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LG KU990 Viewty review

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Viewty. Apart from lending itself to rhyming headlines like ‘what a beauty’ we can’t see that the Viewty name has any relevance to anything at all. But then LG has already gone a bit weird with phones called Chocolate, Shine and Prada, the latter the immediate predecessor to this handset, so why should we be surprised that the next step is a phone whose name is an entirely made up word?

Let’s not get too hung up on the name though, as what we have here is a really exceptional mobile phone – with one annoyance we’ll get to later. The Viewty is a quad-band GSM phone with 3G and HSDPA downloads at up to 3.6Mbps where your operator provides that level of connection. It has a front-facing camera for making video calls.

This is one of the new breed of ‘slab’ design mobiles which is almost all touch-screen and no keyboard or number pad. Yes, you could mention the iPhone at this point as a comparator. There are three keys under the screen – Call, End and Cancel, and a few side buttons, but that’s it.

The Viewty isn’t much heavier than your average mobile at 112g, but it is a slightly different format to a standard candybar mobile, being 54.4mm wide. It is 103.5mm tall and 14.8mm thick, and with these dimensions, at first glance you could easily mistake it for a personal video player or, if its back is facing you, for an ultra-thin digital camera.

Actually, in both instances, you’d have a strong case for sticking with that first impression. The screen of the Viewty measures three inches from corner to corner, is 240×400 pixels, and displays 262,000 colours. It can also play DivX video so you could encode downloads into that format and play away.

It records video too, up to a massively impressive 120 frames a second, and while playback on the built-in screen doesn’t really show that frame rate off to its fullest benefit, download the video to your PC and go for slow-mo and you can really start to have some fun.

When it comes to stills the camera shoots at 5 megapixels, making the Viewty a top-end mobile for the digital photography fan.

The camera is activated simply by pressing the same side button you use to take photos – it is on the right-hand edge. There is a slider on the same edge of the mobile and using this lets you switch between shooting modes (stills and video) and image viewing mode.

So, you hit the button, turn the phone into long format with the ‘snap’ button under your right forefinger, fiddle with the slider with your left forefinger depending on whether you want to shoot stills or vids, and you are away. It takes less than 5 seconds to be ready to snap, so taking quick and candid photos is perfectly feasible.

You can read about the camera and view some example shots on our LG Viewty camera sample page, where we cover the features in more detail, but we do have to make one additional comment here, and it relates to probably the one thing about this phone we don’t like.

There’s a frame around the camera’s lens which has two nobbles on it so you can get hold of it with a finger and twist it. Now, this twisting action has a number of different functions. In camera mode it activates the zoom. In stills viewing mode it lets you zoom into a picture. If you are listening to music or looking at any screen with a menu that extends off the bottom of the viewable area, you can use it for scrolling.

This might have been a clever sounding idea on paper, LG, but having lived with this phone for several weeks we found it irritating. It is simply a pain to have to reach around to the back of the handset with a finger to scroll or zoom, and however we held the mobile to do this, we never quite felt comfortable.

The Viewty’s touch screen is put to maximum advantage without, we have to say, going too far down the showy route. We do like the fact that the animated default main screen of the phone has a little goldfish ‘swimming’ around who can be drawn to a certain spot if you touch it with your finger. It has no real functional value, but it is a lark.

More useful is the slight vibration you get from the phone when you tap it to make menu choices and press buttons. One of the problems with touch screens is that you can’t always be sure you have tapped. With the Viewty’s vibrations, you get a confirmation every time.

LG has also clearly thought carefully about the way the whole user interface is put together. There’s a bank of touch buttons along the bottom of the touch screen covering accessing your contacts, messaging (including mobile email), and calling up a touch-based number pad for voice calling.

Another button in this bank takes you to the phone’s main menu and here options are presented as large icons and ranged into four groups depending on whether they are phone centric, related to media (this is where you access the music player and FM radio, for example), related to personal organisation or phone setup tools.

There’s another clever tweak, and that is that if you drag a finger along a small bar above this bank of touch buttons a three by three grid pops up giving you quick access to nine phone features including the Web browser, alarm, calendar, Bluetooth setup, messaging and memo.

Mentioning memo brings us onto another neat feature – handwriting recognition. When writing a memo or creating an SMS message or email, you can use a fingernail or the included telescopic stylus to write onto the screen and see your words translated into text. The engine is pretty good if you move slowly and write clearly. Alternatively you can use a tappable keyboard in widescreen mode, or a T9 keypad.

Storage runs to 90MB of internal memory. microSD cards are supported for adding more. There are two things that trouble us here. You have to remove the battery cover to get to the card slot, and the maximum sized card you can use is 2GB. The higher capacity SDHC cards are not supported, which is a shame as microSD cards in this format are already available at 8GB capacity and set to go higher still.

Even taking our grumbles into account we can’t help really liking the Viewty. LG should have ditched the camera frame based scroller in favour of an alternative option, but there is lots to like here despite that. Apple schmapple, who needs an iPhone?

LG KU990 info

Typical price: £260 SIM-free

Pros:
Touch screen
3G/HSDPA
5 megapixel camera

Cons:
Tricky camera functions

Verdict: A fantastic camera phone that ought to rival the iPhone

Rating:

More info: LG KU990 microsite

Recycle your phone: Sell LG Viewty KU990

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