Boasting an attractive frame and a keyboard so great your fingertips will dance a merry jig of joy when you compose your first text, the LG Town C300 certainly looks the part. It's a shame it's so lacking in the data connectivity stakes, and that going online with it is akin to pulling teeth.
The LG Town C300 can be purchased for around £60 on pay as you go, or £100 unlocked and SIM-free.
Phone about Town
Once the sole dominion of suit-wearing business types, the mobile phone Qwerty keypad is slowly but surely trickling down to the masses, with devices such as the Samsung Genio Qwerty and Nokia E5 proving that typing heaven needn't come with an expensive price tag. LG's Town C300 is a new addition to this merry band of button-heavy budget blowers, and aims to bestow BlackBerry-style text input on mainstream mobile users.
The C300 certainly has the looks to impress, with its mirrored front and attractive 38-button keyboard. The inclusion of such a large number of keys has had a perceptible effect on the dimensions of the device -- it's wider than most candybar-format phones, although when placed alongside your average touchscreen mobile, the difference is negligible.
The keys are slightly raised which makes them easy to discern from one another. Typing on the C300 is a real pleasure, and is unquestionably one of the key selling points of the entire device. If you're accustomed to T9 or even touchscreen text input, returning to your traditional interface is very hard after sampling the delights of LG's finger-friendly phone.
Keys to the kingdom
To complement the excellent keypad, LG has included four action keys -- two for call-related activities and two for menu commands. Nestled in between these buttons is a four-way direction pad, complete with a selection key with a big, friendly 'OK' printed on it. The main issue here is that the selection key is raised too high, and you'll find yourself accidentally pressing it when you actually meant to select a direction.
Owing to the wideness of the C300's frame, LG has opted for a landscape screen rather than a portrait one. Again, this is a move that mimics the BlackBerry design, which the C300 seeks so hard to emulate. One big advantage of having a screen in this orientation is that it allows you to view photos and videos more easily. In terms of quality, the 2.4-inch display is decent enough, although the 320x240-pixel resolution feels a little on the low side.
When you consider its wide footprint, the C300 doesn't weight all that much. At 92.5g, it's hardly going to give you wrist-strain. This is largely due to the fact it's constructed almost entirely out of plastic. To its credit, the components don't feel cheap, but the lack of heft does give the impression the C300 is more of a toy than a serious phone for serious mobile users. This feeling is reinforced by the use of bold colours.
The C300 comes equipped with a 2-megapixel camera and video-recording capability, neither of which is particularly mind-blowing. The snaps are good enough to share with other mobile users, but look ill-defined and washed out when enlarged on a computer screen. Recorded footage suffers from the usual issues, including heavy pixellation during fast movement and generally poor resolution.
Despite its business-like aspirations, the C300 doesn't possess 3G connectivity. Instead, it offers GPRS and EDGE for mobile data transfer. EDGE coverage is sketchy at best and varies greatly from carrier to carrier, so you're likely to be relying on the ponderous 2G connection. As you might imagine, this makes tasks such as downloading data and browsing the Web quite laborious. In fact, surfing the Net isn't one of the C300's strong points. When we attempted to visit the CNET UK website, we were informed the phone was 'out of memory'. Needless to say, trying to view image-heavy websites isn't really an option on this device.
Music fans will take comfort in the fact that the C300 has an all-important 3.5mm jack, so using your own pair of expensive headphones is most definitely an option. Internal memory is at a premium, so you'll ideally want to invest in a microSD card.
Like its sibling, the LG Cookie Fresh, the C300 features a social networking hub that allows you to log onto your Facebook, MySpace and Twitter accounts, all via a Java-based application. The notion sounds welcoming, but the shambling nature of the phone's network connection makes signing in an arduous proposition. It took us several attempts to successfully view our Twitter feed, and even then the laggy performance left a lot to be desired. If you're buying this phone with social networking in mind, don't expect a smooth ride.
The LG Town C300 may harbour delusions of stealing away precious market share from RIM's BlackBerry line, but the truth is this device just isn't in the same league. Granted, it has an excellent Qwerty keyboard and an appealing -- almost playful -- appearance, but the lack of 3G and Wi-Fi seriously dent its credibility as a business device. While it's possible to email and get online with the C300, both are slow and cumbersome undertakings.
LG's phone is more likely to fight for attention with the likes of the Alcatel OT-255 and Nokia C3, and should find a more receptive audience among younger mobile users who crave the keyboards of their parents' BlackBerrys but don't have enough pocket money to afford them.
Edited by Emma Bayly