LG has recently released the Encore, a feature-rich touchscreen phone for the AT&T wireless network. The Encore is designed to be a touchscreen phone option for those people who can’t afford, or don’t want to buy, a true touchscreen smartphone. That’s not to say that the Encore is a knock-off, it is a perfectly good phone in its own right, but at first glance you may think that the LG Encore is much more than it actually is. The Encore has a lot going for it, but there is a bad side to this phone as well, as it is sometimes hard to navigate, and using it can wind up being a frustrating experience.
Design (3 out of 5)
The LG Encore measures 4.17 inches long, 2.10 inches wide and 0.47 inches thick, making it similar in shape and a little bit slimmer than many touchscreen phones available today. The shell around the phone is made of plastic, and since the Encore only weighs in at 3.7 ounces, it feels a little light in your hand. It doesn’t necessarily feel cheap, but by using stronger and heavier materials LG could have made the device feel much more sturdy in your hand.
The main, well only, input mechanism on the LG Encore is the 3-inch touchscreen that dominates the front of the phone. The screen is a TFT LCD that can show 260K colors at a resolution of 400 x 240. The colors look decent, but not great, and the text could stand to be a little more sharp. Using the LG Encore in direct sunlight is not recommended. On the bottom of the display you have the three static touch buttons that are under the same glass as the display, giving the phone a good look.
On the top of the LG Encore you will find a power key and a 3.5mm headset jack. On the left side you have the volume keys and the mini-USB charging port, while on the right side you find a camera key and a menu button. On the back of the phone is just the brushed-metal colored battery cover and the camera.
User Interface (2 out of 5)
The touchscreen on the LG Encore is not capacitive, like it would be on a high-end phone, but resistive. This helps keep the cost of the device down, but makes it much more difficult to use. You sometimes have to press very hard to get the phone to recognize your selection, and the phone sometimes makes selections while you are trying to move your finger across the screen. If this was one of the first touchscreen devices released years ago it would be acceptable, but after using countless other phones with a better touchscreen, the Encore just does not work very well.
The main screen on the LG Encore has three home pages that you can customize to an extent. The left home page is for contacts, the center page is for widgets and the right page is for application shortcuts. Editing the pages, as well as navigating through the pages, is fairly easy with no real hiccups by the phone. On the bottom of each screen you also have four permanent shortcut buttons to access the phone, contacts, messages and the main menu. You can also pull down a tab that contains sound and connection information as well as a few shortcuts to applications.
It is pretty easy to find out where everything is on the Encore, and navigating between different screens is easy and fast. There is the occasional hang-up when opening some applications, like the browser, but that is expected on this type of phone and is nothing out of the ordinary.
Features (3 out of 5)
The LG Encore comes with AT&T’s mobile email service, which expedites the set up process and lets you receive most of your email in a single application. The phone also supports multimedia messaging and several forms of instant messaging. To top off the experience, the phone comes with AT&T’s Social Net application which lets you interact with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter all through the same application.
The Encore comes with a 3-megapixel camera that takes decent pictures, but they are nothing special. The colors look a little faded and even with all the camera controls that are included in the camera application it was difficult to take really good pictures. The camera also allows you to record video, which has similar image issues.
The LG Encore comes with a large number of pre-installed apps like AT&T Navigator, YPmobie, Wikimobile and MobiTV along with a few demo games. If these applications aren’t enough, you can always download more from AT&T’s AppCenter. The Encore also includes a few small features like a calendar, alarm clock, calculator and stop watch. The phone also supports Bluetooth technology with A2DP support and comes with a speakerphone.
Performance (2 out of 5)
The call quality on the LG Encore is passable. The service holds up well, with the phone getting a strong signal. There is a little distortion from the earpiece, but nothing that isn’t present in almost all cell phones. The quality of speakerphone calls was generally poor, with enough distortion to make it difficult to hear the other person, but some calls were better than others so it is hard to pin down the problem.
The data speeds on the phone were excellent, with web pages loading quickly and online video coming in about as well as can be expected on a low-end mobile device. The videos weren’t crystal clear, but they played without a ton of pausing and the quality was good enough to enjoy the video.
LG claims that the battery will last for about 3 hours, and it did that and more during the tests.
Verdict for the LG Encore (2 out of 5)
If I could review the LG Encore in a bubble it would probably rate a little higher, since it has a good amount of features and the frustrations are limited to a few areas. However, with many top-end phones being discounted to within a few dollars of the Encore’s $49.99 price point (at that is only with a 2-year agreement and while AT&T is offering a $50 discount), the Encore just comes up short. Since most of the issues revolve around the hardware, there isn’t anything LG or AT&T can do now to improve the phone, so as long as it remains at $50, there are other better options out there for you. If AT&T ever drops the price to free, however, I think this would be an decent phone for that type of price point.