Windows Phone 7 is brand-spanking new to the mobile OS world, trying to win back hearts of millions of disenchanted WM 5 and 6 users who grew frustrated at the lack of change. With iPhone and Android taking charge in popularity and user friendliness, Microsoft’s reputation in the world of handheld devices grew more and more sour to the point of scrapping the entire WM project and starting from the ground up. Thus, Microsoft has released a completely unknown and unproven OS around the globe, hoping phone manufacturers and consumers will welcome Windows Phone 7 with open arms. It’s a huge risk for anyone to invest so much money in this new platform.
So far only a few players have stepped up to the plate to take that risk. LG is one of those players, introducing the Quantum and Optimus 7 handsets as its primetime investments. Today I will be reviewing the Quantum, now available in the US on AT&T.
While Microsoft has set a very specific criteria for OEMs to follow in making WP7 handsets, the LG Quantum still has been able to stand out of the crowd by offering the only horizontal slideout QWERTY keyboard in the US as of this writing (The Dell Venue Pro is the only other handset in the US with a physical keyboard, but uses a vertical slideout keyboard instead).
To note, I love the choice of the phone’s name. Hearing Quantum always makes me think of quantum mechanics/physics and Quantum Leap. No matter which way you think of the word, it signifies a rather large jump forward in one way or another. This is incredibly symbolic of the goal Microsoft is attempting to achieve with WP7.
Thanks to our friends at LG we have been given the opportunity to review the Quantum for a couple weeks, and it’s time to share our thoughts with you. How does the LG Quantum act and feel, and how does it hold up against its WP7 brethren? Find out in this full review of the LG Quantum.
Hardware and Design of the LG Quantum
In the worldwide launch of WP7, it’s almost as though all the phone companies got together and drew straws to decide which form factor each company would design; there are so many different types of Windows Phones out there that you really have your choice of whatever style fits your needs. LG chose to include a full-sized physical QWERTY keyboard in designing the Quantum and threw it in as horizontal slider.
Doing so does mean that the phone itself weighs 6.2 ounces and spans out at dimensions of 4.7 x 2.34 x 0.60, making it heavier and thicker than its competitors. Fortunately it does not sacrifice style points or even comfort points in the process. When I held the phone in my hands I did not feel like it was too heavy for it to be comfortable. On the contrary, I actually felt that the LG Quantum is the most solidly built of all three AT&T WP7 devices. The Quantum is built primarily with rubber and metal materials. Instead of being the primary ingredient, plastic is only thrown into the mix as a secondary material. Not only does the rubber and metal give it a more solid feel, it also makes the Quantum more aesthetically pleasing. For instance, the back cover is all brushed metal and adds a very classy look to the device. The rubber sides make the phone already feel like it has a case on it, even though it doesn’t.
The Quantum uses a 3.5″ capacitive TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. This is small compared to the larger touchscreens of its WP7 brethren, but it does help the Quantum feel more compact than it really is. The touchscreen does not feel too small; on the contrary, it’s just right for the phone’s design. Any larger would cause the Quantum to be a behemoth as a whole that wouldn’t even fit in your pocket comfortably. Fortunately, LG used the right blend of decent screen size with keyboard size and made it work rather well.
Microsoft requires the same 3 buttons be used on the front of every WP7 device: back, home, and search. Both back and search are built into the screen display and are only touch-sensitive, whereas the home button is a lonesome physical button down all by itself, down below the screen. This is a special design technique that LG used, and having a physical home button works very well.
Touring around the sides of the phone, on the right side you will find a volume up/down rocker and camera button. The bottom has absolutely nothing. On the left side there is a micro-USB charging port that is covered by a plastic flap that can be peeled off to reveal the port; most phones use the flap as a standard to keep dust and moisture out, though I worry that it may be easily torn off if not careful. On the top you can see a standard 3.5 mm headset jack and a power/screen lock button.
The back of the phone has a brushed metal battery cover that displays the LG and Windows Phone logos on it, and you can also see the 5 MP camera and LED flash accompanying it. Seeing this kind of battery cover along with the neighboring rubber shows me that LG was very concerned about making their phone to last long enough to get your money’s worth out of it, and to make it a more enjoyable experience using the phone overall.
In my reviews, one huge deal maker or breaker is the keyboard. If it’s not comfortable enough to use, it’s almost impossible to recommend since the chances of that phone’s keyboard becoming miraculously comfortable over time are slim to none. Thankfully I had a great experience using the keyboard on the LG Quantum. The sliding mechanism is incredibly solid and built strong. There is no looseness whatsoever but yet the slider is easy enough to slide open without considerable effort or strain.
