One of LG's star handsets this year was definitely the LG Shine, which debuted earlier in the year to quite a bit of fanfare. Back then, the only unit available was the LG Shine KE970, made primarily for the European and Asian market. You could get an unlocked version for the U.S., but it would cost you a pretty penny. Also, it didn't have 3G, and its features were rather underwhelming. Fast-forward several months later, and we finally have its American counterpart, the LG Shine CU720 from AT&T. Not only is it quad-band (and not tri-band like the KE970), the Shine CU720 also comes equipped with 3G support thanks to AT&T's HSDPA network, plus access to AT&T's array of broadband services like Cellular Video and Video Share. Aside from that, not much is improved--you still get many of the same features, the same flat keypad, and we didn't like the CU720's navigation joystick. But if you really must have the shiniest slider phone on the block, the LG Shine certainly fits the bill. It's available for $149.99 with a two-year service agreement.
The LG Shine personifies its name perfectly. Not only does it shine, it positively gleams. It has a lovely polished-metal exterior and a downright sparkling mirror-finish display that exudes luxury and sophistication. In fact, you can use the display as a small compact mirror when the phone is in standby mode. Measuring 3.93 inches tall by 1.99 inches wide by 0.59 inch thick and weighing about 4.23 ounces, the Shine has a solid stainless steel body that makes it feel very sturdy in the hand. The Shine's slider mechanism feels solid as well, requiring a firm push so it can slide smoothly. Similarly to the KE970, however, we do wish there was some kind of thumb grip near the phone's chin to make it easier to slide open--as it is, our fingers often slipped on the phone's glossy surface instead.
If you press any button on the phone, a beautiful 2.25-inch screen will appear underneath the mirrored finish of the display. With 262,000 color support, the screen is simply gorgeous, and images are rich with detail and color. Another nice thing with the display is that it has "multi-angle vision technology" that lets you view the display from almost any angle. You can adjust the dialing font style, the brightness, and the backlight time. The menu interface is pretty simple, plus you have a choice of either icon or list menu styles.
The Shine CU720's navigation array is where the design drastically departs from the original KE970. Instead of a horizontal scroll bar, the Shine CU720 uses a navigation joystick nub, which is a tiny little spun metal circle that can rotate 360 degrees. While we weren't thrilled with the original scroll bar on the KE970, it's still better than the CU720's joystick. Not only is the joystick pretty small, it was simply way too sensitive to any slight movement we made, sometimes triggering an action we didn't want. From the standby screen, nudging the joystick to the north triggers a new text message, moving it to the east triggers the instant-messaging application, to the south it's the contacts list, and to the west it's the MyStuff folder. To the left and right of the joystick are two soft keys marked by two horizontal LEDs. We weren't fans of these keys, either, as they required quite a bit of pressure to be pressed and are flat to the phone's surface.
Once you slide the phone open, you'll reveal the Shine's Razr-like keypad, which looks the same as the one on the KE970. The Talk, Clear/Back, and End/Power keys are crammed on the top of the keypad, meaning you'll have to bump your fingers on the bottom of the slider so you can make or end calls. Also, though there are some minor texture differences between the keys, the keypad is still very flat, and feels much too crowded--we often pressed certain keys by mistake. Though the keys do have a nice give when pressed, we still wouldn't dial by feel. Those with large fingers might have an especially tough time trying to dial or text.
The Shine CU720 moved some keys around from the KE970. On the CU720, the volume rocker is on the right spine, as well as a multitasking key, and a camera shortcut key. The microSD card slot and charger/headset jack is on the left. The camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror sits on the back.
Unlike the original Shine, the Shine CU720 packs quite a bit punch when it comes to features. For the basics, the Shine CU720 has a nice 1,000-entry contacts list with room in each entry for two numbers, an e-mail address, and a memo. You can also assign a contact to any caller group, a photo for caller ID, or one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calculator, a memo pad, a calendar, a calculator, a tip calculator, a world clock, a tasks list, a stopwatch, a unit converter, a date finder, and a d-day counter. More advanced features include voice-command support, a wireless Web browser, a voice recorder, e-mail, instant messaging (supports AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo messaging services), a speakerphone, and stereo Bluetooth.