Verizon Holiday Line-Up
Phone Scoop spent some quality time with Verizon Wireless' line-up of holiday devices, including the HTC Eris, Casio Brigade, LG Chocolate Touch, Samsung Convoy and BlackBerry Curve 8530.
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The HTC Eris is Verizon's second phone to run the Android platform. It is essentially a slightly re-designed HTC Hero, which was announced earlier this year. It makes some significant changes to the hardware when compared to the Sprint version of the Hero, and that's mostly good.
The Eris is noticeably thinner and lighter than the Sprint Hero, but retains the same display and feature set. It's black and coated in a soft-touch paint job. On the whole, it feels really good in the hand. The combination of size, weight and materials makes it very appealing.
The display is the same 3.2-inch 320 x 480 that's on the other two versions of the Hero. It looks good, though after seeing the Motorola Droid, everything else pales in comparison.
HTC has also changed the control keys under the display. It has ditched most of the physical buttons and replaced them with four capacitive buttons that are very similar to those on the Motorola Droid. These four capacitive buttons provide haptic feedback when pushed. The buttons on the sides of the device are kept to a minimum, and they all worked well.
As for the user interface, it is running HTC's Sense UI. It features seven customizable home screens and some home-brewed apps from HTC. Sense is intuitive for the most part, and the underlying Android menus are all the same as on other Android 1.6 phones.
The slightly smaller footprint and solid software on the Eris make it an enticing alternative to the Droid — especially since it costs half as much ($100 v. $200).
The Brigade is the latest in Casio's G'zOne line to come to Verizon Wireless. The Brigade is a monster of a phone. It meets mil-spec standards for shock, vibration, dust, moisture, and temperature extremes. It is made from extremely tough materials and, consequently, weighs a ton and is very thick. It truly feels as though you could run over it with a tank.
The Brigade carries forward Casio's commitment to circular exterior displays on the front. The monochrome display shows the time and status indicators. Beneath the display is a full numeric keypad with a number of keys dedicated to specific actions such as the music player, camera and messaging applications. The keys on the front of the phone were easy to find, but travel and feedback were minimal.
The Brigade offers Verizon's version of push-to-talk services, and the controls for that are on the side of the device. The button is colored red, which makes it stand out nicely from the otherwise gray coloring.
Because the Brigade is a sideways clamshell, it opens up to reveal a secondary display and full QWERTY keyboard. This keyboard feels fantastic. The keys are nicely spaced, have a good shape to them, and provide excellent travel and feedback.
The interior display is generous, and looks good. It's nice and bright and provides ample room to interact with Verizon's menu system.
The phone clearly targets the user who is working in an outdoor environment or at least people who spend a lot of time being active and otherwise beating up their phones. The Brigade brings a new form factor to that group of users, and gets most aspects right.
Here's a video of the Brigade so you can get a better feel for it.
Samsung adds the Convoy to Verizon's line-up of rugged PTT phones. This tough clamshell is compact and built like a bull. The materials feel strong and it is well put together.
The Convoy has a small display on the exterior and dedicated music controls beneath it. These three buttons feel slightly on the cheap side, but they fire up the Convoy's music player with no problem.
The sides of the Convoy are littered with buttons and hatches. On the left side, you'll find the dedicated PTT button with the volume toggle below it and the hatch for the data/charging port near the bottom corner. The PTT button is a little on the small side, and travel and feedback weren't all that great. Same goes for the volume toggle. The right side hosts the 2.5mm headset jack, voice application key and hatch covering the microSD port. This button feels better.
The interior keypad is huge, as are most of the keys making up the navigation cluster. The should be fairly easy to use even with gloves on. They felt a bit "plastic-y", but worked fine.
The user interface is the stock Verizon feature phone software, and there are no surprises buried in there that we could find. The display is decided low-rez, and matches the price point that this device commands.
The Convoy is a tough little phone that will surely serve its market well.
LG introduced the latest in its music-centric devices for Verizon Wireless, the Chocolate Touch. This version of the Chocolate ditches the clamshell and slider form factors and goes to the mono-block touch phone model. It is very light weight and has reasonably compact dimensions. The materials aren't a classy feeling as some of the other phones Verizon announced today, but it still managed to avoid feeling cheap.
The front has an average resistive touch display. It seems to work fine, but I felt the resolution was a little on the low side. There are three physical buttons below the display, the send key, back/mic key, and end/power key. All three stand out easily, but they are lacking in the quality department. The keys felt somewhat loose, and travel and feedback wasn't very satisfying.
The user interface (in fact, the whole phone) is very similar to that of the LG Dare and Versa, which is the LG touch interface for Verizon Wireless. There are set applications stored at the bottom of the home screen and tabs on the side for accessing user-defined shortcuts. It works well enough, though we'd have liked to see some evolution here in light of all the new capabilities being offered by competing platforms.
The stand-out feature is the new music software that lets you interact with a virtual drum kit and piano keyboard. You can play these along with your music tracks, which I suppose could be fun if you know what you're doing. It also has a full HTML browser.
The controls on the sides of the Chocolate Touch work well enough. I didn't formulate a negative opinion of the volume toggle, the lock/unlock key and the camera keys. The hatches all peeled back easily to get at the ports.
For the music-loving Verizon customer, this is an easy pick.
Here's a video tour so you can get a better look at it:
Verizon Wireless is bringing the BlackBerry 8520 to market as the 8530 variant. This low-end BlackBerry was actually the first to ship with the optical mousepad, though T-Mobile got the GSM version first.
The changes being offered by the Verizon version obviously include Verizon's 3G network. It also packs Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. It is very small and compact, but it definitely feels like a step down when compared to RIM's Tour and Bold devices.
The keyboard is probably the smallest full QWERTY on a BlackBerry, and for my large hands I found it a bit cramped. Those with smaller hands will probably have no problems with it. Travel and feedback of the keys was solid.
The optical trackpad is very responsive and I found that it works very well. It might take most users a little while to adjust to it and find the sensitivity settings that are right for them, but it shouldn't be a problem to get used to.
The send/end, BlackBerry and back keys flank the trackpad and all have the perfect amount of travel and feedback.
The buttons on the side of the device are covered in a rubber coating and protrude just a teeny bit from the surface. They are easy to find, and have good travel and feedback.
The hardware is all good.
On the software side of things, it is running the latest OS from RIM and doesn't differ all that much from the current crop of BlackBerries.
If you're looking for a lower cost handset that has most of the features found on the Tour, this is the BlackBerry for you.
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