When the LG Revolution was first announced at CES 2011, many industry pundits thought it would be the U.S. version of the LG Optimus 2X, a dual-core smartphone that was announced a month prior for the international market. It turned out that the Optimus 2X would take the form of the T-Mobile G2X a few months later, and that the Revolution was instead a result of a partnership with Verizon Wireless. Indeed, the Revolution comes with a slew of Verizon-branded applications, and perhaps painfully, its search and maps functions are powered by Bing instead of Google.
But the Revolution isn't all bad. It's the third-ever 4G-LTE phone to grace Verizon's lineup, and its 4.3-inch display is quite stunning. Though it doesn't have a dual-core processor, its 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor is certainly no slouch. The Revolution is also one of the first phones to support the new Netflix app for Android--the app is actually preinstalled on the phone. Yet, we found ourselves wanting. For $249.99, we would've liked that it ship with higher-end hardware like a dual-core processor. The lackluster battery life was a disappointment, too. On the whole, the Revolution does offer a satisfying Android smartphone experience. Just don't expect anything revolutionary.
File the LG Revolution under the massive Android phone category. Like the HTC Thunderbolt and the Samsung Droid Charge, the Revolution's big 4.3-inch display results in quite a heavy and imposing handset. Measuring 5.1 inches long by 2.6 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Revolution is clad in a soft matte material on the back, curved corners, and smooth gun-metal sides. While some might be put off by such a bricklike phone, the Revolution's impressive heft does result in a solid and luxurious feel in the hand.
Besides, the luscious 4.3-inch display will make you forget the Revolution's size soon enough. The 800x480-pixel LCD is beautifully vibrant and sharp. The colors are not quite as deep as that on a Super AMOLED screen, but the Revolution still offers a great video viewing experience. The capacitive touch screen is intuitive and responsive, with hardly any lag when flipping through the phone's seven home screens.
Beneath the display are four touch-sensitive buttons that correspond to the menu, home, back, and search functions. They provide haptic or vibrating feedback when pressed. Above the display on the upper left is an LED indicator, while the upper right houses the front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. On the left spine is the microUSB port, while the volume rocker and HDMI port are on the right. The 3.5mm headset jack and screen lock/power key sit on the top. The camera lens and LED flash are on the back, set inside a strip of reflective silver that could also act as a self-portrait mirror.
The LG Revolution ships with Android 2.2 Froyo, and though the interface doesn't stray too far from the stock Android experience, LG did add a few of its own touches. The shortcuts on the bottom row of the home screen are laid out in a tiled fashion and consist of the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging app, and applications menu. The phone also comes with LG's own In Touch widget, which provides quick visual access to the phone's media library organized by Videos, Photos, Albums, Artists, and Playlists. There is also a Friends widget that compiles all of your phone's contacts with your Facebook and Twitter contacts into one big list.
Another departure from vanilla Android is the main menu, which is organized into categories. For example, the Contacts, E-mail, Facebook, Gmail, Messaging, Phone, Mobile IM, Twitter, Voice dialer, and Voice-mail apps are under the Communication header. Other categories include News & search, Media, Tools, Applications, and Downloads. The Revolution's phone dialer has a slightly bolder design with larger digits and black lettering on top of white buttons. It also provides haptic feedback when digits are pressed. As for the virtual keyboard, you can choose between LG's own keyboard or Swype. With the former, you can opt for sound and vibration feedback as well. The LG keyboard works well and offers choices for up to seven languages. Still, we preferred to use Swype most of the time. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to switch back to the default Android keyboard.
The LG Revolution's hottest feature is arguably the fact that it supports Verizon's 4G-LTE network. It promises average download speeds of up to 12Mbps and upload speeds of 5Mbps. While we didn't quite reach those promised upper limits, we were overall pleased with what we experienced. Browsing was a breeze, and we were impressed by the quality of streaming video as well. Netflix, for example, streams movies and TV shows surprisingly well over 4G, though it wasn't perfect (for more details, check out the Performance section).
Netflix is certainly a fantastic app to have preinstalled in the phone, especially since not all Android phones support it just yet. Other welcome apps pre-installed in the Revolution include Amazon's Kindle, Blockbuster, Bitbop, Rhapsody, Polaris Office, Rock Band, Let's Golf 2, Slacker, and TuneWiki. We also appreciate LG additions like Facebook for LG and Twitter for LG, but we're less enthused about the multitude of Verizon apps. They include the VZ Navigator, City ID, V Cast media manager, Backup Assistant, My Verizon Mobile, and of course, the V Cast App store. You can get more apps via the V Cast App store or the Android Market.
