If you're shopping for a cell phone on which you'll often use the keyboard, you face some tough tradeoffs between keyboard types. Real keyboards are responsive, but add to the phone's size. Touch-screen keyboards are cool but fall short in accuracy and tactile feedback. The few phones that have one keyboard of each type, like T-Mobile’s G1 "Google Phone," are among the bulkiest models of all.
LG's new Versa from Verizon, promises the best of both keyboard worlds. Available Sunday for $200 with a 2-year contract and rebates, this phone has a full-sized QWERTY keyboard, with real buttons spread out along the side to satisfy heavy texters. Yet it measures just 4.16 in. (h) x 2.07 in. (w) x 0.54 in. (d).
How is it so svelte? It's actually a two-piece device. The phone comes with a case that has a built-in keyboard. Judging by the manufacturer's description, it appears the Versa plugs into the case when you need to type, but is removable for talking or other uses. When the phone's out of the case, you can type on a virtual keyboard on ample touch-screen, if you want.
Like the touch-screen on the LG Dare—which scores highly in our cell phone Ratings, available to subscribers—the Versa's screen has vibration feedback, which we find to be an effective way to simulate the feedback you get from pushing real buttons.
Other features include a display that automatically adjusts the orientation between portrait and landscape when you tilt the phone, an HTML Web browser, visual voicemail, a 2.1-megapixel camera and GPS navigation capability.
Stay tuned for a more-detailed report from our labs, which we plan to post next week.