lg-Vu-1.jpgMy ancient Razr V3 was finally starting to give up the ghost. After we returned from Antigua, it was never quite the same, but for many months the SIM card would become lose and cause it to stop working. But now, the #2 key stopped working intermittently. The current economic situation has made the most obvious and attractive replacement, the iPhone, a non-option, so I had to find the best "free" AT&T mobile to replace the Razr.


The thing I most liked about the Razr was the form-factor. It was, and continues to be, one of the thinnest phones. The all-metal construction made it fairly durable and it had a plethora of 3rd party applications and tools to tweak it. I was OK with another flip phone, but there was not an offering as robust as the V3, or as thin. I went with the LG Vu because it offered an iPhone-like interface and the chance to install a variety of third party applications. I was also of the mindset that all I needed was a phone. I wasn't looking for a camera or a PDA, I had a notebook and a real camera instead. The other interesting free phone had flip out QWERTY keyboards that added to their bulk, but not to their appeal. I had no need for texting or internet on my "just-a-phone" to be.

The LG Vu, unlike the iPhone and Razr, the construction feels a bit cheap thanks to the plastic housing and screen. However, it is fairly lightweight. The screen is bright and most UI allow for a landscape or portrait mode use. The touchscreen keyboard is similar in function and design as the iPhones. However, it has some quirkiness in the respect that you can't default it to QWERTY over the IM-mode, and when you do use QWERTY you have to do two OK's to actually submit that text. 

I will tell you that mobile web-browsing has evolved significantly since the Razr was introduced. The MediaNet browser is much more robust. So I did end up with the data package. I mean it is 2009, right? So there I am, with the data package. The two things that I would use most with this sort of access: e-mail and facebook. Lets start with #2. 

Facebook was readily usable in its WAP form via MediaNet. However the only option for image uploads was via e-mail. Alright, how do I do that? I looked at the built-in Yahoo! email client, because I already have a Yahoo! account. Well, the e-mail works, but it does not support attachments. So spent fruitless hours searching the internet for a viable, free IMAP-capable e-mail client for the Vu. And sadly, there is no such thing as far as I could tell. There are some commercial ones, but I didn't want to go that route. I must have installed 10 different apps claiming IMAP support, but none supported it directly or lacked the ability to handle image attachments. 

So with that knowledge, I was finding that while I could update facebook, I was powerless to use the camera to do any status updates with it, a function native to the iPhone. 

One feature that the LG Vu has that the iPhone does lack is the ability to be tethered to a notebook. Not only tethered, but tethered with the bluetooth interface. This would allow me to access the internet from my notebook using the Vu's 3G connection. Wow. So, after doing some research on how to do it, I managed to get it working. What a fantastic feature this is. I could now access sites like flightaware.com from the field where there is no Wifi access. This is a huge development in favor of the LG Vu. But the more I thought about it, the superior web browsing of the iPhone precludes the need for tethering for this particular application. I can check Flightaware directly from an iphone, eliminating the need for a notebook PC at all.

So here's where I am. Do I spend the additional $15 a month for the iPhone's data plan over this. Originally I said that "all I want is a phone", but this is 2009 and I am way behind the curve here. Having seen the practicality of Jenn's iPhone, I have found that, yes, it is a great unit with some interesting and useful applications. The LG Vu has an array of available applications, however they are general Java-based applications, not applications that were designed for it specifically, so they range in both quality and age. 

So it looks like I'll be returning this and upgrading to a refurbed iphone 3G. It just makes sense for me. I think continuing to fumble my way through using this phone's applications or lack of will be an exercise in frustration knowing that they just work fine on the iphone.