LG GD900 Crystal £349.99
28th Jul 2009 | 14:59
Is the first transparent phone clearly just a gimmick?
LG GD900 Crystal: Overview, design and feel
LG has pushed the design boat out again, this time bringing the world's first transparent phone in the touchscreen GD900 Crystal.
However, this model isn't beating Apple or Google's Android at its own game - this is about pushing the boundaries of what's possible in a feature phone, and to that end has included an 8MP camera, LG's nascent S-Class interface and a sliding (lest we forget, transparent) touch-sensitive keypad to make things a little bit more special.
The phone itself is pretty solid, despite being mostly made of plastic. What's interesting is the piece you'd expect to be flimsy is actually the most sturdy - the slide out keypad is made of glass, and not plastic.
The keys are top-lit by an LED array, and the whole thing is encircled by a metal frame, which really gives the phone a touch of elegance.
The battery cover, which is also transparent so as not to block the effect, is a little more flimsy and is made of plastic (allowing a view of the stylised battery underneath), although it has a unique hinged clasp to release it from the chassis of the phone.
The slide action is firm and secure, thanks to the glass, which adds a pleasant weight to the device, which is actually only a sprightly 127g.
In terms of buttons on the phone, there's only the normal up / down key and the camera button, which positioned centrally in order for it to move to the correct position when the slide is used.
There's also a power switch at the top, which activates sleep mode, and three touch sensitive buttons: call, opening the cube interface and terminate, under the screen, with a similar (if more sensitive) feel to the LG BL40 Chocolate.
A sad point - we lost track of the amount of times we accidentally brushed the terminate key while using any number of applications, shutting them down instantly. It's best to learn to hold your breath when using the GD900 Crystal lest you accidentally call your Nan or something.
The camera itself, an 8MP effort with flash, is under the slider as well, so there's no way to use the LG GD900 in closed mode when taking a picture.
Another neat design feature is the fact the microSD slot (which can munch up to 32GB of creamy data goodness), traditionally hidden beneath the battery or a closable door on the chassis, is under the slider as well, so giving easy access to hot swap cards.
There's sadly no 3.5mm jack on the phone, with only a double hinged door hiding a microUSB slot for an adaptor and also the charger (although the build quality is solid on the covering - it's certainly unlikely to break off over your time with the GD900).
A front facing camera peeks out of you from the front of the phone, showing that although the high end smartphones might not want it (think Toshiba TG01, HTC Hero and Apple's iPhone 3GS) LG still thinks people are after the chance to look at their buddies as they chat.
In the box
LG has supplied all the bits and pieces you'll need in the box with the GD900, which is a little smaller than most packaging these days (although not as teeny as the Hero or HTC Magic).
We get a microUSB charger, a PC connection lead and adaptor (both also microUSB). There's the perfunctory manual (although no person should ever stoop to using it... that takes all the fun out of the game) and computer software too, and of course the phone with battery. But we assume you knew that already.
LG has also packed in some OK earbuds for listening to your choons and video, although with the adaptor we'd expect you to upgrade these fairly sharpish. They're a lot better than the ones supplied with the iPhone, but they're not as good as those given with the latest in the Samsung range.
LG GD900 Crystal: Interface
Those of you familiar with the latest LG phones won't be surprised to see the re-appearance of the S-Class interface on the GD900.
What you will be unfamiliar with (and in fact every mobile phone user too) is the ability to use the touch-sensitive keypad to navigate through the phone and internet browser too, and it's a novel yet useful feature.
To give a quick lowdown to the uninitiated, the S-Class interface runs off two processors within the phone, one controlling the actual grunt work of the phone's commands and the other working with the screen to provide the graphics (in a similar manner to the Palm Pre).
It features a spinning cube interface that lets you flick it around on the screen, with each side corresponding to an element of the phone (contacts, widgets, multimedia and customisable icons).
Users can either access the cube to switch to new screens (which is fun, but not really a lot of use in real terms) or swipe left and right to move from display to display.
There's also the menu screen that basically lines up all the icons to be seen at once, in a manner not dissimilar to a certain iPhone 3GS.
Using the touch-sensitive keypad is a weird experience, as it basically works exactly the same as the touchscreen itself, letting you swipe left and right to flick through the screens, and dragging up and down to scroll.
In addition to this, you can also set up the touchpad to recognise gestures - there are nine options to choose from in all.
While most aren't really worth bothering (because it's easier to just activate them from the homescreen) there are some cool things in there, like drawing a circle to open the browser or writing a new message by drawing an 'M'.
Essentially it's just another level of cool novelty on top of an already unique keypad, and is a lot more useful for the internet than it is to control a touchscreen that's just millimetres away from your finger.
That said, there are times, such as scrolling through the favourite contacts (which have slightly teeny icons to reference your friends by) when it helps to not obscure the screen by wiping your sweaty digits all over it, so in areas like this the touchpad comes in handy.
The thing is you don't want to have to keep opening up the keypad every time you want to use the touchscreen, but there are times when you simply have to. For instance, when you have your favourite contacts arranged in the 'wheel' formation to scroll through, you can't actually swipe left and right to enter the next screen as the icons keep getting in the way and moving around.
Similarly, the customisable widgets screen allows you to scroll up and down in order to place more items on the display, but this is unlocked and will roll vertically under your finger when you try and stroke left and right if you don't get it precisely at right angles.
As mentioned before, the button to turn off the screen and put the phone into sleep mode is on the top, in a similar fashion to HTC's efforts, a method we're a big fan of.
Exiting the lock screen is simple too: you simply have to hold down the screen at the bottom and the LG GD900 Crystal buzzes happily back into life.
However, there are only two ways to actually force the GD900 to let you unlock the phone: holding down the power key or hitting the volume buttons, with the touch sensitive options not offering a great deal.
It's not a massive hindrance, it just doesn't feel as intuitive as other handsets, and when the phone is slid open, the power button is a long way from the index finger, so you have to shift the phone in your hand to reach it.
Talking of bizarre button placements, the same can be said for the on screen varieties too. The 'Menu' and 'Back' options seen on most phones to call up the necessary info and navigate back to the home screen are present and correct on the LG GD900 Crystal, but are at the top rather than the bottom of the phone.
We didn't think it would be that much of a problem, as this is something we've seen with the other S-Class devices, such as the LG Arena.
However, as we noted above with the power button, when slid open, the size of the device is such that you have to keep shifting the handset up and down, which is really irritating in day to day life.
Of course, you can just shut the keypad down, but if you're in something like messaging you want to keep it open for use, and it just adds another layer of action to navigation.
But overall, the layout of the S-Class interface is such that it looks and feels elegant. The capacitive touchscreen has a WVGA resolution, which gives pin sharp graphics on the somewhat teeny 3-inch screen.
The menu system is a joy to scroll through, and the menus for each application have the same slick animation we've come to expect from the Korean phones, with items sliding and swooping into view, and snappily too.
There is a noticeable lag when trying to open some things or flick through lists of names and photos, so we still think, as we did with the Arena, that the S-Class system needs a few more rounds of refinement before it can be classed as a competitor to other UIs.
Add to that the fact the touchscreen is still a couple of paces behind the rest of the pack (the accuracy and speed of action is almost appalling at times, which we'll come onto when speaking about the internet browser) and it's a case of good, but not brilliant from LG's interface on the GD900 Crystal.
LG GD900 Crystal: Calling and contacts
Call quality on the LG GD900 Crystal is good, as you would expect with the slide out keypad. It doesn't look like the microphone is at the bottom of the sliding section, which makes sense given that it's a high-end and transparent touchpad too.
The sound sensor is still at the bottom of the phone (and picks up noise as well as any other) but the sliding portion acts as a shield against wind and background noise, meaning you can have nicer conversations on the go.
Video calling is also included in the package, with the option to use the feature nestling nicely on the menu system that swoops open to you when you tap the contact's name.
It's not earth shatteringly brilliant, and it seems you have to hold the phone about a full arm's length away from your face in order to actually see your full visage at the other end. Quality is super-grainy as well, with the normal delay on the call between video and voice.
If there person on the other end said to you: "This is Jerhe from Moscow, reporting live from the scene of cheese riots" then you'd probably accept it, as the quality really feels like a satellite link up from the early '90s.
Receiving a call was a little annoying, as the proximity sensor on the phone automatically shut the screen off when in the pocket. When someone phones you, the GD900 Crystal struggles somewhat to awaken from its slumber, meaning you have to wait a second or two to see who's calling you.
