The LG Octane might as well be dubbed the LG EnV4, as it looks almost like a successor to the LG EnV series of messaging phones for Verizon Wireless. Sure the design is a little different, but the overall form factor is the same--it has dual displays, a number keypad, and a flip-out keyboard. The features are pretty similar too; they include a 3.2-megapixel camera, EV-DO, a music player with V Cast Music, an HTML Web browser, and GPS. The LG Octane is available for $99.99 after a $50 rebate and a new two-year agreement.
As mentioned above, the LG Octane looks a little like a fattened-up LG EnV3. At 4.21 inches long by 2.16 inches wide by 0.63 inch thick, the Octane is much rounder and thicker than the EnV messaging phone. With a silver chrome border and a reflective display, it's also much shinier--so much so that you can use the front surface as a mirror. Weighing in at 4.5 ounces, the Octane looks and feels like a thick and hefty candy bar phone, but of course it's only that thick because of the flip-out keyboard underneath.
Beneath that shiny front surface is actually a 1.76-inch external display. It has support for 262,000 colors and a 220x176-pixel resolution, which is quite impressive for a simple messaging phone. The screen may be small, but it looks very colorful and vibrant. You can use it to view the currently playing song if the music player is activated, and you can use it as a camera viewfinder. You can also use it as a self-portrait viewfinder if you activate Dual Display mode in the camera settings. Bear in mind that you have to hold the phone open when taking a photo this way, which can be a bit awkward.
You won't get a full menu interface when the phone is closed, only a limited version. You only get to scroll through the menu in a tabbed-style interface, and you can't fiddle with all of the phone's features and settings. For example, you can't access Mobile E-mail, VZ Navigator, and the Web browser when the phone is closed. This sits fine with us, as you probably wouldn't want to surf the Web on such a small screen anyway. You can change the backlight time, brightness, wallpaper, charging screen, font size, and clock format on the external screen, and you can do the same with the main display too. For the main display, you can also adjust the font type and menu layout.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which is set inside an oval-like panel. In the middle is the OK button surrounded by a square toggle. That in turn is surrounded by the Contacts key, the Send key, the Clear/Voice command key, and the End/Power key. The toggle also doubles as shortcuts to the My Music menu, the Bluetooth menu, the Events page, and the Messaging menu. The toggle is raised above the rest of the keys, so it was easy to navigate by feel.
Below that is the number keypad. It's spread out from one edge of the phone to the other, and is very roomy overall. The keypad is divided into four rows, and each row is neatly delineated with a curved angle. This definitely helps us to dial by feel. If you would rather not use the QWERTY keyboard, you can even type out text messages here via the alphanumeric keypad. On the left spine are the volume rocker and camera key, while the Micro-USB charging port, microSD card slot, and 2.5-millimeter headset jack are on the right. The camera lens and LED flash are on the back.
The phone flips open from the right to reveal a second internal display plus a full QWERTY keyboard. The hinge feels pretty solid, and we like that you can position the display for the proper viewing angle when texting. You can also open it up all the way to 180 degrees if you want to access the aforementioned volume rocker and camera key. As for the display, it's a 2.6-inch, 262,000-color TFT and 320x240-pixel resolution screen. Like the external display, it looks great. Graphics are vibrant with color, and text looks sharp. We also applaud the use of bold animated icons to give the phone that extra design touch. On both sides of the display are stereo speakers.
On the keyboard side of the phone, you get two soft keys positioned directly underneath the display. Underneath that is the full four-row QWERTY keyboard, with a row on the top just for numbers. We felt the keyboard was very roomy and comfortable to use on the whole. There's a subtle curve around the sides of the keyboard, which act as nice resting areas for our thumbs, and the individual keys are raised and well-spaced. Each key clicks nicely as well, and feels good when typing. We like that the Space bar is situated around the middle, and that there is a dedicated period key. The Space bar doubles as a voice command key.
Also on the keyboard is a navigation array on the right side--it consists of the Send and End/Power keys, a square toggle with the middle OK key, a Clear key, and the speakerphone key. The square toggle can be mapped to three user-defined functions with the up, left, and down directions. The right arrow brings up a My Shortcuts window which you can populate with up to four shortcuts. You can also set up a "QWERTY keyboard shortcut" which lets you initiate a contacts search, a new text message, or a new note, simply by typing out letters on the QWERTY keyboard from standby mode.
Along the left side of the keyboard are shortcuts to Verizon's Social Beat app, a new text message, a Shift key, and a Function key. The 2, Q, W, E, and S keys are grayed out to act as a D-pad when playing video games.
