What's one more LTE phone, more or less? That almost seems to be the case with the LG Revolution on Verizon. It makes up the triad that is Verizon's LTE smartphone stable, along with the HTC ThunderBolt and Samsung Droid Charge.
We've long crowed about LG's capability as a high-end smartphone manufacturer, despite the fact that it's taken half of forever for it to break through in the United States, having until recently been limited to low- to mid-level devices. But make no mistake about it -- the LG Revolution is far from a low-end device.
But that doesn't mean we don't have questions. Where, exactly, does the Revolution fit into things? And will a single "feature" doom it to obscurity like it has other devices? Read on, past the break.
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There are black slabs, and there are black slabs. And they don't get much more black-slabbish than the LG Revolution. OK, maybe the LG Optimus Black. But that's another story.
What you've got in the Revolution is a 4.3-inch Android 2.2 device with 4G LTE data and Google services stripped out in favor of Microsoft's Bing. (Gasp!) This is hardly the first time we've seen this done -- think back to the Samsung Fascinate, the aborted HTC Merge, the Samsung Gem, and so on and so forth.
The front of the Revolution is made up of the touchscreen, four capacitive buttons (they're stenciled and backlit, so you can see them all the time), the earpiece and front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. There's a hidden notification light that we find ourselves wanting to smack for bad behavior. Instead of the usual blinking you've come to know from most notification lights, the Revolution's is just on. It's a piercing blue color, too, when you've got a notification waiting. During the day, no big deal. But at night, it's damned annoying. It's as much the fact that it's just a constant beacon as it is the color and intensity.
The sides of the Revolution are nicely designed by LG. There's a thin chrome (OK, shiny silver plastic) strip that runs down the length of the phone. On the right-hand side you'll find the volume rocker and HDMI port. The microUSB port is on the left.
Both ports are shielded by a little door, which fits quite nicely and needs a fingernail to be opened. That's a great feature for the HDMI port, so you can keep dust and dirt out when it's not in use. And chances are you might not be doing a lot of HDMI output.
But one port that will be used a lot is the microUSB port, for charging the phone. As we noted, the Revolution is an LTE device. And LTE devices are well known by now for being power-hungry when sucking down all that 4G data. The Revolution is no exception. That's despite it having a 1500mAh battery, which you'll find tucked under the easily removed battery cover. You'll also find a spring-loaded 16GB microSD card and 4G LTE SIM card under there, and the rear-facing 5MP camera and flash are on the back, too.
Put it this way: We managed to burn through most of the LG Revolution's battery by lunchtime one day. And then another day. And then another. Not exactly an aberration for an LTE device, but not not exactly welcome, either. And just like Verizon's other LTE devices, there's easy no way to toggle between 3G and 4G without downloading an app. Our suggestion: Connect to Wifi whenever possible.
There's really not much more to say about the hardware. It's a simple design -- no moving parts save for the covers on the microUSB and HDMI ports. The phone itself is fairly large -- LTE devices tend to be so. It's just a tad over 5 inches tall, is 2.6 inches wide and 0.52 inches thick, weighing a tad over 6 ounces. Basically, it's a slightly taller HTC ThunderBolt -- and much more black.
Under the hood, the LG Revolution sports a single-core 1GHz Qualcomm processor, with 512MB of RAM. It's certainly plenty fast enough when tooling around the user interface.
Like a few other phones we've seen, it's got an internal SD card as well as the user-removable microSD card. The former has 12 GB, while the latter has 16GB of storage. A side-effect to this is that when you connect the Revolution to a computer via mass storage mode, you'll see two drives.
Speaking of the user interface on the Revolution -- it's got LG's custom UI, which looks and feels a lot like Samsung's, still. Not that that's a bad thing, and you can always install a custom launcher if you want.
On the second home screen from the left, you'll find a cool scrollable widget for flipping through your media. There's one for photos, videos, music albums, artists and playlists. Pretty slick.
The Revolution also has LG's custom app drawer, which lets you sort apps by category. Apps of note that are preloaded (whether you like it or not): Amazon Kindle, Blockbuster, Let's Golf 2, Rhapsody, TuneWiki, City ID, a Voice Recorder, and the various Verizon VCAST Apps.
Really, standard fare on a smartphone.
But let's talk for a minute about the elephant in the room. The Revolution has been Binged. It's had some of its Google services -- search and maps are the most noticeable -- stripped out and replaced by Microsoft Bing. As we've said plenty of times before, we're not exactly fans of this, even if we do understand that it's a business decision made by Verizon. Question is, would an average consumer even notice? Probably not. And Bing is a perfectly capable app. And search engine. But it has no business being integrated into an Android phone.
Again, the Revolution is running Android 2.2 Froyo. That's a shame, but not really surprising, considering it was one of the phones first announced at CES way back in January 2011. We fully expect it to be upgraded to Gingerbread before it's put out to pasture.
The camera app on the LG Revolution is decent enough. You've got a quick toggle between the still and video modes, as well as the front and rear camera. The on-screen buttons rotate as you rotate the phone.
Still pictures can be taken in up to a 5-megapixel resolution (2593x1944). Video will shoot up to 720p.
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Other odds and ends
- Call quality: Just fine.
- Speaker quality: Ditto.
- GPS: Nary a problem.
- Hackability: Root away with the Rage Against the Cage exploit.
For all intents and purposes, the LG Revolution is pretty good Android smartphone. We just keep asking ourselves where it fits into Verizon's lineup. It's a big black slab of an LTE phone, all right. But so's the HTC ThunderBolt. So how's it different? LG's hardware build is top-notch, and we like its software customizations. But where's the selling point? Is it Bing? Is the inclusion of Microsoft's search and mapping services on an Android smartphone going to sell it? We certainly hope not.