The LG Encore lacks a physical keyboard, so it's not quite a messaging phone. It's more like a featurephone for those who only use standard features but want to add a little flair to the experience, hence the touchscreen. Though it performs well in this function, there are better options on AT&T, even if you want a budget-friendly, inexpensive phone.
Design and Features
The Encore's 3-inch resistive touchscreen display is small, but the device in general is very pocket-sized. It measures a mere 4 inches by 2 inches and is less than half-an-inch thick. Not only is the front display touch-sensitive, the function buttons for Phone, Back, and End are also touch-sensitive. These weren't always responsive and sometimes took a few presses.
The right side of the device contains the camera button and a task menu button, the top is where you'll find the Power/screen lock button and the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the left side contains the volume rocker buttons and the microUSB charging port. A microSD card slot is housed on the right side of the device, but you must remove the battery cover to access it. The phone supports up to 16GB of external memory. The device is small and light, but it feels pretty solid in the hand.
Usability and Performance
As mentioned earlier, the Encore has a resistive touchscreen. This is fine for general navigation and scrolling through menus, but I would not recommend using it for texting. When using the keyboard, it was unresponsive and difficult to use. I also noticed a strange yellow-ish tint to the display. I'm not sure what's causing this, but it can be somewhat frustrating. The Encore does have threaded text messaging.
The Encore's UI is one that we've seen on other LG phones recently. You're given three homescreens: one for widgets, though there are only seven available options, one screen for shortcuts that can be customized, and one for your favorite contacts. The Main Menu is divided into four categories: Communications, Find, Entertainment, and Tools and Settings. The UI is simple, easy to learn, and accommodating. It's not as exciting as other UIs I've used, but it's interesting enough. The Encore features AT&T Social Net, Mobile Email, AT&T Navigator My-Cast Weather, and, most notably, MobiTV.
The Encore's 3 megapixel camera took "okay" photos, but nothing spectacular. Since it lacks an autofocus and a flash, some pictures game out blurry and lighting had to be perfect. I would recommend using it mostly for quick snapshots to send to friends.
The Encore ships with a 950 mAh battery. In testing, the battery lasted about three days with standard use and five to six days on standby.
To put it shortly, the LG Encore is a good low-end featurephone, but for the price ($50 with a new two-year contract and after rebates) there are definitely better options on AT&T.
The Good: Small-ish, thin design; good battery life; interesting UI.
The Bad: Resistive touchscreen is not good for heavy texters; unexplained yellow-ish tint to the display; mediocre camera.
The Verdict: The Encore is a basic featurephone that performs well in standard functions, but there are better options from AT&T.