LG Envoy II (U.S. Cellular) review

The LG Envoy II for U.S. Cellular is a no-frills flip phone that's stuck in the past.
Photo of LG Envoy II (U.S. Cellular)

It may seem like everyone out there wants the latest and greatest in feature-packed, giant-screen smartphones, but there’s still a bunch of people that just need to make a call from time to time. And for that reason, companies like LG keep making flip phones like the Envoy II…not that there’s anything wrong with that. We like a good simple cell phone ourselves, like our Editors’ Choice, the Samsung Jitterbug Plus. Unfortunately, while the $69.99 LG Envoy II for U.S. Cellular may be simple, it isn’t very good. It’s less of a classic flip phone than it is simply stuck in the past.

Design and Call Quality
Design-wise, the Envoy II is your standard flip phone. It measures 3.9 by 2.0 by 0.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.7 ounces. The whole thing is made of matte black plastic with a lightly textured strip that runs across the middle. All external controls are on the left, including a covered, non-standard headphone jack, a volume rocker, and the power port.

There’s a 1-inch monochrome LCD on the outside of the phone. It shows you the time, date, network, reception, ringer, and battery life. The phone opens smoothly, though the hinge feels flimsy, like you can break it off if you push too hard. Inside is a 2.2-inch display with just 176-by-144-pixel resolution. It looks terrible. Everything is blurry, like you’re wearing someone else’s glasses, and viewing angles are poor. You can control the size and style of the text, but it still looks small even on the largest setting. Thankfully, the phone has text-to-speech conversion, so you can have it read incoming messages aloud.

The lower half of the phone is home to your number keys, as well as a rather busy control pad. There’s a standard five-button navigation pad, which is flanked by an additional seven function keys. That’s a lot of buttons, but none of them are the keys to send or end a call—those are a little further down with the number keys. So what controls do you get? There are two function keys in either corner that correspond to commands on screen. There’s also a button for the camera, speakerphone, alarm, text-to-speech, and voice commands. That’s about three buttons too many. Some of those controls would’ve been better off left to the Settings menu.

The keys themselves are decent. They’re dimly backlit, with decent separation and good travel. Of course, even the best number pad isn’t ideal for texting, so if that’s what you’re after, you’re better off with a keyboarded phone like the Samsung Freeform 4.

In New York City where I did my testing, U.S. Cellular phones use Sprint’s network. The Envoy II is a 2G device with no Wi-Fi. Reception was decent and voice quality is solid. Voices sound very good in the phone’s earpiece; there’s some light fuzz, but you need to turn the volume all the way up to hear it. Calls made with the phone are also solid, though voices were a little muted from aggressive noise cancellation. There’s some side tone in the earpiece, which helps prevent you from talking too loudly. The speakerphone sounds okay, but is not loud enough to hear outside. And calls sounded good over a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset, though the voice command system was rather fussy; it worked properly less than half the times I tried. Battery life was average at 6 hours and 14 minutes of talk time.

Apps, Multimedia, and Conclusions
You don’t get much in the way of apps. The main menu has 12 icons you can choose from, which range from the phone book and text messages to the Settings menu and Uno. Most of the apps can be found under the Tools menu. You get a calculator, calendar, stopwatch, tip calculator, unit converter, and world clock. There’s also a programmable menu called My Menu, but since it’s buried under Tools, it isn’t terribly convenient to use.

There’s an app store from U.S. Cellular, as well as a place to buy new ring tones. You can also browse the Web, via the Myriad 6.2-powered Web browser, which reads WAP sites. But between the WAP browser, the slow data speeds, and the poor display, this isn’t a good phone for getting online.

Multimedia support is pretty much out. There is no music or video playback. Even if there were, the phone has a skimpy 121.5MB of free storage, no microSD card slot, and a non-standard 2.5mm headphone jack. So you probably don’t have compatible headphones, and there’s little room to store anything except photos.

Speaking of photos, the LG Envoy II has a 1.3-megapixel camera. Pictures taken with the phone aren’t terrible for what they are—the camera actually does a decent job with color—but there is virtually no detail. There’s also no good way to transfer photos off the phone. You have to send them as a picture message or use Bluetooth.

The LG Envoy II uses the classic flip phone design, but it’s far from a classic. On U.S. Cellular, you’re better off with the Samsung Chrono 2. It has a similar design, but it costs less and you can use it as a music player. There’s also the Kyocera DuraPro, which is also a flip phone, but with a much bigger, rugged design. It has a better camera than the Envoy II, as well as a much sharper screen. If you prefer to text, you should check out Samsung Freeform 4, which has a BlackBerry-style keyboard and better multimedia support than the Envoy II. There’s also the LG Freedom. We haven’t reviewed it yet, but it combines a touch-screen display with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Our Editors’ Choice for simple phones remains with the Samsung Jitterbug Plus. It’s extremely easy to use, and has free 24-hour operator assistance, though you’ll need service through GreatCall to get it. 

Specifications
Service Provider US Cellular
Phone Capability / Network CDMA
Total Integrated Storage 0.125977 GB
Screen Resolution 176 x 144 pixels
NFC No
Dimensions 3.9 x 2.0 x 0.7 inches
Weight 3.66 oz
Screen Type TFT LCD
Form Factor Flip Phone
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 1.3 MP
Bands 800, 1900
Screen Pixels Per Inch 103 ppi
802.11x/Band(s) No
Available Integrated Storage 0.118652 GB
microSD Slot No
High-Speed Data CDMA 1X
GPS Yes
Screen Size 2.2 inches
Battery Life (As Tested) 6 hours 14 minutes
Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR

Verdict
The LG Envoy II for U.S. Cellular is a no-frills flip phone that's stuck in the past.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc