It wasn’t that long ago when phones with 5-megapixel cameras were non-existent. Things have changed, though, and 5-megapixel phones are not what you’d call ubiquitous, but certainly widespread enough for you to be able to shop around.
LG’s tri-band KC550 brings the 5-megapixel phone to the masses being only around £100 on a pay as you go tariff. As I write this review, it is available from Phones 4U, Carphone Warehouse and Tesco, for example.
This handset won’t win any prizes for distinctive looks. Its livery is mostly black with some silver and white highlights on the front, a sliver band round the edge and a slate grey lens cover on the back.
In physical design, this is a fairly chunky slider that feels slightly out of proportion in the hand. The main reason for this is its thickness. At 14.9mm that particular dimension is somewhat over the odds. Two thirds of its thickness is in the bottom layer which contains all the side-mounted buttons and connectors and that camera.
Thickness isn’t the only reason for the slightly disproportionate appearance of this phone, though. Its width to height ratio is a little different to usual, too, making it slightly squat. It is 51.4mm wide and 96.9mm tall. Open the slide to reveal the number pad and it just shades over 130mm tall.
The number pad benefits from that 50mm plus of width. Its keys are large, and alternately coloured black and slate grey. This checkerboard look makes it easy to find and hit keys, which is a help as the number pad is flat. I was able to create SMS messages at a fair old lick.
The phone weighs 110g, which is certainly within acceptable parameters. The 2.4 inch screen manages a pretty usual 320 x 240 pixels and 262 thousand colours. LG could have made the screen a little larger, but to keep the KC550 at a lower end price compromises have had to be made.
Beneath the screen with the clam closed a large D-pad surrounds a silver select button. Call and End buttons sit on the bottom left and right of the front fascia, softmenu buttons above these. A clear key disturbs the symmetry of the arrangement sitting as it does on the right side of the D-pad.
On the left edge is LG’s usual proprietary mains power connector which doubles for the headset and PC connectivity. Both headset and PC cable are provided. This connector also works with a TV out cable. It is nice to see this facility on a relatively low cost phone, but a shame that the cable isn’t provided. A cost cutting measure.
Meanwhile on the right edge you’ll find a microSD card slot, camera button and rocker which doubles for volume and camera zoom control.
So, without further ado let’s get to that camera.
You can start it running by sliding the huge metal lens cover back. You don’t need to look at the back of the phone to do this – it is easy to do by feel alone. The camera has a self-portrait mirror and a small LED flash. The autofocus allowed me to get in quite close on the tomatoes and I didn’t even bother with the macro mode on this shot so it is good that definition and sharpness are both passable.
The chair doesn’t quite show the level of detail that I’d like to see from a 5-megapixel camera. Indoors, without using the flash but with ordinary household lighting, the coloured dish isn’t quite as vibrant as I’d like either. So while this camera may well carry 5-megapixels, it is not up there with the best in that category.
When you are using the camera the D-pad can be used to pop you into album view, set the flash (including turning it permanently on), use macro mode and set image stabilisation on and off. Video is shot at resolutions to 720 x 480 and 30fps, incidentally, which is a rather high-end capability.
When it comes to looking at photos on the handset the KC550’s built in accelerometer has a role to play. Turn the handset on its side so that the screen is in wide format and photos are automatically adjusted. It is hardly a novel feature, but the accelerometer is responsive and however often I see it, I do think this is a neat little quirk for any phone.
Some of the provided games take further advantage of the accelerometer. When you move into the games area of the phone you have two choices. Just opting for ‘games’ itself gives you a skateboard game and Mini Game World – which has seven integrated little games. Choosing ‘M-Toy’, on the other hand, gives you six games with which to use the accelerometer. There’s one where you chuck darts at a board, one in which you go fishing and another where you guide a ball round a maze, for example. I’ve seen these games before in the 5-megapixel but all round better featured LG Secret
The KC550 also plays music. With a mere 12MB of internal memory you are going to need a microSD card to make the most of the player, but the good news is that I got nearly ten and a half hours of non-stop music from a full battery charge. After that, the phone refused to play any more, though it still stayed alive for about another hour. LG rates it at 6 hours talktime and 450 hours on standby.
An FM radio with nine presets adds to your musical possibilities but LG’s headset uses the aforementioned proprietary connector and is one-piece so you’ll need an adaptor to use a 3.5mm set.
In addition to what has already been mentioned you get mobile email, calendar, memo maker, voice recorder, muvee studio for creating a slideshow with music, alarm, calculator, stopwatch, unit converter, world clock and browser.
The KC550’s 5-megapixel camera sits at the top of its relatively average additional set of features, and the camera itself isn’t quite as good as some which share the same raw megapixel rating. But then the LG KC550 isn’t as expensive as those better featured alternatives, so if you don’t mind its looks and chunkiness and want a reasonable cameraphone it’s worth a look.
Score in detail
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