The LG Secret is the third model in LG's premium Black Label Series, following on from its previous style-conscious eye-poppers, the Chocolate and Shine.
It's not just a pretty face though. Slim, sleek and elegant, the LG Secret is laced with higher end features including a 5-megapixel camera, touch sensitive controls and a smattering of touchscreen operation, high-speed HSDPA 3G multimedia functionality, plus motion controlled gaming.
But LG has crafted this stylish phone to be a tough cookie too – using carbon fibre and tempered glass to add durability and strength to the bodywork and screen, supposedly making it scratch resistant.
Tough phone design
This is a refined-looking handset, and its build oozes high-grade quality. The construction feels reassuringly robust, finished in solid but tactile materials, with a touch of de rigeur chrome edging around the sides to offset the moody black look.
Covering the screen is a tempered glass panel, built to take wear-and-tear pocket punishment, which it does to a large degree unscathed (though we'd recommend not trying to purposely test-damage it). It does attract plenty of finger smudges, though, so a bit of regular shining is required.
The sprung slider mechanism is lovely and smooth, and the numberpad beneath has a no-fuss key layout that's well spaced, almost flush but still finger-friendly for fast texting.
Despite the high-spec and toughness, it's a slim handset, measuring 102.8(h) x 50.8(w) x 11.8(d)mm, though its build quality does up the weight to 116g.
The 2.4-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels), 262K-colour display dominates the front panel when closed, with a minimalist control set-up on view – there's just a trio of small call, end and clear keys in chrome at the bottom, plus an unmarked button centred in the black panel midway between these keys and the screen.
With the phone fired up though, the black panel kicks into life as a touch-sensitive control set-up, with pleasant blue graphic dots that 'pulse' when a button is pressed.
This isn't one of the context-changing control pads we've seen from LG with the KF600 – instead, the 'Neon Touch Navigation' system is essentially a refinement of the touch control virtual navigation D-pad-style control first seen on the Chocolate series.
Effectively, this operates just like a conventional press-button navigation pad. It works well enough for negotiating the menus and controls, offering a touch of haptic feedback (a slight vibration, and optional sound) as well as the light effects when a button is tapped.
The softkeys are touch operated too. They all take care of menu navigation pretty much as you'd get with a regular D-pad – with the physical central button the selector key - so it shouldn't be too confusing for most mobile users.
There are shortcuts from the virtual D-pad too, and LG helpfully uses its regular sub-menu numbered option system, so if you prefer, you can simply select options by hitting number keys rather than touch-scrolling.
As with any touch-operated phone, users will have to get used to the sensitivity and responsiveness of the touch-pad; it's pretty good, but stray fingers can sometimes activate controls accidentally, so you need to be aware when handling the phone. In closed mode, though, an auto-keylock should eliminate this.
As well as the touchpad action, the LG Secret has more touchscreen control up its sleeve. A button on the side activates its 'Touch Media' function, allowing users to operate some – but not all - of the phone's multimedia gadgetry by direct touchscreen operation.
Five Touch Media icons pop up on screen, for activating the music player, FM radio, photo gallery, Picsel document viewer, and its M-Toy motion-controlled games.
Although this screen tapping works well enough, all these functions can be accessed and used smoothly enough from the regular menu system, so the touchscreen control does feel a bit of an odd add-on - more attention-grabbing gimmickry than must-use technology.
The touchscreen music player and radio control interfaces, for instance, add little more to functionality than you can get with the regular touchpad.
On the plus side, zooming into documents is made easy, and dabbing your way through photos is pleasant enough, but the touchscreen is really not essential to using and enjoying the Secret. And once you've started pressing the display, you do get an urge to prod the screen to control regular functions, even when the Touch Media function is off…
LG has included accelerometer motion sensor technology in the Secret, which flips the screen view between landscape and portrait, depending on how the phone is being held.
As well as changing the display for viewing videos and images, it also switches when the full web browser is operating, and when viewing documents. In addition, LG has co-opted the motion sensor for a spot of motion-controlled gaming, with six M-Toy games that uses handset action rather than button pressing.
