LG is making strides with their phone design. With each new model they make improvements to both functionality and aesthetics. The Crystal is primarily a design change over the Viewty and Renoir but essentially the functionality is the same. However, there are subtle improvements that make the phone run a little better and having a slide out keypad makes it much easier to use.
The most obvious selling point of this phone is the transparent slide out touchpad. It certainly makes the phone rather attractive and also eliminates the need to use the on screen keyboard, which was one of the things that previous phones struggled with. I use a Renior as my regular phone and while I’ve had some issues with it, the main thing that has been annoying is using the on-screen keyboard during calls. When you are told to press 1 to continue, you have to first unlock the phone, then bring up the keypad, then press 1. When told to press another number next, the phone would once again be locked so you would have to start the process all over again. The Crystal keypad is quite responsive and the numbers are laid out far enough apart that typing on it is relatively error free. The sensitivity is a little excessive at times but once you get used to it, it works well.
The interface is the same Symbian “cube” design that previous LG phones have used. It is colourful, slick and fast. There is a slight delay at times when opening applications but it isn’t too bad. There are four main screens that you can customise a flip between. One dedicated to widgets, one to application, one for contacts and one for multimedia. Each screen can have its own wallpaper and you can choose separate wallpaper for when the phone is locked. The contacts screen is quite nifty allowing you to put an image for each contact and scroll through them much like the iPhone.
One of the things with any phones that is massively inconvenient is when a manufacturer chooses to use a proprietary headphone jack instead of the standard socket. The LG Arena included the regular socket and it looked like LG would continue the trend but this phone, like the Viewty and Renior, uses a mini-USB style socket. This means that you have to carry around the headphone attachment at all times. It also means that if you lose the attachment you can only regain headphone capabilities by purchasing a new one from LG. The headphones that come with the phone are excellent though and offer quite impressive sound. However, the lack of a regular headphone jack is really the only major complaint that can be aimed against the phone.
The battery and SIM slot are accessed very easily and the SIM slot is spring loaded which is nice. The phone uses a Micro-SD slot for additional storage which is easily accessible behind the slide out panel. The camera is also located there meaning you will need to slide out the keypad to use it. This design also offers the lens much more protection than the exposed lens systems of other LG phones.
While the interface is essentially the same as previous models, it has been give a polish and feels quite sophisticated. Small changes to the way things are handled make the phone much easier to use. It seems that to streamline many of the functions, LG has tried to avoid having to open new menus but instead lets options pop up, leaving you on the same screen. For example, making a call from your contacts list used to open a new menu asking you what you wanted to do. On the Crystal, you stay on the contacts screen but an extra bar appears just under the contact with the options to call them or type a message. It is a small change but it is the tiny things that remove the naggling annoyances and improve the interface as a whole. This is just one example though and there are many of this minute improvements that make it much more enjoyable to use. That being said, the screens are quite cluttered with icons but each screen is customisable so you can remove the items you don’t use much.
The multi touch zoom function, as made popular in the iPhone, is done quite well on the Crystal. Previous LG phones have had a fairly cumbersome zoom system so its good to see this functionality included. There is also gesture shortcuts as well and gesture recognition that lets you write SMS messages by writing on the screen with your finger. The recognition worked well enough but it was a little hit and miss, at times, and using the keypad was much faster. However, it may just be a matter of getting used to writing on the screen.
The speakers on the phone sound much better than previous LG phones as well. The previous phones had quite good speakers but they were still a little tinny. The Crystal speakers are still a little tinny at high volumes but are much better than its brethren. All the multimedia functions allow you to use the external speakers but if you want to use the radio feature you will need the headphones to be attached.
The GD900 Crystal is an improvement on the LG line up and is a good all round phone. It works well, looks good and is quite fast. The only real complaint is the lack of a headphone jack which may annoy some people.