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With its wide-area full web connectivity, it's no wonder the new Voyager smartphone LG built for Verizon Wireless is being compared to Apple's iPhone. Call it an iPhone for the rest of us--meaning those without a Mac and an AT&T service plan. But the two phones may be more different than alike, starting with Voyager's sleek clamshell design and innovative 2.8-inch external touchscreen.
Full disclosure: I've been an iPhone user since its debut and a fan of Apple products in general since my mother joined the original Macintosh launch team 20 years ago. You could say I wasn't inclined to appreciate the Voyager, but my eyes were opened once I got my hands on one.
Here's what I took away: Voyager is a terrific mobile phone that works reliably virtually anywhere (even in subways); lets you blast text and instant or multimedia messages from a well-proportioned keyboard; and even serves up decent video programming through Verizon's VCast music and video service. No, it doesn't include iPhone's Wi-Fi support, which comes in handy inside Wi-Fi-equipped buildings. But Voyager's 3G wireless support and bountiful touchscreen mean you can access websites noticeably faster and over wider areas than with an iPhone.
You'll prefer iPhone if you put a priority on features you'd normally associate with a smartphone or PDA, such as synchronizing calendars and contacts with those on your computer. The caveat is that it's better if you're a Mac user; it's irksome trying to keep your iPhone data synchronized with a Windows PC. Also, iPhone's Wi-Fi connection makes it easy to tap into multiple e-mail accounts--something Voyager doesn't accommodate. On the other hand, if you've become accustomed to having e-mails and calendar updates pushed to your handheld via wireless link, you're basically out of luck. And iPhone doesn't offer native IM--something that's bummed me out since Day One.
Truth be told, I found the Voyager harder to navigate out of the box than the iPhone. Its clamshell design boasts both an external and internal keyboard, and because I use an iPhone, I was inclined to explore Voyager's features without opening it. I had some trouble getting back to the main menu and ended up using the interior screen and keyboard. It wasn't always responsive to my finger (even after a recalibration). But if you find yourself really frustrated, you can default to using voice commands.
For me, having a keyboard is a big deal--I am still struggling with the fact that my iPhone doesn't have a "real" one. Voyager is hands down the better option for someone who needs to compose and send quick messages. But I was foiled when I tried to figure out how to pull in my personal e-mail account, which I frequently check when I'm out visiting clients or reporting stories. Also, I was miffed about not being able to ship my desktop address book over to Voyager.
Heftwise, the Voyager feels a bit bulkier than my iPhone because of the keyboard, even though it actually weighs a smidge less at 4.7 ounces. Its screen is slightly smaller than the iPhone's. Both have a 2-megapixel camera and both can accommodate about the same amount of data--8GB, depending on configuration.
If price is your thing, the Voyager will set you back $300 after a $50 rebate. The iPhone is $400. Both require a two-year wireless contract to get that price. The monthly service fees for both phones are about what you would expect, starting at $59.99 for 450 minutes and unlimited data connectivity.Of course, the best thing to do is try one. There is something Voyager and iPhone certainly have in common: If you carry either one, people will stop you for a demonstration.