I have had a fair bit experience with the test devices which were available prior to the release of Windows Phone 7 but this is my first experience with a commercial device. Therefore it seems inappropriate for me to try and compare this device with other hardware or even to look at the WP7 OS itself as I’m sure you are already familiar with the standard features. Instead I’ve looked at the hardware under real day-to-day usage and had a look at features which LG has added to the phone.
The device measures 12.5cm tall by 6cm wide and is about 12mm thick. The hardware buttons and arrangement are pretty standard. The row of buttons below the screen for Back, Start and Search are very tactile and give good feedback in use rather than some devices where buttons are built into the glass of the screen. The Start button specifically is a raised Windows logo which makes it very easy to navigate by touch if for example you are worried about walking into a fountain while using it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mg11glsBW4Y&feature=player_embedded).
The back cover is dark lacquered metal and the sides are plastic and are easy to grip. Connectivity is provided via a micro-USB port on the right-hand side and there is a headphone socket on the top of the device and a wired headset is included.
The screen is 3.8 inches, very bright and clear indoors and quite usable outdoors too. I’ve recently tried the Kindle reader application on the device and found it quite comfortable for a few short reading sessions.
The camera is marked as 5.0 mega-pixels. For a phone the results were quite good but don’t be under the impression that this is comparable with a similarly spec’d digital camera. I’ve found myself more inclined to use the camera for quick shots now that WP7 has a shortcut to launch the camera from a locked state using the hardware button. The device has a small mirror on the back to help you take a self-portrait if you so wish and an LED flash which can be turned on or off or used automatically. LG have implemented custom settings in the form of “Photo Smart Settings” accessible from the Camera app which allows you to change between a number of 4:3 or 16:9 widescreen resolutions and adjust the brightness and white balance settings. There is also a link to Panorama Shot which is a cool utility to help you stitch up to 5 images together into a panorama. It gives you a live overlay on the screen to show you where to position the camera for the next shot. The results were quite impressive and because you have the finished panorama on the phone you can upload it to Facebook or SkyDrive or send in an email using the Pictures hub.
I’m not a heavy user or Wi-Fi or cellular data most of the time, as such I found I only had to charge the phone every other day. Turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth most of the time keeps battery usage to a minimum. Perhaps I’m unnaturally frugal based on my experiences with other phones so your experience may differ.
The device ships with some LG specific applications. Tiles are installed on the Start screen for three of these – ScanSearch, PlayTo and Panorama Shot.
The app I was particularly interested in trying was PlayTo which allows you to output to a DLNA compliant screen. We have a TV with DLNA support but have never really taken advantage of it. When you first run the app it will search for a compatible device. It soon found our TV and connection worked. The TV may have additional settings or a process to ask for permission when you connect a new device. We then have the option of playing Music, Pictures or Videos. I tested a few tracks of music from my device. I have a mixture of MP3 and WMA files and I found the TV refused to play the WMA files but worked okay with MP3. The track name and album art were also transferred which I wasn’t expected and it looked impressive, you can use the controls on the phone to skip tracks as well. Photos worked well with a couple of galleries including photos taken on the device. You can browse a carousel of images on the device and select them to be sent to the TV. Videos were not so successful. First I tried playing a video clip captured on the device and it would not play. I suspect this is because the TV doesn’t support the codec used but it is a shame. I would assume that being able to show videos you have captured would be the main use for this functionality. I guess this is a limitation with DLNA devices at the moment.
ScanSearch is an augmented-reality application which searches for a number of categories of places in the local area (restaurants, banks etc) and overlays them on screen over the live camera view based upon the compass in the device. Personally I’d prefer to see results on a map but having the map turn as you turn the device would be quite clever. This is obviously an OEM specific feature as regular developers have no access to the compass and can only read the Course from the GPS data which will only be accurate when you are moving.
Alongside the pre-installed applications there is a special area within the Marketplace for LG specific applications. There they make available a number of other apps for free (often for a limited period) from system utilities to a golf caddy.
The device shipped was customised for Vodafone Germany and so it had some features specific to that network. Also it showed a feature that OEMs are able to add an additional accent colour which in the case of Vodafone is their corporate red.
Because the device was built for the German market the initial boot occurs in German but it can be changed to any of the other currently supported languages – English (US or UK), French, Italian and Spanish. I found that when set to English a number of third-party applications which support multiple languages in the Tile and Application Name were showing a name in German. I don’t know if this is an issue with Vodafone Germany’s customisations or something in WP7 itself…
Wi-Fi has been somewhat unreliable for me. When it connects it’s great but after a while it will fail to reconnect and only restarting the wireless hub and the device can get it to reconnect. I have seen this with other devices so I suspect it is my wireless hub rather than the phone which is to blame.
This has been a great day-to-day device, it has a good sized screen and is slim. I found the battery lasted long enough for my usage. I like the fact that devices are standardising on the micro-USB port so I can carry a few different devices and one USB charger. I found the intermittent Wi-Fi issues annoying but I suspect my wireless hub is at fault so will investigate changing it. The LG specific features such as PlayTo and Panorama Shot are valuable additions to the OS and well integrated.