If competition in the cell phone market is war – and it is, particularly this month with the release of 28 hot new phones – call the LG’s trio of phones coming out in June brothers in arms. The middle brother, if you will, is the LG enV3 – falling in between the Glance and enV Touch in price and feature load.
The enV3 has only a slight facelift as compared to the enV2, but is packing a fully enhanced feature set that looks alone wouldn’t hint at. The enV3 comes armed with a 3 megapixel camera/camcorder and a full HTML browser, as well as improved external navigation and internal keyboard layout. LG’s enV3 is a superior messaging phone that could certainly outgun much of its competition.
The enV3 is a wide, rectangular device with a flat dial pad and small screen that make it reminiscent of a pocket calculator. Sure, comparing a cell phone to a pocket calculator isn’t necessarily flattering – but the enV3 is sleek in its own right. Its unique shape can be better understood by popping the hood to reveal a nice, full QWERTY keyboard responsible for the enV3’s messaging muscle. Open or closed, the enV3 feels sturdy and good in the hand.
With the exception of a silver four-way navigation key gracing the front of the enV3 and a one-touch contacts button instead of what was formerly a music button, the phone is nearly a carbon copy of the enV2. On the front of the enV3 is a small 1.6” moderate resolution TFT screen that provides the usual notifications as well as access to an abridged menu. Defined shortcut keys include access to contacts, voice commands (holding the same key down for several seconds accesses voice memo), key lock, and vibrate mode. The four-way navigation key can also be user defined to allow quick access to most of the phone’s features and applications, including text messages, Bluetooth settings and music. The dial pad consists of four wavy bars that, while effective, would have benefitted from being slightly raised above the phone’s body for easier dialing.
Flipping the enV3 open, you are greeted by a crisp and clear 2.6” screen, with two speakers at either side. The internal screen supports 260,000 colors, and will surely please the visual connoisseur. A new and improved full QWERTY keyboard features a key that provides one-touch access to call or text your 10 favs. Another such key gets you right into text messaging so you aren’t waylaid by a second when that burning need to text your B.F.F. (read best-friend-forever) arises. The keyboard is spacious, and keys feel satisfying when pressed.
On the left of the phone is a volume up/down key coupled with a camera button that will open the camera application or snap a picture. On the right is a microSD slot that supports up to a 16GB card – plenty of room for that overflowing music library. There’s also a 2.5mm headphone jack. If you don’t have a 2.5mm pair of headphones (shocker), it may be a good excuse to go pick up a nice pair of Bluetooth headphones. The enV3 supports stereo Bluetooth.
Like the enV Touch, the enV3’s hinge allows it to open to either a laptop-esque slant or fully flat. I preferred it to be fully flat when responding to a text message on the fly, but tilted like a laptop if I was browsing a web page while sitting at a table or desk.
The enV3’s interface was fairly basic and intuitive – core features such as messaging and music were well integrated and easy to get at externally or with the device open. The small external screen provides access to most basic applications and functionality, but any advanced task such as creating a playlist or sending a text message to multiple recipients had to be performed with the enV3 open to its internal screen. Access to more advanced applications such as VZ Navigator (available on the enV3 for $9.99/month or $2.99/day if you find yourself up a river without a paddle in the middle of nowhere) or VCAST Music or Videos required also, not surprisingly, required the substantially larger and sharper external screen. The phone’s graphics and animated menu icons were easily identifiable and appeared sharp on the internal display.
I had no problems navigating the enV3’s menus and applications. The phone was quick and responsive, and I experienced no hang ups or freezes, even when trying to overwhelm the phone by opening multiple menus and applications in quick succession.
Numbers or contacts can be dialed from either the external dial pad or internal numerical keys. Opening the phone while in-call activates the enV3’s speakerphone. The speakerphone was impressive – loud and clear, with callers reporting that they could hear me well. The enV3’s phone book supports a generous 1000 contacts with space for 5 phone numbers, 2 email addresses and one physical address. For an additional $2.99/month, Visual Voice Mail is supported on the enV3.
The enV3 is equipped with a comprehensive Voice Command functionality. Pushing the ‘CLR’ button from the home screen activates Voice Command, and you can then command the enV3 to dial a contact or number, access a menu item (Bluetooth for example), or even start playing a particular song from your music library. My success rate with Voice Command was far from perfect, but in general the feature worked pretty well as long as you spoke loudly and clearly.
The enV3 is billed as a Messaging Phone. And its internal QWERTY keyboard, dedicated messaging key, and well thought out messaging interface is sure to please the avid texter. When open, new text or MMS messages automatically bring up a screen allowing for multiple recipients to be added – just start typing the name of a contact, and a drop down list of stored contacts will allow you to easily select a recipient and shoot off a new text. Messages can be displayed by conversation or time sent/received.
The enV3 supports Verizon’s Mobile Email ($4.99/month), offering access to most popular web based email services as well as IMAP and POP accounts. It’s not going to rival the experience of a true email equipped Smartphone, but will satisfy anyone who wants casual access to email on the go. If you need casual access to a corporate Exchange account, an application called RomoSync is available for $9.99.
The phone is also equipped with Mobile IM, offering on-the-go chat through AIM, Windows Live Messenger, or Yahoo! Messenger.
With the exception of a couple hiccups, the full HTML browser on the enV3 is among the best available on a phone built for messaging. The browser interface is intuitive and easy to use, with the ability to zoom in and out on pages, perform a search for text on a page, or even subscribe to RSS feeds. The browser opens to what Verizon has termed the Dashboard Mobile Web, which offers quick access to news, weather, and sports as well as portals to games and other entertainment. For browsing other sites, you must then launch Mobile Web which by default loads a screen called VZW Today. For the most part, sites rendered nicely and in about 10-15 seconds with a decent EVDO connection. Detracting from the superior browsing experience, however, is the oddity that the browser requires surfing to a Verizon page to enter in a new web address – a process that quickly becomes frustrating when visiting multiple web sites.
With the capacity for up to a 16GB MicroSD card, the enV3 can accommodate plenty of music and pictures. The enV3’s music player interface takes no major departures from that of its peers, providing a simple player that displays any album art associated with a track as well as, of course, song title, artist, and album. Custom playlists are also easy to create. Songs can be downloaded from V CAST Music, or downloaded from your computer using the provided sync cable. V CAST Video also offers a wealth of streaming and downloadable video entertainment, ranging from music videos to episodes of many popular TV shows.
Although a slightly unsteady hand was almost sure to result in a blurry picture, image quality on the enV3 was pretty decent. The camera allows pictures to be taken in six different resolutions (2,048×1,536, 1,600×1,200, 1,280×960, 640×480, and 320×240 pixels), and provides a host of customizable settings including shutter sound, white balance, a self timer, and 4 color effects settings. There are also 4 included shot modes – Smile Shot (detects smiles and automatically snaps a picture), Panorama (string together multiple images), Intelligent Shot (automatically changes settings based on conditions for best image quality), and Dual Display (activates external screen for self portraits).
The enV3’s camcorder allows for 30 second video clips to be taken in two resolutions (320×240 or 176×144). While the quality was OK, it paled in comparison to the stellar performance of the enV Touch’s camcorder.
Supported Profiles include Headset, Hands-Free, Dial-Up Networking, Stereo, Phone Book Access, Basic Printing, Object Push, File Transfer, Basic Imaging, and Human Interface Device.
The enV3 is a powerful device all around – sporting strong multimedia features, an enhanced camera, and one of the better mobile web browsing experiences available on a phone of its kind. And, after all, the enV3 is designed for messaging – and in that realm it naturally doesn’t disappoint.