Add to that a difficult to use 'answer slider' (why can't we just use the keys? Does every touchscreen have to have the same features as the iPhone) and you can see why calling wasn't our favourite aspect of the LG GD900 Crystal.
The contacts menu is laid out as you'd expect, with each person listed alphabetically. Should you want to scroll down, there's not easy 'grab and flick' interface as you get with other touchscreens - flicking your finger will get you around five people deeper.
To combat this, LG has added a little grab bar at the side of the list, which pops up when you start messing about with the touchscreen. It's a little hard to grab this little tab, and when you do drag it down, the whole thing judders like a Dutch barge (which used to judder a fair bit, in case you didn't understand the simile).
This is another example of the lag present on the LG GD900 Crystal we mentioned earlier, and means that trying to accurately cycle down to the 'R' list for instance is a little bit like a farce comedy - "Back a bit!" "No, you've gone too far" "Missed it again" "Steady... and there it is."
In terms of the contacts themselves, there's the usual range of things you can do, such as adding a picture and email address... and well, that's it. There's no field for the pointless fax number, company name or IM handle, elements which we have to applaud LG for not adding in.
It was a bit hard to work out how to actually edit a contact, but all such options are actually rather neatly laid out below the name when you tap it - you just have to realise that you need to swipe sideways to access more information. (In fairness, there was an arrow... we just thought it was there for decoration).
The picture is especially important if you want to add a load of favourites to the contact home screen, with each snap becoming to the icon you need to flick to call or message your pal.
However, once again the LG GD900 Crystal's sub-par touch interface comes into play - say you have 15 favourites, and they're all arranged in the wheel. Initially you think can't just scroll down hard and flick the options quickly past to get to the one you want, assuming you have to manually parse through each one.
But actually you can, although it takes a long time to learn the knack of doing so and then the wheel spins manically in front of your eyes - it's a nice idea but it certainly isn't as intuitive as it could have been.
LG GD900 Crystal: Messaging
When we first got our hands on the S-Class interface, one of the things that made us dislike it was the fact that messaging was nigh on impossible to do accurately on the touchscreen.
Thankfully, that's somewhat improved in the GD900 Crystal, although we're sad to say it's probably the worst feature on the phone still.
The main difference is the presence of the keypad - hooray, physical keys! Well, that's the problem: they're not physical keys at all, just zones on a touchpad the phone registers.
And the real problem is the touchpad is totally smooth, meaning that trying to work out which key you're pressing without looking is difficult.
We assume there was no way to score lines into the keypad without ruining the touch sensitivity, as the GD900 Crystal is crying out for this kind of differentiation.
The keys are nicely spaced, and the traditional keys are given the usual jobs (0 for space, * for predictive text word selection etc) which meant that texting was easy and intuitive.
Except, well, it wasn't. The fact the keys aren't different under the feel of the thumb meant that every fifth letter was missed, and the way you hold the GD900 Crystal in the hand means that you're more likely than not to miss the keys at the bottom.
We can't tell you how many times we wanted to scroll through the predictive text options and instead hit the 7 key instead, adding a plethora of 'S' or 'R's to the situation.
Similarly the predictive text options are a little bit too helpful, not content with letting you cycle through the words available from your key combo the GD900 Crystal also wants to helpfully suggest words. So accidentally misspelling 'here' will offer up 'hegemony'. No, not quite what we're looking for...
You may think it's a trifling matter, but often the mistakes will sneak through and you'll realise you've written totally the wrong word in the middle of the message.
And there doesn't appear to be an easy way to enter a new word into the T9 dictionary, which is more than annoying when you're trying to look cool and swear to your mates on a regular basis.
The on-screen options aren't too bad though, with the full screen QWERTY keyboard much improved in terms of accuracy. It's still a long way from perfect, but in terms of a full letter effort from a non-smartphone, it's more than usable.
Of course, the accelerometer is such that it takes an age to actually switch from portrait to landscape, but given the HTC Hero can't manage the same task with any efficiency, we can't be too harsh on the LG GD900 Crystal.
The lag problems we mentioned earlier are once again apparent in messaging, and are probably highlighted the most. When receiving a text message, it takes 2-3 seconds for it to open for you to read. Should you then want to reply, you have to wait another 2-3 seconds for the phone to load everything up before you can get typing.
