Editors' note: The LG GD900 Crystal has not been announced for a U.S. carrier, so we have republished the CNET U.K. review of the phone.
We're all for cool stuff that has no point besides looking awesome. Take, for example, Nate's hair. But plenty of pointless gimmicks just take up too much space. The LG GD900 Crystal has gimmicks galore, but too many of them get in the way of a smooth user experience, and the magic of a see-through keyboard isn't enough to make us fall in love with this phone.
You have to respect LG for trying something new with the GD900's keypad. It's made of tempered glass and lights up around the edges with bluish-white light. It's a very cool idea, and we love the heft and solidity of the glass. Unfortunately, the keypad doesn't feel quite as good as it could, because its back is made of much flimsier clear plastic.
The keypad is also a touch-sensitive controller. That means you can scroll through items on the phone with the swipe of a finger on the keypad. You can even use multitouch to zoom into images and Web pages by pinching your fingers on the keypad, as well as on the screen.
The touch-sensitive keypad is a great idea, since you can navigate around without obscuring the screen with your fingers. And, when you don't need it, it slides out of sight. But, unless you're doing something really fiddly, like clicking a link on a Web site that's crowded with them, we're not sure how useful it is.
Some of the touch-sensitive features are handy. For instance, one fun feature lets you use gestures--for example, drawing a circle--to launch the application of your choice, such as your contacts. But, because every surface is touch-sensitive, the GD900 is a very ticklish phone. Your gesture will probably flip the home screen and scroll some icons, as well as launch your contacts.
With two touch screens and a few buttons, there's hardly any surface that doesn't set off some response from the phone. We had to be careful to ensure that we only tapped or swiped what we meant to, and that proved particularly true with the three flat, touch-sensitive keys on the front.
But the quick and responsive keypad does work very well for good old-fashioned typing and dialing. That's fortunate, because the onscreen keyboard is terrible. It wasn't responsive enough to register our taps, and any keys that we hit during the lag didn't register, so we frequently missed letters out, rendering our messages nonsensical. The T9 predictive text didn't help us when we hit a nearby letter, unlike with the HTC Magic, and we didn't find an easy way to reject its over-complicated suggestions.
The GD900 suffers from the same problem as its stablemate, the LG Viewty Smart GC900: despite a massive 8-megapixel camera, it doesn't take very good photos.
In good light, our snaps were pretty average for a phone, with washed-out colors and a lack of detail. In dim conditions, photos were very noisy and the LED photo light gave our images a pink cast. We appreciate the shutter speed, however, with a snap in good light being taken less than 2 seconds after pressing the button. Still, the GD900 would lose out to the cheapest compact camera in a fight.
The GD900 has inherited the GC900's huge range of editing options, allowing you to do everything from crop your photos to selectively replace certain colors. The edits that we tried were quick and easy, and we liked how well they took advantage of the touch screen. But be warned: saving the edited images takes a few moments, so it's not for the impatient.
The GD900 also has a video recorder with its own editor, as well as an FM radio and a music player. There's a fair amount of room for all your media thanks to 1.5GB of onboard memory and a slot for a microSD memory card.
S-Class is low-class
The GD900 sports LG's S-Classuser interface. While we appreciate that LG has tried to improve the usability of its phones, we think the company has gone overboard with the S-Class UI. We hate the pointless spinning cube with its own dedicated button, also seen on the LG Arena KM900.
The multiple home screens are good, especially since you can customize them with spinning shortcuts to your favorite contacts, images and music. But it's just another hoop to jump through when the various widgets aren't well-designed. For example, the weather widget shows the same shining sun no matter what the weather's like, reducing it to a shortcut that's only useful if you open the full application. Also, while we like being able to see thumbnails of our favorite photos via the widget, it's frustrating that you can't open them in the gallery to edit them or send them over MMS or e-mail. It doesn't help that the phone's slightly sluggish at times, with widgets taking their time to pop up one after another on the screen.
Overall, the touch-sensitive surfaces, spinning-cube UI and plethora of widgets are great ideas in theory, but the more we used them the more annoying they got.
The GD900's browser does an excellent job of rendering complex pages, and we like the freedom of scrolling around using the touch screen or the keypad. Multitouch is also a welcome feature when surfing the Web, although zooming in and out isn't as smooth as we'd have liked.
The built-in Wi-Fi and 7.2Mbps HSDPA for speedy surfing over 3G make sure that even big sites like CNET.co.uk load quickly. The 76-millimeter (3-inch) screen isn't the biggest we've seen, but it's clear and bright.
If you're Wonder Woman and you need a phone that complements your invisible plane, the LG GD900 Crystal packs a good range of features into a unique body. But it doesn't look as cool as we'd hoped, andtwo touch screens sometimes prove too much of a good thing, leading to inadvertent taps. The GD900's responsive keypad makes up for the poor on-screen keyboard typical of LG touch-screen phones, but the S-Class user interface needs to improve before the phone can be truly pleasurable to use.