The gulf between smartphones and feature phones widens with each innovation on higher-end models, but sometimes the added cost of data makes you wonder if that fancy pocket computer is really worth it. Sure, smartphones have truly useful features -- but is it truly necessary to use Yelp every three seconds from the road or update an Instagram account on the go? Some mobile lovers can't live without the latest tech.
But others just want to make a freakin' phone call. If you're into simplicity and phones that are primarily designed for taking and making calls and texts, the perks and extras on a smartphone can be an overwhelming nuisance, not a treat.
And if you just want a phone to make quick, simple phone calls, the LG Revere, a low-end basic clamshell from Verizon, will do the trick -- but if you buy it, you'll vastly overpay. Yes, it's not as complicated as an Android or iPhone, and you don't have to pay for data. But if you really just want to make calls and texts, why spend money on a phone? There are plenty of fine feature phones free with contract. So the Revere gets the (very basic) job done, but it asks too much.
So what does the Revere have to offer, ignoring the price problem? The clamshell is plastic, and you can tell it's bottom-of-the-barrel stuff, with little durability. But plastic isn't all bad -- it makes the phone lightweight and easy to tote around, and since it's compact at 3.8-inches tall and 2.0-inches wide, you can drop it in a purse or slip it into your pocket with ease. The hinge is hardier than the rest of the phone, thick and reassuringly well-made, so you don't have to worry about snapping it in two -- but you'll collect a ding or two if you drop it. The grey-and-black color scheme is utilitarian and a little boring, but at least it's not garish.
The Revere doesn't hold many surprises, and there's comfort in the familiar. For example, the front has Verizon's standard 1-inch monochrome display, which shows the date and time, and a dedicated camera button lets you snap pictures without flipping open the phone. It opens to show a 2-inch display with a 220-by-176 resolution, which surprised me with its clarity, considering it just has a measly 141-ppi pixel density. That's very low resolution, but perhaps my expectations were even lower, so I didn't have a problem with it. It's basic, but colorful, and of course, you can change the banner, adjust the backlight, and make the font as big or small as you want it. It's not very sharp, but I found the screen unexpectedly useful.
The 1.3-megapixel camera, meanwhile, is another story. Technically, you can take photos, but without an auto-focus or flash, the lens can barely capture a well-lit bowl of fruit. If you try to take any action shots, you'll get something that looks like a close-up of a Monet painting -- a jumble of blurry swirls. When you upload photos to Facebook through the camera app -- probably the only way you'll ever get them off the phone, since there's no microSD slot -- your friends will wonder why you're posting the world's blurriest photos.
Since there's no video player or music player either, the fact that there's a camera at all is somewhat impressive. You have a 2.5-millimeter headphone jack, but it only works for hands-free mono earbuds, and I can't imagine why you'd bother to get them.
The main draw is its simple functions, so if you like to talk more than you like to load apps, it'll suit you just fine. But surprisingly, it's not very affordable. For the money you need to spend with a two-year contract, you can get a far better phone -- including a wide variety of smartphones that'll bring you into the modern era -- and yes, you can talk on those just fine, too.
It comes with a roomy 1,000-entry phonebook that holds five numbers, two e-mail addresses, an IM name, a street address and notes for each contact. You can also customize it with photos for caller ID and ringtones and message alert tones. Other features are typical, including a speakerphone, calculator, tip calculator, alarm clock, stop watch, notepad and a calendar.
There's also voice commands, voice memos, GPS, Bluetooth and "info search," so you can easily find your contacts. It lacks features like a music player, but it does have a basic browser and e-mail support, which costs extra. But you can use your own POP account, all for a $5 monthly fee, if you don't pay for Verizon's $10 or higher data plan. If you want extras, like the VZ Navigator, you have to tack extra fees to your monthly bill. And if you're going to do that, you may as well get a nicer phone.
You can also post updates to Facebook, Twitter and even MySpace -- but you can't post them from apps. Instead, the Revere found a way to make these social networks dull and one-sided, allowing you to send messages using SMS. So you can update, but not enter a dialogue. The Revere is an old-fashioned phone, and it misses how these sites are supposed to work.
If you want 3G, keep looking -- the Revere runs on 2G speeds, which I suppose is fine if you're doing two things: calling and sending texts. If you limit your use to the basics, the 1,000 mAh battery should hold up for around seven hours of talk time and a week of standby.
Overall, the Revere isn't a bad phone -- it's just very basic. And for such a simple phone, it's pricey, so I can't recommend it when there are so many better phones at comparable prices. For example, take a look at Casio's G'zOne Ravine, which is slightly more expensive, but a rugged 3G device that's actually handy. ♦
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