However, the inbox layout is nice, with each person's chatterings to you accompanied by a reply box for easy conversations.
Those of you that don't want to use the onboard link to the browser version Google Mail will want to set up the phone to download email by POP3 or Exchange.
Both are super easy options, with you only needing to put in your email address and password (and possibly user name, although most will be the same as the email address) before the whole thing is set up.
You can have multiple accounts too, with a default options available for your favourite one.
We tried to set up our Gmail account using this method, and as we said, it was a cinch to put together. But from there, things got a little tricky. First of all, the phone wanted to download 300 messages, which we were OK with as it seemed to be doing so pretty quickly.
Then, when all had arrived, the most recent email from our account was seven months ago - and despite all our best efforts (deleting old messages, sending test new ones) we couldn't get it to update to our new emails, thus rendering it... well, pointless.
We could send them pretty easily from the account (providing you either knew the address or had it saved in the contacts) but if you can't find out when you've got a new one, then there's not much point.
LG GD900 Crystal: Internet
Internet on the LG GD900 Crystal was something we liked - primarily because we enjoyed swishing our finger in a big circle to open the browser.
When opened, you're greeted with a fairly basic menu, with offerings of the homepage, bookmarks and history displayed in front of you.
It's a similar system to the Nokia S60 browser, and gives you access to what you want more often than it blocks your path to the home page.
The internet browser uses multi-touch (with LG seemingly among the first to nab the method from Apple) so you can pinch and zoom to head in and out.
LANDSCAPE BROWSING: The GD900 struggles to reformat some HTML sites in landscape mode
Unfortunately the design of the phone is such that pinching and zooming isn't an easy action to complete on the 3-inch touchscreen - and what's worse is there doesn't seem to be a way to smart-fit the text on the screen to fit the size of display you want, meaning you're constantly scurrying backwards and forwards trying to read what you were after.
The touchpad, as we mentioned before, is a godsend for the browser on the LG GD900 Crystal. One of the most annoying things about the phone is the fact that not only is the touchscreen accuracy off by a few millimetres, but there's no way to recalibrate it to the touch of your hand.
This means that pressing links on the browser is a pretty hit and miss affair, and after stabbing at the screen five times and not hitting the right option, we wanted to throw the phone against a wall. And if you're trying to hit an option in a list of hyperlinks, you better settle down for the long haul before you get the right one.
Which is why the touch keypad is so helpful, letting you scroll the mouse around the screen as you would on a laptop version.
The browser is pretty fast, and there's a helpful screen that offers you Wi-Fi and 3G connection (although it calls the latter UMTS to confuse the majority of people... don't worry, they're the same thing).
It also integrates both an RSS Reader and a 'Saved Pages' option, and the two are nice extras to the browser. The RSS Reader is a little basic, and adding feeds to it can be a total nightmare. Even when there's a little icon on the screen shouting at you that a feed is ready to be subscribed to, the LG GD900 Crystal defaults to Google's Reader, so unless you want to copy out the address, it's not worth doing.
Saved Pages is exactly what it sounds like - saving pages so you can take them offline later without the need to faff about looking for a connection. It works in exactly the same way as you see with offline browsing on your PC and was an unexpected perk in the LG GD900 Crystal.
As you'd expect with a feature phone like this, the browser is more suited to looking through mobile web pages than the full internet - it manages the former with blinding speed, and the latter like a drugged-up pensioner with a dodgy hip.
And another problem reared its head with the internet browser - it constantly sucked up all the GD900's internal memory, which in turn shut down the browser. (Grrrr...)
And worse than that, some options in the menus caused the whole phone to restart something that was becoming a common theme throughout the review - double grrr....).
The browser is good, but it doesn't have the slick feeling you might have seen on other, more expensive phones. There are some good ideas, but we can't imagine you'd ever choose trying to look up something on the GD900 Crystal over a computer - however, those of you who have had an iPhone will know it's perfectly possible to have a decent web browsing experience.
LG GD900 Crystal: Camera
If you've never played with a cameraphone from LG but love camera settings, then you're in for something of a treat with the GD900 Crystal, and that's not even with the myriad of scene options you get on the Crystal's cameraphone sibling - the Viewty Smart.
We'll get to the picture quality itself in a moment (thought we have to warn you, it's not half great) but the sheer amount of options on board will surely impress the novice photographer.
