LG V Multimedia Phone

It's a cell phone—and so much more.

As I was packing for a recent trip, I was amazed at the number of electronic gadgets I've amassed over the past couple of years—and how many I need to bring along to keep me both accessible and entertained for the long hours away from home and office. I once joked with Sony that adding calling features to their PlayStation Portable would make it a perfect device. But, in the meantime, I do appreciate any cell phone that allows me to do more than check voice mail, and, as such, the LG V phone is a small wonder.

The gray-and-silver V is specifically designed to access Verizon's optional V CAST wireless media-on-demand service, an enhanced set of entertainment options—and information for you serious types—including the latest music and both free and premium video content. You can stream video clips and send and receive video, text messages, photos, and e-mail. This is in addition to the ability to play downloadable video games, either via a purchase or a less-expensive rental. Downloadable applications allow users to customize ring tones, wallpapers, and more.

Open Up and Say, "Ahhh"
In addition, there is a built-in, 1.3-megapixel digital still camera with a flash and a timer (which can also record video) and a business-card reader. A quick flip of the phone opens it to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard below a second, larger TFT LCD screen floating in a brushed-aluminum frame. Vertically mounted stereo speakers flank this screen. It's like a home theater system put under a shrink ray. In this position, the V is comfortable in the hand, or it can rest freestanding on any nearby flat surface. The keyboard and additional on-unit buttons also enable two-handed gaming, with titles ranging from Sega's Virtua Tennis to the movie-themed The Incredibles to Namco's neo-retro Pac-Mania 3D. Each uses the keys in different ways. Many even incorporate the phone's vibration as interactive force feedback. Picture quality is outstanding, with 320-by-256-pixel resolution and more than 262,000 colors. The aspect ratio of the bigger screen measures out to a slightly truncated 1.25:1, perhaps owing to the narrow data strip that appears along the top of the LCD in many video applications. Some stored video clips display familiar black letterbox stripes above and below.

The Laserdisc Scenario
One of my big gripes about laserdisc, back in the day, was the need to flip or switch discs every 59 minutes or less. Why my ire? Because any movie, like music, is meant to be enjoyed without interruptions. In my experience with the V CAST service, this did not always occur. On one occasion, a streaming seven-minute Looney Tunes cartoon would only play in maddening 10-second bursts and then take another 10 seconds to rebuffer. (Comedy in particular is all about timing.) I paid $4 for the unlimited use of said cartoon. But, one day, I went back online to stream it again, and it was gone. On the other hand, I successfully downloaded and stored a music video on the phone, again for $4. The good news is that the guy in the Verizon commercials doesn't exaggerate. I found the coverage to be generally excellent. So, when the signal is strong, the streaming entertainment experience is marred by the heavy compression you must realistically expect, plus an unfortunate loss of audio/video sync at times.

The streaming issue is not a problem for videos saved to a miniSD card, of course. In the absence of a USB cable to link the V to a computer, you can add your own MP3s and videos by inserting the card into the phone to automatically format it and then use a PC or Mac card reader/writer to drag and drop media files thereupon. You can convert videos to the necessary 3GP or 3G2 standard with software such as InterVideo's DVD Copy 4 Platinum H.264 Edition ($80, www.intervideo.com). At press time, talk continued of a music-on-demand software upgrade for the V, to allow permanent downloads of songs.

Easy-to-use voice commands
Supports EV-DO for downloads at near-broadband speed
Comes with an interactive tutorial CD-ROM

LG Electronics
(800) 243-0000