The Quantum keys are comfortable to type on with my average-sized fingers and thumbs. Each key has been separated out and ever-so-slightly raised as to make the keys easier to press. Looking more closely at the keyboard itself, there are four rows; the bottom row is dedicated primarily to the space bar, direction pad and emoticon button, while the remaining 3 rows are for the letters. The number row is partnered up with the usual top row of letters, meaning the Q is also 1 and so forth. There is no .com button. Curiously the “fn” button, the button responsible for shifting your typing over to the blue symbols such as numbers or punctuation marks, has been pushed off to the left side to hang out with the upper arrow button. This took some getting used to, since pressing that button so far to the left doesn’t feel natural to me. It just seems out of place, as if it was just an afterthought.
We don’t see anything new or out of the ordinary on the LG Quantum’s hardware or design; it’s just built to last and knows its primary purpose, and fulfills that purpose well.
Firmware and OS on the Quantum
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the LG Quantum uses the brand new Windows Phone 7 OS. I will be giving a full review of WP7 shortly. In short, the WP7 interface is what will either get you interested in the Quantum to begin with, or cause you to be uninterested in it and be looking for a different phone. Microsoft took a few lessons from Apple and tightened down the restrictions on what its phones can and cannot do, which means the UI you see on the Quantum is the same as you’d find it on any other WP7 device. There are only a few minor differences between the two, which I will cover in another section, but mostly your experience with WP7 on the Quantum won’t be any different at all than on its competitors.
Overall I have been very pleased in using Windows Phone. As a first-generation OS, Microsoft has out-performed the first-gen version of any other smartphone OS ever made, including that of the iPhone (which when it first came out did not have apps, couldn’t send MMS and lacked several key features any self-respecting smartphone would automatically come with). The screen is incredibly responsive; no matter how I swiped or touched the screen with my fingers there was no delay whatsoever. Pinch-to-zoom worked beautifully on the browser and maps.
I was happy to see that the Quantum comes included with 16 GB internal storage space inside the phone. This memory is not expandable, unfortunately, because Microsoft chose not to give users access to the MicroSD slot on any WP7 device (with the exception of the Samsung Focus; even though the MicroSD slot is accessible on the Focus, however, AT&T has acknowledged that no current microSD card is fully functional until new ones can be produced that are Windows-certified). On the Quantum this particular slot is covered up with a secured silver plate and unless you are paying attention to it, you won’t even know it’s there.
Using a sideways sliding keyboard on the Quantum, I quickly noticed another interesting aspect of the Windows Phone OS: landscape mode is limited and not universally used in every application. I definitely could open the keyboard and be warmly greeted by landscape mode on Internet Explorer and Messaging, but several other native and third-party apps could not function in landscape mode even though the keyboard was slid out. For instance, I attempted to go into Slacker and had to type in my user name and password while turning my head sideways to look at what i was typing in portrait mode. This may become more universal with the introduction of new WP7 updates, but currently is rather frustrating. It’s a Microsoft limitation, not LG, but just having a horizontal QWERTY keyboard makes that limitation painfully obvious as you begin to use the phone on a regular basis.
The Quantum is full of great features that aren’t unique to the WP7 world: 1 GHz CPU, 256 MB RAM, GPS, 5 MP camera with 720p HD recording . But the fact that these aren’t unique to Windows Phone 7 is a compliment to the cutting-edge nature of the new OS. No slowpokes or “budget” devices allowed; each device has to include these kinds of specs, if not even better than these, in order to use WP7. This is admirable simply because it shows Microsoft only wants its phones to be high-performance. This will greatly reduce the possibility of a bad phone hurting the OS’s reputation. Wanting to be cream of the crop, LG’s Quantum definitely fits the bill as a high performing device. I will go into more detail on how LG stands out later in the review.
Microsoft has integrated Zune into all of its phones in attempt to give each device the richest possible multimedia experience. Whether it’s watching videos or listening to music or podcasts, Zune is tightly woven into the Music+Video app on the LG Quantum. If you plan on using any sort of multimedia on the Quantum, it will be essential to download the Zune application on your PC (or for Mac users, a beta version of Windows Phone 7 Connector is available for download as well). Plugging in the Quantum you will be able to move music and video files to it from your computer easily, not to mention pictures or videos from the Quantum to your computer. Once I loaded my music onto the Quantum via my PC, the phone automatically started searching through the Marketplace to find artist info, bios, album covers, and other related information to the music I loaded in.
