Review: Verizon LG Versa

lg-versa-verizon-61The LG Versa hit the scene on Verizon Wireless’s network as the first slate-based touchscreen handset with swappable add-ons. The LG Versa gets its name for its versatility, changing from svelte touchscreen phone to messaging powerhouse to handheld gaming device on a whim. It’s definitely a unique form-factor and demonstrates that modular handsets have their place in the mobile world. But, does the LG Versa really work in the real world?

Keep reading for LG Versa specs and to see how it lived up to our expectations.

Photo gallery at bottom.

LG Versa

By LG (Available from Verizon Wireless for $199.99 with 2-year contract)

Specifications

  • 1900/800 MHz CDMA
  • 3G – EV-DO Revision A (Rev. A)
  • 3.0-inch touchscreen display with 262K color, 480 x 240 pixels, ambient light sensor and proximity sensor
  • 2.0 Megapixel Camera & Camcorder with Autofocus, Flash & Image Editor
  • Virtual QWERTY Keypad & Detachable QWERTY Keypad
  • Music Player for MP3, WMA, Unprotected AAC & Unprotected AAC+ formats
  • External memory card slot that supports up to 16GB microSD
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • 2.5 mm headset jack
  • Text, picture and video messaging with threaded messaging
  • Support for a variety of Verizon services including: Mobile Email, Mobile IM, Mobile Web Email, My Verizon, VZ Navigator, Chaperone Parent/Child
  • Mobile Broadband Connect Capable (tethering)
  • Speakerphone and voice commands
  • English and Spanish interface
  • 4.16” (h) x 2.07” (w) x 0.54” (d), 3.81 ounces
  • 1,100 mAh battery providing up to 290 minutes of usage time or 430 hours standby time

The LG Versa definitely lived up to our expectations for a non-smartphone. It’s not heavy on the power-user features, but if you start off with the mind-set that the Versa is a flexible feature-phone, you’re sure to not be disappointed. There are definitely more pros than cons, so we’re inclined to give the LG Versa a thumbs-up. Breakdown follows:

Design

Styling
The LG Versa is clearly cut from a different cloth. The handset doesn’t necessarily fit into any one single category of handset. It’s a slate-based touchscreen, but only until you attach its QWERTY keyboard wallet-thingy. It’s a messaging handset until you swap out the keyboard for a gaming module. Get the drift? We’re just going to consider the LG Versa a really versatile touchscreen slate…

As for industrial design, the LG Versa sports a minimalist design. The front face is uncluttered, offering users just three hard-keys from which to choose – Call, End/Power, and Cancel/Speakerphone. If that last button has you a bit confused, you’re not alone. The engineers tasked with making sure the LG Versa’s design is intuitive may have been taking “personal days” when LG decided to double-up a speakerphone and cancel button.

Faux-chrome and metallic-looking buttons wrap around the Versa, giving it a refined and classy look. The LG Versa gets bonus points for finishing the data-port cover and microSD card slot cover in a brushed aluminum “look” that lends to the Versa’s overall polished persona. And, we like the easily accessible volume controls and camera shutter button along the side of the Versa. The metallic-brown color scheme, however, may be a matter of personal taste – we don’t like it.

Build Quality/Material Quality
This isn’t a high-end handset. The LG Versa never pretends that it’s going to play with the big boys, and it’s obvious in the materials. While the LG Versa looks quite high-end, the extensive use of plastics is apparent in the hand. Build quality is still top-notch. Just because you use cheaper materials doesn’t mean you have to have a crappily built handset. LG knows how to make solid low and mid-range handset, and it shows in the LG Versa.

On big gripe is the keyboard module. Too much fake leather and hard plastic for our tastes. The hinge is a major sticking point. We’d have liked to have seen smoother hinge action.

Modules

All that refined style goes out the window when you snap on the modular QWERTY keyboard add-on. Finished in a questionable brown “pleather” type of material, the keyboard module is an unsightly contraption. Sure, it’s got a comfortable (and quite usable) QWERTY keyboard and informative external display, but we can’t concentrate on anything other than how quickly the Versa can go from refined to ridiculous.

