The tri-band LG KF600 is a slider and my review sample came from Orange, but you can find it elsewhere too.
It is immediately marked out as different from other mobiles because it has two front screens. One is a 2in display offering 320 x 240 pixels that does the usual kind of stuff you would expect from a mobile phone offering access to information, applications and services.
The other screen, sitting beneath the main one, is the unique selling point for this handset. It measures 1.5in across and displays 240 x 176 pixels. It is what LG calls the InteractPad.
The LG KF600 has a side-mounted button for launching the camera, another for launching the phone’s music player, and a side-mounted volume rocker, but they are the only buttons on this phone when it’s slid down, and so the InteractPad will make or break this handset for you. It is provided instead of front fascia navigation buttons and offers finger-touch access to the phone’s features. What it displays varies depending on what you are doing at the time.
So, for example, let’s say you are on the main screen. The InteractPad shows a grid of two rows of three icons. Tapping one icon takes you to messaging (email, SMS, MMS and voicemail are all integrated here), another to the contact book, another to missed and made calls and another to profile setting. A further icon takes you to the phone’s main menu, while the final one turns the grid off and provides, instead, an extension of the graphic that is showing on the main screen.
Pop up the music player and the InteractPad changes to offer three rows of information. In the middle one a progress bar shows how much of a tune has played. You can carefully drag the indicator to a point in the tune you want to repeat. The bottom row has pause/play, forward and back icons. The top row offers a back to tunes listing, options menu and an all important back button.
One more example. Run the camera and the InteractPad re-orientates so it can be used with the phone held longways in your hand. Now you have a large capture button, one for fiddling with image brightness, one to get you to the main camera menu, and a back button.
Quite often you get a general navigation control. It offers directional movement arrows, an OK and a back button. And finally I should mention that you can use the InteractPad in conjunction with the number keys to get to the detailed options on the handset.
It may have taken a few paragraphs to explain all this, but in use the system is remarkably intuitive. If I have a gripe it is that I had to stop myself from prodding the main screen to get it to do things for me.
I didn’t have any trouble with the InteractPad failing to respond to my taps. This is because it gives visual, aural and tactile feedback. Aural feedback comes in the shape of plinks and plonks, tactile from a teeny vibration when you tap an icon.
Switch to the vibrate profile and you only get the vibration, use the silent profile and both effects are turned off. Even then you have the visual feedback. When you tap an icon and your tap is registered there is some sort of change. Arrows get huge for a millisecond, buttons animate briefly, and so on.
The KF600 has a flat number pad. Fortunately it is rather more usable than many. Partly this is because of the styling of the keys: the two-tone grid makes it easy to visually identify the key areas you want to hit. And partly it is because the keys press in nicely and if you are in a relatively noise-free space you can even hear a very quiet mechanical click as they do so.
All in all, then, for a quirkily designed handset I found the KF600 remarkably easy to live with.
As a visual treat there are eight different animated themes, five of which are based on Keith Haring designs. Both the main screen and the InteractPad are altered when you choose a theme, giving quite a detailed makeover to the handset.
For all its touchy trickery and dual front screens this is a pretty small mobile, too, at 101mm tall, 51mm wide and 14mm thick. It weighs a perfectly acceptable 107g.
There is a good array of applications on board. In addition to those alluded to already we’ve got a Web browser, calendar, memo maker, alarm clock, calculator, stopwatch, unit converter, world clock, voice recorder, and FM radio. When using the memo application the InteractPad lets you enter information via handwriting recognition.
Irritatingly you have to use the supplied hands-free headset as the KF600 uses a proprietary connector at the phone end, but a 3.5mm jack is present on the mic unit for plugging in your own headphones.
There is 40MB of built-in memory and a microSD card slot for more. Annoyingly you have to remove the battery to get to the card slot. Music playback was efficient and I got 8 hours 48 minutes of continuous tunes from a full battery charge.
The camera has an autofocus mode that you can turn on or off, plus there’s a burst mode, macro mode and image stabilisation among its features. There is a maximum stills resolution of 3-megapixels.
Shots were variable in quality. On its auto settings the handset fared worst indoors, perking up considerably outdoors where the ambient light is better. My photo of the coloured dish is a little grainy and the background should be pure white. The dish colours are reasonably vibrant, though.
The chair’s colour is reproduced very well indeed, and as you zoom in the detail is quite good. The white flower shows off the macro mode to good effect. I was about 10cm from the subject and you can see that only one of the flowers is fully in focus but that the image is quite sharp. The camera coped quite well with the brilliant white of the flower.
I was initially sceptical about the InteractPad but grew to like it. Menus that change depending on context are great when well thought through, and I thought they were well thought through here. I’m less excited about the screen’s propensity to attract greasy fingermarks, and given the choice I still prefer real buttons.
Whatever you think about the touchscreen, LG proves again that there is more than one way to approach the touchscreen concept. I hope the company keeps experimenting.
Score in detail
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