Aimed at social-networking fans, the LG GW520 has a slide-out Qwerty keyboard and a touchscreen, but it doesn't quite qualify as a smart phone, as you can't load new applications onto it. This is reflected in the price, though. It's available for free on a £30-per-month contract, £170 on a pay-as-you-go deal, or £180 SIM-free.
Hidden Qwerty keyboard
The GW520 is a reasonably attractive phone, but the matte silver finish looks rather cheap, and there's no alluring chrome trim, as is found on similarly priced Nokia handsets. Nevertheless, the phone is relatively small and compact, especially given that it hides a slide-out Qwerty keyboard in its frame.
The keyboard is one of the GW520's most impressive features. The keys are relatively large and spaced out well, so you don't end up hitting neighbouring buttons when you go to press one. Consequently, it's a pleasure to use for tapping out long text messages and emails, or even just entering Web addresses in the browser.
What's on the menu?
We also quite like the phone's menu system. It presents you with a home screen that you can customise by adding widgets, such as an 'analogue' clock, music player or picture slideshow. When it gets too cluttered, you just shake the handset and it automatically lines the icons up neatly. Tapping the blue button at the bottom of the home screen takes you into the main menu. This is divided into four tabs -- communications, entertainment, utilities and settings -- making it pretty easy to find what you're looking for. It's very simple to set up the email app with your personal or webmail account, and there's also a handy Facebook app.
But, while the menu system is good, interacting with it is something of a pain, as the 71mm (2.8-inch) resistive touchscreen just isn't sensitive enough to accurately respond to finger presses. You often have to tap again and again to get it to register a command, with the result that it quickly becomes very annoying to use.
That's a shame, as the screen has a decent resolution of 240x400 pixels, and so does a good job of displaying pages in the phone's fairly impressive Web browser. The phone also has an accelerometer that automatically switches the screen from portrait to landscape mode when you turn the phone on its side. The handset also automatically switches into landscape mode when you open the keyboard.
While the GW520 supports Bluetooth and HSDPA, LG has, rather annoyingly, left out Wi-Fi connectivity, so you're totally reliant on your mobile connection for all data downloads.
The GW520's call quality is rather good. The earpiece produces crisp and loud audio. Even the speaker-phone mode works well, as the speaker is loud and its mic doesn't pick up too much background noise. Battery life is something of a letdown, though. LG only rates the talk time at 4.5 hours, and we found that we generally needed to recharge the handset at the end of every day.
For a phone aimed at social-networking fans, the camera isn't great either. It's got a meagre, 3-megapixel resolution and lacks both autofocus and a flash. Pictures are just about useable, but they don't look too hot when you transfer them to a PC.
LG is obviously aiming the GW520 at those who like to indulge in a spot of social networking, but there are better handsets out there for the task. This phone offers only Facebook integration, and has a poor touchscreen that makes the handset quite annoying to use at times.
Edited by Charles Kloet