Microsoft has gone all out in making an impact with Windows Phone 7, with lots of marketing an exposure. However, the operating system is only a part of the overall phone equation. Windows Phone 7 did see the launch of a number of new devices from hardware manufacturers as well.
While Microsoft’s “Chassis” approach with strong hardware criteria has made for great similarities for Windows Phone 7 devices on the inside, there is still room for innovation and differentiation from manufacturers. The initial launch of Windows Phone 7 has seen a variety of features in the initial wave of devices in terms of screen sizes, sound capabilities and other amenities. One example of differentiation can be found in the LG QUANTUM. The QUANTUM is the AT&T-branded version of LG’s OPTIMUS 7 line.
The folks at LG were good enough to contact me a short time back, offering me the opportunity to try out the LG QUANTUM for review. Having already had Windows Phone 7 experience, I was intrigued by what the QUANTUM had to offer. After using this phone for a while, I can say that there is quite a bit in the offering for those desiring certain features and functionality out of their Windows Phone 7 device.
LG QUANTUM Highlights
- Windows Phone 7
- “Grippable” design
- Physical keyboard
- Battery life
What’s In The Box
My LG QUANTUM review unit shipped with the standard configuration for AT&T. Items in the box included:
- LG QUANTUM phone
- 1500 mAh battery
- In-ear bud design
- 3.5mm jack
- microUSB to USB cable
- USB to AC power adapter
The kitting was pretty much a standard AT&T offering, with standard branding in logos and colors.
The Hardware – First Impressions
The first thing I noticed about the LG Quantum was the actual material makeup of the exterior. Personally, I have noticed a continuing trend from phone manufacturers towards the “shiny and smooth” approach with hardware. While this may be visually appealing, I constantly get the feeling with many devices that I am one small mistake away from the device slipping (or shooting if I squeeze too tightly) out of my hands. This is far from the case with the LG QUANTUM. The outer surface, especially along the sides, is designed for better gripping. Holding the device in my hands for the first time, I felt far more confident that the phone would not end up on the floor.
The size of the phone makes for a nice fit in my (and I presume most peoples’) hands. My recent phone experience has been with phone that include large screens. While this makes for a nice viewing experience, it can make for an awkward experience when simply holding the phone or using the phone as a phone itself. Considering the fact that I have somewhat larger hands than most, I can imagine that a large-screen device could be even more uncomfortable experience for many. This is definitely not the case with the LG QUANTUM. The phone fits nicely in the hand and, when combined with the gripping nature of the exterior surface, makes for a pleasant experience.
The general feel of the LG QUANTUM is quite solid. While the device feels somewhat heavier than other phones I have worked with recently, it does not feel bulky. Of course, some of the additional weight can be attributed to the addition of a physical keyboard (more on that shortly).
From a Windows Phone controls perspective, the LG QUANTUM is designed with a physical hardware button for the Windows Start screen, and two touch-sensitive areas for the “Back” and “Search” functions. I do have to say that this takes some getting used to. With no tactile feedback for these two buttons, I often had to look at my device in order to touch in the correct place.
The LG QUANTUM also includes standard buttons for volume control (on the right-side of the phone), camera (on the right-side of the phone) and power/screen toggle (on the top of the device). LG chose a very “low-profile” approach with these buttons. While this makes the buttons less intrusive and less prone to accidental touches, it does make for some “trial and error” if trying to manipulate the buttons without looking at the device. The biggest case in point for this is the power button, which I found myself having to visually locate at times.
The LG QUANTUM also includes a cover for the microUSB port (on the upper left-side of the device). In a totally personal opinion, I tend to find these covers a bit annoying. While they do provide for nicer aesthetics and some protection, my experiences with these types of covers is that they eventually wear out and break off.
Overall, I found the hardware packaging to be quite nice. The device is easy to hold and very “pocketable” as well.
A major differentiator for the LG QUANTUM is the addition of a physical slide-out keyboard.
The keyboard slides in and out smoothly and easily. The keyboard includes full QWERTY alpha support, with numeric and special character keys accessible via a Function button. The keys are of the “chiclet-style” variety, allowing for reasonable tactile response. The Function and Uppercase keys are on the left-side of the keyboard and are a bit different. They are small, round and metallic buttons.
One item I noted was that when the keyboard was slid out, the overall weight and balance of the phone still felt very good. In many phones I have used in the past, sliding out the keyboard made the phone feel very unbalanced in my hands. As a result, I had to be extra careful to grip the keyboard area of the phone to avoid the entire phone flipping out of my hand. This was definitely not the case with the LG QUANTUM and was a big plus in my mind.
There was a time where I basically demanded a physical keyboard for my phone. With recent advances in on-screen keyboards and larger screens, I have been less demanding in this area. However, I did find that the LG QUANTUM keyboard was very easy to use (with one exception). The keys were easy to tap and the feedback was good. My only difficulty was with the Function and Uppercase keys. In addition to being quite small, they were another example of being “low-profile” and made for a difficult time in hitting. Aside from this, I can say that I generally liked the LG QUANTUM keyboard and became quite comfortable using it. If a physical keyboard is a hard and fast requirement for a Windows Phone 7 buyer, the LG QUANTUM should meet those requirements quite nicely.
As I noted earlier, I have become quite used to using larger screen devices as of late. This being the case, I had some initial reservations about using a device with a smaller screen (the LG QUANTUM has a 3.8-inch screen). However, I found the screen to be very readable and usable.
