What's Good: Sleeker and smaller than the original EnV. Comfortable QWERTY keyboard and QVGA internal display make texting fun. Huge external keypad makes dialing easy. VCAST music and video support. Support for laptop tethering (phone as modem).
What's Not Good: External keypad makes the phone look like a retro calculator, although I suppose that could be seen as a good thing. Space bar is small and oddly placed. Verizon's menu system can be confusing. Limited Bluetooth functionality. Still a little bulky.
Bottom Line: Verizon and LG shrunk the EnV and the results are good. While the original EnV was an innovative but (very) big and expensive high-end phone, the EnV2 is smaller, cheaper, and slots into the middle of VZW's messaging phone lineup. Text addicts who don't need Voyager's touchscreen ? and additional size and cost ? should find QWERTY bliss with this affordable and capable handset.
Make/Model: LG EnV2 (VX-9100)
Network: CDMA 850 / 1900
Data: 1x EV-DO Rev. 0 (3G)
Carrier: Verizon Wireless
Size: 102 x 54 x 16.5 mm
Weight: 120 g
Form Factor: Clamshell (Horizontal-opening with dual displays and keyboards)
Display: 2.4? Color LCD, 240 x 320 (QVGA) resolution, 262,000 Colors (main); 1.45? Color LCD, 160 x 64 resolution, 262,000 colors (secondary external)
Memory: 63 MB built-in, microSD card slot
Notable Features: Internal QWERTY keypad and external 12-button dialing keypad; Dual displays; Stereo speakers; VCAST Music and Video compatible; Stereo Bluetooth
LG's V and EnV for Verizon Wireless were innovative handsets for their time: The phones sported a ?horizontal clamshell? form factor that looked like a candybar phone on the outside but opened to reveal a full QWERTY board and large display on the inside, and offered users the convenience of a full keypad for texting without the complexity of a smartphone. The phones were primarily embraced by early adopters who were willing to sacrifice a bit of style (both devices are pretty bulky) for the geek-chic of that full QWERTY thumbboard and high speed EV-DO data access.
Now that texting has become more popular than talking in many circles, Verizon Wireless offers no fewer than four ?VCAST Messaging Phones? that offer QWERTY boards in a ?dumbphone? configuration. Alongside the LG Voyager and Samsung Glyde and Alias is the LG EnV2 (VX-9100), a slimmed down successor to the V and EnV that offers a solid set of messaging and multimedia features at an affordable price.
Is the EnV2 a worthy follow-up to EnV? And is it the right choice for you in VZW's now-crowded messaging phone lineup? Yes. And maybe.
EnV2 is smaller and more squared-off looking than EnV. At 16.5mm thick it's still not a small phone, but it's much more pocketable than its predecessors. And LG managed to keep just about everything that made EnV so good and also give EnV2 a slightly larger internal display than EnV had. The one design choice found here that's inspired some controversy amongst has to do with EnV2's external keypad and display. Compared to The V and EnV, EnV2's front panel has much larger buttons but a smaller display and only Up and Down arrow keys instead of a full D-Pad. The result is slightly more limited functionality ? most notably, you can't scroll left/right when composing a text message with the phone closed ? but one of the easiest to use dialing keypads you?ll find on any phone anywhere. Of course those giant, easy-to-press buttons do give the handset the look of a very old school calculator, for better or for worse.
The handset looks and works like a candybar phone when its closed, and also opens the long way to reveal a ?mini-laptop? configuration with a large internal display on the top and a full QWERTY thumbboard on the bottom. Stereo speakers flank the display and the keyboard features a five-way D-Pad as well as two softkeys and a couple of shortcut buttons. For some reason EnV2 has two Space keys positioned in the bottom left and right corners of the QWERTY layout; I much prefer a single, larger space bar placed bottom center as on a traditional computer keyboard. Still, LG/VZW did a nice job of giving the handset a more compact design and feel while still retaining great usability. I liked that the top panel of the flip locks into place at a 90-degree angle relative to the keyboard but also can be pushed further back to a near flat orientation.
EnV2 is slated as a ?VCAST Messaging Phone? and as such features a fairly robust messaging and multimedia feature set, though you?ll have to pay extra for the Mobile Email client. The Email program actually isn't very good - it's easy to set up but can't handle attachments or even display HTML links inside of messages. There's a pre-installed Mobile IM client works with AIM, Yahoo!, and Windows Messenger but not GTalk, and Verizon's ?Mobile Web? WAP browser can get you to mobile-ready sites but not out to the real Web. For that you?ll need an HTML browser like those found on Voyager and Glyde. And there's no easy PC syncing or other smartphone features to be found here; EnV2 isn't a smartphone, it's a messaging phone, and it's built for talking and texting.
