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Review: LG Incite

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Dec 30, 2008, 1:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG offers up a Windows Mobile smartphone for AT&T. Hopefully the Incite is not a true insight into the future of LG's smartphones, because this one has some serious flaws.

Form

Is It Your Type? 

If you're hankering for a piece of Windows Mobile pie, and happen to be a fan of mobile phones from LG, the Incite should get your juices flowing. It is one of LG's first smartphones to hit U.S. shores, and brings with it a bevy of enticing features. Will they be enough to satisfy?

Body 

 

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I have never been so grossed out by how a phone feels in my hands before. The Incite from LG is encased in silvery plastics, and attracts finger oils and grease unlike anything I've ever seen. The reflective surface is constantly marred by grime, smears and swirls. The result is a phone that feels very slimy.

The size and weight of the Incite are good. Its footprint would be perfect were it not for the extra girth it packs around its midsection. Length and width are fine, it's the thickness I am talking about. The back corners of the Incite are rounded, which lets is sit in your comfortably. The front corners, though, have sharper edges to them, and aren't comfortable if you grip the phone tightly. The Incite will slip easily in and out of any type of pocket you choose to stow it in.

The Incite's screen is surrounded by a large bezel. The only two buttons are the send/end keys. The display itself is a resistive touch screen. The send/end keys are positioned at the very bottom of the phone. For one reason or another, the send key stands out just a bit more on our review unit than the end key does, making it easier to find and use. The end key is a bit too flush with the Incite's surface. Both keys have acceptable travel and feedback, though I thought they felt a bit cheap.

On the left side of the phone is a hatch covering the microUSB port for charging and data transfer. Below that is the volume toggle. The toggle key was nice and easy to find and had very good travel and feedback. There is also a small pin hole on the left side of the phone for resetting it in the event of a crash.

There's a little bit more action going on over on the Incite's right side. Starting near the top, LG has stuck a jog dial on the Incite. The job dial is pressed up or down to move the in-screen selector, and pushed in to make a selection. The entire jog dial felt mushy to me. All three directions (up, down in) were unresponsive, and the is no "click" when it is pushed to let you know you've used it. It just goes in and out. Below that is a hatch covering the microSD port. Next is a lock/unlock key. This button is flush with the surface of the Incite, and the only reason you know it is there is because it has a slight pattern on it, differentiating it from the otherwise-smooth side of the Incite. Finally, you'll find the two-stage camera key. The camera key has two distinct stages, one for focusing the camera, and a second for taking the picture.

The Incite's back hatch pops off easily enough. Under it, you'll find a large battery and access to the SIM card.

The Incite comes with a stand-alone stylus, which looks like a miniature lipstick case. The stylus cannot be stored anywhere in the phone itself. If you want, you can use the lanyard loop to attach the stylus as a key chain or something. This is a ridiculous option. Because Windows Mobile isn't really designed for finger input, the stylus is often necessary. Not having it stored on the phone, however, stinks.

The Three S's 

Screen

I don't get the screen on the Incite. It could be so much bigger. The bezel surrounding it is thick, and the screen looks small considering the available real estate on the front of the phone. That aside, the display is "OK". The default configuration has black backgrounds with white text. This works okay indoors, but gets very tricky to read when outside in sunlight. I found I had to change the background color of the home screen to use the Incite outdoors at all. The resolution was fine for phone menus and icons, but pictures and video didn't look as sharp or vibrant as they could. I also didn't think the Incite's screen was very bright.

Signal

I didn't have any real issues with the signal strength of the Incite. I was able to make and receive calls everywhere I took it, which included all over northern NJ and parts of Manhattan. Signal strength varied from zero bars to full strength. The Incite has 3G, and it always managed to find AT&T's 3G network. It passed the NJ vault test, which happens to be my local ShopRite. It held onto one bar in there, and made and received calls just fine. The Incite didn't drop any voice calls while we were using it, though it did have a few data sessions stall out.

Sound

The Incite is just not loud enough. Set to full volume, the ringer could easily be drowned out by a loud television. Noisy coffee shops and bars completely masked incoming calls. The vibrate alert is also on the weak side. In other words, if you don't want to miss calls, keep it close by. As for volume of the earpiece, it was also frail. I had a hard time hearing a phone call in a silent room. If you think you're going to take a phone call at a crowded party, expect to have to take a walk outside. Call quality was average. There were some squawks and pffrts, as well as some static, but not over much.

