Verizon Holiday Phones
The Venus is an interesting in-between device. It takes some cues from its larger, more fully-realized brother the Voyager, but for the most part sticks to the same old Verizon Wireless guns.
Like the Voyager, the Venus is stylish, elegant and classy. It features good materials, a silver and black appearance, and a nice alligator-textured back panel for easier gripping. Rather than sporting a full touch screen, the Venus only goes halfway. The upper portion of the screen is a regular display with no touch capabilities. The lower portion of the screen replaces what would be the navigation cluster with a touch sensitive navigation system instead.
The Venus's touch screen navigation uses haptics to provide microvibration feedback to let you know you've made a selection. It is very prone to smudges, but works fairly well for navigating the phone's menus. The problem here is that even the haptics can't replace the feedback we're used to getting on a regular D-pad. This means navigating without looking at the phone is more difficult.
Sliding the phone open is easy, though with no ledge or anything else to catch your thumb on, you're definitely going to be touching the screen (and smudging it) a lot to get the phone open. The mechanism felt solid and the spring action helped to get it open and shut.
Once open, there is a regular 12-key keypad underneath with three extra buttons, the send, clearn and power/end keys. It has a checkerboard-style appearance, and we found using the keys was easy and intuitive. They felt good as you passed your thumb over them and with their slightly convex shape finding each key was a snap.
There are a number of buttons along the side of the phone. On the left is the volume/zoom toggle and a microphone key. On the right is the unlock key and camera key. The data port and microSD slot are also located along the sides of the phone.
The camera is on the back. No flash, no vanity mirror.
Only the navigation portions of the user interface have been altered on the Venus. Sure, some of the menus, fonts and graphics have been updated, but the underlying architecture of the Verizon platform remains mostly unchanged.
With the phone closed, the navigation touch screen lets you jump to a few different applications, including contacts, messaging, the phone and a short cut menu. The shortcut menu brings up six little options in the navigation pane to let you jump to an application or task without having to access the main menu. Depending on which application or menu you are using, the entire make-up of this navigation pane will change and show different options.
With the main menu open, the navigation pane simply becomes a D-pad, with four arrows and a select key in the center and back key in the bottom right corner. Hitting any of the arrows will move the cursor/selector around, and provide haptic and visual feedback to let you know you've made a selection. Similar to the front screen on the Voyager, once you make a menu selection, you can scroll sideways to access other applications. This is also similar to existing Verizon phones.
Using this without looking is somewhat difficult. Even though there is haptic feedback, it is impossible to tell exactly where on the touch screen your thumb might be. What this new navigation system offers is some shortcuts to menu options that might not have been there before. Take the dialing pad, for example. If you dial a number of most phones, you usually can hit the send key to call, and the function keys to access other options. With the Venus, some of these options are already part of the navigation pane, making some tasks, such as adding a number to your contact list, easier.
The only real integration of the touch screen with the navigation panel is with the camera. Using the Venus sideways, Verizon cooked up a new menu system for the camera application and it works really well. You can use the touch screen to take pictures, to make all the adjustments, and access all the menus and options necessary to customize and manipulate your pictures.
The touch screen navigation system of the Venus sets it above other feature phones in Verizon's line up. With it, you can more easily interact with some of the menus and applications. it is intuitive and easy to figure out after spending about a minute with it, and LG and Verizon worked together to add a few neat tricks as well. As with the Voyager, we wish Verizon had taken the navigation and standard user interface further with revisions. The new fonts and graphics are nice, but putting different sheet metal on the same frame doesn't make it perform much differently in the end.
You can see a video preview of the Venus. Watch it here:
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