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 ="http: reviews.cnet.com="" handheld-software="" telenav-gps-navigator-at="" 4505-3638_7-32136318.html"="">AT&T Navigator. Access to POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail is through a Web-based interface, so you'll be typing your messages on the alphanumeric keypad.
The 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in five resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to 160x120. You also can adjust the brightness, color effects, white balance, image quality, and shutter tone, and you can use a night mode, a 2x zoom, and a self-timer. The camcorder shoots clips with sound in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144). Editing options are similar to those of the still camera, including the flash, which doubles as a light. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 32 seconds, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode.
The Shine II has a generous 100MB of internal memory for storing your work. Alternatively, the microSD card slot accommodates cards up to 16GB. If you want to send it on to friends you can use a variety of methods, including MMS, Bluetooth, and e-mail. For videos, the handset supports AT&T's Video Share service. Photo quality is fairly good: colors were natural, but our images were the slightest bit blurry.
As a 3G phone, the Shine II offers the full set of AT&T's wireless broadband multimedia services. You'll find Cellular Video (streaming-video content) and AT&T Mobile Music (wireless song downloads through partners). The experience with the two applications is similar to that on other AT&T phones; both are minimalist in their designs, but the music player supports a wide variety of file formats and it offers features like album art, an equalizer, playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, and an airplane mode. You also get a solid selection of music-related features, such as support for XM Radio, Music ID, an app for making your own ringtones, music videos, and a community section.
Like many AT&T phones in its class, the Shine II offers a selection of Java apps, some of which are subscription-based. They include The Weather Channel, WikiMobile, Yellowpages Mobile, Notifier, a world clock, MobiTV, and Mobile Banking.
You can personalize the Shine II with a selection of wallpaper, color schemes, clock styles and alert tones. The handset also comes with demo versions of four games: Ms Pac-Man, Uno, Tetris and Diner Dash 2. You can use the WAP 2.0 browser to find full titles or download additional customization options and ringtones.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was satisfying, but we wouldn't say it was excellent. Though the volume was loud and voices sounded natural, the signal wasn't consistent. Not only did the audio cut out every now and then, there was also a slight amount of static. These issues didn't ruin our experience, but they were noticeable.
Our friends also heard a bit of static on their end, and a few mentioned that the Shine II picked up background noise. Though we didn't have any trouble hearing when we were in a noisy place, our callers weren't so lucky. Automated calling systems could understand us most of the time, though it was best if we were inside. On the upside, the speakerphone gets quite loud and is relatively clear. Bluetooth headset calls were fine.
The Shine II supports the 1900 and 2100 UMTS bands for 3G service. The browser performed well and we were mostly satisfied with the streaming-video quality. Clips loaded quickly and there was a small amount of pixelation at the beginning of each clip only. On one occasion a clip froze, but most of the time we didn't have any problems. Also, we were pleased that the video frame takes up the entire display. Music quality was fine thanks to the powerful external speaker. Your tunes won't have a lot of range, though, unless you use a headset.
The Shine II has a rated battery life of 3 hours and 20 minutes talk time and 12 days and 12 hours of standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 26 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Shine II has a digital SAR rating of 0.761 watts per kilogram.