We spent some touching (get it?) minutes with the new LG Dare that's hitting Verizon Wireless today, and while we didn't come away from the experience a changed human being, we've gotta congratulate LG and Verizon for the obvious effort they've put into this unit. Particularly with the hardware the phone seems determined to differentiate itself from its iPhone competition, with helpful tactile feedback while typing, (almost helpful) handwriting recognition, video recording (in slow-mo, if you'd like) and even editing, and the beefed-up photo taking capabilities that a 3.2 megapixel sensor and built-in flash provide. The basics aren't too bad either, with a sturdy and bright screen, peppy EV-DO Rev A., expandable memory and a flush 3.5mm headphone jack.
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LG Dare hands-on
Unfortunately, where things start to fall apart is polish. The phone inexplicably carries two app menus, one a "shortcut menu" accessed by a button off to the side of the home screen, the other a full-fledged affair accessed by the primary soft button row... which is also on the home screen. We also had trouble with the QWERTY keypad despite the abundant horizontal real estate the Dare commits to it. We got better as we became accustomed to tapping with our fingernails (thumb presses don't work, it's not a capacitive touch screen). Other things like the inability to fling your way through menus and long web pages are minor niggles, but detract from the overall experience.
It's also quite clear that the Dare is a featurephone, not a smartphone, so if you were hoping to manage email effectively or keep up with your appointments, you're probably better off sticking with one of those Big Kids phones -- even if the Dare's messaging and contact integration is admirable. The browser is also a "full HTML" browser in the most minor of senses. Sure it understands HTML, but it won't be rendering web pages anything like they're supposed to look, other than specially formatted mobile sites -- which sort of defeats the purpose. At least the anti-aliased fonts are a step up from traditional Verizon fare.
In all we'd liken the phone to its incohesive and boring external design: all the right elements are there, but they might need some more time in the oven to really make sense.