The Zune pass is also available to use on the Quantum. For $14.99/month you can choose to subscribe to Zune pass, which gives you unlimited streaming of your favorite songs and 10 free downloads that you can keep each month. It’s definitely recommended to get the Zune pass and use it directly on your Quantum. Zune access is tied into the phone’s marketplace so that you can search not only for applications, but games and Zune songs and artists as well. Zune also offers support for podcasts and radio as well. One additional option AT&T throws in (again, for a monthly fee) is AT&T radio, which is essentially another streaming internet app along the same lines as Pandora or Slacker. Frankly, Slacker is already available for free through the Marketplace, so it’s hard to argue the need to shell out extra money each month for a similar service.
One cool feature that you’ll find on Windows phone 7 is the ability to automatically upload any picture or video you take directly to your online Skydrive account, which will already be setup for you since you had to create a Live account to begin using the Quantum in the first place. The Skydrive will offer you plenty of space to store and backup all of these pictures taken on your phone so you — or any of your friends — can check out your latest pics. If you don’t want to share your pics with anyone, you have the ability to keep them private or just not upload to Skydrive at all if preferred.
Video playback is great on the Quantum. Taking advantage of the above-average screen resolution I was impressed by the image quality of the videos loaded onto the Quantum. Most major video formats are supported, so there is no need to worry about what type of format to put your movies into prior to loaded it in your phone.
Internet Explorer was fast and easy to use, both through AT&T’s 3G network and WiFi. IE supports multiple open tabs and landscape mode, and the pinch to zoom functionality works flawlessly on it. There is no delay, no catching up. It’s incredibly responsive and quick. I also didn’t have any problem downloading pages or even apps using the Quantum.
I enjoyed using the camera on the Quantum as well. With a 5 MP camera, it’s on par to compete with the other top players in the market like the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S. The pictures (and HD videos also) turned out just as crisp and the colors just as vibrant as the aforementioned devices. Definitely right on track to be a top competitor here. Here are a couple pics taken with the Quantum’s camera:
Marketplace Apps on the LG Quantum
Microsoft gives each manufacturer the opportunity to place their own app store into the Windows Phone Marketplace. That way when you use the Quantum to check out the marketplace, LG App Store is one particular option to look at. Inside, LG has developed several exclusive apps that can only be used on the Quantum or Optimus 7. Here are some of the apps LG features in the store:
Play-To: This app is DNLA-based, which means you can connect your Quantum with your PC, Xbox 360, or TV through your local WiFi connection. Through this connection you can stream any movies or music from the Quantum onto any of these other devices, effectively turning your Quantum into its own remote control of sorts.
Look n Type: If you walk and text at the same time, it’s a good idea to be safe and look where you’re going. With Look n Type, it turns your camera app on and overlays your messaging functionality on top of it. This lets you type while seeing the ground in front of you. Clever idea — now only if someone could come out with a Drive n Type app, we’d be set! (disclaimer: texting and driving is very bad. Don’t do it.)
Tool Box: A handy 7-apps-in-one app. It offers a flashlight, level, unit converter, and world clock, amongst others.
Panorama Shot: Just as it sounds, this is a camera app that automatically puts your pictures into a 360-degree panoramic shot. Great for scenic pictures.
Photo Stylist: Much like Photoshop.com, this takes your phone pictures and lets you add extra filters and effects to them, to add style and coolness to them.
A?ll of these apps offered in the LG apps store are free and easy to download.
Performance of the LG Quantum
The shining star on the Quantum is its battery life. We’ve noticed much improved battery time on Windows Phones in general, but after playing with the Quantum for a week I was quite impressed by how long it really does last. I typically start the day with a full charge at around 9 AM and use the phone regularly throughout the day: meaning I make random calls, do texts and emails, use Twitter and Facebook and search around all of my other apps on the phone, and still end the day with around 20% charge. So even though I still charge the phone every night, this is a huge improvement in battery life over most iPhones or Androids that I’ve used in the past.
Making and receiving calls ended up being a great experience, as the audio quality was excellent on both sides of the conversation. I always understood everything on the other end of the line because the calls were crisp and static-free, the speaker on the phone is sufficiently loud, and I never had any concern dropping calls.
As mentioned earlier, the high standard of top-quality specs in any Windows Phone will help it be a good performer, but I was still impressed by how quick and responsive the LG Quantum is. I never had any delays getting into apps, or even moving back and forth through the menus of the phone.
Overall I was pleasantly surprised using the LG Quantum. The only frustration I had with the phone was the on-screen keyboard just simply because it felt too tiny to use; however, this would always prompt me to just slide open the keyboard and take advantage of faster typing that way. Any other frustrations I had were based off the Windows Phone OS (which I will cover in my full WP7 review) and not the phone itself.
If you are looking for a Windows Phone that uses a full physical keyboard, I recommend the LG Quantum as a great option for you. To get more details on the Quantum, check out my full video review below as well as the complete photo gallery that shows off the Quantum.
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