Looks aren't everything, but they can sure shift a mobile phone. The Shine, then, has all the hallmarks of an instant classic. Its stunning silver looks grab attention wherever you are - and the first question isn't 'what can it do?' but 'where can I get one?'.
There's no mistaking, the LG Shine is a beautifully crafted sliderphone, its brushed metal casing complemented by a front panel with a large mirrored display. When inactive, the phone's 2.2-inch display fades and completely disappears behind the mirror, giving the phone a strikingly minimalist and elegant, reflective look.
LG announced the arrival of its Black Label series of must-have mobiles with the original KG800 Chocolate phone last year. The Shine is the second in this line of phones that aims to combine 'design, style and fashion' with technology.
The KG800 combined a sleekly proportioned slider form with touch-sensitive controls and a screen that 'disappeared' when not in use. Similarly, the Shine brings into play that now-you-see-it-now-you-don't aesthetic, but takes it a step further with the attention-grabbing mirror finish.
When it comes to functionality the Shine has high-fashion features to complement the looks. A 2- megapixel camera sits on the back of the phone, there's a multi-format digital music player and video player onboard, swappable MicroSD card memory and stereo Bluetooth.
What's notably absent from the first version of the Shine is 3G-enabled functionality - it's a regular quad-band GSM/GPRS model. However, those looking for 3G capability need not be too disappointed - a 3G variant of this device, featuring HSDPA high speed downloads and video call camera, is hot on it heels and expected to roll into UK stores shortly.
The LG Shine KE970s brushed metal body gives the phone considerable substance that broadens its appeal - LG claims its research shows that this phone hits the buttons of both sexes equally. It adds some weight too, tipping the scales at 116g (compared to 83g with the original Chocolate). It's a fraction slimmer, if a touch wider and taller than the KG800, though it's still comfortably pocketable.
Slipping up the slider, the smooth brushed-metal keypad beneath maintains the classy feel (with a stylistic nod to the Motorola RAZR). The finish, with all the keys flush to the surface, benefits from precise fingering, and the larger-digited may find the headroom between call start/end and cancel keys and the slider is a bit tight.
Closed, the Shine is a sharp looker; the front panel controls you'd usually expect of a slider phone have been reduced down to what appears to be a thin bar below the mirror screen, and a pair of minimally marked softkey controls on either side. The central part of the bar is actually a novel joywheel scroll control, with additional tiny menu navigation keys on either side. The roller wheel is an interesting alternative to standard four-way buttons (included on the Chocolate, among others).
In standby mode, like the software on the Chocolate range, these roll-and-scroll keys offer shortcuts to certain functions, such as contacts, ringtone setting, message inbox, and your selfcompiled favourite functions list. Similarly, the flanking softkeys tap you straight into the main menu screen or contacts list.
The scroll roller can also be pressed down to select the main menu, and subsequently to highlight and choose menu options. It's pretty intuitive stuff, though the buttons squeezed onto the same barrel as the roller are so small they can be fiddly to select without pressing the roller by mistake if you haven't got nails or have non-dainty fingers.
Anyone familiar with the LG Chocolate range will be immediately comfortable with the Shine's control system. Again, LG provides users with a variety of options to get where you want to go. You can scroll around a spread of menu icons to select features, or alternatively set them up as a list; in either case, choosing the number on the keypad relating to the menu option number is an alternative to scrolling.
One drawback with the roller is that it can instinctively become the point at which you push up the slider into the open position. This isn't a major problem in itself, as the keys are set to lock when the phone is closed, but as it slides open you can inadvertently find yourself engaging the messaging/voicemail options or other functions.
Push up the screen by thumbing up the display, and you'll encounter another issue - fingerprints on the screen. It's called the Shine, and that's what you'll find yourself doing fairly regularly if you want to keep that mirror sparkling. It is prone to smudging.
Impressively, though, it doesn't appear to be particularly susceptible to more damaging scratching. It's a surprisingly tough cookie, and days jangling around side by side in a pocket with this reviewer's keys and coins didn't leave a mark - no scratches, nothing. Not just a pretty fascia, then.
