At first glance, the LG F9200 for Cingular looks like a simple update to the , yet styled in a different color. Like its predecessor, the F9200 is dubbed an instant-messaging phone, and it comes with a hidden QWERTY keyboard. But the similarities end there, as the newer model makes the keyboard much more useful. Not only can you use it to type text messages, but you also can use the keyboard to edit your phone book and send e-mails--two features not available on the earlier model. Overall, we're impressed with the F9200; the dial-pad layout and the pearly white color scheme are attractive, and the sliding QWERTY keyboard is sleek. We only wish the keyboard were easier to use, as its keys are much too small and flat. That said, we recommend the LG F9200 to anyone who wants a phone (and not a smart phone) with the flexibility of a QWERTY keyboard for messaging. It retails for $149.99, but after a mail-in rebate and a two-year contract, you can get it for $99.99. Despite the LG F9200's bulk (4.34 by 1.97 by 0.97 inches; 4.72 ounces), its pearly white body, silvery keypad, and navy-blue accents still make it an attractive phone. Besides, it's bulky for a reason. Although it may look like an ordinary candy bar phone at first glance, the LG F9200 hides a full QWERTY keyboard behind the front face. To expose it, just slide open the front face to the left lengthwise, then position the phone horizontally in order to text. Holding the phone this way is comfortable enough, though we had issues with the feel of the individual keys (more below). Overall, however, the phone's heft feels nice in the hand and comfortable when held against the ear. That said, it didn't fit well in our jeans pocket, and the slider mechanism seemed loose. On the left spine is the volume rocker, and there's a camera button and an earphone jack on the right. A camera lens and a self-portrait mirror are located on the back.
The main 1.75-inch-diagonal display (128x160 pixels; eight lines) does its job but is nothing to write home about. It has a standard 65,000-color palette that's easy enough to read indoors, but since it has a bit of a washed-out effect, it's hard on the eyes when you're outdoors in sunlight. The contrast and the backlighting time can be changed, but the brightness and the font size can't. When the QWERTY keyboard is slid out, the orientation of the screen automatically switches from portrait to landscape.
Below the LG F9200's screen are the navigation controls. There are two large soft keys on either side of a five-way navigation toggle. The two soft keys default to the menu and the address book when on the main screen. The navigation toggle also acts as a shortcut to text messages, instant messaging, the contacts list, and the My Stuff folder, which is a hodgepodge menu that includes games, graphics, and organizational tools. Underneath the navigation keys are the Talk button, the Cancel button, and the End/power button. There are also two soft keys along the right of the display that are activated when the QWERTY keyboard is slid out; in landscape mode, the keys are now on the display's bottom edge.
The LG F9200's dial pad has a unique geometric shape that is at once curved and angular and results in a pretty cool design. The keys are also beveled, which makes for easier dialing. Although we could dial by feel, the dial pad's unusual shape sometimes had us second-guessing which key we pressed. The dial pad's keys are illuminated in blue when activated.
The one big disappointment with the LG F9200 is, ironically enough, its biggest feature: the QWERTY keyboard. While we were excited to finally have a well-designed phone that has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, we were ultimately disappointed with the flat, small keys and the tricky keyboard controls. To the left of the QWERTY keys is the symbol button, a key with a horizontal line that acts as the function button for typing numbers and punctuation marks, as well as the shift key. As mentioned, the latter two controls were tricky to use, as in order to access basic characters such as a period or a comma, we had to press the function or symbol buttons each time. What's more, the flat, small keys made it a bit difficult to text; we imagine it would be even harder if you had large hands. But as quirky as the keyboard is, it is still far easier to text using it than via the dial pad. There's also a spacebar, as well as designated Backspace and return keys.