Ever since Apple released the “revolutionary” iPhone, competitors have been trying to imitate and create a better phone. LG has been fairly successful so far. They released the LG Voyager through Verizon Wireless last year, which we reviewed but weren’t too happy with. Fortunately their latest phone, the LG Dare, has surpassed our expectations and can truly be considered an iPhone competitor especially at its price point. It also has plenty of unique features that impressed us.
LG VX9700 Specifications:
- Provider: Verizon Wireless (CDMA 850MHz / 1.9 GHz)
- Form Factor: Full Touch Screen Candy-Bar
- Display: 3 inch, 240×400 pixels, & 262k colors
- Media: MP3, WMA, & AAC(+)
- Imaging: 3.2 mega pixel camera with flash & auto focus
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, GPS, & microUSB
- Others: microSD, ambient light, & accelerometer
- Size / Weight: 4.1″ H x 2.2″ W x 0.5″ D (inches) / 3.8 oz
- Battery Life: 4.7 hours talk time & 360 hours standby
- Price: $200 with a new 2 year agreement
The Body – 5/5 stars
The LG Dare is quite compact and can fit into even a tight pocket. It is actually about 16% smaller in volume than the iPhone 3G. The phone looks quite sleek with a silver trim on the front and a black colored back. Unfortunately since it is a touch screen, it is also prone to attracting finger prints. The front of the phone contains the send, clear, and end buttons in addition to the display. Although not too visible, when looking carefully at certain angles the ambient light sensor can be seen at the top blank portion above the screen. The left side of the phone contains the screen lock button, the microSD card slot, speaker phone key, and the microUSB charger/data port. The volume increase and decrease toggle and the camera/camcorder capture button can be found on the right side. The backside of the phone merely contains the digital camera with flash, the speaker, and a battery cover lid. Finally the 3.5mm standard headphone jack can be found at the top of the phone. Overall the entire design is a success.
Display – 5/5 Stars
In reference to the brightness, contrast, and color representation, the display was top notch. Probably one of the better displays I’ve seen in a while. The Dare’s three inch screen can display images at a max of 240×400 resolution which seemed to fit the needs of the phone just fine. The ambient light sensor is a great addition as it automatically dims the screen when in darker situations and brightens it up in broad daylight. The phone also has a neat sensor which automatically turns of the display during a call when the phone is held up to your face. It immediately turns back on when it gets further away. These two features assist heavily in conserving more battery life whenever possible.
User Interface – 5/5 Stars
The LG Dare’s user interface is quite intuitive. The interface seems to have LG Voyager ancestry, however much has improved since then. The sensitivity is just right, however it can be adjusted. The phone’s screen is quite responsive without delay and all transitions are smooth and everything flows smoothly. The home screen features a clock, the date, and two notifications bar. Five items will always available on the bottom of the home screen: messaging, dial pad, menu, address book, and favorites. Although, this quick access bar cannot be modified, shortcuts can be added to the home screen from the shortcut menu. This shortcut menu can be accessed by clicking on the arrow on the main screen. The eleven default items can be customized to show any of the over fifty items in the phone including downloaded applications. The Main Menu displays the standard nine items found on any Verizon Wireless phone: Contacts, Messaging, Recent Calls, My Music, Media Center, Browser, VZ Navigator, V Cast Video, and Settings & Tools. Navigating through just about any part of the phone was simple and self-explanatory. The LG Dare also addresses the issue plaguing many touch screen devices which is the lack of tactile feedback. This phone solves that issue by releasing small vibrations below the screen each time something is clicked. Sound effects can also be enabled to indicate that a command has been accepted. The Dare also automatically locks itself after a certain period of inactivity. The screen can be activated by pressing the unlock key on the side or pressing the unlock button on the screen.
Messaging (Email, IM, & Text) – 5/5 Stars
Text messaging addicts will not be disappointed by this phone as it supports text, picture, and video messaging. Since the phone has tactile feedback it is much easier to type on this phone than I had expected. The keyboard also turns into a QWERTY layout when the phone is turned sideways thanks to the accelerometer. The keyboard was also quite accurate and the predictive text also helps speed things up. Although nothing beats a real keyboard, this wasn’t as bad as other phones I’ve used. The LG Dare also features Verizon’s Mobile Email client which has built in support for Yahoo! Mail, Windows Live Hotmail, AOL/AIM Mail, and Verizon.net. If you use other services the phone also allows configuring your own POP3/IMAP servers for incoming mail and SMTP for outgoing. (SSL Security Supported!) The phone can automatically check and notify you when immediately when a message reaches your inbox. The client isn’t too great for reading messages with graphics; however is plenty for reading text in emails. Finally the LG Dare also has a built-in instant messaging client that supports the AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger clients. You can log into all three at once and view your full contact lists. Overall the phone has not forgotten about the messaging side of things even while the emphasis of the phone might be the touch screen.
