The LG KF700 looks like a familiar touchscreen phone – the front dominated by a large 3-inch screen with no buttons to be seen. But LG has equipped it with a slide out numberpad at the bottom for more conventional number dialling and text tapping.
In addition, this triple-action phone has a novel Shortcut Dial on the side for quick access to a bunch of functions and applications, and for menu scrolling and other operational duties.
This versatile approach to the touchscreen, is designed to cover as many user control preferences as possible. LG has determined that each type of control does the function that best suits its input method.
Touch isn’t its only strength, however. This is a 3G phone supporting high-speed HSDPA download technology, and there’s multimedia player functionality for music and video, plus a full web browser. A decent 3-megapixel camera with an autofocus system and flash is also part of the spec.
In case you’re wondering, the KF700 doesn’t support Wi-Fi, nor is it based on any smartphone operating system. Instead, LG has geared up the device with a version of its in-house touchscreen-based user interface.
To accommodate the sizeable display and slider the KF700 has the build of a stocky candybar phone, measuring 102(h) x 51(w) x 14.5(d) mm, weighing in at a respectable 107g.
The front design is minimalist. No buttons, just the 240x480 pixels, 3-inch, 262K-colour TFT touchscreen, a camera perched above it for face-to-face 3G video-calling, and the LG logo.
On the top of the phone is a covered slot for MicroSD card expansion – it supports cards up to 2GB, on top of its 90MB onboard storage.
On one side of the phone is the LG connector socket for earphones, charger and data cable, plus the useful screen lock/unlock button and a camera key for booting up the shooter and taking snaps. The other flank has the Shortcut Dial poking out, for left-handed thumb or right-handed finger operation.
A button beneath this activates the Shortcut Dial feature, which displays a semi-circular rotating carousel of six icons onscreen (you can set these yourself if you like). You can twirl between these and press the screen or button to select.
The numberpad slides out in regulation fashion – no fancy tricks. The flush keys are large and well separated by grooves. Although there’s a touchscreen, all text inputting is via the numberpad, so we’re pleased it’s fuss-free and finger-friendly.
The touchscreen is, of course, the key attraction of the KF700. LG has refined the user interface previously given a run-out in the Viewty. While you couldn’t really compare it to the fluid elegance of the (more expensive) iPhone’s benchmark-setting multi-touch control, the KF700’s negotiating the user interface is very intuitive and pleasingly responsive.
Delving into the functions from the home page is straightforward. Four icon-marked buttons are ranged in a row at the bottom of the display. Tapping one of these opens up a particular essential function – phone calls, contacts list, messaging, and main menu activation.
A further icon above these on our O2-branded KF700 sample (O2 has an exclusive deal in the UK for this phone) fires up the web browser, taking you directly to the O2 Active home page.
Another tab near the top of the screen enables you to place a clock, memo note, calendar or world clock on your standby screen, widget-style. Pressing the screen, you get haptic feedback buzzing to let you know your touch has registered (usually a must for effective touchscreen control on most devices).
Typical LG layout
The main menu button opens up a further grid of labelled icons representing functions. They’re arranged according to category, with another set of four tab buttons running vertically up the right side allowing you to view apps by category (roughly multimedia, phone, tools and applications, and settings).
This is visually very useful, and doesn’t overload the user with excessive choices or need to scroll. Options are easy to spot, and logically foldered.
Touch an icon and you open up the feature and appropriate sub menus. Simple. Sub menu follow LG’s usual convention of numbered options; you can scroll down with finger sweeps or press options onscreen, but if the slider’s open you can also press the appropriate number key to select.
The side dial can also be used to scroll through menus, although you can’t click in to select like on other dial-control devices – you have to tap the screen. That click action we’ve seen before on other phones would’ve been more efficient.
An intuitive mobile phone
You can sweep through lists and various other items – such as image gallery - using finger swipe motion. This can work better for certain menus or options than others, though, and doesn’t flow as smoothly as on the iPhone’s screen.
Nonetheless, these belts-and-braces methods of getting about menus makes it easy and intuitive to use. It doesn’t take much getting used to either and, unlike some touchscreen devices, isn’t frustrating to use for day-to-day functionality.
There always seems to be a quick way to functions, with virtual home, messaging and contacts buttons above each sub menu screen, plus a multi-tasking list so you can easily switch between open apps.
There’s no handwriting recognition or virtual keypad for texting or email, but you can neatly combine numberpad entry, dial selection and touch for composing and editing messages.
