We finally got our hands on the LG GD900 Crystal, and the transparent screen is as cool as we hoped -- and not half as pointless.
The GD900 Crystal is a slider phone with a 3-inch (76mm) touchscreen, and a transparent keypad that lights up when opened. But it's more than just gimmicky, see-though goodness -- the keypad is a touch-sensitive controller, too. That means you can use it to move through menus, navigate around the Web, and even write using handwriting recognition.
LG has thrown in gesture support too, so you can launch applications with a swipe around the keypad. This includes multi-touch, as does the main display, so you can pinch your fingers to zoom in to a photo or map.
If this is a touch-happy overload, you can also use it normally, to dial phone calls, and there's vibrating feedback to let you know when you've hit the flat numbers.
So what's the point of having two touchscreens? The reasoning goes that if you're basking in the glory of the GD900's screen -- watching a video, for example -- you don't want to block the action by waving your sausage fingers over the screen to zoom or rewind. And it's pretty freaking cool, too.
The GD900 uses the same S-class user interface that we've seen on the LG Arena. One of our biggest complaints about the Arena was that the touchscreen wasn't as responsive as we'd like, but based on the phones we tried, it's running with more vim and vigour on the GD900. The little spinning cube is still useless, but there are about five different ways to access each feature, and adding gestures means there should be a user-interface option for every user, if they can be bothered to learn them all.
We found gestures and handwriting recognition were accurate and responsive, and although we wouldn't use it for long texts, we could see handwriting coming in handy when you want to enter a few words in a Web form without fiddling with predictive text on the alphanumeric keypad.
Like the Arena, the transparent handset is no slouch when it comes to features, either. There's also an 8-megapixel camera, expandable memory up to 32GB, Wi-Fi and HSDPA for speedy Web surfing.
LG told us it's not sure whether the phone will ship with a tempered glass keypad or a hard plastic one -- we're rooting for glass, although the plastic version we saw looked fine -- but either way, we're looking forward to looking at stuff through it.
The see-though wonder will be available from 1 July exclusively at the Carphone Warehouse, on contract from £35 per month.
Click through to check out more photos of the Thames through the automatic beer goggles of the GD900 or watch our video below.
You can swipe the keypad to scroll through the S-class user interface's music and photo gallery, which evokes a cover-flow effect.
You can also fast-forward or rewind through a music track or video with a circular gesture.
You can program up to 12 gestures to launch your favourite programs with a swab of the keypad.
LG has tweaked the S-class user interface so that its program menu looks slightly less like the iPhone's, by making the icons round, instead of rounded squares like on the LG Arena.
It's not easy to write while taking a photo, but the GD900 still recognised our shaky efforts.
The back of the GD900 sports an 8-megapixel camera with an LED light.
At 13.5mm, the GD900 feels reasonably thin, but not mind-blowing. Here it is in a size comparison with Big Ben, just to give you an idea.