Web Browser – 5/5 stars
MicroSD + Syncing – 4/5 stars
The LG Dare supports up to 8GB microSD cards, which is great for those planning to use it as their music playback device. 8GB cards have also come down in price and can be purchased for as low as $30 through some major online retailers. When you connect your phone to your machine using the included microUSB to USB cable, you can enter the data or sync music mode. The data mode will turn the microSD card into a mass storage device so you can add or remove content directly onto it. The sync music mode will allow syncing media with Windows Media Player 11. Unfortunately Vista users will have no choice but to install the horrid VCast Music Manager to get the phone working with WMP11. If files are placed directly into the music folder, the phone will manually re-index them the next time the music player is started. So to put all of that together, the phone can be synced as a media player device, a mass storage device, or by using a microSD card reader.
Speakers + Headphones – 4/5 stars
The LG Dare’s speaker is fairly decent. It isn’t as loud as I hoped when being used as a speakerphone. It does sound decent for music, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It might have been better if they had been able to stuff a set of stereo speakers into the phone. Fortunately one of the big pros of this phone is the fact that it has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Those who plan to use this as their music device will have the opportunity to use their standard headphones without having to deal with using messy adapters. The headphones quality is plentiful for most consumers, audiophiles not so much.
Media Playback – 4.5/5 Stars
The LG Dare supports playback of MP3, WMA, AAC, and AAC+. Verizon recently made a deal with Rhapsody, so music purchased there is completely compatible as well. Controls are fairly intuitive to use. The touch screen makes navigating through songs quite simple. The library can be browsed by a full song list, custom playlists, artists, genres, or albums. The phone also contains preset equalizers. Album art is displayed while playing back music. LG has hilariously included a cover flow type of view when the phone is turned sideways. It doesn’t look too good or function too well, so I would just stick with the standard view. The best part of the Music Playback component is probably the fact that player can be turned into a background process. This way you can begin to browse the web, email, chat, or even send messages while listening to music. Overall this is probably the best music player I have seen on a Verizon Wireless phone to date. As for video playback, although I didn’t have a chance to test it, according to the specifications it supports playback of WMV, MP4, 3GP, and 3G2.
Digital Camera & Camcorder – 4/5 stars
The LG Dare has a Kreuznach 3.2 mega pixel camera which also doubles as a camcorder. Photos can be captured at a maximum resolution of 2048×1536 pixels, while videos can be recorded at a maximum resolution of 640×480. The camera allows for many different options such as a self timer, white balance, face detection, multi-shot, panorama, slit, and frame shot types, and a variety of scene modes. LG has also implemented face detection to focus on people in a shot. The camera allows manually setting the ISO, for those who are interested. The camera also launches within a second unlike most other phones that take a while to startup the application. The Dare’s camera is quite a strong point of the phone as it even includes built-in flash and auto focus. The camcorder offers plenty of neat features including a high frame rate option which will record video in slow motion.
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR – 5/5 stars
Bluetooth pairing is unbelievably easy; the phone gives instructions as to how you need to go about pairing the phone. The instructions are simple and easy enough for any person to understand how to do it. It automatically pairs itself with the Bluetooth headset once you have completed the steps, no need to enter a password or anything, very convenient. The Dare fully supports use of stereo Bluetooth headsets, which is welcome addition that the iPhone lacks. The phone also supports sharing calendar events, contacts, or printing photos to a printer, although most probably won’t ever use them.
GPS VZ Navigator – 5/5 Stars
The VZ Navigator has become the strongest point of Verizon Wireless phones in recent times and is also a strong point of this phone. The software allows getting voice turn-by-turn directions and even is aware of traffic congestion. It now also has an improved local search that can find movie timings, gas stations, local events and much more. Just like the browser, the app runs in landscape mode when the phone is turned sideways. The GPS was accurately able to find my location just about anytime I tested it.
Extras – 5/5 stars
One small feature which I loved was the power supply that was included with the phone. Instead of providing an addition data cable, the power supply is actually a USB cable in disguise. The cable can be unplugged from the head and can be plugged into a USB port to charge or sync data. No other hardware is included with the phone. As for the software the Dare has voice commands, a basic calculator, tip calculator, a powerful calendar, alarm clock, stopwatch, world clock, notepad, voice recorder, and a drawing pad. I also wanted to mention that the Notifications bar is an actual menu on this phone instead of just being meaningless indicators. When clicked on, information about missed calls, messages, and events will be displayed. The extra components were also though through carefully.
The LG Dare is the best Verizon Wireless phone I have yet to review. I would have to highly recommend this phone for those interested in a new device. It has been well throughout and is a very worthy competitor to the iPhone. Although it may lack the huge application store that Apple offers, there’s still plenty to keep you busy. Everything from the large touch screen display, the camera, the browser, and music player are all solid. The reception was one of the better ones I have seen as well. The phone is available for purchase already through Verizon Wireless stores and online. The LG Dare will cost $200 with a new two year contract. Those of you who are eligible for upgrade should be able to get an addition $50-100 knocked off the price based off your current calling plan.
Links: Verizon Wireless – LG Dare
Buy Now: LG Dare for $137 with New 2-YR Contract (via Amazon)