Along with a select few, I was privileged to be invited to the UK launch of the newBlack Label phone, the , which has taken the key Black Label features, and combined them with the S-Class UI used on the Arena and and put them into a new take on a traditional phone form factor.
The phone looks big in pictures, but it still fits into a shirt or trouser pocket. With the tempered glass screen (as featured on the previousBlack Label, the Secret), the glass is safe from scratches from keys (although whether the back is as safe isn’t as clear until I get more time with the phone). That screen is one of the key selling points of the phone; it allows full cinematic 21:9 playback on the 4″ touchscreen, and I have to say video playback looked very impressive, even in the various lighting conditions of the London Design Museum last night.
have also realised this screen has great potential in other apps; and therefore within the Messaging, Scheduler and Contact apps the phone offers a split screen layout when used horizontally; in Messaging, it will show the list of SMSes on the left, and then the contents of the selected SMS on the right. This use of the screen is very impressive, and I should also point out that they have used the additional screen space to create a more usable QWERTY on screen keyboard than previous models. Whilst I am comparing it to previous models, the menu scrolling, the transition from portrait to landscape, and generally moving around the menus is vastly improved compared to previous phones, with no noticeable lag at all; also, when you are selecting which of the 4 homescreens to use, the thumbnail images of the homescreens actually reflect the current content of those screen, instead of a generic image; again, a little improvement in the UI that makes for a better overall experience.
The phone appears to come with about 1.5Gb of internal memory (enough for a couple of DivX optimsed movies), and should support microSD cards upto 32GB. Finallyhas listened and separated out the USB connector (now microUSB for charging, as with the ) and the headphone socket, and have adopted the standard 3.5mm headphone jack too. I heard rumours of a possibility of the UK production phones shipping with a named brand set of headphones too, although this could not be confirmed, so I won’t name the brand at this stage.
I noticed little improvements throughout the whole phone; geotagging is there in the Photo application, although more impressive is the panoramic mode; once you have taken the first picture, you start scrolling (left, right, up or down) and the camera shows you where the next picture should be taken which a nice red box; no need to manually try to align the picture to get the right amount of join. The photo app seems to support 12 pictures using the 5 megapixel camera, and that should just allow a full 360 degree picture.
Although a little bit of a noisy environment limiting testing, the phone will ship with DivX and Dolby Mobile support (as featured on a number of recent high endphones), giving a good rich sound to support that widescreen. There’s an FM transmitter in there too, allowing easy use of the phone as a media player in the car.
Web browsing was acceptable, and again in landscape mode the phone has been designed to not require scrolling left to right (only vertically), which worked well on a few sample websites; also impressive was the way mobile optimised websites were zoomed in to take the best advantage of the screen, instead of just leaving small text on the left and a big white space on the right, and compared to previous phones, this zooming was smooth and fast.
In terms of other apps, a small suite of Google apps is included, which includes Google Maps (with GPS support), although still missing Latitude support.
This is a designer phone, and in my opinion,are getting their designs just right at the moment; sleek and stylish devices, but putting the right features into the device to allow all to use them (and the Internet) to the full. Whether everyone will like the form factor I don’t know, but I suspect this will be a big seller for in the coming months.
As one of the first to be able to handle the phone and try it out, I’d like to thank the LG Blog for letting me into the launch event, and hopefully in the next few weeks, I’ll get longer to review the phone in more depth. I believe the phone should start selling during September (maybe early October), and will provide updates on networks and prices when it does become available.