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These touch-buttons are quite responsive and easy to use but we think they take up far too much room and that more space could have been given to the screen or the whole phone made smaller instead. This is all the more noticeable when you see the size of the keys on the keypad. In the same space as the BL20's four rows and three columns of buttons, BlackBerry has managed to fit five rows and eight columns of buttons on its Bold 9700. While we're not averse to having large easy-to-press buttons on phones of this type, it seems a little excessive. Nonetheless, the size of the keys does make it very easy to type on the BL20, despite their very flat and shiny surface and wobbly seating.
Another button-related oddity arises when we look at the right edge. Here are housed the volume and camera buttons, which are also touch-sensitive. They work perfectly well but we certainly wouldn't say they're any better than traditional physical buttons, especially the camera button, which obviously won't have the two pressure levels you get with a physical button; one for focussing/exposure metering and another for taking the shot.
The camera itself is okay in stills mode, with 5-megapixels on offer and autofocus and an LED flash to back it up. It produces relatively clear pictures with good colour rendition and an acceptable level of detail, while the flash is enough to light up close objects. The video, however, is essentially useless thanks to a very low framerate and resolution and a maximum clip length of just 14 seconds.
The phone's software is very simple but mostly effective thanks to exceptionally speedy operation. As well as phone and messaging basics, you get an mp3 player, FM radio, alarm clock, calculator, voice recorder, stopwatch, unit converter, and world clock. All told, for basic phone duties it's perfectly fine.
Call quality is good with clear audio both to and from the handset. As for battery life, LG quotes 5hrs talk time and 450hrs standby. In our tests, the phone had one of its three bars of the battery indicator left after 2hrs of video, an hour surfing the web and 2hrs mp3 playback. This isn't great but should easily see you through two days between charges when used regularly.
The LG Chocolate BL20 is a low cost phone with high-fashion pretensions and as such, it has its fair share of compromises. In particular, the lack of a headphone jack and a small screen let the package down. However, it is a nice looking handset that is relatively easy to use and does all the basics you want from a mobile phone.