to view the currently playing track when the music player is activated. Since there's no self-portrait mirror, you can also use the external display as a self-portrait viewfinder, but it does mean you need to keep the phone open while taking a photo of yourself, which can be a little awkward. Also, you have to scroll a lot more through long lists because of the tiny screen. You can also access the menu of applications from the external display, but it's limited to only certain applications. The Web browser, e-mail, V Cast video, mobile IM, and VZ Navigator can only be activated when the phone is flipped open. This sits fine with us, as those are better suited for use with the QWERTY keyboard anyway. You can adjust the backlight time and the wallpaper of the external display.
Underneath the screen is the aforementioned roomy keypad, which is a big change from the EnV's smaller keys. Laid out in a single flat surface, the keys are divided by curved delineations, which add visual and tactile interest to the keypad. The navigation array sits topmost on the keypad, which consists of a dedicated music player key, a Clear key (which doubles as the voice command key), an up and down navigation toggle, the middle OK key, and the Send and End/Power keys. When in standby mode, the middle OK key also doubles as a shortcut for a list of accessible applications. Also in standby mode, the up button doubles as a shortcut for the Contacts list, and the down button is a shortcut for the Messaging menu. Overall, we found using the keypad quite pleasant.
Rounding out the EnV2's exterior controls are the dedicated camera key and volume rocker on the left spine, and the right spine is home to a microSD card slot and a headset jack. On the back is a 2-megapixel camera lens, but there is no flash. Unlike the original EnV, the camera lens on the EnV2 is flush to the surface, allowing the phone to lie completely flat on its back.
Much like the other LG messaging phones, you can flip open the EnV2 to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard as well as an internal display. The EnV2 has quite a solid hinge construction, and we can open it up to 180 degrees. You can only use the left spine controls if you open it up all the way.
We were quite impressed with the attractive internal display. It measures 2.4 inches diagonally, which is a noticeable size bump over the 2.25-inch screen on the original EnV. The QVGA display supports 262,000 colors and a lovely resolution of 320x240 pixels, so images popped with color and detail. We also really liked the colorful menu interface, which is similar to that on the LG Voyager and the LG Venus. You can choose from three menu styles, but we like the grid style the best. Flanking both sides of the display are the EnV2's stereo speakers.
The QWERTY keyboard and navigation array are very similar to that of the LG Voyager. The navigation array sits to the right of the QWERTY keyboard and consists of the Send and End/Power keys, the square navigation toggle (which doubles as four user-defined shortcuts), a Clear key, and a speakerphone key. As with the Voyager, there are two soft keys underneath the display. Along the left of the keyboard are the Function, Shift, Symbol, and Space keys. There's also another Space key on the right. The right Space key acts as both a voice-command shortcut as well as a voice-memo-recording shortcut.The five gray keys on the keyboard (2, Q, W, E, and S keys) double as game player controls. The overall keyboard is a tad narrower than on both the Voyager and the EnV. This makes typing on the keyboard feel a bit more cramped. We also would prefer it if the Space key was placed in the middle of the keyboard instead of to the left and right. That said, this is still one of the better QWERTY keyboards for handsets out there because of the raised keys that yield easily to pressure.
In addition to the multiple shortcut keys, there's also a QWERTY keyboard shortcut function. When toggled on, simply typing on the QWERTY keyboard will launch either a new text message or a new notepad message. (You can choose which application to launch in the settings.) We found this especially useful if you like to text message a lot.
Though the EnV2's design is much improved, its feature set is almost identical to that of the original EnV. We were let down by this, since we expected something a bit different. Starting with the basics, it has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, but no notes, which we thought was a little odd. You can save contacts to caller groups, and pair them with a photo or one of 18 polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, voice commands and dialing, a speakerphone, instant messaging, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, a notepad, a tip calculator, and a voice-memo recorder. Advanced users will like the e-mail support, wireless Web browser, direct access to Web e-mail, USB mass storage, wireless syncing, and a text-to-speech feature. Supported Bluetooth profiles include hands-free, dial-up networking, A2DP or stereo, phone-book access, basic printing, basic imaging, object push for vCard and vCalendar, and file transfer.
Like the EnV, the EnV2 has EV-DO support, which provides it full access to Verizon's range of 3G services like V Cast Video and V Cast Music. The music player interface is fairly simple and doesn't differ too much from other V Cast Music phones. Thanks to the dedicated Music player key on the external keypad, you can access your V Cast music right from the external display, which you couldn't do on the original EnV. The music player supports MP3, WMA, and unprotected AAC and AAC+ files. Other Verizon applications are also available, like VZ Navigator, Verizon's own location-based turn-by-turn navigation service. The EnV2 comes with 63MB of built-in memory, but you can always get more storage via a microSD card.
The EnV2 comes with a 2-megapixel camera, which, again, is unchanged from the first EnV. You can take pictures in four resolutions (1,600x1200, 1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240), five white-balance settings, and five color effects. Other camera settings include a brightness control, up to 10x zoom (not available in the highest resolution), a night mode toggle, a self-timer, three shutter sounds plus a silent option, and spot metering. After taking a picture, you can rotate, zoom, and crop it thanks to the built-in image editor. Photo quality was on the mediocre side. The colors were bright, but images tended to look blurry, especially night shots. Also, there's no flash. There's also a built-in camcorder, which can record in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144) in two lengths--short 15-second ones for multimedia messages, or as long as available storage can hold. Video quality was predictably shoddy with blurry and jerky movements, though it was all right for steady shots.
There are plenty of personalization options available with the EnV2, including wallpaper, display themes, and alert tones. And if you want more, you can download more via Verizon's Get It Now service. The EnV2 doesn't come with games, but you can always download them, as well.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) LG EnV2 in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. We were very impressed with the call quality--voices came through loud and clear with very little static or interference. As for outgoing calls, one of our callers even said we sounded as if we were calling from a landline phone. Similarly, automated calling systems could recognize our commands just fine, as did the EnV2's own voice-command feature. Speakerphone calls was also surprisingly decent. The volume was significant and we heard our callers just fine. Callers did report a slight echo effect at times, but that is common with most cell phone speakerphones. We managed to pair the LG EnV2 with the Iqua Sun Bluetooth headset, with decent sound quality as well.
Audio quality from the LG EnV2's built-in stereo speakers was average. Volume was certainly loud enough, though it still has a slight tinny sound. We would recommend using either a wired or stereo Bluetooth headset to listen to music.
We were very satisfied with the EV-DO connection speeds. V Cast videos loaded in about 10 seconds with little to no buffering time, and loading a Web page also took around 10 seconds. That said, the Web browser on the LG EnV2 is a regular mobile browser, not a full HTML one, so we would've liked to see slightly faster load times. Downloading songs took quite a bit longer, at around a minute and 15 seconds for a 2MB file. And even though the V Cast videos loaded fast enough, we were rather disappointed with the video quality. Videos often did not take up the full size of the display, only about an inch or so wide, which rather defeats having such a wide internal display. Also, there was a lot of moving artifacts and pixelation in the video, especially when the video had some action sequences.
The LG EnV2 has a rated battery life of 5.3 hours talk time and 21 days standby time. Our results showed a tested talk time of 5.95 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the EnV2 has a digital SAR rating of 1.34 watts per kilogram.