Battery

The Incite lived for four days on a full charge, but it was a pretty boring life. No Web surfing, no Wi-Fi, no Bluetooth. Just some simple phone calls and text messages. Start to have some fun with the Incite, and its lifespan quickly drops. It managed to hold on for two fulls days under heavy usage. Video playback and music playback took a heavy toll on battery life. Streaming music to stereo Bluetooth headphones sapped the Incite's strength rapidly. Can you get away for a weekend without bringing your charger? I suppose so, but I wouldn't risk it.

Touch 

The Incite uses resistive touch screen technology. As with many touch screens based on resistive technology, I found it to be a bit unresponsive. About 50% of the time, I had to re-press the screen in order to get the Incite to do what I wanted it to. You can alter whether or not the Incite offers haptic feedback, and how strong that feedback is (short buzz, medium buzz, long buzz). Anything other than "short" was just flat out annoying, though, especially when entering a lot of text.

I also got a lot of false positives, whereby the phone provides haptic feedback (suggesting to you that you've correctly touched the phone), but no action actually takes place.

Basics

Menus 

LG has mixed up its own finger-touch user interface with that of Windows Mobile. The default home screen of the Incite is a Windows Mobile Today screen. You have all the stuff here that you'd expect, such as access to messages, call log, etc. Below the list of Today-oriented action items are five icons that take you to different phone functions: dial pad, contacts, messaging, favorites and the menu. These five icons are finger friendly. What's goofy is there are also two regular, WinMo software buttons at the bottom of the screen, for calendar and contacts. They are where you'd expect any soft-key related button to be.

If you hit the menu button, you'll be taken to the touch-based finger UI that we've seen on other LG phones. Running along the right side of the display are five different tabs. Tap a tab to go to a different menu. The five tabs are for the phone, multimedia, tools, settings, and a home button that takes you back to the Today screen. Each tab has between 9 and 12 different selections in it. All the icons are finger friendly, and you can also choose to use the jog dial to move the selector around.

The way LG groups activities into its finger-based touch UI makes sense for the most part. I had more trouble than I wanted to in finding the right way to make adjustments to the appearance of the home screen. Most other applications were easy enough to find, though.

If you want to look at menus the way Microsoft makes 'em, feel free to tap the Start button.

There's one real big problem with the entire menu system. There's no "back" key. No physical button, no software key that I could find. This means you have no way to jump back to the previous screen. You have to use the "end" key to go all the way back out to the Today screen and start over. This is simply infuriating. I can't understand such an omission from a phone.

You can, however, press the "OK" button, which is wedged in the very top right corner of the Incite's screen. Hitting OK will close the current window. This often takes you back to the previous screen. It's a bit small, if you ask me, and is not immediately intuitive. It doesn't appear that LG made the "clickable" area larger to make this "OK" button any easier to use.

 

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Calls/Contacts 

Pressing the send key on the front of the phone will bring up the usual list of your recent calls. You can get the same thing by pressing the phone icon on the phone's screen. There is a little button at the very bottom of the screen. Press it if you want the dial pad. With the software dial pad up, you can switch between the numbers for dialing or a SureType-style QWERTY keypad, which has two letters per key.

There are two other buttons on the bottom of the screen. The one on the left will put the number selected/typed into the address bar of a text messages. The one on the right opens a menu for taking other actions. The full calling menu is pretty extensive

With any number highlighted on the screen, hitting the send key calls it. During a call, there are six software buttons on the screen that let you toggle the speakerphone on and off, set the phone to mute, place the call on hold, add notes or access the keypad.

 

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The contacts application will sync with your Microsoft PC. Typing any name or number in the calling, contacts or search applications will automatically begin sorting your contacts to match what you type. You can find contacts very quickly this way. There is a search bar at the top of the contacts app, and there are tabs to jump to certain sections of the alphabet if you wish. These tabs are a bit on the small side, though, and are best touched with the stylus. Each contact can hold gobs of data.

 

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Messaging 

The Incite is a Windows Mobile phone. You know what that means: Its messaging features are robust. It'll take your company's Exchange-based email, as well as just about any POP3 or IMAP service you can think of. I had no trouble creating Yahoo, AOL, Windows Live and Gmail accounts. Enter a little bit of text and the phone takes care of the rest.

The Today screen can be set to show multiple alerts from all your messaging accounts, including email and SMS. Having sight of all your inboxes right on the home screen is handy. Each message type has its own set of inboxes, drafts, sent and outboxes so you can tell the status of all your messages at a glance. From the home screen, you can also navigate down to the one inbox that has a new message, say an MMS, and select it. This will take you directly to that inbox, allowing you to skip the general messaging center.

