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October 27, 2005

Mixed Reviews: LG VX9800 Smartphone

Over at PC Magazine, Sascha Segan thinks it’s pretty neat:

Verizon’s answer to the T-Mobile Sidekick, the LG VX9800, is a top-notch phone with an unusual style and features that will appeal primarily to hard-core SMS addicts. It will appeal less to corporate types, because Verizon fails to provide a high-quality corporate e-mail solution, but for consumers looking for a good-sounding phone for text messaging and gaming, the LG VX9800 hits the mark.

At first glance, it appears to be merely a chubby, businesslike, candy bar-style phone (4.6 by 2 by 1 inches, 5.2 oz), with well-spaced keys and a very sharp 160-by-128 pixel color screen, but the VX9800 is something of a quick-change artist. Flip it open horizontally and you see a very usable thumb keyboard and dual stereo speakers flanking a downright gorgeous 320-by-256 pixel color internal screen. With its wide range of movement, the phone’s hinge allows the two halves of the device to lie flat for the best possible two-handed messaging, or into a laptop-like position for sitting on a desk.

Hit the link for a picture of the “clamshell” case, which is interesting, as is the fact that it can be used as an EV-DO modem for a laptop:

This is the first instance that a Verizon non-PDA phone has been equipped with Bluetooth for laptop connectivity with the intention of using the phone as a modem. Yes, other phones can be hacked to work as modems, but you’re violating Verizon’s terms of service to do so. Lest you Verizon subscribers find yourself getting overly excited, it takes some knowledge to get your laptop online with the VX9800—inexplicably, Verizon provides no instructions. Nonetheless, we were successful in getting our Dell and IBM laptops connected to the VX9800′s Dial-Up Networking profile. That was as far as we got, though, because at press time Verizon wouldn’t tell us when the dial-up networking service would become available or how much it would cost.

Which brings us to exactly what it can be used for and the phrase above, “non-PDA phone,” provides the clue that this isn’t the normal smartphone. Cut to Scott Moritz at

While some phones are made for work, the VX9800 is clearly made for play. This is no smartphone, which means it has no PDA or PC operating system. So don’t expect to find a Word program, an Excel spreadsheet or any kind of task organizer.

So what does it have? Well, there is the phone (digital only), of course, and it has a camera, Bluetooth, a web browser of sorts, an IM client, and an email/contacts application service for $20 extra per month (there are other options). And there are videos and games:

But then come the demerits for the skimpy display screen. For whatever reason, the LG/Verizon braintrust decided to put a 2.25-inch screen in a 3-inch opening. It’s an odd move for a flagship 3G video and gaming phone.

And at the moment, Verizon’s media download setup, called VCast, is a tad light on compelling offerings. Unless, of course, you feel like watching TV previews, a Chianti wine tasting or, for a mere $4 extra, a Shakira video.

You can certainly see where Verizon is going with this. Think Japan or South Korea, where media feeds to cell phones are a popular feature. However, given the VCast programs available today, a lot is going to be left to your imagination.

One group of users is probably going to like this phone a lot: gamers. My 7-year-old son’s discovery of the trove of preloaded games opened my eyes to a big market for this phone. You get a few games included, and of course you can also download games from a menu including Evel Knievel for $2.50, Tetris for $3 or unlimited Tetris for $7.50.

Sorry, but that won’t have me picking up the phone, particularly at its current price:

And even with the puny screen, don’t expect to see a bargain basement price. The VX9800 is in the same bracket as rival devices like the new Palm Treo and the Sony PSP. The VX9800 goes for $300 with rebate and two-year contract. And in addition to your calling plan, you will pay another $25 a month for unlimited messaging and access to the games and media offerings.

After sinking hundreds of millions of dollars into a fast evolution data-only, or EV-DO, upgrade to its network, Verizon Wireless’ desire to sell lots of videos and music is understandable. But if you promise the kids thrill rides, you better deliver an amusement park.

Hit both reviews to get the full picture, but it doesn’t seem to me that this one is fully baked yet.

Posted at 9:50 am. Filed under Companies, EV-DO, LG, Mobile Phones, Smartphones, Verizon

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