The VCAST media player supports connections to Verizon's music store and streaming video selection, both of which are pay services, and also lets you sideload music from your computer onto a microSD card for use on the handset. Most popular music formats save tracks bought at the iTunes store (protected AAC) played back without any problems on my review model, and VCAST video clips looked pretty good on the QVGA internal display, though they pixelated when blown up to full screen mode. EnV2 is also compatible with games, ringtones, and other goodies available for purchase through VZW's ?Get it Now? menus. I downloaded the VZ Navigator application, and it worked quite well in conjunction with the phone's onboard GPS chip.
I really enjoyed using EnV2, though I have to say I don't know how much I?d enjoy having it in my pocket on a daily basis. I tend to prefer thinner phones and found EnV2's thickness and hard corners (they?re rounded but only ever so slightly) a little cumbersome. That said, actually using the phone for everything from texting to talking to GPS-enabled navigation was generally smooth and easy. The QWERTY board was comfortable, the internal display was big and bright enough to be easily read in all but the brightest conditions, and the phone sounded good on calls and during music and video playback. EnV2's two-megapixel camera is capable of capturing still shots and video, but image quality was a bit below average and there's no flash or autofocus to help matters.
As mentioned, Verizon's Mobile Email client is kind of lame - especially for $5/month extra - and I?d recommend trying to access your mail via EnV2's WAP Web browser (or VZW's own free Webmail site) before signing up for the service. Speaking of WAP, the Mobile Web browser is definitely a bit limiting if you?re used to getting the full Web on your handset - though it's just fine for quick news/info updates. You?ll have to either buy headphones (or a 2.5-to-3.5mm adapter) or use stereo Bluetooth headphones with EnV2 as it doesn't come with any, and LG also eschewed their regular AC charger in favor of a micro-USB charger here, though that of course comes in the retail packaging.
I tested EnV2 all around the San Francisco Bay Area and signal strength and voice quality were generally excellent. The phone's internal earpiece and speakerphone were about average and calls sounded good so long as I didn't crank the speakerphone up to full volume, whereupon some distortion occurred. I had no problems pairing the handset to several mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, and high-speed data access over Verizon's EV-DO network was quite good. EnV2 can be used as a laptop modem as well, which is a nice bonus you don't usually see on a VZW non-smartphone.
I had a little bit of trouble getting an accurate GPS reading on the phone while inside of my house, but got excellent results out-of-doors both in the East Bay and in downtown San Francisco. I also found VZ Navigator to be a handy, easy to use service - though the newest build pre-installed on my Glyde loaner offered a few features that the older version on EnV2 didn't have. Battery life was on EnV2 was solid, offering a bit more talk and standby time than the Samsung Alias (which has a smaller battery).
Decisions, decisions. As I mentioned earlier, Verizon's now got four VCAST Messaging phones for heavy texters to choose from, and that's not venturing into full-blown smartphone territory. With LG's Voyager taking over the flagship spot in VZW's lineup, EnV2 slots in as more of a mid-range offering between Samsung's Glyde and the low-end Alias. EnV2 won't give you a touchscreen or full HTML browsing like Voyager and Glyde, but you will get a few more features as compared to Alias ? most notably a front keypad for calling/texting without having to open the device up. And the price is right.
I can't really decide if EnV2 is right for you, but I can tell you a few things to help you make your own decision. If you want a do-it-all, top of the line device you?ll probably like Voyager or Glyde ? or a VZW smartphone ? more than EnV2. If you want a phone for heavy Email use on the go, skip directly to the BlackBerry Curve or Pearl as their Email service can't be beat. If you want the thinnest, smallest VZW handset with a full keyboard, that's Alias, not EnV2.
But if you want a solid performer for calls, messaging, and music/video ? or if you liked the original V and EnV but wished they were a little smaller and easier to carry around ? you?ll probably like EnV2. It's very good at what it was built to do, which is make calls and handle mobile messaging. With its roomy QWERTY board and internal display, EnV2 is ready for serious texting and IMing out of the box, and while VZW really should give you more if they?re going to charge $5/month for that mobile Email client, you can always opt for the free Webmail service instead. The music and video players are pretty good, and while EnV2's camera is just a bit sub par, it's fine for spur of the moment snapshots and sending picture and video messages.
EnV2 is still just a little bulky for my tastes, but it's a vast improvement over The V and EnV that came before it. If you?re in the market for a VCAST phone with QWERTY, EnV2 is definitely worth a look. Get it in your hands before you buy if you can, and make sure its size, shape, and QWERTY board feels good; if it does, odds are you?ll be happy as an EnV2 owner for at least a year or so before EnV3 comes along to woo you away.