By December 7, 2007

LG KU990 Viewty review

LG Viewty reviewty.

A phone with a quality digital camera or a digital camera with a phone?


Well for the first time in probably 5 years – I’ve not used a smartphone for a week. The LG Viewty, and its other brother the Prada phone thing have interested me for a while, so when Matt rather randomly asked me to review LG’s latest and greatest I was more than happy to.

LG Viewty

LG KU990 Viewty

Lets get one thing out of the way first off: This is not an iPhone beater. As long as you don’t expect it to be – you’ll be fine.

It’s very much a “chav-phone”, and it will sell by the bucket load regardless of this, or any other review. It’s a bit of a looker really as well – surprising considering the huge touch screen.

What’s in the Box?

A decent package, which looks expensive and well thought out. I especially liked the named boxes within the main package, which make it clear which lead is from where. Especially useful when sending review devices back!

LG Viewty Box

LG Viewty Box

For the full low-down have a look at Matt’s unboxing video.

LG Viewty Specification:

  • 3″ 240 x 400 pixel touch screen
  • 5 megapixel digital camera with flash
  • 55 x 104 x 17 mm
  • 112 grams
  • Bluetooth 1.2 with A2DP
  • microSD card slot
  • DivX video capture VGA 30fps, QVGA 120fps
  • built in email client and web browser
  • bespoke flash based UI
  • front facinng camera for video calling

    At 103.5 x 54.4 x 14.8mm it is larger than the older Prada phone, but not by much. The extra space I guess its to do with a pretty special 5mp camera included in a still small form factor. It is most definitely not too big though – fits nicely in the pocket, and although it’s slightly heavy – it’s not a problem.

    Lets take a look around the device then, and on the front, as you might have guessed – a dominant 3 inch touch screen running at 240 x 400. The screen seems to be high quality – and sometimes you could also be fooled into thinking some of the displayed buttons are hardware based!

    While the standard earpiece and forward facing camera are found at the top of the screen, a single row of three buttons is all we find at the bottom. They are the rather common(!) call and end keys, sandwiching the ‘back’ button in the middle.

    LG Viewty Buttons

    LG Viewty Buttons

    Moving to the right hand side, we see the two position camera button – auto-focus, take photo, and a 3 position sliding switch, allowing the user to select between photos, videos, and playback/review. In between these, is the unlock/lock push button. Slightly concerned about this really – although I had no problems, I think the chances of accidently unlocking the device in your pocket could be quite high.

    LG Viewty right side

    LG Viewty right side

    On the opposite left side, all we find is the headset/data/charger socket, behind a sliding cover. This is most definitely not a standard socket I’ve seen – although I’m not sure if it’s an LG standard – maybe someone in the know could comment about this?

    LG Viewty left side

    LG Viewty left side

    On the top of the device – just the battery compartment release. There is no fixed power button on the device – it shares this function with the call end key. Just like old times!

    LG Viewty top

    LG Viewty top

    Finally on the bottom…. well there is no bottom. There is no flat edge – it just flows round from the hardware buttons on the front, to the LG logo on the camera front.

    LG Viewty bottom

    LG Viewty bottom

    Just a quick note on the reverse of the phone – it’s been designed to look exactly like a digital camera – and they have done an unbelievable job in achieving that aim. You really would not be able to tell that it isn’t a digital camera from the front.

    LG Viewty 'back'

    LG Viewty ‘back’

    I guess that I should also mention the strange stylus that’s included. Unlike most other devices I’ve come across, that would have the stylus slide into a slot in the phone itself, LG have elected to include a stylus that dangles from a string. It’s like a cross between a phone-charm and a lipstick. I think this will be something that the ladies may like but that the guys will leave in the box!

    LG Viewty stylus

    LG Viewty stylus


    Interesting section this. Obviously at Tracy and Matt, we tend to stick to a semi-rigid template for out review to aid comparisons. But how do you review software on a non-smartphone?

    The OS is usable. It’s certainly not going to win any awards – despite being skinable, and certainly not letting the side down too much. As it is a touch screen, you are without doubt going to compare it to the iPhone. As I said earlier – it’s not an iPhone beater, but then it isn’t £270 on an 18 month contract. Having said that, it does have 3G and a half decent camera – so specs wise, the Viewty isn’t bad at all in comparison.

    The touch screen UI is nice, but even when doing simple scrolling – its very apparently that this isn’t exactly a speed machine. Remember the lovely scrolling interface on the iPhone? Well its not really like that – think scrolling in XP without your graphics card driver installed. It’s usuable, but hard work at times.

