The LG Shine II is actually the third handset in the Shine series that we've reviewed. The first model, the Shine KE970, was an unlocked phone that we saw in 2007. It offered a bright display and a unique navigation array, but we didn't think it was worth the unlocked price of $575. The second handset, the Shine CU720, debuted with AT&T. Though we weren't crazy about its keypad or controls, we enjoyed the phone, particularly at its contract price of $149.
That brings us to the Shine II, aka the GD710. Also for AT&T, the Shine II takes after its predecessors by sporting a shiny metal exterior and a midrange multimedia feature set. Unfortunately, it also suffers from a few of the drawbacks we had beefs with in the CU720. For example, though it sports a different design for the navigation array, it remained difficult to use. Performance was variable, though the phone feels solid. You can get it for $119 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. The price without a service contract is $269.
Because of its slider design and sturdy metal skin, the Shine II resembles the earlier Shine models. The brushed silver exterior certainly catches the light, though you'll also find that the mirrored surface over the display attracts fingerprints and smudges. On the upside, the metal skin feels solid in the hand. We like that the slider mechanism clicks firmly into place on either end, but a thumb grip for opening the phone would be nice. At 4.2 inches long by 2 inches wide and 0.53 inches deep, the Shine II travels well. It's on the heavier side (4.4 ounces), but it wasn't a bother.
The 2.2-inch display supports 262,000 colors (320x240 pixels). Colors and graphics are sharp, the display is bright, and the menus are easy to use. You can change the brightness, backlighting time, dialing font size, and color and menu font size. You also can view the menus in list or icon styles.
As we mentioned, the Shine II doesn't offer improved navigation controls. Though the KE970's array was weird, we liked it once we learned how to use it. The CU720 took a turn for the worse with its tiny joystick and the Shine II takes another unsuccessful track. To begin with, the two soft keys below the display are way too thin. We could find them by feel, but you had to press them just right. The four-way toggle takes up almost the entire area below the soft keys. It's quite spacious, but it's way too stiff to be useful. Thankfully, the rectangular OK button is a bit better. It's raised above the surface of the phone and is easy to find by touch.
As on many slider phones, the keypad buttons are flush. Dialing by feel is rather difficult, but the backlighting is bright and the keys have a nice give beneath your finger. In usual LG style, the numbers on the keys are large, though the letters are quite small. People with visual impairments should take note. Above the keypad buttons are a large clear/back button and the Talk and End/power keys. We'd prefer the option to access these without opening the slider.
On the left spine you'll find a slim and flush volume rocker. On the opposite spine are a camera shutter, a control that opens an onscreen shortcut menu, and the charger port/headset jack. Though the latter uses the Micro-USB charger standard, we'd rather have a 3.5mm headset jack. Also, a combined jack means you can use only one peripheral at a time. The camera lens and flash sit on the battery cover, but you'll need to remove the cover to access the MicroSD card slot.
The Shine II's 1,000-contact phone book has room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can assign callers to groups, and for caller ID you can assign your friends a photo and one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. Basic features include an alarm clock, a calendar, a note pad, a calendar, a tip calculator, a full duplex speakerphone, a world clock, a task list, a stop watch, and a unit converter.
The Shine II offers a fair number of features beyond the essentials. You'll find Bluetooth, PC syncing, voice commands and dialing, a voice recorder, a file manager, USB mass storage, and instant messaging (AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo). The Shine II also has Assisted-GPS and supports