We're talking auto focus, macro mode, manual focus, face detection, colour and white balance, variable ISO settings - and that's not even getting onto the sheer amount of quality options on board to make your pic that much sharper.
However, picture quality on the GD900 Crystal is not as good as you'd hope for compared to other 8MP offerings, and certainly not as good as our Olympus SP-565UZ camera.
We've also placed the same photo from the Nokia N86 8MP phone in there for comparison, so you can see the difference in what's possible from a cameraphone.
In good light with a variety of colours, the LG GD900 actually performs well against the fancy Olympus and the Nokia N86:
LG GD900 Crystal
In strong light, the GD900 struggles to pick out any other detail, while both the Olympus and the N86 perform well:
LG GD900 Crystal
For some reason, when using the phone indoors with a well-lit scene, the LG suffers terribly from washed-out colours, while the other two use it well to pick out detail:
LG GD900 Crystal
The digital zoom mode on the LG GD900 is also slightly poorer than the rest, although the Olympus optical zoom is similar in quality to the Nokia N86's digital version:
LG GD900 Crystal
Despite giving us an average camera, LG has thrown a decent video recorder in with the GD900 Crystal. There's the usual low-res QVGA option, but also DVD-quality VGA at 30 frames per second, as well as the same in a widescreen option.
For those of you who like messing about with slow motion effects, there's a slo-mo option that takes 120 frames per second, so you can a) analyse things like your golf swing in minute detail or b) take a video of you punching your mate on the arm over and over again in slow and precise glory.
LG GD900 Crystal: Media
The media output on the LG GD900 is never going to be sterling when you don't have a 3.5mm headphone jack - at least that's what we thought when we first picked up the device.
It is true to some degree, as that extra 20 cm of wire is always going to create havoc at some point, and it's really too far away from the mouth to be used as a hands free kit.
But we were very impressed with the way the phone handled music, video and radio, which only made us wish there was a slot for our headphone jack to nestle in nicely and pump our heads full of lovely video and music.
The music player is nothing necessarily special, but does what you need it to, with the option to list by artist, song title, genre etc. When you do choose an option, you're presented with the list in an easy to press way, with each selection giving you the chance to play the track or add it to favourites (shifting it to the front screen).
When a track is playing, it brings up a visualisation-based music player behind it, which might only be a novelty, but adds a certain sleekness to the whole player.
Tunes themselves sound OK, although a little top heavy (which is fine if you have appalling pop taste like we do) so if you're up for a session of drum 'n' bass you might want to look elsewhere for your day to day music player.
However, if you've got some properly imported tunes onboard, then you can at least make them sound a little bit better with the Dolby for Mobile improvements - video is similarly improved and sounds far more rich and expansive.
Video on the GD900 Crystal, however, is stunning, and especially so considering it's only an LCD screen in there. We say 'only' as we've been treated to some OLED crackers from Samsung in recent months, the i8910HD and the exquisite display on the Jet.
But given the apparent handicap, the LG GD900 Crystal serves up video and manages to make (good quality) movies look practically high definition on the WVGA screen.
A couple of gripes (and pretty major ones if you're going to use the video player frequently) is the fact you have to resize the picture every time you fire up a video, pressing the tiny plus sign to do so.
You can, weirdly, pinch and zoom to move into the picture on the screen - why, we don't know, but it's there if you want it.
Another problem - there actually isn't a dedicated video player on board. Well, obviously there is, otherwise you couldn't watch anything. But there's no dedicated application you can start up and resume from the last watched point, for instance.
Until these applications catch up dedicated PMPs on this front (and some are getting closer, such as the iPhone) all the great video quality is completely wasted.
There's also no support for AVI files - which is a little crazy considering other LG phones have had a bevy of DivX / Dolby sound features.
Ample storage is available either from the onboard 1.5GB memory, or through the microSD memory card slot, so you'll have no excuse to ever run out of music or video options when you push it to the maximum 17.5GB (although we reckon you could push a new 32GB card in there and whack it up to 33.5GB... if you're that bothered).
We can't imagine you'll want to watch a full length film on the 3-inch screen regularly (if ever) but stack up the music videos and you'll have a welcome distraction on the train.
The FM radio, which has the tactile tuning / volume dial LG likes to show off whenever it gets the chance, is OK. It's the same as every other phone on the market - alright when you're static, but always needs headphones to act as an antenna and will start to crackle the second you even think about moving the lead.
