LG made the mistake of telling us that the C3300 was "designed by a woman with a target women's audience". We have nothing against phones being designed by women -- in this case, Jin Kim, the head of handset design at LG -- but designing phones for women often results in something small, pink and mostly useless.
With that in mind, we were initially prejudiced against the C3300, but it won us over. It is small, and maroon is suspiciously close to pink, but the handset redeems itself by being easy to use and good at the basics. If you just want to make calls, send text messages and take basic snapshots, the C3300 is a good-value option. Available exclusively through T-Mobile, it costs £80 on pay-as-you-go or free with a £15 per month contract.
Measuring 47 by 91 by 25mm and weighing 91g, the C3300 is compact and light. The rounded edges make it comfortable to hold and there are no unsightly protrusions -- it has an internal aerial.
The maroon and silver front is relatively plain, with the VGA camera at the top, just above an LED light for taking pictures at night. In the centre is a monochrome, 96x64-pixel LCD that displays phone settings -- including signal strength and battery charge -- and messages about incoming calls, missed calls, incoming text messages and so on.
The headset jack is on the left-hand side, above the volume rocker. The charger plugs into the bottom, there's a shortcut button for the camera on the right and an attachment point for the wrist strap at the top. The back panel slides off to reveal the battery, with the SIM card tucked away underneath.
Opening the phone reveals the 128x160-pixel, 65K colour screen, surrounded by a silver frame and a maroon fascia. It isn't as bright or as sharp as the screen on the Samsung SGH-E530, and can't display as much detail. It's more than adequate for basic phone functions, but your photos won't have much zing.
The bottom half of the clamshell contains the two-tone keypad, which has maroon keys down the sides and around the top, and silver keys in the centre. It isn't as bad as it sounds, because the surfaces are matt rather than glossy, but putting the red 'end call' symbol on a maroon key doesn't score the designer any points. Function keys include a four-way rocker with a separate OK button in the centre, two soft keys and shortcut keys for T-Mobile's interactive service (t-zones) and the camera. There's a Clear button at the top of the numberpad, between the Send and End keys.
We were impressed by the C3300's interface, which associates all the main tasks with function keys. Logos on the rocker and text prompts on the screen help you remember which key to press. It might not be the most highly specified phone in the world, but the features it has are easy to access.
Pressing the top of the rocker takes you to your contacts. You can store 200 names on the phone, with several numbers and an email address for each one, and a further 200 on the SIM, with one number only. You can also assign a picture to each contact -- either a cutesy icon from the built-in library, or a photograph you've taken. One annoyance is that you can't add contacts via this route; you have to go through the main menu.
Pressing the right side of the rocker brings up a submenu that lets you read your text messages, check your voicemail, view your schedule and set alarms. Pressing the bottom takes you to the voice recorder, which enables you to create up to ten 20-second voice memos. To record a new one, press and hold the bottom part of the rocker, then speak into the microphone. Most conveniently of all, pressing the left-hand side of the rocker brings up a menu that lets you switch between vibrate only, silent, general and loud modes.
With a top resolution of just 640x480 pixels (VGA), the camera is relatively basic. You can use your snapshots in the phone book or as wallpaper, or share them by MMS, but you won't want to print them out. Camera settings are displayed in an icon menu across the top of the screen, making it easy to change the image size, increase or decrease the compression, adjust the exposure and use the digital zoom, light and/or self timer. Tucked away in the phone's main menu is the obscure 'take in modes' option, which enables you to snap your subject through a novelty frame.
You can take self-portraits while the phone is closed, although you can't change any of the settings and the external LCD makes a lousy viewfinder. It's monochrome and landscape, whereas the default picture format is portrait, so what you see is nothing like what you get.
Connectivity is limited. The C3300 doesn't have infrared or Bluetooth, and you can't make a cable connection to your PC, so the only data function is GPRS. Pressing the dedicated t-zones button takes you directly to T-Mobile's WAP-based interactive service, where you'll find news, sports news, downloads and so on. It works well enough, but the low resolution of the screen means you end up reading the news in 15-word instalments. If you're all about Internet on your mobile, take a look at our round-up of 3G phones.
Call audio was clear and adequately loud, but not deafening even on the highest setting. If you're likely to be making calls in noisy environments, you may want to test the phone first and check that the volume is adequate. Standby time is quoted as 200 hours.
Additional editing by Nick Hide