Thanks to the nature of the Windows Phone 7 OS, touch areas for navigation were easy to use and performed well. The screen is also very viewable in outdoor lighting.
As phones become more and more of an “on-the-go” photo-taking device, using the camera and resulting picture quality is of greater importance to a lot of users. The LG QUANTUM ships with a 5 megapixel camera. As is the case with all Windows Phone 7 devices, the hardware leverages the standard Windows Phone 7 camera interface.
I found the picture quality of the LG QUANTUM to be quite good. Snapping a photo in standard lighting resulted in good picture quality. The picture below is left in it’s default resolution; click on the image for the full version.
Low-light photography also worked well, thanks to the built-in flash on the LG QUANTUM. As an example, the following photo was taken in very low-light -
While I am someone who has never looked to replace a true camera with a phone, I do believe that the LG QUANTUM more than suffices for taking photos when you’re camera simply isn’t available. Between the general camera quality and Windows Phone 7’s ability to go straight to the camera interface with just a push of the camera button even when the phone is locked, I found it easy to take quick snapshots “on-the-fly” that I wouldn’t have been able to do even with a regular camera.
The Media Experience
For me, one huge advantage of the Windows Phone 7 platform has been the inclusion of Zune integration. While other platforms have media integration, Zune adds Zune Pass functionality, allowing me to stream any music from the Zune Marketplace directly to my Windows Phone. As a result, I am finding myself using my phone as my primary media device for the first time (I previously used Zunes separate from my phone for my audio and video).
The standard headset shipped with the LG QUANTUM was adequate for my audio needs. If you are an audiophile, they may simply not be enough for your taste. The good news, however, is that you can use any 3.5mm headset for a better audio experience. Headset aside, the music experience is very good. I love the Zune-like interface for playing audio and video on the LG QUANTUM. I have used many phones and many interfaces (both stock and 3rd party), but the Zune interface is still my personal favorite.
Video playback is also good. I was able to easily transfer purchased video content from the Zune Marketplace to the LG QUANTUM and play on the device. The playback was smooth and crisp. I also was able to easily transfer other video content to the device and play with the same results. I will admit that the smaller screen is not the most ideal medium for watching video, but the LG QUANTUM screen is no smaller than the Zune HD and I was comfortable watching video on that device on a regular basis.
The LG QUANTUM does include another interesting feature – DLNA support. If you have watched the “Swamp Creature” commercials here in the US recently (where the homesick swamp creature looks at photos, watches videos and listens to the sounds of the swamp on other devices straight from his phone), you have some idea of what DLNA is about. Basically, DLNA allows for the streaming of content via WiFi to devices that also support DLNA. While I do not have any TVs or audio players with DLNA support, I do have two devices that do – a PC with Windows 7 and an Xbox 360. DLNA support in Windows Phone 7 is provided through Windows Media Player, and Xbox 360 support is indirect (using the Windows Media Center Extender functionality to view the content streamed to the PC from the LG QUANTUM). I tried out the DLNA functionality and have to admit it is quite cool. LG provides an application (“PlayTo”) on the phone. Simply open the application while your phone is connected to your WiFi network, and the application locates the DLNA-enabled devices also connected to the network. Pick a device, select the content and viola! – your media appears. I found the performance of this to be very good.
Overall, the combination of Windows Phone 7 and LG functionality (both hardware and software) makes for a compelling media experience.
I have talked about performance in the context of some of the specific functionalities of the LG QUANTUM. A couple of other areas of performance should be noted, however. First off, I have to talk about battery life. This is one area where I was extremely impressed. Generally speaking, battery life was very good. Average usage, with multiple email accounts using Exchange ActiveSync push, frequent Internet access and moderate phone usage (approximately 1 – 1.5 hours usage) found me with approximately 50% battery life after about 10 hours. When you compare this to my past devices, this is really amazing. When you add in the fact that I was using a 2G network (I am on T-Mobile and the LG QUANTUM radio does not support the 1700 MHz 3G spectrum), good battery life is exactly the opposite of older phones without some intervention. In the past, a phone capable of 3G running on a 2G network would constantly search for a 3G connection, greatly draining the battery (Note: Some phones provided the capability of turning off the attempts to find a 3G network to alleviate the issue). My use of the LG QUANTUM with just 2G and the resulting battery life was a very pleasant surprise.
From a performance perspective, my other observation about the LG QUANTUM is – things just work. Pairing a Bluetooth headset – no problem. Using WiFi – no problem. Using voice-activated calling – no problem. This may not sound like much, but it is a testament to both Microsoft and LG that the basic functionalities work without the need for advanced tools or customizations.
In addition to the standard Windows Phone 7 software, the LG QUANTUM for AT&T does ship with some additional software. On the AT&T side, there are a few applications available. Most notable is the offering of AT&T U-verse Mobile, providing access to a lot of video content. Unfortunately, I was not able to try this out. In addition to the PlayTo software for DLNA, LG also provides access to the LG Apps Store from within the Marketplace application on the phone. There are a number of useful and entertaining applications to be found here and (as of this writing) all are FREE to LG QUANTUM users. The additional software does make for a nice “value-add” when considering the purchase of an LG QUANTUM.
The initial launch of Windows Phone 7 brought with it a number of new devices. Based on performance and features, the LG QUANTUM rates as one of the most compelling of this first wave of hardware. If a well-built phone with a physical keyboard and solid battery life is what you crave, the LG QUANTUM has to be at the top of your list. I highly recommend you take the time to look closely at this phone if Windows Phone 7 is on your wish list.