Scanning for channels still required you to say yes or no to each one in turn, rather than dumping them all onto the phone and letting you delete the boring ones.
And of course, it doesn't work if you want to use a Bluetooth headset (which the phone will accept using A2DP 2.1), so no Radio 1 over a wireless connection.
Bluetooth headset listening was also a little bit sub par in our opinion, and has sounded much better on the Altec Lansing BackBeat 906's we were using for the test.
Media on this phone might be a long way from perfect, but it does certainly show off a couple of things - LG's plan to keep using super high-res screens is clearly paying off, and the S-Class system could be great for media if the company included a 3.5mm headphone jack and some more dedicated media software on the phone.
LG GD900 Crystal: Applications
The LG GD900 Crystal has a few of the old favourite applications on board, like stopwatch (a very basic version - we're talking start, stop and reset here) and the voice recorder, which can go on and on and on thanks to the inbuilt 1.5GB of storage.
The latter is actually surprisingly clear, with the LG GD900 Crystal able to pick up conversations quite well in a packed room. Playback of said conversations is less pleasing, with an inability to scroll through easily, but transfer them the PC and it's a good time for all.
We had high hopes for the widgets menu on the homescreen, looking forward to the Samsung beating options we were bound to be given. We were left a little disappointed when the best thing on offer was either a weather widget - which took you to a (fairly decent and well laid out) online portal and didn't show any information on the homescreen - or an M-toy link.
The latter was a confusing set of 'games' that consisted of a number of options like a table tennis motion control game where you flung the phone around to register higher bounces (culminating in striking an aeroplane).
There's also tumbling dice (you can work that one out for yourselves, although it does have a weird board-based section) and a 'Wheel mania' application that allowed you to set up things like activities and food and spin the wheel to select one (presumably so you can decide on something to do) but this just kept spinning and spinning for ages.
Google Maps is your basic Java version on the GD900 Crystal, so don't expect all the whizz-bang features you've come to expect from the likes of the iPhone. More frustratingly GPS wasn't even present to help locate you - all we had was mobile tower triangulation to work out a rough location within a kilometre.
For a phone costing £500 this is a bit bizarre - we thought that the fact nearly every handset has it these days is a clear sign it's easy to implement.
The applications on the LG GD900 Crystal are basic, but functional. The ideas highlight the touch and motion properties on the phone are good in principle, but in our opinion only show how overly-sensitive the phone is, especially when it comes to accurately hitting the right section of the touchscreen.
LG GD900 Crystal: Battery life and Organiser
The organisational functions on the LG GD900 are pretty standard, and will likely be more for the odd reminder than organising a busy business schedule. (Then again, we'd have to recommend a smartphone like the Palm Pre or HTC Touch Diamond 2 for such a task, as synchronisation with online calendars is crucial).
You've got the calendar, which is nicely laid out and lets you not only select a day but also swipe across by month. There's the obvious option to double tap a day and see what's happening, or use the drop down menu to add an appointment.
It's not exactly intuitive, you can't seem to update it via the web or Exchange, and apart from being able to siphon it all into a single day view and being able to see how busy you are any given month, it's not a life changing application.
The alarm is a lot simpler to use, and more fun too. To set the time you have to spin a big clock's hands round to the desired time, which is lots of fun (although accuracy to the correct minute can be a problem).
You also have a simple way of hitting the alarm icon to turn it on and off, and you can set the exact days it will bleep annoyingly at you as well.
Given the sheer amount of touch-sensitivity in board it's unsurprising that moderate usage of the LG GD900 will munch the battery like a starved cow dropped in Cumbria will gorge on grass.
The phone we had bizarrely got confused over how much battery was left when the first of the three bars dropped, with it constantly showing one, then two, then back to one again before quickly deciding it was out of juice.
This is one of those annoying phones that nags when you have low battery, not letting you use the high drain functions like internet when you've heard the first bleep.
The 1000mAh battery was a little lightweight we thought, and would have expected a larger version, especially for the price. If you use this as a music player or a regular internet device, you can easily expect to charge it every night.
LG GD900 Crystal: Connectivity and PC software
The GD900 Crystal actually has a neat range of connectivity on board, and it's all very well executed. In fact, we'd struggle to find a problem with it.
