Review: LG enV
When you first look at the enV, you might be fooled into thinking it's an overly-thick regular candy-bar phone. As most candy-bar phones these days have been getting thinner and thinner (think Heroin Chic), putting the enV next to one is not a fair comparison. It's like putting Paris Hilton next to Joan Cusack. The enV is a long, rounded brick of phone that just looks beefy. It's longer than a Treo, almost as wide, and just as thick.
Closed up, the enV feels solid in your hand - a little wide, perhaps, but not too heavy. The enV must have hit WeightWatchers, because it is noticeably lighter than the VX-9800, which was very heavy. Since the base of the enV is wider than the top half, it feels a little square, like it's wider than it should be. Sticking it in your pocket is easy enough, and the smooth edges helped it slide in and out easily without getting caught on anything.
The layout of the number keys and function keys on the front is elegant, simple and looks nice. There is a silver edge along the top of the four rows of number keys, creating four tiny ridges that run side to side along the width of number pad, which might be to help your finger differentiate between the rows. The keys themselves have a nice width to them, but are not very tall. Text messaging from the regular number pad was difficult and felt cramped. Given the real estate on the front of this phone, more of it could have been used for the keypad, especially for fat-fingered folk. The VX-9800 featured much larger number keys on the front that were easier to use.
The send, clear, end and function keys ringing the D-pad all clicked audibly when using them and had more play than you might expect. They felt just a hair on the cheap side, but they functioned well enough. As with the number keys, the D-pad has a silver ridge outlining it. This ridge actually helped to separate it a bit from the keys surrounding it, so your thumb didn't slide off the D-pad and accidentally hit one of the other keys.
There are three buttons on the left side of the phone. One is a dedicated camera button, and the other two double as volume adjusters and zoom when the phone is in camera mode. None of these buttons are accessible when the phone is opened in the 3/4 position, but are when it is opened to the full 180 degrees. The camera button is actually a little difficult to press, as it is recessed a bit from the top edge of the phone. Rather than hitting the camera button, sometimes you'll just hit the edge of the phone. The other side of the phone has a hidden slot for a microSD card and a 2.5mm jack for an ear piece.
Opening the enV is easily done with either hand. There is no spring preventing it from opening, though it does lock itself into the open position so that it doesn't flap around. There's a tiny bit of resistance upon closing it, but it doesn't get in the way. The edge of the camera lens's rim on the bottom of the phone becomes a natural place for your first two fingers to grab onto when holding the opened enV, though if the lens cover is open, you run the risk of getting fingerprints on the lens. Overall, though, it feels fairly well balanced. The top part of the phone can be pushed open a full 180 degrees to help framing pictures, though I found when using it like this, it was very easy to accidentally cover the lens with the fingers on your right hand. Part of that may because I am uncoordinated, but some of the blame has to rest with the enV.
None of the keys on the front of the phone work when it is opened, but the D-pad, send, end, clear and function keys are all duplicated inside on the right side, as are the numbers, which run along the top of the qwerty keypad. While navigating menus from the front of the phone was easy, it was less so when the phone is open. The D-pad is on the extreme right side of the wide keypad very close to the edge of the phone, and your thumb has to bend at a very tight angle (i.e., 90 degrees) to be able to hit the pad directly below it. My thumb suffered from cramps very quickly using the D-pad on the inside. Where the send/end keys flank the bottom left and right of the D-pad on the exterior, they are above the D-pad inside, which seems a little odd. The speakerphone key and clear key are directly beneath the D-pad, and I found myself hitting the speakerphone key with the intention of deleting text rather than the clear key, which is to its left. This layout seems slightly awkward and had me turning the speakerphone on and off constantly. What's even stranger is why the speakerphone key is there at all. For some reason, the phone doesn't automatically switch to speakerphone when opened. It should.
The QWERTY keyboard itself was fairly satisfying to use. The keys are spread out and big enough so that you don't run the risk of accidentally punching the wrong key. Each key has a nice little click to let you know that you've pressed it. The placement of the the two space keys also took some getting used to, as they are on the far bottom right and left of the qwerty keyboard, rather than in the middle, where the space bar normally falls. For those used to using smartphones (like the Moto Q or Treo) the wide qwerty keyboard actually feels too wide, and it took me longer to type a 160-character message than it would on one of the more common QWERTY possessing devices. The dedicated email key in the upper left corner of the keypad is locked to launching the Intellisync for-pay email service.
There is also a larger screen on the inside. Two little speakers flank the screen, and they allow you to listen to whatever you are watching on the screen without the need for headphones, though that might get you into trouble, depending on where you are.