In the past couple weeks I’ve had several messaging phones make their obligatory way across my desk (a couple of them also stamped with an LG logo) – and they all were for CDMA networks. The LG Xenon for AT&T Wireless is a welcome change. Change is good, and in many ways, so is the LG Xenon. Despite a few drawbacks, LG has delivered a strong messaging device with plenty of bells and whistles.
While little about the Xenon will necessarily make it stand out in a crowd of touch screen phones, the device is nevertheless sleek and handsome. The Xenon is not too heavy, and not too light – at 3.81oz, some may say it’s just right for a messaging-centric device. The phone is small and slender, and won’t weigh you down in a pocket or purse.
The Xenon comes in black, blue, or red – all with a tasteful touch of chrome. The front of the LG Xenon is dominated by a crisp and bright 2.8 inch touch screen. The screen is on the smaller end as touch screens go, but I didn’t find the screen size to be an issue. It boasts support for 262k colors and 240×400 pixels, making for sharp menus and good-looking images. There’s also a send key (also brings up a nice tabbed recent calls menu), application switcher button for multitasking (more on that later), and an end/power key.
A microUSB port can be found on top of the phone for syncing, charging, and connecting a headphone adapter (sold separately). Unfortunately, there’s no headphone jack on the Xenon, although the phone does support Stereo Bluetooth if you want to pick up a pair of wireless headphones. On the left is a volume rocker, that if held down quickly switches the device to vibrate mode. On the right is a microSD card slot that supports up to a 16GB card, lock button, and camera quick launch key. A 2 megapixel camera with a small, yet bright flash graces the back.
On to what’s arguably the heart and soul of the Xenon – it’s sliding QWERTY keyboard. The Xenon’s keyboard is perhaps my favorite of the messaging phones I’ve gotten my hands on recently. The keys feel great to the touch, and also provide nice feedback when pressed. There’s also plenty of shortcut keys – one for text messages, email, instant messaging (the Xenon supports AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo! messengers), contacts, browser and even a dedicated ‘@’ and ‘.com’ key.
When it comes down to effectively navigating the Xenon, there’s a learning curve to be sure. But LG incorporated some innovative features and an intuitive interface that, after a bit of practice, gives the Xenon an impressive user experience.
The touch screen is resistive touch, meaning some degree of pressure must be applied whether you are selecting a menu item or scrolling a page of text. This was a bit of a difficult concept to get my arms around at first. My biggest problem was scrolling a long list of contacts or a web page, but after an hour or so I was good to go. I calibrated the screen a bit too quickly right out of the gate, but after recalibrating it I found the touch screen accurate and responsive for the most part. I did occasionally have trouble with smaller icons, and sometimes had to use a finger nail. There’s also a slight haptic feedback whenever any action is performed on the touch screen. This feature can be disabled, but I actually found it oddly satisfying.
Among the most notable selling points of the Xenon is its fully customizable home screen. Along the top of the home screen are three icons that allow you to jump to any of three fully customizable screens. There’s one screen for customizable widgets (the rather limited selection of widgets includes one for music control, the photo gallery, memos, and a world clock, calendar, and analog clock with quick access to the alarm clock). Another screen hosts icons for your favorite contacts that can be arranged in any way you please, complete with the contact’s picture (if one is set, of course). The last screen provides a customizable grid of icons that allows for quick access to your most frequently used applications or settings menus.
A set of four icons on the bottom of the screen stays static no matter what home screen is open. Touching these icons launches the dial pad, contacts list, text messaging, or an extended tabbed menu that provides access to all other applications and settings. The Xenon also adds ease to navigation with a feature LG has termed the “Annunciator.” The Annunciator is actually a drop down menu that can be opened from any menu or application by tapping the top of the screen. This drop down menu provides easy access to items such as Bluetooth settings, the music player, and alarm clock, among others.
The Xenon also does a nice job with multitasking. The middle button on the front of the device launches a screen called the Task menu that displays a list of currently open applications. Selecting an application brings you back to it. You can also close applications from the Task menu as well. Think of it like the taskbar on your PC.
Calls can be made using either an on-screen dial pad or the XENON’s QWERTY keypad. The on-screen dial pad was easy to use and effective, although it did sometimes lag when trying to quickly enter in a number. The Xenon also features Voice Command functionality, though the quickest way to access voice commands is by adding the tool to the favorites menu, which provides for frustratingly slow access. The device’s phone book supports up to 500 contacts, with room for two phone numbers, an email address and a memo.
The Xenon’s spacious, well constructed QWERTY keyboard makes messaging quick and easy, promising avid texters the ability to get their money’s worth on their unlimited messaging plans. Text messages are organized by conversation, featuring collapsible chat bubbles for each message. The Xenon supports mobile instant messaging, providing on-the-go access to AIM, Windows Live and Yahoo! instant messaging platforms. The Xenon also supports AT&T Mobile Email, but unfortunately has a fairly limited number of supported email providers, and does not allow access to POP or IMAP accounts.
As has come to be expected these days with most phones of its ilk, the Xenon features a full HTML browser. The Xenon did a decent job rendering most web pages, but often had some trouble with more complicated pages. The device allows multiple browser windows to be open at once, although switching between browser windows is somewhat cumbersome. Although the Xenon does not provide the zoom functionality offered by multitouch devices such as the Palm Pre and Apple iPhone that allow for ‘pinching’ to zoom in and out on a page, holding down momentarily on an area of the screen and then releasing will zoom in on that area of the page. While page loads were usually quick over AT&T’s 3G network, the browser itself was often frustratingly sluggish. Bringing up the address bar to navigate to a new page, for example, was often slow and left me wondering if the device registered my touch.
The Xenon is limited to 80MB of on-board memory, but does support up to a 16GB microSD card for plenty of extra space. Songs can be transferred over USB cable, or purchased over-the-air through Napster. The music player on the Xenon can be found within AT&T Music, where you can also find several other features and tools including XM Radio, MusicID ( which will identify a song playing in the background), music videos and more. The music player is pretty basic, but features the usual functionality such as the ability to make a playlist or shuffle songs.
The Xenon also supports AT&T’s Cellular Video, which lets you watch various clips as well as full-length episodes of a number of popular TV shows, including NCIS, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and more. The Xenon comes pre-installed with trial versions of a number of games, including Bubble bash, Diner Dash, Bowling, and Monopoly.
Despite the fact that the Xenon’s on-board camera is only 2 megapixels, the device takes pretty good pictures. Pictures can be taken in four different resolutions including 1600×1200, 1280×960, 640×480 and 320×240. There’s also a fair list of settings and options on the Xenon’s camera. Brightness, white balance and color effects can all be set, and the camera includes a night mode and timer. The device also supports AT&T Video Share, allowing live video to be shared with friends and family.
The Xenon takes acceptable quality video that is on par with most of the competition.
Bluetooth profiles supported by the Xenon include stereo music streaming (A2DP), object push to send pictures and other files (OPP), dial-up networking (DUN), remote control (AVRC), hands-free car kits (HFP), headsets (HSP), basic printing profile (BPP), and file transfer (FTP).
The Xenon is equipped with AT&T GPS for navigation, an alarm clock, calculator, notepad, world clock, voice recorder, task list, tip calculator, stopwatch, and unit converter.
The LG Xenon’s limited email support, occasional sluggishness, and sporadic screen accuracy issues held the Xenon back from messaging perfection, but the phone is still the ultimate messaging device in more ways than one. The compact and attractive device sports a superior QWERTY keyboard, an impressive touch interface, and a slew of extra features including a quality camera, full HTML browser, GPS, and more.