To use the keyboard module, you take off the Versa’s battery cover and snap in its place the keyboard module. It would be nice to be able to swap modules without having to deal with battery covers, but the way the Versa mates with its modular add-ons is still impressive. Once attached, there’s no wiggle, no creaking, nothing that would indicate that the LG Versa didn’t come from the factory with a QWERTY keyboard attached. Plus points for that.

A new gaming module has become available for the LG Versa, but we haven’t had a chance to try it out. The gaming pad module is much slimmer and doesn’t hurt the eyes as much as the keyboard module, and it slides away to save space when not in use. If the keyboard quality is any indication, the gaming pad should be fairly tactile and comfortable in the hand.

UI

Not a smartphone
The LG Versa isn’t a smartphone. It’s a touchscreen handset, yes. But a smartphone it is not. To it’s credit, the LG Versa’s touchscreen isn’t half bad. It’s a resistive-based touchscreen so you’ll get a bit of that dreaded touchscreen “squish,” but screen-presses are accompanied by vibration feedback that lets you know when you’ve pressed hard enough.

You’ll be hard pressed to use the Versa to handle your business emails in a timely manner, but if all you need to do is quickly check your email inbox once a day, as you sit in rush hour traffic, the Versa works with Verizon’s mobile email service.

The web browser is decent. It won’t compare to any phone with “smart” as part of its description, but the Versa’s web browser does the job. You’ll want to make sure you’re rocking the QWERTY keyboard module if you plan to do any sort of URL typing, otherwise you’re just asking to be annoyed. Again, this isn’t a smartphone so don’t go expecting it to do anything at the smartphone level. Instead, let’s concentrate on what the LG Versa does well.

GPS Navigation is only possible through Verizon Navigator service and requires the GPS module that has yet to be released. We’re not big fans of for-pay GPS navigation services, but seeing as how the Versa isn’t going to be installing Google Maps for Mobile anytme soon, we suppose VZW Navigator is an acceptable compromise – but just barely.

Media
The Versa is a multimedia handset. With a large 3.0-inch touchscreen display throwing out 262K colors in a 480 x 240 pixel field and a microSD card slot, the Versa is ideal for watching videos or listening to music. The Versa’s “Media Center” handles all your music, video and pictures, allowing you to download and browse Verizon’s extensive media catalogue. The “My Music” application takes care of all your music-listening needs as well as any other bundled music player. Still, we’d have liked to have seen the “My Music” music playback controls integrated into the “Media Center” application.

Camera
The camera is better than just decent. You have 2.0-megapixels worth of image sensor ready to take from-the-hip shots of your friends and family that works quite well. We’d say the LG Versa’s 2MP camera beats out the iPhone’s 2MP camera in most cases. It has real-deal auto-focus and a flash, both features the iPhone’s camera has lacked for years. And, with a dedicated shutter-release button, the LG Versa wins over the iPhone for usability. Ever tried taking a self-pic using an on-screen shutter button? Not easy when the phone’s display is turned away from you…

Plus points for a highly usable camera on the LG Versa.

Overall

Pros

  • Extremely versatile
  • Slim and sleek in slate-form
  • Well thought-out camera controls and interface
  • Big and bright touchscreen display
  • Great battery life
  • Solid construction, even when mated to the keyboard module (the keyboard module itself is another story)
  • Comfortable and very usable keyboard (when attached)
  • Great media integration

Cons

  • Chintzy materials – we expect more for $200 (especially on contract)
  • Unsightly keyboard module
  • Odd combination of a Cancel/Back button with a Speakerphone toggle
  • Have to take off battery cover to swap modules
  • Ugly keyboard module (did we mention that already?)
  • Tim

    I own this phone for about 45 days and I hate it EXTREMELY. The phone is cumbersome to use, the voice dial doesn’t recognize anything you tell it (not even close), battery life is so-so, and it hangs up from time to time. Verizon replaced it and the replacement does the same thing. This is a piece of trash – will never own another LG again.

  • Gary

    I have owned this phone for three weeks and I am totally satisfied, Not too crazy bout the faux leather keyboard module but have little need for it anyway. This phone is easy to use and well thought out screens / features.

  • arby

    I love my LG. I got it for $40 too after a 2-yr upgrade. I am just learning now though that i didn’t get the QWERTY keyboard attachment with my phone! Did they stop giving them out with the phone? I needed it to play a game I downloaded. What a rip

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