Using touchscreen control for settings adjustments, the 3-megapixel camera on the KF700 is a pleasingly effective shooter. It doesn’t bristle with the high-end features enjoyed on the 5-megapixel Viewty, but it does produce good quality images.
It is based around an efficient and responsive autofocus system and has a reasonably illuminating LED flash for low light shooting.
The camera enables you to take high quality close ups too, using the autofocus for macro shots. A 2-step shutter means you can select the subject in focus and then change the composition of a shot if you want to, allowing you to be more creative.
The phone is held in landscape mode when using the camera, and on the lower resolution settings you can use the dial to pull in or out with the digital zoom.
The few initial menu options flanking the viewfinder image onscreen are uncluttered, clear and large enough to avoid accidental function-hopping. You can delve deeper with a settings button, but again, options are clearly laid out and easy to use.
Image quality is generally very good, with vibrant colour rendition and responsive automatic metering. There are few typical cameraphone effects and gimmicks in the settings locker, and you can also use editing tools to for a bit of post-shot in-phone tweaking.
While the KF700 can capture video, its quality is average, shooting at QVGA maximum resolution at 15 frames per second – not a patch on the Viewty’s video capabilities. Naturally, downloaded or copied video is played back in a much smoother and more assured way on the large wide screen.
Speedy internet browsing
The browser is another feature that LG has enhanced with the triple action control method. The HSDPA connectivity speeds up download time, so pages load faster.
You can view in portrait or landscape, and the screen buttons give you some useful browsing and viewing options literally at your fingertips. The Shortcut Dial comes into its own, too, enabling you to swiftly zoom in or out of pages – making it easy to read small text and scan pages, and blowing up links for easier finger-pressing.
With other options to adapt the layout for the screen and so on, the web browser experience works pretty well.
Quality music player
The LG KF700 has a very capable music player inside too.
Again, LG has kept the user interface sensible – no unnecessary touch-based gimmickry to confuse the layout. Just simple controls anyone with a digital music player will understand, plus well laid out track information. And it looks attractive enough too (particularly with the black theme activated), with album cover art supported if available.
It sounds fine through the supplied average quality earphones, but you can make it sound much better if you use your own better quality headphones.
There’s no standard 3.5mm jack socket for headphones on the phone itself, but LG’s earphones come in two parts, with a 3.5mm adapter on one that allows you to plug in your own ear-gear. You can then really appreciate the fine quality sound the KF700 can produce.
Stereo Bluetooth is another headphone option, while you can play tunes through the loudspeaker – though this option isn’t big on sound quality.
For further free listening, you can check out the FM radio, which is nicely integrated with the control system.
An array of handy features
LG has lined up a range of additional tools and typical mid-range mobile gadgetry, such as an organiser, voice recorder, memo, calculator, world clock, unit convertor and stopwatch.
A couple of touch-based games are included too, although they may not be that attractive for a typical KF700 user. Maybe more so are some flash animation home page wallpapers based on Keith Haring’s distinctive artwork – as introduced on the KF600.
As far as additional web-based tools are concerned, there’s a link for the Yahoo! oneSearch online mobile-optimised search application. LG is kitting out some versions of the KF700 with support for Google Maps, GMail, YouTube, Blogger and Google Search too, but these were disappointingly absent from the O2 version of the phone we tested.
Standard battery life
Battery life shouldn’t be a major issue with the KF700, despite its 3G connectivity, touchscreen operation and highly playable multimedia functionality.
LG estimates that it can last between charges for up to 280 hours of standby time when operating on a 3G network or up to 340 hours in standard GSM coverage. Or you can expect up to 3 hours of pure talktime.
In effect, mixing up usage in our usual average-consumer kind of way, we usually got between two and three days of 3G action out of the phone before we needed to plug it in. That’s not excessive for a phone of this kind.
The call performance couldn’t be faulted – good sound quality at both ends plus a reliable network performance that ticked the right boxes.
A great multimedia phone from LG
The KF700 has a good spread of mid-range multimedia functionality, which is easily accessible and user-friendly, thanks to LG’s sensibly arranged and functional touch interface.
Its 3G HSDPA connectivity gives its web-based features a speed boost too OK, it’s not the iPhone, and there is no Wi-Fi or smartphone operating system that you might desire of a touchscreen operated phone.
But LG has pitched the KF700 as more of an attractive mid-tier 3G phone with touch control. It may not be a do-everything mobile, but its key multimedia features work well, and are integrated practically with the phone’s variety of input methods.
LG’s shown a sure touch with this mobile.