LG Chocolate BL40 Hands On Review

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

LG Chocolate BL40

Along with a select few, I was privileged to be invited to the UK launch of the new LG Black Label phone, the LG Chocolate BL40, which has taken the key Black Label features, and combined them with the S-Class UI used on the LG Arena and LG Crystal 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 previous LG Black Label, the LG 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.

LG 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.  Finally LG has listened and separated out the USB connector (now microUSB for charging, as with the LG Crystal) 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 end LG phones), 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, LG 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 LG 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 UK Gadgeteer will provide updates on networks and prices when it does become available.


LG announce 1 million Arena phones sold

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

LG Arena

Although we’re used to hearing the likes of Apple and Nokia announcing phones which have sold over a million devices, it’s not something we often hear the same thing from the other players, especially as they often don’t hit such large figure for a single device, but LG have; since February this year they’ve managed to sell over 1 million LG Arena phones across the world (LG state the phone is on sale in 53 countries).

This is a fantastic figure for LG, and shows how popular their phones are becoming.  The LG Arena was the first phone with their new S-Class User Interface, which is also featured on their latest LG GD900 Crystal phone too which we are currently reviewing, which apart from a few minor issues, we’re really enjoying using.  Occasionally their are times when we find the virtual on screen keyboard more responsive than the touch based keypad, and the screen sometimes seem to take a little while to light up when a call comes in, but otherwise it’s proving to be clearer on calls and better at hanging onto poor network signal than many phones we have tried.


LG GD900 Crystal – First Looks

Friday, August 21st, 2009

LG Crystal

Our review LG GD900 Crystal arrived yesterday, and I’ve been using this since then, and wanted to share some of my initial thoughts on the device.  I haven’t really had time to spend with the device yet, so some thoughts and opinions may change as I use the phone more and more.

Before this, I was using an LG Renoir on a regular basis due to the nice 8 megapixel camera, but the LG Crystal combines that camera with the new S-Class UI from the LG Arena, and seems to do a good job too.  It’s a slider, and therefore features a keypad too, which I prefer.  However, the transparent keypad is more like a touchpad, so has no real keys; in fact, within certain parts of the UI, it actually acts as a touchpad, allowing you to scroll through screens (eg your contact list) with ease.  Closing the slider can also end a call (this can be turned off), which is a nice touch too.

The phone is a nice colour, and matches in with the stylish designer look LG seem to be perfecting with all of their recent phones.  It’s moved from a proprietary LG connector to microUSB, which is a good thing (although does mean a new investment in chargers), although LG are still sharing that single port with the headset, which I don’t personally like, but on this handset may well be acceptable…

Why do I say that; well, the main drain on the battery of a modern phone is using the GPS, and simply put, this phone doesn’t have a GPS.  So, no geotagging of photos and no moving maps in Google Maps (which is included as standard on the device, but with no GPS, and the version installed not supporting Cell ID location information nor Google Latitude, it’s a little limiting).  The phone does feature WiFi and Bluetooth though, so for those looking for a stylish feature rich phone, as opposed to a SatNav workhorse, this phone really does shine.

DivX support is there again, as is TV-out, although the Dolby Mobile features of the LG Renoir and LG Arena seem to be missing.

What else has impressed me so far with the phone?  I like the way the slider covers up the camera, thereby not needing a separate camera cover (which always seem to open on it’s own on the LG Renoir), and I like the way LG has put a nicely designed battery in there, which is on show when the transparent slider is shut.  However, it appears there’s no contact or calendar syncing built into the device, which for someone who normally keeps all that data synchronized across multiple devices via syncML is a shame, but probably not a key requirement for the target market for this device.

Oh, and I like the little slip case it ships with to keep the device in good condition; and although the touch keypad is made of tempered glass, I don’t think the actual main screen is, which, without that slip case, may make it more prone to scratches (the LG Renoir equally doesn’t have a tempered glass screen, and my model is looking quite scratched up now, whereas the LG Arena, and LG Secret before that, do have the tempered glass screen, and still look wonderful even after regular use).

More opinions on this device after I’d used it for a while, but right now, it’s looking a very stylish phone that should be popular.


LG Phone updates

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

LG Crystal

Firstly, the LG GD900 Crystal is now available from various places, including Mobile Fun.  This phone combines the new S-Class UI from the LG Arena with an iconic well-designed phone.  The near transparent keypad is the feature many concentrate on, but don’t forget it’s a touchscreen phone too with an 8 megapixel camera too.  We hope to be able to bring you a full review of this phone in the next few weeks.

However, the big news from LG is the new LG Chocolate BL40, which brings together many LG features into a new style; a 21:9 4″ widescreen display, perfect for watching videos.  This is a Black Label phone, and we’ve been impressed with the last few Black Label phones, so we’ll be looking forward to trying out this phone over the next month or two.  With Dolby Mobile (which has sounded fantastic on the LG Renoir and LG Arena), and we suspect formal DivX support too, this phone has the power to allow you to play videos and not be affected by the screen size.

There has been some concern over the size of this phone; here’s a shot (courtesy of LG Blog) showing the the LG Chocolate BL40 alongside an LG GD900 Crystal and the LG Secret..

LG Chocolate BL40 Size Comparison

We suspect both of these phones will be big sellers in the run up to Christmas, which will help to increase LG‘s marketshare even further.

Pictures courtesy of LG Blog.



Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

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