We're all for cool stuff that has no point besides looking awesome. Take, for example, Nate's hair. But plenty of pointless gimmicks just take up too much space. The LG GD900 Crystal has gimmicks galore, but too many of them get in the way of a smooth user experience, and the magic of a see-through keyboard isn't enough to make us fall in love with this phone.
The GD900 is available from free on a
£30-per-month contract, or for around £500 on a pay-as-you-go deal. You can also buy it SIM-free for around £350.
You've got to respect LG for trying something new with the GD900's keypad. It's made of tempered glass and lights up around the edges with bluish-white light. It's a very cool idea, and we love the heft and solidity of the glass. Unfortunately, the keypad doesn't feel quite as good as it could, because its back is made of much flimsier clear plastic.
The keypad is also a touch-sensitive controller. That means you can scroll through items on the phone with the swipe of a finger on the keypad. You can even use multitouch to zoom into images and Web pages by pinching your fingers on the keypad, as well as on the screen.
The touch-sensitive keypad is a great idea, since you can navigate around without obscuring the screen with your fingers. And, when you don't need it, it slides out of sight. But, unless you're doing something really fiddly, like clicking a link on a Web site that's crowded with them, we're not sure how useful it is.
Some of the touch-sensitive features are handy. For instance, one fun feature lets you use gestures -- for example, drawing a circle -- to launch the application of your choice, such as your contacts. But, because every surface is touch-sensitive, the GD900 is a very ticklish phone. Your gesture will probably flip the home screen and scroll some icons, as well as launch your contacts.
With two touchscreens and a few buttons, there's hardly any surface that doesn't set off some response from the phone. We had to be careful to ensure that we only tapped or swiped what we meant to, and that proved particularly true with the three flat, touch-sensitive keys on the front.
But the quick and responsive keypad does work very well for good old-fashioned typing and dialling. That's fortunate, because the on-screen keyboard is terrible. It wasn't responsive enough to register our taps, and any keys that we hit during the lag didn't register, so we frequently missed letters out, rendering our messages nonsensical. The T9 predictive text didn't help us when we hit a nearby letter, unlike with the HTC Magic, and we didn't find an easy way to reject its over-complicated suggestions.
The GD900 suffers from the same problem as its stablemate, the LG Viewty Smart GC900: despite a massive 8-megapixel camera, it doesn't take very good photos.
In good light, our snaps were pretty average for a phone, with washed-out colours and a lack of detail. In dim conditions, photos were very noisy and the LED photo light gave our images a pink cast. We appreciate the shutter speed, however, with a snap in good light being taken less than 2 seconds after pressing the button. Still, the GD900 would lose out to the cheapest compact camera in a fight.