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 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.


LG plan solar powered phones

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Solar Powered LG Handset

As part of their MWC coverage, LG also announced plans for greener phones.  They plan to release a solar powered phone at the end of this year, which will feature a solar panel embedded in the battery cover, which they claim will give 3 minutes of talktime from a 10 minute solar charge.  Obviously, it will give a much longer standy time, and LG claim it should even be possible to not need to charge the phone from a conventional charger “if left in natural light for long periods”.

Interestingly, they showed the phone alongside an LG LC-910 (LG Renoir) box and user guide, but the actual phone looks more like an LG Secret to us.  We suspect that the picture is simply a mockup, and we’ll actually see the solar powered technology embedded into a currently-unreleased phone.

LG have also announced a Solar powered Bluetooth Handsfree Kit for the car, and are planning to move to greener packaging on all phones during 2009.


New LG Prada phone

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

LG are producing 3 good ranges of phones nowadays.  Firstly, you’ve got the Black Label range (LG Secret), then you’ve got the high spec camera models (LG Viewty and now the LG Renoir), and finally you have the Prada range, with the new LG Prada model.  This adds a QWERTY keyboard to the slimline touchscreen phone, and also packs a good range of functions:

  • 3G compatibility with video calling
  • 7.2Mbps HSDPA
  • a 5 mega pixel camera with Schneider-Kreuznach certified lens
  • full HTML browser and Wi-Fi

This phone should be on sale in the UK before Xmas, although the exact price is not clear right now (it will be roughly €600 across Europe), and is likely to be available on various networks soon too.

Story courtesy of LG Blog.


A busy few weeks for touchscreen phones

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

Well, it’s been a busy two weeks for mid to high end phones with touchscreens.  Firstly, last week UK Gadgeteer attended the launch of the LG Renoir (previously covered here as the LG KC910).  Although not the top of the LG range (a position still held by the LG Secret), this phones builds on the success of the LG Viewty from last year, and offers some key improvements.

Firstly, they have increased the camera to 8 megapixels.  They have also included a GPS, although it’s only standard function in the phone is to support geotagging pictures as they are taken.  We’ll be interested to see over the next few weeks (we’re hoping to get a review phone soon) as to whether it can also be used with Map applications such as Google Maps for Mobile or MGMaps.  Finally, the other amazing feature in the phone is the support for Dolby Mobile, which really improves the sound quality, even with the standard stock headphones.  A nice feature is that the headphones come with a little remote on the cable which can control the music, but also, and believed to be a first, can also control the camera to act as a remote trigger.

We expect this will be a big seller for LG when it hits the shelves in the next month.

In terms of hype, rumours, and long term interest, however, is the more important announcement yesterday of the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic phone.  This is the phone previously known as the Nokia Tube, and is a mid range Symbian based smartphone.  However, it adds a touchscreen (not for the first time, and certainly not the last), and should be the start of a new generation of touchscreen based devices from Nokia.

In order to achieve this, Nokia / Symbian have needed to update the OS, and has therefore launched S60 5th Edition (skipping the 4th edition as the number 4 is considered very unlucky in Asia, a key market for Nokia).

As is typical for a recent Symbian based phone, this phone features Quad Band GSM, Dual Band UMTS (with HSDPA support), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, TV-Out, built in GPS (with geotagging), and a 3.5mm audio jack.  In addition, it features Haptic feedback on the 3.2″ 640×360 touchscreen (similar to the LG Viewty and LG Renoir), an accelerometer and a proximity sensor.  Unlike the LG Renoir, but still better than the iPhone, it features a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus.  The key point of this phone is music, and there will be a variant of the phone next year that will come with Nokia’s new “Comes with Music” service, which offers unlimited music downloads onto your PC and phone for 12 months, and even better, at the end of your subscription you can still continue to play the music.  However, today, as well as the audio jack, the phone features stereo speakers with built in surround sound for playback of the music.

In the box is likely to be an 8Gb microSD card, a carry case, and a little desktop stand, as well as a spare stylus.  The phone itself will come in black, red or blue.

This should also be available in the UK before Christmas, although we suspect the LG Renoir will be on the shelves first.  We’re hearing it’s likely to be priced around £220 *unlocked*, which may well see many people buying this phone to replace their current branded and locked phone to last them to the end of their current mobile phone contract.

All this, on top of the Google G1 phone as well…


Nokia’s plan for touchscreens

Monday, June 16th, 2008


Anssi Vonjoki, Nokia’s VP of Mobile Markets, has stated that Nokia will launch a whole range of touchscreen phones in 2009, not just high end smartphones, but “from the very low segment to the highest one featuring this type of functionality.” We’re not sure that Nokia would want to redevelop both S60 and S40 to support touchscreen, so these phones are likely to bring S60 phones down to more consumers.

LG have had some success with their touchscreen phones, from the Viewty to the latest LG Secret, and of course there’s the iPhone.  Whether Nokia can achieve the consumer experience to the same level as Apple waits to be seen.


LG Secret now available

Thursday, May 29th, 2008

LG New Black Label

We first covered the LG Secret after it’s launch, and have been using one ever since. However, if you want your own Secret, it’s now available;

  • on Vodafone, and if you spend more than £35 per month (for 18 months; or £40 per month for a 12 month contract), you should find the phone is free too.
  • on O2, spending £35 per month for 18 months, £30 for 24 months, or £40 for 12 months will get the phone for free.
  • on Orange, although you won’t get the phone for free on any tariff.

We’ve been generally impressed with the phone, although it’s not in the same league as an N95 or an iPhone. We understand it should be available on 3 and T-Mobile soon, although neither are listing the phone on their websites today.


Goodbye Viewty…

Monday, April 28th, 2008

LG New Black Label

Well, after 4 months of daily use, the LG Viewty has finally been replaced by something smaller, lighter, better built for the impacts of every day life (it has a tempered glass screen, which should resist all manner of attempts to scratch the screen), yet still featuring the 5 megapixel camera, DivX support, and 120fps video capture. On top of that it adds a slider function with real buttons (which makes dialling calls and writing texts a little easier than the Viewty). However, we will miss the nice sliding cover over the headphone / charging port from the Viewty, although we won’t miss the lack of ability of sending all contacts via Bluetooth (a feature the new phone does have).

We’ll see how the new LG Secret fares over the next few weeks before we provide an in depth review, but right now it’s looking pretty good. Announced on Thursday last week, LG have kindly provided us an early production sample in advance of the full availability in June.


New LG phone announced

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

LG New Black Label

The new LG phone we first mentioned here a few weeks back has now been formally announced, and named by LG. It’s the LG Secret, following on from the Chocolate and Shine Black Label phones, although it’s also known as the KF750. It’s 11.8mm thick, with a carbon fibre profile, and like the LG Viewty it has a 5 megapixel camera, video support, and DivX support built in.