Tapping the envelope icon on the home screen will initiate a new text message and bring up the SureType QWERTY keypad for text input. The menu icon lets you add additional recipients, insert media and take care of all addressing needs.

I like that you can run spellcheck in any sort of message, though I am sure most will ignore that feature.

When composing messages, rotating the phone sideways will bring up the full QWERTY keyboard on the screen. The software QWERTY is nicely spaced and works well enough, but it takes up 90% of the screen's real estate, leaving just a sliver of screen space to see what it is that you're typing. This could have been designed a little bit better in my opinion.

 

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Extras

Music 

You wanna rock? The Incite lets you get your groove on in the form of Windows Media Player. You can open via the Start key or by diving into the main menu. Windows Media Player is sort of buried in the main menu, and it falls in the "media" tab. The menu orders things alphabetically, so it is the last application on the page.

You can sideload songs directly to the phone via USB cable, or stuff them onto a microSD card first. The WMP menu segregates your content by music, videos, TV, playlists and what was played last. The music menu gives you several different ways to sort your library: all music, artist, album and genre.

Once you pick some songs and start playing them, the music player interface itself is basic and utilitarian. You can download different skins to dress it up a bit if you want. Once you start playing music, all of the controls are on the screen itself and you need to touch them to play/pause, or skip forward or backward.

The right soft key opens up the music menu. There are a few selections that let you adjust the player's options and check song properties. The options give you only basic control over the player.

LG was smart and included a 3.5mm headset jack on the top of the Incite. Plugging in my favorite pair of headphones, music sounds pretty good. There are a handful of the usual AT&T music applications also thrown into the media menu, including XM Radio, access to music videos and music communities. The Incite also has an FM radio (headset required).

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Camera 

Camera

The Incite has an able camera. You can open it through the menus or just by pushing and holding the camera key. It takes about 3 seconds to fully launch. Holding the phone sideways, the viewfinder has a box to help you frame your shot. Pressing the screen will bring up the buttons you need to make adjustments to the camera's settings, as well as some shortcuts to the gallery and other functions.

Along the top, you have a quick view of how many shots the camera can still take, what mode its in, where shots are being stored, and what resolution the camera is set to. I like having these visual cues as to what your settings are for quick reference.

The main camera menu lets you change just about every feature and/or setting the camera has, such as image size, white balance, and so on. Unlike most of the menus on the Incite, this little menu has a back key to take you to the previous screen.

Pressing the shutter key halfway will focus the image, pressing it all the way will snap the picture. The autofocus takes about about 1 second, and so does the process of taking a picture and saving it. The shot immediately appears on-screen for review, and you have the option to trash it, mail it, edit it, or go back to the camera.

There's no flash on the Incite, which is a bit disappointing.

The video camera software operates identically to that of the still camera.

 

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Gallery

The gallery app can be launched directly from the camera, or through the menus. I found the menus to be a bit faster here, since the camera takes time to load. Whether you're holding the phone in landscape or portrait orientation, the default view of the gallery is a grid of thumbnails. Along the bottom of the gallery are two buttons, one to open the selected picture, the other to access the options menu. The options let you send images, edit them, start a slide show and so on.

You can use the jog dial to jump around the pictures or just touch the one you want to open. Pressing the jog dial in will open/close images, but won't advance through your library. In fact, once you open an image, you can't do anything to page through your gallery. You have to go back to the main gallery view and open the next image.

 

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Photos/Video 

Photos

The Incite's 3 megapixel camera takes decent pictures. There's no flash, which makes indoor photography a bit more troublesome, but pictures are sharp and clear. I found that for the most part, there was little grain and noise in the images I captured. Pix taken outside in the sunlight, as always, turned out best. Colors looked exactly right and popped nicely. Images taken indoors were a little muted in comparison. Having strong light really helps in taking better pictures. You'll get good Facebook and MySpace pictures, and probably some good pictures for blowing up to 8 x 10s. I doubt you'd want to use them as the background on your 21-inch monitor, though.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Video

The Incite's video camera also does a decent job, but doesn't match the camera. If you pan the video camera around, there is a lot of noise and stop-and-start motion on the screen. The Incite reacted fine to drastic changes in background lighting, adjusting quickly to match the scene. White balance was good, but colors were a bit muted. If you want to impress your friends with a funny video and post it on YouTube, the Incite will certainly get the job done.


