A very welcome if imperfect improvement on the original enV. (August 10th, 2008)
Product Manufacturer: LG
Price: $50 (Telus 3 yrs.) $80 (Verizon 2 yrs.)
- Much more efficient, comfortable design than the earlier model.
- Good battery life for a CDMA phone, especially on standby.
- Simple, no-nonsense interface.
- 3.5mm headphone jack on the in-line mic.
- Telus version gets a 1GB microSD card in the box.
- Voice quality is just average for a CDMA phone.
- Little software; media player and web browser are very simple.
- Bluetooth and USB transfer problems with at least the test model.
- Connectors on the phone itself are still proprietary.
Even simpler mid-range phones are now coming with two-megapixel cameras, and that's what's in place for the enV2/Keybo. Unfortunately, there's not much else to recommend for this (admittedly secondary) feature. Outside of minor on-phone editing functions, the camera is extremely simple and has no autofocus, flash, or portrait mirror. Shots are fairly clear but still exhibit many artifacts that are a symptom of simple phone cameras, including "purple fringing" and other chromatic effects from a small and unspectacular lens. It's useful for simple spur-of-the-moment images, either outdoors or in bright indoor light, and not much else.
What's most impressive about the enV2/Keybo is, as was mentioned from the outset, the sheer cleverness of its design. It's surprising that the handset is as simple to use as it is on either side, and doesn't feel like the perpetual exercise in compromise that was the m620/UpStage. LG would get more marks still if it used a proper 3.5mm jack on the device itself.
The core software and battery are similarly noteworthy, if just that they're good enough to be non-factors; they rarely get in the way of using the phone as it was intended, which in an era of overly complex devices may well be a saving grace.
Having said this, it's evident that the device still isn't the definitive non-smartphone one would hope for. The dearth of software and the strictly mediocre call quality may still push some buyers to consider an entry-level smartphone instead, and the camera is there more to tick a checkbox in the feature list than draw a crowd.
This might not matter given the phone's price. In Canada, the Keybo sells for just $50; while that's with an inordinately long three-year contract, it's inexpensive enough to be a near-impulse purchase and easily matches the feature set. The two-year pricing for both Telus ($100) and the enV2 with Verizon ($80, without a microSD card) is similarly low enough to be reasonable, although at this level is just expensive enough to possibly lure customers over to low-hanging fruit like the Samsung Instinct for Telus or even the Palm Centro smartphone for Verizon subscribers.
For either carrier, it's still true that the enV2/Keybo is focused well and represents a tangible improvement over the earlier phone; it just doesn't do everything well, and that's something to watch out for before committing the next few years to this one device.