Wi-Fi (something we love to see on non-smartphones) is quick to set up, and will auto connect to the same network when you switch it on. It would be nice to have a shortcut to operating the Wi-Fi, but being slightly locked away in the menu or on the icon homescreen is hardly a bad thing.
We also like being asked which method we'd like to use when browsing. Normally you have to set a default in these situations, so we were glad to be able to choose between 3G and Wi-Fi when both were present.
Bluetooth 2.1 (with A2DP support) worked well, as we previously mentioned. Pairing with our headphones and the PC was quick and swift to set up, and the phone happily remembered old connections. So often we find handsets that can't scan for the device we want to sync, and happily the GD900 Crystal isn't one of them.
GPS is annoyingly not included, as we mentioned before, so Google Maps is never going to be able to hit the heady heights of location-based services it's capable of. It's a real let down that such a thing isn't included on this phone, especially when assumed that all phones could install it cheaply.
Connection to the PC is a fairly simple experience. Load up the PC Suite on the CD, connect the phone and let it install with the inbuilt drivers and you're good to go.
From there, you can interact with all the usual options such as importing music and backing up contacts, but LG allows you to do it with a nice interface (for instance you can simply click an arrow to decide whether it goes from the phone to the computer or vice versa) and all the actions are performed quickly.
The interface is a little basic (and at times, almost Windows 95-like visually) but hey, it does the job and lets you send texts from the PC too, so there's not a lot to dislike.
LG GD900 Crystal: Hands on gallery
LG GD900 Crystal: Official gallery
LG GD900 Crystal: Final Verdict
The LG GD900 Crystal is a very different phone. It packs in a lot of touchscreen and touch sensitive technology, has a very class feel and a nicely designed chassis and LG's high end camera tech on board too.
Using the S-Class interface once more proves to be a step in the right direction, although the touch sensitivity is a little bit high and can get a little bit annoying.
Video recording was excellent, probably only second to Samsung's i8910HD, and the chassis is beautiful and clearly well put together - we would imagine you'd have this phone for a long time without needing it to head to the repair shop.
The video playback, once up and running, was superb, probably among the most pin sharp you'll see on the market at the moment, although the 3-inch screen is probably helping make everything look that much clearer.
The S-Class interface has been improved, with text input accuracy raised again. We also dug the action of the touch pad gesture control, which is good as otherwise it would be a very expensive novelty, and in many cases it was the better option for navigation over the touchscreen.
Sadly, there are a lot of things on this phone that mean it won't appeal to the mass market. The first thing is the price: £500 for a device that isn't even a smartphone. It certainly looks classy, but the touchpad, with the non-defined characters, isn't as good as it could have been. That said, a little bit of internet shopping means you can find it for £350, which makes it a little bit more palatable.
Internet accuracy and zooming was poor, despite the presence of pinch and zoom, thanks to the lack of proper smart fitting technology, and hitting the right link on the tiny screen could be a real problem at times.
The touch sensitivity of the buttons was also a problem - it was far too easy to hit the terminate key and shut down the application you were working on.
Text messaging, although the accuracy was improved, was simply not good enough, mostly for the touchpad reasons mentioned above. You can say all you want about the novelty of a transparent touchpad, but at the end of the day when you have to re-type the same word for the fifth time because you keep hitting the wrong key, something is up with the interface.
And not having GPS on board was a real shame - Google Maps (or any Java-based mapping software) simply isn't the same without being able to quickly find where you are.
Overall, it's hard to say where the phone lands in terms of overall performance. The transparent touch section isn't a novelty, it actually does the jobs it's supposed to, and looks super cool as well (we loved putting it to our eye and showing our friends).
But at the same time, it doesn't add a lot to the experience, and that's mostly due to a poor touchscreen effort again from LG.
The whole interface just feels too fragile, like you have to be utterly exact to hit the right portion. In other phones, you have a large level of tolerance for the fat fingered among you - with the GD900 Crystal, you simply don't.
Too many times we found ourselves accidentally shutting down an application, or having to wait a second or two for the phone to load a message or open an application.
We hope the S-Class interface prospers, because we like the fact LG pushes the boundary of design on phones. We're very excited by the likes of the new BL40 Chocolate phone, but the GD900 Crystal is not going to be a roaring success for LG - especially if you fork out £500 for the handset alone.