Friday, August 14, 2009

LG wrist mobile...... LG GD910

LG GD910 Tick-tock, tick-tock


If you see someone having a chat on their wristwatch you may decide they've lost contact with the mothership. Well, it beats us what you'd think when the mothership calls back. But maybe this little personality test will help us figure it out.

You find the idea of a video-call enabled wristwatch phone:
a) Cool
b) Fool-around cool
c) Downright mental
d) Man, not another Trekkie test!
e) Who cares as long as we make some buck out of it.

All right then, if you answered B, C or D it's pretty obvious you're not from LG. And hey, if you answered A, those who answered E will love to meet you.

Tick-tock, digital wristwatch phones are nothing new actually, but somehow we need to pull ourselves together and start taking them seriously. LG and Samsung do, so there must be something, right.

LG GD910 official photos

The LG GD910 for one is dead serious judging by that price tag they have there. Or shall we call it LG double O seven - not so much for the cloak-and-dagger form factor as for the license to kill your savings. Well, it does make some sense really: almost acceptable dimensions and all the basic phone features duly covered. Touchscreen, fast data and video calling on a wristwatch - go ahead and call it crazy but you'd still be interested.

So, let's check out that specs sheet then, shall we?

Key features:

  • Wristwatch form factor with a leather strap
  • Water splash resistant (we're still raising the 900 euro needed to test it)
  • 1.43" capacitive touchscreen display with a resolution of 128 x 160 pixels
  • Comes with a Bluetooth headset
  • Excellent sunlight legibility
  • Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
  • 3G with 7.2Mbps HSDPA and video-calling
  • Bluetooth v2.0 with A2DP
  • 2GB onboard storage
  • Video call camera capable of making photos in VGA (640 x 480 pixels) resolution
  • Flash UI, optimized for finger usage
  • Text-to-speech enabled (no Klingon support as of yet)
  • Voice commands
  • Flight mode

Main disadvantages:

  • See water resistance above
  • Bulkier than even a large watch
  • No way to expand the built-in memory
  • Display colors and contrast are pretty washed out even in the dark
  • UI is somewhat slow at times
  • No FM radio
  • Trekkies would rather go for a lapel phone

We bet some of those disadvantages you already knew, while the rest of them will receive their due explanation as the review unfolds. For now we'll just say we don't have a clue about the LG GD910 target audience so we're trying to cover up our embarrassment with lame jokes.

LG GD910 at ours

Anyway, while hardly any self-respecting geek will wear one, the LG wristwatch can still count on the geek's benefit of the doubt. We sure hope we don't live to review ear implants as the next in mobile phones but we guess we can handle a wristwatch. Let's see what it's got (and what it doesn't).

LG GD910 360-degree spin

It's really strange that LG went for a regular letter-number designation for their first watchphone. We would have expected marketing to come up with at least something more easy to remember such as the LG Crystal.

Design and construction

The LG GD910 is too big for a watch but then, impressively small for a phone. Take the strap away and you have an LG touchscreen Mini-Me. Truth be told, if you fancy watches with larger dials you might find the LG GD910 size just fine. The really troublesome bit is its thickness really. We do however acknowledge the engineering achievement of squeezing in a capacitive touchscreen, 3G and video calls on top of the basic calling and texting stuff in that compact body.

The LG GD910 next to a couple of regular watches

Perhaps the future efforts will be in reducing the bulging girth. We haven't actually seen the Samsung Samsung S9110 in person but it sure looks quite thinner than the LG wristwatch. The The Samsung timepiece is no match for the LG specs though - it's some video-calls short of a childhood dream gadget (though maybe we didn't all grow up watching the same cartoons).

Anyway, back to the GD910, there's a fully-functional handset hiding inside and that's its main point, not the geeky charm or fashion value.

The leather strap is pretty nice and simple (at least on poor pre-release unit) but that charming simplicity hardly matches the fancy digital dials that appear on the screen. We're glad that for the final retail version LG went for a more mature strap enhanced with a metal clasp to secure the device on your wrist.

The nice and simple strap on our pre-release unit • the LG final piece

The watch dial is actually a 1.43" 256K-color capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 128 x 160 pixels. Its image quality is rather disappointing but to be honest we hardly expected otherwise given the specs.

The display size is rather limiting (especially for a touchscreen), which makes it quite a challenge to use comfortably at first, but we got used to it sooner than expected. Anyway, we guess it's a good balance in terms of comfort of use given the limitations of the form factor.

The only other things to note at the front are the earpiece and the VGA camera, which is used for video-calling.

The display image quality is hardly impressive

The sunlight legibility was the first surprise of the GD910 screen. As one would expect from a watch it's perfectly visible in any lighting conditions, including bright sun. Also the capacitive technology used makes sure the display is pleasingly responsive.

The next surprise however was unpleasant. It may be due to our unit being pre-release and all, but we've hardly seen so poor colors and contrast on a mobile screen lately.

The right side of the LG GD910 is where its hardware controls are placed - typical watch style. The GD910 has a Call key, which doubles as menu button in most menus, the Clear/Back button and the End key. They're comfortable enough to use but you have to account for some limitations across the interface.

For example in the music player the back key is used for setting the volume, so there is no actual back button functionality there. Pressing the middle key in the music player or during a call launches an onscreen volume control which you finger sweep up and down. It works quite alright even of the LG GD910's tiny screen.

The bottom side of the watch has a steel cover which you rotate to unlatch. We guess there might be some kind of tool for the purpose in the retail package but a coin will also do though you risk to scratch the groove walls.

The battery cover fits quite firmly so it needs a hard push to release but this was to be expected in a water-proof watchphone. Under the cover is the SIM card compartment and that's about that. We are sorry to break it to you but the swapping the battery is not a DIY option. There's no way to expand the built-in memory as well.

Removing the LG GD910 back panel

The tour around the LG GD910 comes to a final stop at the metallic connectors at the bottom of the watchphone. To charge the battery you need to place the GD910 on the special cradle which takes in a proprietary LG charger or data cable. We guess a standard micro or miniUSB plug is too much to ask.

The general build quality of the LG GD910 is probably the best thing about the whole device. With nice looking and seemingly durable materials it looks set to last.

The GD910 worn on the wrist

Now let's move on and check out what the GD910 has on the inside. It's a small piece but that probably makes the user interface all the more important.