    Unfortunately the speed issues don’t end there – and the camera functions also suffer. It isn’t the fastest to take photos, but it does OK. Certainly suitable for camera phone use, if not as a replacement for your digital camera. The main problem is looking through and reviewing old snaps. I don’t know if the 5mp size of the photos, coupled with the low spec CPU is the problem – but I suspect it probably is. It’s torturous trying to skim through photos – with each one taking up to 15 seconds to display.

    The rest of the O/S is pretty straightforward, and works rather well. Messaging is a breeze – even compared to the iPhone – with both an onscreen T9 board and full keyboard present. There is handwriting recognition, but somehow LG have managed to make it even worse than that built into Windows Mobile.

    Ease of use: I like smartphones, but it was nice to go back to a phone that just works. No silly bugs, no silly keypresses required, overly complicated menus etc – just a decent easy to use phone.

    On-screen T9/vibrating touch screen: It really works. The screen is great – and I assume a high quality touch sensor too – very accurate, very ease to tap out a message – and the vibrating response to a press really does work, and help to improve typing speed – at least for me

    Battery life: It doesn’t appear to go down. I’ve been needing a phone on me a lot this week – so have been charging it regularly – but I’ve never seen it go beyond three-quarters full.

    3g: It’s great to see 3g making it to almost all areas and markets of the mobile phone industry now. Personally, I think any phone without 3g should be taken off the shelves immediately, but equally LG deserve praise for including it.

    Poor PC Software – LG Suite. Stay away from it at all costs. Save photos to the storage card and use mass storage mode instead!

    Speed: Low spec compared to the iPhone I suspect, and it does at times suffer from it. I’m being picky in most cases, but the camera and picture review functions are a real let down.


    Anyway, back to the review. On startup I was very surprised (And a little confused to be honest), to find it had auto-selected Orange settings for me – despite no user input. The device was supplied direct from LG, so I suspect it may have auto-created these itself, finding the network from the SIM card. Odd that it didn’t bother to tell me, but a nice feature anyway.

    With this all setup, I had a bit of a play with the web browser (web, rather than wap), and the finger scrolling is especially useful, if a little hard to master.

    A major problem I have these days, having used Windows Mobile devices for so long, is message storage space. I’ve never deleted a text message or email from my WM phones – unless I’m hard resetting. Unfortunately like all non-smartphones, the LG only has so much room reserved for messages – regardless of microSD card installed. This is a pain in the bum LG!

    I should also note that LG maintain that a Youtube client will be installed on the final version, which will allow both download and upload of videos. Unfortunately it wasn’t available on this review unit.

    I hope this addition will be couple with an upgrade of the camera applications and tool as well. The options are endless – and its all very, very impressive in such a small, cheaper unit. It’s just way too slow. Hopefully this might be improved in the official released units – because the options available to edit photos and video – on the device – are some of the best I’ve used.

    To review this device though, I have to look at the day to day use of it. I have been lucky enough to have used the Viewty for quite a while, and I’m really impressed with the simple usability and stability of it. From the simple, if scary, unlock button to the onscreen qwerty keyboard in landscape mode.

    One other thing that bugs me about many devices at the moment, the LG Viewty included, is that they seem to come with their own proprietary connectors for headphones, chargers and data cables. I find this frustrating that each time you buy a new phone you have to buy new chargers etc. or you have to buy adapters in order to use any headphones other than the ones supplied. On the plus side there is a nice sliding cover over the connector which will help to prevent dust getting in there but is it too much to ask for a standard headphone socket and mini USB connector?

    LG Viewty connector

    LG Viewty connector

    One little titbit to end with, that I found while using the camera on the Viewty – the rocker switch around the camera lens, used to digitally zoom in and out when taking photos – is also an up/down rocker key throughout the entire O/S. Not ideally positioned – but sometimes useful when trying to move to a set position in a text! Another hardly-advertised feature is the support for divx movies. This coupled with the microSD slot makes the Viewty a small portable media player. Not bad for what isn’t exactly an expensive phone.

    LG Viewty camera

    LG Viewty camera


    I really didn’t expect to get along with this. The idea of a touch screen being the only input method was not something I fancied trying. Equally, I didn’t really fancy dropping my ultra smart TyTN for a ‘normal’ phone either.

    It did take a while for me to come around to the ideas behind the Viewty – but now as of Monday, with the device going back tomorrow, I’m almost sad to see it go. Its not smart, and in many ways is very limited compared to the phones I’m used to. But it just works. The touchscreen input – just works, the navigation – just works. It doesn’t do anything particularly special, but everything I really need it to do – it does.

    I think I like a non-smartphone.

    Review by: Mark

    [Post tag(s): , , , , , , ]

    Posted in: Reviews

    About the Author:

    More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
    Loading Facebook Comments ...

    Post a Comment

    No Trackbacks.