The brushed metal casing reinforces this impression in a stylish way. The minimalist back panel resembles a rather stylish slimline digital camera. It features a 2-megapixel camera, equipped with a high quality Schneider-Kreuznach lens array, plus there's a strong photo lamp for illumination in low light conditions.
The Shine offers a quick access side key for firing up the camera and for using sideways to take pictures. LG has packed in plenty of camera functionality here. Various resolution options are available, and there are autofocus on/offand macro options, the latter extremely useful for close range shooting.
There's a timer too and up to six-pics rapid-fire multi-shot facility. There are a selection of colour effects to add to images, plus a selection of white balance settings. A digital zoom of up to 4x is available, but only on lower resolutions, not on the 2-megapixel setting.
Close up images taken in macro mode were excellent - sharp when extremely close to the subject (less than 2cm away) and with none of the distortion or bowing you'd usually get from a cameraphone lens close up. The autofocus system works well - it takes a second or two to lock on but nothing excessive.
The results from the camera endorse LG's decision to collaborate with optics specialist Schneider- Kreuznach. Although image processing plays an important factor too, pictures snapped here were excellent and detailed, with no apparent barrelling or lens distortion when blown up.
The Shine is, as you might expect, also a videocapable handset. It can record in maximum 176x144 pixels resolution, and playback video. White balance control and image filter effects are accessible here too, as well as zoom control, and the photo lamp/flash can be used when shooting.
Quality here, though, is fairly average for a cameraphone video recorder, with a low frame record rate making moving footage playback somewhat stilted. Video clips and pictures can be sent via email as well as MMS or Bluetooth.
Another button on the side panel of the Shine gives instant access to the onboard multi-format music player (it supports MP3, AAC, AAC and AAC files). This opens up a list of the tracks you've loaded up or stored on the phone or on an optional plug in MicroSD card. You can attach the phone to a PC via a USB cable to drag and drop tracks in, as the phone can be use as a USB mass storage device.
LG supplies a nifty stereo headset in the box, which comes with a remote control box for operating the MP3 player. What's more, LG earns extra marks for providing a standard 3.5mm jack socket on the remote unit so you can either use the reasonable inear headset supplied or any regular set of headphones - thus boosting quality and playback performance. Alternatively you could try the stereo Bluetooth headset option, as the Shine supports the A2DP Bluetooth profile.
Should you wish to, you can use the onboard speakers but this, predictably, doesn't do full justice to the phone's music player.
The Shine can also be used to store other files onboard, which can be copied over via a USB connection. For this device, LG has stacked in some 70MB of internal memory, although swappable MicroSD cards can be used to expand this.
Usefully, the phone includes a neat document viewer, that can zoom in on PowerPoint, Word, PDF, Excel and text files sent to the phone via email or copied over via Bluetooth or on the memory card.
Other extras include an alarm clock, calculator, memo, stopwatch function, unit convertor and a world clock. Gamers may want to while away their time on BubbleSoccer or Fishing Mania games preinstalled on the phone - but they can also download other Java ones to complement these.
When you get a phone as good-looking at this, the second reaction (following the initial impressed eyebrow-raising) is to scour the spec sheet for potential flaws.
With the Shine, LG has targeted a particular market with a phone that hits the right buttons on design and style. It will, of course, fly off the shelves based on its looks alone. But it also manages to impress with a healthy line-up of features.
Sure, it doesn't have 3G capability (with all the high-speed multimedia goodies that brings as part of the package), but it does offer a very good camera package and a decent enough MP3 player to keep you tuned up for a good while, particularly if you've invested in extra MicroSD card expandable memory.
As a phone alone, it produces an impressive audio performance and battery life - while not the best we've come across - is adequate.
Some may find the roller key arrangement a little too tricksy, but it does add to the aesthetic excellence of the handset by maintaining the fascia's minimalist look. And let's face it, for many buyers of the Shine this is going to be its overwhelming attraction.