LG takes on the music-focused mobile phone market with the U400, a 3G slider model available exclusively on the 3 network.
While it can't quite match the in the smooth, slim and sexy stakes, LG's U400 has the same glossy finish and sliding form factor. Measuring 99.8mm by 48mm by 20.4mm and weighing 113 grams, it's nicely compact when closed, but lacks the simple elegance of its cocoa-monikered companion.
We've seen scroll wheels a lot in recent product reviews, and not just on iPod-inspired portable audio devices. LG's U400 slider phone features a jog dial that serves as a menu navigator, music track scroller and DJ-style "scratcher" when editing audio files. While it's an interesting change from the usual five-way button or joystick, it scores higher for gimmickry than practicality. We found the response of the jog dial inconsistent -- rotating the wheel a few clicks will not always move through the same amount of menu options. It is possible to navigate in a more conventional way by using the up/down and left/right parts of the dial, which we found ourselves resorting to quite frequently.
Sliding the phone open reveals a keypad that is comfortable to use and nicely spaced. The top part of the slider presents a few problems however -- button layout is unconventional, with the jog dial placed on the left and circular Send, End and Back keys squished on top of each other on the right. The position of the soft keys at the edges of the scroll wheel also does not correspond to the position of the related onscreen text, so we found ourselves occasionally pressing the wrong button.
The slider mechanism is nice and springy without being too sensitive; something we've been on the lookout for since experiencing the Nokia N80's not-as-smooth moves.
While the U400 is being billed as a music player-focused phone, there's also a lot of scope for to get creative with your multimedia -- features include a 2-megapixel camera with a host of customisation options for photo-taking and video-recording. There's also the melody composer, complete with a fun-for-five-minutes DJ function that allows you to add scratch sounds to music tracks using the jog dial.
The music player supports AAC, AMR, MP3, MIDI, WAV and WMA audio formats, while the video viewer allows you to watch MP4, WMV and 3GP files.