How fresh do we like our cookies? LG Cookie Fresh GS290. Available for around £40 on a pay-as-you-go contract, this is one of the cheapest touchscreen phones we've seen. But is it any good?
Fresh from the oven
The Cookie Fresh keeps the slim, matte black finish (it's also available with pink, blue or white colour accents) that we liked on the original Cookie KP500. Despite its slender measurements, this phone fits a 76mm (3-inch), WQVGA touchscreen into its sleek frame. It retains the three buttons along the bottom of the screen that we saw on its predecessor -- a call, call-end and shortcut button.
On the back, you'll find a 2-megapixel camera. Around the edges, there are buttons to control the volume, initiate the camera mode and lock the handset. There's also a microSD card slot, and a micro-USB port for connecting the Cookie Fresh to a PC.
We were taken with the Cookie Fresh's display. In this price range, our expectations of screens are so low that, if we expressed them in sound, whales would mistake us for members of their family. The Cookie Fresh, however, surprised us with its bright, clear, 240x400-pixel display. On-screen objects look sharp, and text is clear. All in all, the Cookie Fresh is a good-looking phone for the price.
The Cookie Fresh has an interesting interface. Unfortunately, swiping your way around it proves slightly tricky at times. The touchscreen is of the resistive rather than capacitive variety, which means you'll have to exert some pressure on the screen in order for your input to register, and, because the screen itself is quite small, it's too easy to clumsily hit the wrong icons.
The phone offers three home screens. One is for your most frequently used widgets, and can be customised with some judicious dragging and dropping from a widget menu. Note that you can't download more apps or widgets. You'll be set if you're a Facebook fan, but out of luck if you like Twitter.
There's also a 'livesquare' home screen that's populated with avatars representing your contacts. This screen lets you quickly email, call or text those friends of yours lucky enough to appear on it. You can also assign little animal avatars to your contacts. They're cute enough to melt the heart of even the frostiest tech journalist.
Finally, there's a speed-dial screen, which serves a similar purpose to the livesquare screen, letting you quickly get in touch with your buddies, without having to go through the phone book.
Tapping the menu button will bring up the full menu, which looks rather like a brightly coloured chessboard. There are 16 tiny, square icons sorted into categories, such as communication, entertainment, utilities and settings. Scrolling to the right reveals 16 more. This is one area in which using the touchscreen proved quite tricky -- the gap between icons is slender, and we found ourselves accidentally opening applications when we only wanted to view the next screen of options.
One thing that impressed us about the Cookie Fresh is the way you can use the shortcut button to handle multitasking. Once an application, such as the calendar, is running, hitting this key will open a favourite-apps window in a pop-up. From there, you can launch new applications and widgets, and cycle through programs that are running with another press of the shortcut key. It's a simple but effective way of doing several things at once, and we can see it being particularly useful if you want to use the music player software while tapping out a text message, for example.
Text input is a simple affair, thanks to LG's decision to opt for an on-screen alphanumeric keypad, rather than trying to jam a virtual Qwerty keyboard onto the little resistive screen. This makes actually inputting text at speed on the Cookie Fresh pretty simple.
Another big help is the huge dollop of haptic feedback that LG has ladled all over this phone. It vibrates with just about every touch, and many menu actions will cause the built-in vibrator to go so crazy that it feels as if you're trying to contain a tiny vole in your hands. Still, this feedback really helped us when navigating with the touchscreen.
The Cookie Fresh has a lower-spec camera than its predecessor, which sported a 3-megapixel snapper. It doesn't make much difference to the quality of your photos, though. The Cookie Fresh's 2-megapixel camera will perform ably if you're more concerned with just capturing the moment than getting top-quality images, and it also features a camcorder mode. There's no flash, but we weren't expecting one at this price.
The call quality is good, and the volume keys on the side of the handset are a real help. The phone's connectivity is rather disappointing, though -- there's no 3G or Wi-Fi for speeding up your online adventures.
The battery won't last longer than a few days at most. In that regard, the Cookie Fresh accurately imitates the high-spec smart phones of today.
For the price, the LG Cookie Fresh GS290 is a decent device, even if it won't be bothering most smart phones any time soon. In particular, the fantastically bright and clear screen is one of the best we've seen on a phone of this price. We have our gripes about parts of the interface, but the handset's very well designed overall, and we don't think you'll find yourself throwing it under a bus in a fit of pique.
Edited by Charles Kloet