• Review: LG U990 / Viewty

    The LG Viewty was probably one of the first off the block in response to the original iPhone and there’s no doubt that it was designed as a competitor to Apple’s device.

    When comparing the spec-sheet of the Viewty against the iPhone you see a number of trade-offs – The Viewty has a microSD expansion slot but the iPhone is miles ahead in terms of built-in storage. The iPhone has a considerably larger screen but the Viewty has a far better camera/camcorder with built-in flash. The Viewty uses a proprietary headphone socket but it has an FM radio built-in.

    But the real test of the Viewty isn’t in its hardware but its software – and it sadly fails many respects here. Visually speaking the operating system on the phone is quite nice and also quite logical in the way it is laid out. However it has some very illogical quirks – such as its refusal to let you listen to music/the radio while you use other programmes like the camera or its reliance on the phone’s physical buttons for basic actions like deleting some text from a message.

    Unsurprisingly it fails in the areas the iPhone is most attractive for – its web-browser and music player – but it must be said it’s not an abject failure. The web-browser is OK if a little hindered by the smaller screen and the software’s inability to allow easy zooming. The music player is quite usable too, however it did take over an hour to upload around 440mb of music (just over 70 tracks) and it is very easy to accidentally turn the player off while trying to simply minimise it.

    (As a quick aside – and arguably the worst physical default of what is a relatively attractive phone – LG decided to put the microSD slot inside the device forcing the user to remove the battery in order to access it. This kind of design stupidity is not unique to this phone but it is a mortal sin for a phone with minimal built-in memory and a high reliance on its media functionality.)

    The factory-set preference for text message input is a standard numerical pad, although there is an easy way to change this to ‘Keyboard’ mode (which is in landscape), ‘Handwriting-Screen’ or ‘Handwriting Box’. The ‘Keyboard’ option is much like the iPhone’s in that the letters enlarge when your finger encounters them, making it quite easy to type at speed without error. Unlike the iPhone, however, the software doesn’t auto-correct mistakes or guess the word you are trying to type.

    The two handwriting options are completely useless, on the other hand, and must surely have been put in there as a practical joke.

    There are a few ideas within the device which are admirable, though. For example, the screen vibrates very slightly when you press a ‘button’ on it, giving you a tactile sensation that other touch-screen devices lack. It’s not a true haptic response, however, as the vibration is not localised to the point of touch – that’s something Blackberry’s upcoming Thunder is rumoured to offer (amongst other things), however. Also the physical button used to lock the device is quite a bit more approachable than the iPhone’s touch-based solution and during use it never once unlocked accidentally either, so perhaps this approach is worth considering in future.

    It just wasn’t nearly enough, though.

    A (slightly shrunken) picture taken on the Viewty – this was one of the better quality pictures taken.

    So overall it must be said that the Viewty is best left alone – it is an imitation of another, better rounded if not technically superior phone and it really shows. Its biggest selling point is arguably its powerful camera, which is nothing to write hope about at all as the above picture shows, but that alone fails to save it from its other errors.