A new handset from Verizon Wireless may do the best job yet of cellphones that try to be all things to all people. The Voyager ($300 with a two-year contract) offers a handy media player and Web browser, à la AT&T's iPhone, and a hardware keyboard for messaging like the Sprint Centro.
The phone is an upgrade to similar models from LG that open like a clam to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard. But the Voyager is a striking improvement—with a larger external screen that gives it the look of an iPhone. That outside screen is also touch sensitive, making it easy to navigate through songs, videos, and photos. It lacks some of the iPhone's cooler features, such as the ability to use two fingers at a time. The Voyager instead vibrates a bit with each touch, offering feedback that's helpful—or goofy, depending on your reaction.
Finger room. Opening the phone's two halves reveals a keyboard as wide as the phone is tall, about 4.5 inches, making for perhaps the most comfortable pecking on any phone. A similar keyboard on the Voyager's immediate predecessor, the LG enV, had helped it rank high in customer satisfaction, even edging out the iPhone, according to market research by M:Metrics. Adding the Voyager touch-screen answers consumers' desire for the big display and accessible software, and it makes for an attractive combo with the hard keys, says Mark Donovan at M:Metrics: "It simply gives you more flexibility."
Annoyingly, opening the phone also blocks a volume button on the side. But inside is a second screen that, like the external one, offers a wide view of Web pages, making it more practical for browsing, albeit limited browsing. While the 2.8-inch screens are large for a phone, they're small for the Web.
Still, with Verizon's high-speed data network, the phone is capable for quick Web checks. And the Voyager includes an antenna for receiving Verizon's TV-like broadcasts, which are available in more than 40 U.S. cities. Plus, it has a 2-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, and a speakerphone. All of it adds up to a package that's a bit bulky by today's standards. That's still the price for someone who wants everything.