3GPP / MPEG-4 format (viewable with QuickTime)
File size: 781 KB

Browse / Customize 

Browser

The Incite has the NetFront browser from Access. Using it with AT&T's 3G network was tolerable. NetFront can be launched from the Start menu, and you can set it to appear as a shortcut on the Today screen.

The Menu opens up a list of things to do, such as jump back to the home screen, pull down the address bar, view your favorites or add the current page as a new favorite. You can customize the view just a little bit, by adjusting the text size, having pages rendered as one column, fit to screen or in desktop mode. And you can also turn pictures on and off for faster or richer Web browsing, depending on your tastes.

For the most part, browsing was speedy. Only the most graphic-laden sites bogged down the browser. The decent screen size and fast wireless capabilities get the job done with no issues, though I found that NetFront renders sites too small for accurate finger input. You have to zoom in in order to accurately hit links, and even that is a bit awkward.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Customize

Windows Mobile 6.1 lets you customize how you interact the phone to a good degree. The main Today screen can be viewed in nine different versions to suit your tastes, including the newer version of the Today screen that comes with WinMo 6.1. You can also adjust the color of the themes, as well as the color of the text on the themes. You can also fully customize what menu items appear on the Today screen, which lets you set it up for quick access to the things you interact with most.

There are a decent number of included ringers on the phone, but you can't select songs from your music library to serve as ringtones.

Another great feature are the "Favorites" shortcuts. One of the five main icons on the Today screen is a shortcut to your own, customizable list of favorite applications. There are a handful pre-loaded, but you can change it up and put your own in there.

You can also move items into different folders and customize where applications are located in the Windows Mobile folder hierarchy.

You can also turn the accelerometer on or off, control the weather widget's functions and control how the touch screen works. The amount of haptics on the touch screen can be set, and re-aligning it from time to time can help with accuracy.

Extras 

The Incite is packed with tons of extra software. We could write thousands of words worth of text about it all, but we won't. Here are a few that stood out for one reason or another.

Bluetooth

The Incite has support for both mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets. Pairing was no problem. Sound quality was on par with the Incite's general call quality, which is to say, not great. The Incite can also connect to other devices such as PCs and swap files back and forth.

Clock

The Incite's clock can be set to large or small analog, or large or small digital. Too bad you won't be using it as a watch replacement. If the Incite is locked, pressing the unlock key will open whatever the last screen you were on was and place an "unlock" button at the bottom of the screen. Press than, and you are taken to an unlocking screen, where you have to press another button. Neither of these screens shows you the time. In fact, once the phone is unlocked, you still won't be able to see the time until you go back to the Today screen. For shame, LG.

GPS

The Incite has GPS and AT&T's navigation software on board. It works, but it is slow. Considering the big push that network operators are giving GPS-based services, we expected better performance. Still, we were able to successfully route ourselves from point A to point B without any problems.

Stopwatch

This is the most useless application ever. It would be fine if the Incite's touch screen were responsive. Because you have to press and re-press the screen to get it to react, there's no such thing as timing things accurately. If you need to time something general, for like 5+ minutes, go for it. If you need to time something that requires accuracy down to the second, forget about it.

Weather

This has become a core piece of software in my life. Always being able to quickly find out what the weather is is key. The Incite has a nice little weather widget that can be customized for your location easily. It places a little graphical indication of what the weather is right on the home screen, with a little number telling you what the temperature is. If you want to see more than the current conditions, you can go into the weather app to get full forecasts and even see radar/satellite maps.

Wrap Up 

The Incite from LG is a mixed bag. It has some solid features, such as the camera and browsing speeds, but also has a lot of quirks. It is clear that LG is testing the water with this device. It has a lot more work to do to integrate its menus with that of Windows Mobile and make them more usable. The touch integration could be a lot better. Where the LG stuff is perfectly fine for touch, the WinMo software is not. The lack of an on-board stylus makes the Windows Mobile UI all the more difficult to use.

Where the Incite excels at connectivity and messaging, it only rates "satisfactory" at things such as music playback, video capture and call quality.

I'd chalk the Incite up to a nice experiment from LG, but would wait until the company takes another shot before jumping on the LG smartphone bandwagon. LG still has a bit of a growth curve to surmount.

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Subject Author Date
not to be mean JL9000 Jan 7, 2009, 5:52 PM
No problems with the phone. criticphonegirl Jan 1, 2009, 5:41 PM
Device unable to send SMS teknodave Jan 3, 2009, 8:01 AM
Great phone features Vic007 Jan 2, 2009, 3:55 PM
 
 
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