The LG Incite is a smartphone that tries to smooth some of the rougher edges of the Windows Mobile operating system and user experience.
By adding a full touchscreen and a finger-based interface with haptic feedback, the Incite is not necessarily meant to remind you of rival models with full touchscreen as much as it's meant to make you think that there should be more to those devices than pretty graphics.
This device also offers a 3G, Wi-Fi, and GPS, and is available now from AT&T for $200 with a two-year contract. That drops to $100 with a mail-in rebate, though.
The Incite is a tablet-style Windows Mobile smartphone. It reminds me more of a PDA than many contemporary smartphones with the amount of buttons that are found around the device. Despite that, it offers a clean and crisp look that suits both professional and entertainment environments equally well.
The front of the Incite is dominated by the 400x240 pixel (Wide QVGA) touchscreen. This display is easy to see in all but the most sunlit areas, and the longer screen looks great when the device is turned to landscape mode.
This device depends heavily on this screen for all kinds of input, and the haptic feedback makes pushing any kind of on-screen button more reliable.
Call and End/Power buttons also appear on the front of the Incite. Proximity and light sensors are at the top of the device, with the speaker.
What's missing is the D-pad that's typically on the front of Windows Mobile devices. I was so busy using the touchscreen I didn't even notice the D-pad was gone for quite a while, though.
Another missing item is a stylus. One is included, but will only attach to the device via a lanyard -- there is no slot. This is a feature I very quickly noticed was missing.
The top and bottom of the Incite are minimalist, with only a 3.5 mm headphone jack on the top.
On the left there's the micro-USB connector and volume up/down buttons. The right has a jog dial, device/screen lock button, camera button, and the microSDHC slot.
A plastic device, the Incite looks a lot more expensive than it feels. And there's been a lot of near-drops with it. That being said, it just looks nice. Working nice, well, beauty is sometimes more than skin deep, and other times its just the skin.
The LG Incite is a Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional device, and comes with the usual compliment of phone and communications management features you would expect from a $250 smartphone.
An LG-designed user interface replaces the standard one. This isn't dramatically different from the regular one, and works very well for keeping the phone aspects front and center.
As with most Windows Mobile devices, interactions start and end with the Today screen. LG has added to the bottom of this five tabs for the Phone, Address Book, Messages, Favorites, and All Programs sections of the device.
Tapping on the Phone tab takes you to the number-pad. This is probably the most pleasing on-screen dial pad I've ever experienced. With the included haptic feedback and delicate touchpad sounds, it is just nice dialing numbers. A call log and contact management features are easy to access whether in or out of a call.
Voice quality was solid. The speaker volume was full and did not contain distortions at the highest volume levels. There was some issue in reclaiming a dropped signal quickly, where the Incite would freeze for a few moments and then "catch up" with the available signal. But this was not something that happened very often (usually while driving) so I'll attribute it more to the network than the device.
Pocket Outlook governs the contacts management, and this is where the Incite's lack of an easily accessible stylus becomes a problem. Whereas the Phone application and most of the device interface is finger-friendly, once you get into the default applications the traditional Windows Mobile interface rears its head, and this often requires a stylus. This a bit of a shame since it really distracts from normal use.
Thankfully, there is a different keyboard option than the standard Windows Mobile one for SMS and MMS messaging, making text entry easier. A SureType-like on-screen keyboard is the default setting, and after some practice of listening to the taps, feeling the haptic feedback, and deciding whether portrait or landscape works best, I was able to get on board just as fast as with a physical keyboard. Threaded SMS/MMS messaging works well, though that same nice keyboard takes up way too much of the screen on longer messages.
Overall, the Incite is a capable, if not a bit reserved, phone. The user interface works for it until you get into the default Windows Mobile applications, and its at that time when the beauty of this device takes a significant back seat to just connecting with people.
As a Windows Mobile device, the LG Incite comes ready to work and play. Multimedia abilities feature the 3.0 megapixel camera which can also record VGA video, Windows Media player, an FM radio application, and the inclusion of AT&T's Media Mall, Media Net, and AT&T Music applications.
The Camera application stands out as the better designed and integrated applications. However, its slow shutter speed means that you have to practice before you can take pictures that don't suffer from unintentional motion blurring. The 3.0 megapixels do come out well in good lighting, however.
A weather plug-in is included with the Incite, and can be configured to show the current weather on the Today screen.
Office Mobile (Word, OneNote, PowerPoint, and Excel), Sprite Backup, Search, IM, and Voice Command are also included and can keep you pretty connected with office needs. Though I found it a lot better to just wait until syncing a document, as the on-screen keyboard just didn't work so well for mobile word processing.
Internet Explorer Mobile is included, yet does only a marginal job of displaying web pages. For some reason, running it seems to slow the Incite down a good deal. With 95 MB of storage memory and of 78 MB of program memory, you'd think it would be hard to put the device in a state where it will slow down for too many applications being opened. But the Incite seems to slow down a bit irregularly.
Still, browsing is helped by this smartphone's support for AT&T's 3G network (UMTS/HSDPA) as well as Wi-Fi.
It has Bluetooth too, so no worries about using your wireless headset.
The Incite can function as a GPS, and comes with the AT&T Navigator service. This is a re-brand of TeleNav's navigation services, but as a paid-only option can be a deal breaker for those wanting to see a bit more value from the Incite. Other mapping solutions such as Google Maps are available, and can be downloaded in lieu of using this service.
Thankfully, Google Maps doesn't disappoint. Getting a GPS fix takes less than 10 seconds INDOORS! And it is very accurate in positioning. The Incite doesn't have a compass like some of Nokia's devices or T-Mobile's G1, but with Google Maps or the voice and route planning options of TeleNav, using the GPS is more than passable navigation solution.
In terms of multimedia and productivity, the Incite is capable, but it's held down by the operating system more than it probably should. System speed and default applications are mainly the culprits, but there's hope with the LG-designed user interface. It works quite well, and you would be hard pressed to have a bad opinion of Windows Mobile -- that is, until you need a stylus.
Compared to some other Windows Mobile devices that I've reviewed, the Incite put a smile on my face more times than not. Its quality as a mobile phone, great battery life, and 3G or Wi-Fi connectivity for Web was impressive. I was happy to be able to get rid of the stylus, and then angry those times that I needed it.
The Incite was released at about $250 with a 2-year contract. At that price, it was more than its most notable competitor (the Apple iPhone), and did not offer the same amount of functional polish. Nevertheless, with the recent price reduction to $100 (with 2-year contract and mail-in rebate), a lot of the polish can be forgotten, at least until you dig beyond the surface and find that the beauty of the Incite is mostly just skin-deep.
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