At its global launch here in central London, the latest Black Label phone from LG broke cover. The Chocolate BL40 is a 5-megapixel fashion phone, with an ultra-wide 800x345-pixel LCD touchscreen display. And despite the number of unusual (and unnecessary) models here to glam-up its christening, we're feeling cautiously impressed.

You'll remember this was the phone we all thought looked too long and enormous to believe comfortable, but it's actually quite compact and rugged -- like an iPod nano, only thicker and slightly heavier. Its 104mm (4.1-inch) capacitive touchscreen is responsive too, with rich colours and a tight pixel density that produces crisp menus and images.

In fact, its menu system works -- sadly -- like the LG Arena's, but the enormously wide screen allows the phone to present its contents more intuitively. For example, when browsing the text messaging menu, the people you've been nattering to appear in a list down the left-hand half of the screen. But when you tap one of their names, their messages to you appear in a window on the right-hand half of the screen -- it's like using a computer with two monitors. We've got a photo to illustrate this in the gallery over the page.

In terms of specifications, the BL40's 5-megapixel camera is only backed up by a simple LED flash. To be brutally honest, for a phone set to be used in clubs and bars, a xenon flash would've been an epic win in terms of design. But it's got a proper 3.5mm headphone socket for listening to MP3s, a 7.2Mbps HSDPA data connection for downloading them, support for MPEG-4, DivX and Xvid video formats, Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth and A-GPS -- all excellent strings to have on your phone's bow.

Now, we only spent half an hour with the phone in our hands, and that's by no means long enough to use as a basis for recommendation. But at this early stage the BL40 is looking like the smartest -- and the most attractive -- of LG's Black Label phones and we're seriously looking forward to getting one in-house for a full review.

It'll launch on Orange in the next two or three weeks. Pricing is TBC, but it was whispered in our ear that "free on a £35 per month contract" wasn't an unreasonable expectation. A pile of hands-on photos are over the page, but check back for our hands-on video tomorrow. Now excuse us, but we're off to talk to models and drink some admittedly delicious champagne.

The BL40, only this time displayed in the hands of a CNET UK Podcast listener (no, really -- he knew exactly who we were).
Browsing photos here. If you think it looks a little like iTunes' Cover Flow, you're perfectly justified in your opinion.
The text messaging interface we mentioned earlier. Notice the two distinct panels: one on the left, one on the right.
Argh! Giant eyes! Don't worry friends, it's only a movie.
Taking some photos here. If you look carefully you'll see CNET UK editor Jason Jenkins filming a video for this very phone in the background.


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