The LG Octane has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, two e-mail addresses, an IM screen name, a street address, and notes. You can organize the contacts into groups, or pair them with a photo for caller ID, or one of 30 polyphonic ringtones. Basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, voice commands and dialing, a calendar, an alarm clock, a calculator, a tip calculator, a to-do list, a stopwatch, a world clock, and a notepad.
Of course, as the Octane is a messaging phone, it offers text and multimedia messaging with threaded messaging support. The Octane also supports Mobile IM, which supports AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo services. The Octane has mobile e-mail as well, which lets you have access to e-mail services from Yahoo, Windows Live Hotmail, Gmail, AOL Mail, Verizon.net, and your own POP3 account. You can also get corporate e-mail via Microsoft Exchange, provided your company supports Outlook Web Access. Note that mobile e-mail isn't free; it costs around $9.99 a month. The Octane is compatible with Skype Mobile, Backup Assistant, and Mobile Broadband Connect. The latter lets you use the phone as a modem for around $20 for 2GB a month.
Other features of the phone include USB mass storage, visual voice mail, a document viewer that can read Microsoft files plus PDFs and plain text documents, Bing search, and GPS with VZ Navigator. Supported Bluetooth profiles include A2DP stereo, dial-up networking, basic printing, phonebook access, object push for vCard and vCalendar, and file transfer. If you're a fan of social networking, Verizon has also included its SocialBeat app that will house all your major social network accounts and popular news feeds into one interface.
We're happy to see that the LG Octane has a full HTML browser. You get to it via a Web portal that provides quick access to other sites such as Bing, ESPN, WeatherBug, Reuters, Fandango, Fox News, Verizon's ringtone store, and your Verizon account profile. From there you simply use it like a regular browser--it has a full screen view, and you can zoom in and out of Web pages, manage bookmarks, subscribe to RSS feeds, and more. We're glad that, unlike the old version of this browser, there's a dedicated URL field plus a Search box at the top.
The LG Octane has EV-DO Rev. 0, which is enough to make the phone compatible with Verizon's broadband services like V Cast Video, Verizon's streaming video service, and V Cast Music with Rhapsody, which lets you purchase and download songs over the air for $1.99. If you have a Rhapsody subscription, you can transfer subscribed tracks to the phone via USB. Thankfully, the Octane's music player interface is separate from V Cast, so it feels quite intuitive and fast to use. You can view album art, too. The player supports MP3, WMA, and unprotected AAC and AAC+ formats. You can create and manage playlists on the fly, and set songs on repeat and shuffle. The phone supports up to 16GB of removable memory for external storage.
The 3.2-megapixel camera on the Octane can take pictures in five resolutions, and has a slew of other camera settings. They include a self-timer, flash, white balance modes, color effects, shutter sounds (with a silent option), and five different shot modes that include Smile Shot, Panorama, Intelligent Shot, and the aforementioned Dual Display mode. Picture quality was pretty good, but nothing great. Images looked very sharp, but colors seemed rather muted and washed out. Indoor shots did improve with use of flash, though. There's also a camcorder that can record video in either 320x240 or 176x144 resolution.
The LG Octane doesn't come with any apps, but you do get games like Uno and Scrabble. If you want more apps and games, as well customization items like wallpaper and ringtones, you can get them from the Verizon online store.
We tested the LG Octane in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was average overall. Callers said our voice came through loud and clear, but they did detect a bit of digital distortion toward the end of our sentences. They also said our voice sounded a bit different, and laced with a bit of an echo. Speakerphone calls had just a touch more echo effect, but nothing out of the ordinary. On our end, we experienced similar call quality, but we still managed to carry on a conversation without too many problems.
We have to admit we were a little disappointed with the speeds of EV-DO Rev. 0. We're used to downloading songs in under a minute, but with the case of the Octane, we downloaded a 1.9MB song in around 1 minute and 54 seconds. V Cast videos didn't take long to buffer, but the quality was rather blocky and pixelated.
As for audio quality, the songs sounded quite good over the phone's stereo speakers. There wasn't a lot of bass, but it wasn't as tinny as we expected. Volume was nice and loud, too. We're happy that the Octane has A2DP stereo, but were disappointed that it didn't have a 3.5mm headset jack, especially for a phone with a music player.
The LG Octane has a rated battery life of 6.3 hours talk time and 14.2 days standby time. In our battery drain tests, it has a talk time of 6 hours and 1 minute. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 0.77 watt per kilogram.