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LG at WMC
It is not a secret that LG wasn't able to holds its own against the competition over the past years; but starting from the LC Chocolate release the sky seemed to begin clearing up little by little for the maker on some European markets. Focusing on its key products that are well-built and come included with a bevy of innovations, LG is returning to the market at great strides, and its strategy, or, let’s put it this way, behavior model, is vastly different from the competition. Basically, they have forgone the practice of rolling out a multitude of solutions at once and rather prefer sticking to a narrow portfolio with solutions that can make a statement in one way or another. For a company like LG, that’s actually a good move and this year’s exhibition is another proof of that.
As of today, LG’s central product is the LG Viewty (KU990). Back in Barcelona busses along with the exhibition’s venue were jam-packed with billboards and posters picturing the KU990. The maker’s booth greets its visitors with a big replica of the device, housing a special Viewty zone right behind it. To tell the truth, the Viewty attraction was among the most creative this year. Imagine a round table with a selection of items on it, with six zones on it, each them represents the technologies put into the handset’s camera. For instance, there was a black box with a couple of figures inside, so you take a picture of them and see what high ISO settings are in there for. Moving to left we found ourselves and a feet massager mimicking in-train (or wherever) shooting conditions, so that’s how one could learn about the Viewty’s optical stabilizer. In fact, every feature got covered this way, one after another – it was a great experience, perfect materialization of the idea, and honestly, I had never seen something like that before.
But while the Viewty is nothing new to us as a product, a couple of other solutions looked very promising. For instance, the LG KF600 employing the same idea as the Samsung U900 Soul, i.e. it retains two displays one of which is used for moving about the phone. Well, that’s what lies on the surface. In fact the KF600 packs in only one 3-inch screen that is divided into two zones – one for displaying information, one – for controls and menu icons. It is pretty much in keeping with the latest trends as the contents of the lower part of the screen are context aware. Plus, since it is the same display, the picture you get with the display at bottom is sublime. The strip separating it is in effect a trick to make it easier for the user to figure out which screen does what. Moreover, they took an interesting approach to the phone’s apparel – its animated wallpapers slip into lower display over the black strip, which is quite spectacular. The bottom part of the display comes with some with-it technology – InteractPad – when pressed it starts vibrating a little, giving you some sort of tactile feedback.
The ergonomics of the KF600 are pretty close to the LG Prada and the likes. It readily slips into just about any pocket, and is palm-friendly. As far as its technical specifications go, the handset comes bundled with a 3 Mpix camera, microSD memory expansion slot, FM-radio, player – long story short, a standard feature pack, nothing special about it.
It is quite another matter, though, that the handset’s style had been developed by a pop singer, Keith Haring. And while his name doesn’t ring a bell inside me, once I had a glimpse of the phone’s UI, I instantly came to appreciate his work. The menu UI, wallpapers and fonts are all full of life and fun to observe, to the extent that you fall in love with the KF600 after several minutes of playing around with it.
In my opinion, the fact that it is not the maker’s top-of-the-line solution resulted in the KF600’s meager buttons design (since it is a slider among all other things). In some ways, it takes some sophistication away from it, but it is still worth a glance.
The centerpiece of the KF-series is the KF700, which also comes packed with a 3-inch display, but doesn’t have it separated into two zones, meaning that its entire real estate is for data. This slider is positioned as the world’s first sliding phone that allows for three task-relevant input methods. For instance, if you are composing a message, you would be better off with an on-screen thumbboard, or you can opt for the KF700’s mechanical buttons, which are handier for dialing numbers. Generally, the idea is pretty clear and its implementation is nothing to be concerned about.
In terms of its technological talents, the KF700 is a replica of the KF600, but sports a wheel menu with shortcuts to various applications. If we were to take our pick from these two phones, we would go for the junior solution, as it looks more appealing.
All in all, the top-echelon models of the KF series have quite impressed me; among them is the LG KF510 – a slim slider at only 10.9 mm deep, housed in a metallic casing and boasting a quaint keypad. Various light effects, pretty color schemes available for the phone, all this forges a truly unusual handset. And this has to mean something, as these days a phone that stands out of the pack is already worth more than a glance.
For European carriers, like Vodafone, LG also has a handful of KF-branded solutions in stock, like the LG KF310. It’s a conventional slider coming in with a 2-inch display, memory cards, 2 Mpix camera and UMTS connectivity. All up, it is a mass-market phone with no bells and whistles, not an eye-catcher in any way.
As far as doing business with carriers go, the maker banks on affordable solutions, especially folders. For instance, the LG KP230/KP235 are notable for their extremely light price tags, while looking much more expensive than that, as the vendor puts it. But what these two are really about is their new menu structure – that is, right from the standby screen you can access the phone’s core functions shortcuts to which are stored in a side-bar. This year a lot of makers have addressed this by coming up with quick launch panels or menus of this kind.
The lower-end of LG’s portfolio got beefed up with the LG KP130 – a candy-bar with GSM connectivity, and that’s pretty much about it.
With music being so much to the fore, LG is striving to get closer to the competition in this department. But don’t look for stellar music-minded models in its line-up, or a breakthrough - the company is walking the path of evolution with well-designed solutions that give away their Korean origins outright. For instance, LG KM500 allows beaming music to a couple of wireless headphones, meaning that you can share music sessions with your friends (although this functionality isn’t particularly craved among the users). The phone also packs in a dedicated music key, an enhanced music player that can identify music tracks by fragments, which is very similar to what Sony Ericsson’s TrackID offers. LG is obviously trying to win over consumers, but as far as music goes, there is nothing to write home about as yet.
The top-of-the-line music-centric solution rolled out at MWC was the KM710, that doesn’t differ much from the previous solution – light effects, better loudspeaker, full-on support for GraceNote (which TrackID bases off) and up to 30 hours of music. Plus the navigation key has a pressable secondary display embedded inside. On balance, it is nothing out of this world.
As regards accessories, the company has intensified its efforts in this field of late, rolling out wireless stereo-speakers and an array of headsets some of which seem very interesting.
As for quirky exhibits, LG showcased wrist watch with built-in phone functionality. This type of gadgets got a new life injected in it last year, whereas it made its first appearance around 7-8 years ago.
The KS20 is another eye-grabber presented by LG at MWC – we will be reviewing it soon.
The KT610 is the phone that we got really exited about – it is a thumbboard-enabled communicator running the S60. No manufacturer other than Nokia ventures to have these devices in portfolio, and here comes LG. The concept the KT610 employs is exactly the same as that found in Nokia-branded offerings: when closed, it is acts as a phone, and when flipped open it turns into sort of a mobile PC. Retailing for 370 Euro it appears to be an affordable replacement for a more feature-packed, and thus expensive, Nokia E90. But in all honestly, these are two completely different device classes. At any rate, the KT610 got my attention and I’m looking forward to a full hands-on session with it.
Published 14 February 2008
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