We should also note that due to a Verizon partnership with Microsoft, the Revolution's maps and search functions are powered by Bing instead of Google. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's unfortunate that we're not given a choice. Fortunately, the Revolution supports many other Google services like Google Talk, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Music, Google's recently released cloud music service. As with all Android 2.2 devices, you also get great contact and calendar management, corporate e-mail support (plus regular POP3 and IMAP too), social networking integration, and the full Android Web browser with the Adobe Flash player.
The Revolution is certainly quite a strong multimedia contender. It not only streams Netflix videos like we mentioned earlier, it also has an HDMI output that lets you watch videos on your phone on a big screen television. The phone carries DLNA technology as well, which lets you stream video wirelessly to other DLNA-supported devices via LG's SmartShare app. If you just want to watch videos on the phone, that's not a bad idea either, because the Revolution supports 720p HD video playback. It also supports DivX video playback for WMV, MP4, 3GP, and 3G2 formats. Together with Dolby Music technology and the aforementioned 4.3-inch screen, the Revolution makes for a fantastic device for watching videos.
The rear 5-megapixel camera on the Revolution takes pretty good pictures. Image quality is good, with sharp-as-a-tack photos. Colors did look rather washed out, though. After you take a picture, you'll be presented with an image editor that will let you crop, rotate, resize, filter, and adjust the photo. The Revolution has a great camcorder as well--it can record 720p HD video. The Revolution ships with a 16GB preinstalled microSD card, though it is capable of supporting up to 32GB.
Other features of the LG Revolution include the standard voice features like speakerphone, speed dial, voice commands, conference calling, and text and multimedia messaging. It can also handle video calls thanks to the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, but it doesn't come preloaded with any video chat clients--you'll have to download them on your own. You also get Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS, plus a mobile hot-spot feature that lets you share your 4G connection with up to 10 devices, and a 3G connection for up to 5 devices. This additional feature does cost $20 a month and there's a 2GB data cap associated with it.
We tested the LG Revolution in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless. Call quality was decidedly mixed. On our end, we didn't notice many problems. There weren't any background noise or distortions. However, we did notice that our callers' voice quality sounded rather digitized.
LG Revolution call quality sample Listen now:
Callers on the other hand, experienced mediocre call quality. Volume was quite low, and we were asked to speak up several times. Our voice also had a garbled quality that they said sounded scratchy and distant. They could still make out what we were saying, but only if we were in a quiet environment. Speakerphone quality wasn't much better--it made our voice sound even more distant and garbled.
We had quite a positive experience with Verizon's 4G LTE network here in San Francisco. Using Ookla's Speedtest.net app, we averaged download speeds of 5Mbps and upload speeds of 4Mbps. It's not nearly the speed of the HTC Thunderbolt in New York City, but we were still pretty impressed. The CNET mobile page loaded in just 7 seconds while the full CNET front page loaded in just under 15 seconds. We also managed to stream a few Netflix videos over 4G. However, video quality is a little choppy and not in full HD. Streaming video quality is generally much better over Wi-Fi.
While some might complain about the lack of a dual-core processor in the Revolution, we felt the 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor was more than sufficient. Swiping through different screens and menus felt very responsive, and we experienced no lag when multitasking between different apps. There were occasions when it would take a few seconds to launch certain Internet applications like Netflix or Rhapsody, but we suspect that has more to do with buffering. In any case, the wait was not long enough to disturb us too much.
The LG Revolution ships with a 1,500 mAH lithium ion battery with a rated battery life of 7.25 hours talk time and a standby time of 14 days. According to our tests, it has a talk time of 5 hours. Anecdotally, our experience was not too positive. With minimal use of the browser, e-mail, and watching a couple of short Flash videos, the phone ran out of battery in the middle of the workday.
According to FCC radiation tests, the LG Revolution has a digital SAR of 0.77 watt per kilogram.
The LG Revolution is not a bad phone. With a beautiful 4.3-inch display, 4G speeds, and impressive multimedia offerings, the Revolution is certainly one of the better Android smartphones we've seen to date. Yet, it's not quite the revolutionary device it claims to be. It doesn't have a dual-core processor, it doesn't have Android 2.3, it's saddled with Bing for its search and maps, and the call quality is mediocre. But if all you want is a Verizon 4G phone with Netflix baked right in, then the LG Revolution fits the bill, as long as you can afford it.