Controlled by flicking and tilting the phone, M-Toy activities include motion controlled darts, baseball, fishing, hammer-throwing, a maze, and an odd magic ball.
These are a bit of a novelty to start with, and will probably get you waving your phone around, but they are quite limited and may soon lose your interest. A couple of regular Java games – golf and sudoku - are included too, and more can be added.
Touch operation aside, the LG Secret's main 5-megapixel camera is one of its highlight features (there's a secondary low res camera too for video calling, just above the display).
We were impressed by the imaging results from the phone, with shots in a variety of lighting conditions coming out well exposed and crisply detailed. You can get some lovely shots with this cameraphone.
There's a 2-step autofocus system, so you can lock on to the subject you want in a composition (and get auto metering set accordingly), which works as well as you'd hope. A macro mode offers the option to get close in shots sharp too.
With an LED photo light rather than a xenon flash, low-lighting shooting is reasonably illuminated at short distances, but results aren't exceptional. There are also a number of settings options you can adjust, and post shot in-phone editing tricks you can play with images.
A blogging option – you can send pics straight to Blogger accounts – is also included in the imaging software.
As well as high quality still images, the Secret puts in a fine performance for video capture. You can shoot at VGA quality (640x480 pixels) at 30 frames per second, for some smooth looking mobile video footage.
For a bit of extra video fun, you can try the slow motion mode, using 120 frames per second capture in QVGA (320x240 pixels) resolution, or the fast motion option for a bit of fast-forward style playback.
The Secret's video credentials also include DivX certified recording and playback, and preloaded software also gives you the ability to add music and edit videos in-phone. You can also upload your own clips directly to YouTube, using embedded software.
Impressive music player
Tune playing is decent enough too. Whether you go for touchscreen or touchpad control, it's straightforward to use, with the usual selection of MP3 player categories to browse and choose from.
The sound performance is rather good too; LG supplies a decent set of in-ear 'phones that produce a fine, balanced sound. Bass is good, with plenty of mid- and high-range detail too. You can also upgrade headphones, thanks to a 3.5mm jack adapter that's part of the two-piece in-box earphone set. Alternatively, stereo Bluetooth wireless earwear is supported.
The Secret comes with 100MB of internal storage, although you can supplement this by adding MicroSD cards (up to 4GB cards can be used).
For more free music listening, the tidily equipped FM radio inside the Secret can store up to 50 channels, which should be more than adequate for anyone.
While the high-speed HSDPA connectivity enables you to download tunes and video clips quickly over the air from network portals, it also provides quick access to the internet.
The nippy browser is pretty good at rendering pages in short order, with the usual mobile options to negotiate pages and optimise them for the mobile screen. It does use motion sensor screen orientation, which is handy, but you can't use the touchscreen to tap on links or zoom. An RSS reader facility also enables you to select feeds from your favourite websites and blogs for regular updates.
There's also web-based apps include links to Yahoo! oneSearch, plus YouTube for mobile.
A selection of standard organiser apps, including calendar, to do and memo, plus voice recorder, caluclator and various clock functions, come pre-installed, and you can sync with a PC using supplied LG software. Email with attachment viewing is supported too.
Decent battery life
Making voice calls, audio quality on the Secret was perfectly acceptable, with decent sound at both ends and strong signal maintenance.
Battery life was reasonable; LG estimates a standby time of up to 260 hours in optimum conditions or talktime of up to 229 minutes. With our average amounts of use we managed about 2 days between charges.
The LG Secret certainly is a stylish phone, with a real high quality build and finish. Its unique mix of touchpad and Touch Media control is novel and snazzy, although the limited touchscreen element doesn't add much extra functional pizazz to the device's overall usability.
Its high quality 5-megapixel camera and fine video facilities, alongside a decent set of additional features do, however, add much to make this durable but elegant design a Secret you might just want to shout about.