LG's U8110 is a clamshell phone with dual screens and a built-in digital camera. The external screen is monochrome but in an interesting twist, it has multi-coloured backlights. Via the settings, you can set it to illuminate different colours for different alerts. For example, you could have the handset flash blue for calls, green for messages, and red for alarms.
LG has implemented a rotatable camera on the U8110 that makes it convenient to switch between self and external view during video calls and while taking photos. The U8110's 65K colour screen is bright and reasonably big (176 x 220 pixels) with sharp graphics.
There are three ways (or styles) to browse through the U8110's menu. First up is List view, which shows you all the available options from the top level menu on one screen. It may be less visually appealing than the others but you can see all options at once (and use a corresponding number key as a sub-menu shortcut). Secondly, there is Icon view, which works similarly to Filmstrip in Windows Explorer: giving you small thumbnails down the bottom with larger, animated images up top. Finally, Arc view is a novel way of browsing the menu where you rotate icons in an arc around the screen to choose an option, in a similar style to the dock used in Apple's OS X.
Aside from the standard numerical, answer and reject keys, the U8110 has a large number of shortcut keys built in to perform a range of shortcuts, such as the volume keys and a camera key on the left-hand side of the handset. Layout of the keypad is generally intuitive, with two soft keys above a four way navigation rocker which surrounds the OK button. There is a Back key on the left-hand side of the keypad and Clear to the right. Directly above the number keys are three extra keys, which bring up recent calls, the menu, or 3's services page.
Multimedia functionality includes a video and audio player, image viewer, and capture modes for video, stills and voice. The LG U8110 supports a range of sizes for still shots up to a maximum resolution of 640 x480 pixels (VGA). Photos and videos we took while testing the handset turned out reasonably well for a camera phone. While the audio player on the U8110 can handle MP3 songs, low storage capacity is a limiting factor.
The LG U8110 reserves memory for up 165 text messages, 500 contacts, 10 memos, and 150 entries in both the calendar and to do list. We also found there to be about 14MB of shared memory available for audio, images, video, EMS, MMS, e-mail and Java applications. So once you've taken a couple of snaps and a few videos, there's only enough room to squeeze in a couple of MP3 tracks. Unfortunately the U8110 doesn't have an expansion slot for memory cards.
LG has built a robust phone book into the U8110 that allows you to store extra details alongside each contact, such as multiple phone numbers and email addresses, photos, memos, web addresses, company and home address information.
Digging through the menu, we also found an array of other features including a world map showing global times, a converter for units of measurement and weight, and an xHTML browser.
Eight customisable profiles are easily accessible by pressing left on the navigation key to switch. Key tones can be set to imitate, for example, a piano, a steel drum, or a bird tweet. Different ring tones can be set for individual contacts as well as setting separate tones for incoming voice and video calls, message alerts and opening/closing the flip.
LG bundles a hands free headset, USB cable and a software CD, which includes proprietary synchronisation software that can import Outlook data onto your phone as well as an application to copy files from/to the handset via USB or IrDA.
We were impressed -- purely for narcissistic reasons -- when testing 3's services page in the xHTML browser that our first option was to download a sample of Jeremy by Pearl Jam (MIDI file), which we set as the ring tone. Aside from ring tones, other features from 3 include news headlines, comedy clips, competitions, movie trailers, sports and weather updates. Streaming video from the U8110 takes a couple of seconds to buffer then you're straight into the clip. Thankfully, you are not bound to listen to video clips through the headset; the U8110's speaker is relatively loud. Streaming Sky news updates and surf cam from Bondi Beach worked well and we experienced few dropouts testing the phone in inner city Sydney.
The 117-page colour user guide is laid out intuitively following the menu structure of the phone and features screenshots for explanations. While 3 offers other third generation phones, like NEC's e616 and e313, we prefer the LG U8110 as it combines an intuitive interface in a compact form without compromising on features.
Finally, other 3G mobile phone manufacturers should take a leaf out of LG's book when it comes to battery life. Our experience with 3G handsets is that they are generally cursed by a one-day-per-charge battery. LG's U8110 lasted between 2 to 3 days of noramal usage in our tests, which is a long lifespan in the third generation world.