What's Good: Well-built device with a good QWERTY keyboard and decent battery life.
What's Bad: Windows Mobile makes the device a bit sluggish; resistive touchscreen isn't the greatest in the accuracy department.
The Verdict: The Fathom is a decent mid-range smartphone, and is even better for those that travel internationally on a regular basis.
Windows Phone 7 is right around the corner, but that's not stopping manufacturers from releasing Windows Mobile 6.5-equipped devices. Equipped with Windows Mobile 6.5.3, the LG Fathom hits Verizon just in time for the busy summer shopping season. The device joins Verizon's packed lineup of smartphones, and given the price point ($149.99 after mail-in rebate), it could be a tough sell. Should you pick up a Fathom when you could get a Palm Pre Plus, BlackBerry Bold 9650, or Motorola DROID for the same price? Read on to find out!
Design & Features
The Fathom ships with the device, battery, an AC adapter, USB cable, earbuds, a pouch, a 4GB microSD card (installed in phone), and instruction manuals. Coming in at 4.53 inches long by 2.20 inches wide by 0.65 inch thick, the device weighs 5.36 ounces, making it similar in size to the LG enV Touch. The device sports a 3.2-inch LCD with 480 x 800 pixels. It's no competitor to the AMOLED offerings out there, but it's still a decent display for everyday use. The build quality is very good, and after several times of opening and closing the hinge, I was unable to detect any defects.
The Fathom's exterior has quite a few buttons. On the left side, the 3.5mm headphone jack, volume rocker, and microUSB charging port can be found, while the microSD card slot, stylus, shortcut key, and camera button can be found on the right side. The power button is on the top, and the 3.2-megapixel camera is located on the back. Unfortunately, there's no flash with the camera, so pictures will require an adequate amount of light to come out well.
Usability & Performance
With Windows Mobile 6.5.3 Professional, the phone sports a few unique features that distinguish it from Windows Mobile handsets of the past. From the lock screen, users can forego unlocking the device and use the "gesture" pad instead. The gesture area acts as a sort of shortcut springboard, with letters like "i," "e," and "p" jumping directly to individual applications. You can also activate your music from the lock screen by sliding the clock to the left or right.
Under the hood, the Fathom offers a 1 GHz Snapdragon CPU, and from regular tasks to multitasking, everything was mostly snappy with little to no lag. That being said, the recurring issue I had was that the device was occasionally erratic when performing some tasks. Simply put, I can't quite figure out why things open so quickly sometimes and lag at other times. Scrolling itself was often an issue - I found that there were times where one scroll accomplished what I was trying to do, and other times where it required two. I've reviewed several Windows Mobile-powered Snapdragon devices, and I think the OS is causing the slowdown. Combine that with a resistive display (which isn't as consistent as a capacitive display when it comes to gestures), and you have the occasional scrolling issues.
The on-screen keyboard is terrible, in my opinion. Individual keys are tiny, and the auto-correction software isn't that great. I found myself pressing all over the place, and after a week of use, "hi, how are you?" becomes "hi, gig aw you?" when I try to type on it. That being said, the physical QWERTY is very good. Offering four rows, the layout is very good. The keyboard is shifted to the left due to a D-pad located to the right of the keyboard, but unlike the DROID, the Fathom is short enough that it doesn't pose an issue,
The Fathom offers a 3.0-megapixel camera, which as you would expect, isn't the greatest. Images are relatively blurry (despite the autofocus), and colors are slightly washed out. Editing options include image size, scene mode (auto, portrait, landscape, sports, night), color effect (sepia, mono, negative, solarize), white balance (auto, incandescent, sunny, fluorescent, cloudy), self-timer (3-10 seconds), shot mode (normal, continuous, panorama), ISO (100, 200, 400, 800), image quality (super fine, fine, normal), and shutter sounds (five, including the option to turn it off). Video recording is decent for a quick video on the run.
I worked with the Fathom in the Charlotte metropolitan area, and call quality was very good throughout my testing. Callers were able to hear me well, and they reported a static-free experience. I had the occasional cut out on my end, but nothing major. When visiting a known Verizon Wireless trouble spot in Northeast Charlotte, I noticed a bit of static and an increase in audio dropouts, but I was able to maintain the call. Like other Windows Mobile devices, the Fathom often displayed zero "bars" despite coverage being When testing the speakerphone in a noisy department store, I was able to hear my callers without issue. Though they said that they could hear the background noise, we were able to carry on a conversation. I successfully paired my Plantronics Voyager Pro Bluetooth headset to the device without a problem, and callers were pleased with the audio quality. The Fathom is a Verizon Wireless "world phone," so it comes equipped with a SIM card slot for overseas use. Pricing varies depending on the country, but you can use the included Verizon SIM card and keep your number while traveling.
With a 1500 mAh battery, estimated talk time is about 7 hours, and estimated standby time is just under 20 days. With moderate use including calling, text messaging, browsing the internet, and use of several pre-installed applications, I was able to make it to the end of one full day before the unit needed to be charged. It's slightly better than other smartphones on the market, but if you're a power user, I would recommend a microUSB car charger or a spare battery.
The Fathom is an EVDO Rev. A device, so expect to see decent speeds when browsing the web and using data-centric applications. CNN's mobile website loaded in about 10 seconds, and the full PhoneDog homepage loaded in about 23 seconds. Data-heavy apps like Marketplace, VZ Navigator, and Mobile E-Mail worked well. Should you be outside of a 3G coverage area (which is hard, given Verizon's solid 3G map), the device offers 802.11n Wi-Fi connectivity as well.
Though I think Windows Mobile is a bit antiquated when looking at webOS, iPhone OS, and Android, the LG Fathom is a decent mid-range smartphone that should make a lot of people happy. It has a great QWERTY keyboard, world roaming capabilities thanks to a SIM card slot under the battery, and decent battery life.