Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
LG Crystal (GD900) mobile phone
LG's latest Crystal mobile phone features a transparent keypad.
- Transparent keypad that doubles as a gesture touchpad, Wi-Fi, responsive touch screen
- No GPS, no 3.5mm headphone jack, all plastic build, poor camera performance, sluggish user interface
LG's Crystal (GD900) impresses largely thanks to its unique, transparent keypad that doubles as a touch pad. Ultimately though, it suffers from the lack of features often associated with stylish fashion phones. As a basic "dumb phone" you'll be impressed, but if you need good multimedia options, imaging and Web browsing performance you should look elsewhere.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
As its name suggests, LG's Crystal (GD900) is a fashion-oriented mobile phone. Featuring a unique, transparent "crystal" keypad, the LG Crystal tries hard to break from the stigma commonly associated with fashion phones — that they ultimately lack basic features. The LG Crystal's 8-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi capacitive touch screen and S-Class 3D user interface drive it in the right direction, but it ultimately suffers as yet another "dumb phone" label.
It's safe to say we've never seen anything quite like the Crystal before. Its slide-out numeric keypad is completely transparent and has a stylish, soft white backlight and surround when activated. The rear battery cover is transparent at the bottom (showing the battery underneath) but it gradates to a glossy black finish at the top. We weren’t a fan of the emblazoned "transparent" writing at the top of the battery cover and the gloss black surface on the back attracts plenty of fingerprints and is hard to keep clean. The build is also largely plastic and the battery cover in particular feels flimsy when removed.
At the front, the LG Crystal mobile phone borrows a number of design cues from the Arena and the Viewty Smart. Its 3in capacitive touch screen is responsive, bright and clear, although it does suffer in direct sunlight. The front bezel surrounding the display is finished in an attractive gloss silver and the three touch sensitive keys below the screen feature a stylish, brushed metal. The front of LG Crystal is also a magnet for fingerprints and smudges.
The LG Crystal's transparent keypad isn't just for looks — when you slide it out, it can be used as a smaller, second touch screen for gestures. As an example, you can swipe left and right to scroll through menus, use pinch gestures to zoom in on Web pages in the browser, as well as write letters on screen to type messages. You can also assign preset shapes to open selected applications, including contacts, messaging, e-mail and music. Once these shapes are assigned, you can draw the selected shape on the keypad from the main menu to open a particular application. Most of these functions work well, though the browser and camera gestures are a little slow to react to your touch.
The LG Crystal mobile phone runs LG's proprietary S-Class 3D user interface. Unfortunately, this isn't a smartphone, so there is no application store and ultimately no way to install third party software. The main component of the interface is a 3D cube that provides four customisable home screens for access to shortcuts, widgets, contacts and multimedia. Although the graphics of the S-Class interface are rich, colourful and engaging, they aren't as intuitive as they could be. The widgets aren’t customisable and, aside from the clock and calendar, aren't very appealing. Though the user interface is almost identical to previous S-Class 3D models, the LG Crystal features a unique white theme that isn't available on the Arena or Viewty Smart handsets.
Both the contacts and multimedia menus are inspired by a Rolodex: contacts are displayed in a half-circle, rotating format (though you can also choose a more traditional row format), and music, images and videos are accessible from the multimedia menu. We liked the fact that simply tapping a song from the list automatically plays it, but we found scrolling through items using this method a little sluggish.
The LG Crystal's regular phonebook offers one-touch access to all contact details, including being able to text message, video call and e-mail contacts from a single screen. A built-in accelerometer means rotating holding the phone sideways displays a full QWERTY keyboard, but we much prefer typing with the transparent numeric pad.
The LG Crystal mobile phone boasts an 8-megapixel camera with autofocus, a single LED flash and a self-portrait mirror. Despite the impressive specifications, it produces poor quality photos. In particular, the LG Crystal has a tendency to produce photos with excessive image noise, poor colour reproduction and a distinct lack of detail. The LED flash is almost useless in dark conditions.
The lack of a standard 3.5mm headphone jack is a real downside of the LG Crystal. It uses a proprietary headphone and charging jack instead, so you can't charge the phone and listen to music simultaneously. The LG Crystal has 1.5GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot that theoretically supports cards of up to 32GB. The phone also offers Wi-Fi and HSDPA connectivity, but not GPS.
The included browser is usable, but suffers the same issues as both the Arena and the Viewty Smart — it's difficult to select links, touches are often a hit and miss affair and it's difficult to position the cursor when trying to select text.
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