If you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, then you shouldn’t judge a smartphone by its specs. Case in point: Based on specs alone, the $219.99 LG Venice should be able to hold its own against other similarly priced phones in Boost Mobile’s lineup. And while that should make this a three and-a-half or four-star phone, a litany of bugs renders it occasionally unusable. That turns what could have been a good smartphone into one we can’t recommend.
Design, Call Quality, and Connectivity
The LG Venice measures 4.94 by 2.64 by 0.34 inches (HWD) and weighs just 4.41 ounces, which makes it lightweight and comfortable to hold. The back panel is made of textured gray plastic that looks like metal, while the front is all glass outlined by a plastic silver ring. The 4.3-inch 800-by-480-pixel IPS capacitive touch screen is unremarkable. It gets nice and bright, but lacks crispness. If you look close, you can see a faint vertical pattern that runs through it. There’s no ambient light sensor, so you have to set the screen brightness manually. Underneath the display are two touch buttons and a physical Home key. There’s a Power button and 3.5mm headphone jack up top, and a volume rocker on the left. The look is minimal, but it works.
Reception was fine, but call quality was average at best in my tests. Calls made with the phone had plenty of static, along with a fuzzy, hissing sound in the background. Transmissions through the microphone sounded better. Calls were fine through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset, and standard Android voice dialing worked fine. The speakerphone got loud enough to use outside, but it also sounded harsh at top volume. The 1,700mAh battery was on the short side at 6 hours and 47 minutes of talk time.
Boost Mobile uses Sprint’s nationwide network, and the LG Venice connects using EV-DO Rev A. You also get 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, but I experienced major Wi-Fi issues during testing. On two different test phones, I experienced drops in Wi-Fi on two different networks that ranged from sporadic to constant. At first it was so bad I couldn’t even download all the apps I needed to run benchmark tests on the phone. Then it seemed to ease up a bit, only to come back again in full force. Aside from the constant pause in whatever you’re doing, you can see the Wi-Fi icon in your notifications bar flickering in and out as the phone picks up and drops connection. And for almost everyone, this is a big problem.
Think about it—you probably use Wi-Fi a heck of a lot more often than you use your carrier’s network. At work and at home, for instance, I’m always connected to Wi-Fi. And not having a device that can maintain a connection is not just a problem, it’s a deal breaker. I didn’t experience any drops in connection to Sprint’s network with Wi-Fi turned off, but that still posed its own problem, which I’ll explain below.
Data Plans and Network
The best reason to get a phone on Boost is to tap into the carrier’s inexpensive pricing plans. Android plans start at $55 for unlimited data, talk time, and texts per month. That amount is reduced by $5 every six months you pay your bill on time, until you reach $40. If you don’t need as much talk time, you can get a similar plan from Virgin Mobile, but with 300 voice minutes, for just $35 per month. But for either carrier, there is a downside for heavy data users: After 2.5GB of full-speed data usage per month, your speeds will be throttled significantly until the end of your billing cycle.
As we discovered in our Fastest Mobile Networks report, Sprint has the slowest 3G speeds of all the carriers we tested. That means that all 3G-only Sprint, Boost, and Virgin phones are running at very slow speeds, and the Venice positively crawled when it wasn’t connected to Wi-Fi. This may have to do with the phone’s overall bugginess, but downloads and Web browsing were painfully slow.
4G WiMAX support offers a boost, but right now it’s only available on the HTC EVO Design 4G and the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G . Still, if you live in the coverage area, make sure to take that into account when making your decision.
(Next page: Hardware, OS, and Conclusions)
Hardware, OS, and Apps
The Venice is powered by a single-core 1GHz Qualcomm MSM8655 processor, which has become a fairly low-end spec in these dual-core days. Performance was average across the board.
The LG Venice runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). That means it’s still a generation behind Android 4.1 and 4.2 (Jelly Bean), but it tips the scales in Boost’s lineup towards more Android phones running Android 4.0 rather than the completely outdated Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). LG has applied a very light layer of its Optimus UI, so you get a relatively straightforward Android experience.
There are seven home screens you can swipe between and customize. There isn’t much bloatware, aside from Mobile ID, which allows you to install various “ID packs” on your phone that include applications, ringtones, wallpapers, and widgets. LG’s QuickMemo app lets you annotate screenshots with handwritten notes and sketches, and share them with your friends. You also get SmartShare, which lets you display music, photos, and video on your HDTV or monitor via DLNA.
You also get access to more than 600,000+ third-party apps available in Google Play, but I experienced some trouble there. While connected to Wi-Fi, the store crashed on me a number of times. The screen would turn black, and I’d have to use the physical Home button to get to a different page, stop running the Google Play app, then try again. This problem seemed to slow down the more I used the phone, but again, it would make me wary of buying it in the first place.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
There’s 1.85GB of free internal storage, plus a microSD card slot under the battery cover with a 2GB card preinstalled. The phone also worked with my 16 and 32GB cards, and at first it seemed to work with my 64GB SanDisk card as well. I was able to read all of the files on the card, but when I used the Camera app, it sometimes locked up completely after shooting a photo or recording a video. It wouldn’t save the shot or video to the card, and I had to restart the app to get it to work again. This never happened while using the 16 or 32GB card, so I’d keep anything with a higher capacity away.
The phone was able to play AAC, MP3, OGG, and WAV music files, but not FLAC or WMA. Sound quality was fine over Altec Lansing BackBeat Bluetooth headphones as well as a standard wired pair. All of our video test files played back fine at resolutions up to 720p.
The 5-megapixel autofocus camera has an LED flash and offers geotagging functionality. Shutter speeds are fast, at just 0.2 second to snap a shot. Colors are a little dull on photos taken indoors, but photos look crisp and vibrant when taken outside. Recorded 720p video plays back at a smooth 29 frames per second and looks average. You get LG’s Cheese Shutter, which allows you to snap a photo by saying the word cheese, which is good for when you want to get yourself into the picture. There’s also a standard-issue front-facing VGA camera for video chats.
Without the bugs, the LG Venice would be directly comparable with the ZTE Warp Sequent. Both phones are light and sleek, have 4.3-inch screens, and run Android 4.0. The Venice has a better camera, but the Warp Sequent has a nicer display. But as it stands, we can’t recommend the LG Venice. After testing two separate phones with the same problems, it isn’t worth the risk of trying it out yourself. For the price, you’re better off with the Warp Sequent, or the HTC EVO Design 4G, which offers 4G WiMAX support.
More Cell Phone Reviews:
|Screen Details||800-by-480-pixel TFT LCD|
|Bands||850, 1900, 1700|
|Operating System||Android OS|
|High-Speed Data||EVDO Rev A, CDMA 1X|
|Form Factor||Candy Bar|
|Battery Life (As Tested)||6 hours 47 minutes|
|Processor Speed||1 GHz|
|Screen Size||4.3 inches|
|CPU||Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8655|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||1.85 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc