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REVIEW: Vodafone LG KS20 Windows Mobile Smartphone
Posted by Arne Hess - on Thursday, 06.12.07 - 18:28:49 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 85297x
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During the past 14 days I had the chance to test LG's latest Windows Mobile smartphone, the LG KS20, a Windows Mobile 6 Professional smartphone which is currently on sale from Vodafone.
The LG KS20 is a typical rep of a new kind of Windows Mobile Pocket PC Phone Editions, featuring latest state-of-the-art specs but unlike most previous Windows Mobile phones, the LG KS20 looks stylish which definitely also addresses non techies and attracting non-geeks as well as tech-savvies.
While the LG KS20 is designed for the EMEA and APAC markets only. While it's powered by a Qualcomm MSM7200 CPU, the device supports triband GSM/GPRS/EDGE as well as singleband UMTS/HSDPA up to 3.6 Mbps only.

Nevertheless, it also features WiFi b/g and a FM radio, something its strongest competitor - the HTC Touch Dual - lacks, as well as Bluetooth 2.0 including the today common stereo A2DP and AVRC Bluetooth profiles. Furthermore the KS20 features a 2 megapixel main autofocus camera with photo light support and a second front facing camera which can be used for UMTS video telephony as well as for self portrait photos and videos.
The LG KS20 includes 256 MB of ROM and 128 MB of RAM which can be enhanced using microSD memory cards. Out of the box, the KS20 doesn't supports SDHC cards but with an available hack, also SDHC cards are working and I've successfully tested a 8 GB microSD HC card with the review unit.

As said before, the design is quite minimalistic but stylish featuring a glossy piano black finishing which isn't such a bad fingerprint magnet at all. The overall quality is quite impressive and rocking solid, as you might expect it from a 1st tier mobile phone manufacture like LG and the KS20 makes no difference. Left and right from the centered 5-way joystick, the smartphone only includes two black (but white illuminated) call buttons.
On the back you get the 2 megapixel autofocus camera white the white photo LED next to it:

On the left side, the device features a propriety sync and charging jack which also takes the headset. Unfortunately LG decided to use its own jack design instead of using a standardized mini USB port. Next to the sync port, the volume keys are located. On the right side, the device sports the on/off switch, the microSD card slot (protected by a flap), an Internet Explorer Mobile shortcut key as well as the camera shutter which also starts the camera application:

 The LG KS20 doesn't features a slide-out keyboard but it's rather used by the touchscreen only. However, similar to the HTC Touch, Touch Dual, Touch Cruise or Samsung SGH-780, the KS20 also uses the latest frameless display technology which allows using the device either traditional with the stylus or with the thumbs. However, the overlying screen is a little bit softer which means you can easily touchscreen. But in the daily use, this isn't a big problem at all and overall, the stylus-less thumb use works pretty accurate.

Since the device is designed for thumb-use, LG added shortcuts to the bottom of the Today screen which calls a special thumb-use optimized Start menu which can be used instead of the original Windows Mobile Start menu. Furthermore it launches the dial-pad (which can be started by pressing the green call button as well), the Inbox as well as a Vodafone applications menu which has Google Maps Mobile 1.x preinstalled:

Interesting enough, even if currently on sale by Vodafone, the LG KS20 doesn't features the Vodafone TPP Home screen layout as seen on the Palm Treo 500v.
Nevertheless, LG's shortcut implementation is quite useful for a one hand thumb use of the user interface. Unfortunately, the LG application menu cannot be customized (by default) which means additionally installed application will not appear there but still needs to be launched thought the Windows Mobile Start menu.

Running on Windows Mobile 6.0 AKU 0.4.5 the LG KS20 includes 128 MB RAM and 256 MB ROM and leaves 30 MB RAM/131 MB ROM available after a fresh hardreset:



 

Beside the typical Windows Mobile 6 Professional applications like Office Mobile, Outlooks Mobile, Internet Explorer Mobile, Windows Media Player Mobile and Windows Live/Live Messenger (but excluding Remote Desktop Client Mobile), LG added a couple of other applications like a FM Radio interface, Mobile Java, PSNote:

The FM Radio application allows you to listen FM radio and provides information RDS information like station name and station type:

So far so good but unfortunately (but quite typical for inbuilt mobile phone FAM radios), the device requires a connected headset which works as the antenna. This means the radio doesn't works if the device is connected to a PC for sync or while charging it. Furthermore, the radio isn't able to playback radio through the inbuilt loudspeaker but through the connected headset only.

PSNote is quite an interesting application since it allows you to input handwritten notes which are automatically translated into computer text. However, you can do the same with the Outlook Mobile Notes application, together with Transcriber:

Input brings me to the next point which is one of the major concerns I have with the LG KS20: As much as it looks like a device which is thumb-optimized (and as good as it works in general), LG has unfortunately missed to add a thumb-friendly keyboard but instead of adding anything additional, LG is providing the original Windows Mobile 6 Professional input methods only. This means that, as soon as a user has to enter a text, he/she needs to use the stylus anyway:

That's a pity since this might prevents potential customers of buying this smartphone. Sure, an experienced user can install thumb-optimized keyboards later anyway but a mass-market customer has no idea where to get such a keyboard or how to install it. And this brings the device back into the experienced user corner, even if it has the potential for a broader audience. Hopefully LG will improves this ease-of-use lack with a later ROM update.

The 2 megapixel autofocus camera works quite good, snapping photos up to 1600 x 1200 pixels or recoding videos up to 320 x 240 pixels. The photo light is a gimmick, as for most mobile phones (except for some high quality dedicated photo phones) but the daylight results are good enough to be either send via MMS or E-Mail (click the thumbnails bellow to see the original sized, unedited photos):


And also the screen can be fairly used in bright sunlight. It's neither outstanding nor anything worse, it's a quite typical Windows Mobile screen.

Last but not least the phone functionalities since the LG KS20 is a mobile phone first. Voice sounds good on both sides and I haven't heard a single complain in my tests. Since the KS20 is a UMTS phone, featuring a front facing camera, it's also able to make video calls which works quite well too:

HSDPA-wise, I've used the device for a couple of tests where I've connected it to my Notebook and used it as a modem and it's pretty fast. Also, when I streamed Slingbox streams, it reached up the 600 Mbps which is pretty good if you keep in mind that the device had to demodulate the received data.

Final Conclusion

The Vodafone LG KS20 is a pretty good device which can easily compete with other thumb-focused Windows Mobile Smartphones. The support of UMTS and HSDPA makes it better than the HTC Touch which is 2.5G only (but supporting quadband GSM) and it's a matter of taste if you prefer thumb-keyboard devices or not. If you don't need a hardware keyboard, the LG KS20 is definitely an interesting alternative to the HTC Touch Dual, especially because it support WiFi which the Touch Dual lacks.
The overall quality of the device is, as I initially said, rocking solid and it feels neither cheap nor geeky. It's just a stylish smartphone and a welcome addition to the range of Windows Mobile smartphones.

While the lack of TouchFLO features hurts (no grab and scroll), the lack of a thumb-optimized hurts even more, especially if we are talking about a mass-market compatible mobile phone. This is something, LG has urgently to improve to make it really competeable with other thumb-optimized devices. Sure, most of the missing features can be installed in addition anyway but for such a device I expect a thumb-friendly experience out of the box.

All together, the Vodafone LG KS20 is a recommended buy, if you have some experiences with Windows Mobile devices; especially because it includes nearly everything (except GPS) a heavy smartphone user expects from such a device and even better - in addition to its features it also looks and feels good! For a complete Windows Mobile newbie it misses to much features which might makes it an inconvenient use.

It's now available from Vodafone for around 499 Euro (without a contract) and 220 Euro (with a 24 months contract). However, the original LG version without any further carrier branding should be available soon as well.

Cheers ~ Arne


 
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Comments
Posted by MTM on 07.12.07 - 02:44:09

Nice review, Arne! :-)

Completely right about the points you make - lucky I'm one of them who can correct the flaws myself :-P

I have a question, though: Is the call and end buttons on the front touch sensitive or 'normal' buttons?

Also, only 30 MB free RAM after a hard reset? :-O

I'm not sure how much Touch Dual (or TyTN II and Touch Cruise) has, but isn't that at least the double amount of free RAM? Something in the ROM (Vodafone-branded stuff?) must eat a lot of RAM. I've seen 96 MB RAM listed other places, are you sure the physical amount is 128 MB RAM?

Posted by user on 07.12.07 - 07:31:24

Very disappointing about the UI... Seemed a great phone otherwise...  I was really looking forward to your review to help me decide - I guess now it'll have to be the Cruise for me.

Posted by Arne Hess on 07.12.07 - 10:25:13

@MTM: The call buttons are normal buttons, not touch sensitive. Regarding the memory: I've added two more screenshots above where one shows 128 MB/256 MB. I've also saw the 96 MB mentioned on other sites but the devices shows 128 MB!
Not sure where all the memory is gone to but something consumes it. The HTC Touch Dual which also has 128 MB/256 MB shows a total RAM of 101.42 MB.

@user: What do you mean with disappointing UI? That's what Windows Mobile 6 Professional looks like, except the LG add-ons which are quite handy.

Posted by Lost in the UK on 07.12.07 - 10:42:15

Nice device. Don't need a keyboard but 3G and Wi-Fi. Any idea if it also hits Vodafone UK?

Posted by JohnGR on 07.12.07 - 12:49:26

In Greece you can get it For 382 Eyros,unlocked,but it has the Vodafone tag in the frond

Posted by guruWW on 07.12.07 - 13:06:40

Hi Arne,
after all these reviews and videos of the newest smartphones (KS20,i-780, orbit2, touch dual) I have a personal question to you. Till now I´m using a combination of a regular nokia 6233 handy for everytime use and a loox n560 pda for pim. Very often, when I would need some files of my pda, I haven´t it with me because of size. Normally I´m wearing the phone in my jeans pocket.
Now there are very interesting new devices out there regarding reasonable size and quite good screens, so I´m willing to change to a single smartphone. For me the simple and fast handling is very important, especially regarding text input. Hardware keys are for me the optimum, but they need space and/or weight on the device. I won´t go over 120/130 grams.
With the different smartphones regarding here there are different technical solutions (only touchscreen, hw keys on surface, hw keys on slider). Till now I´m not really convinced to touchscreen only, but maybe this could be changing with the new gadgets. So I would be interested of your personal opinion, which of these phones you would like most for real universal operation. Most of the usual things should be done one-handes or just with thumbs. I know, it will always be a compromise of size, weight, screensize and handling, but your personal opinion could help me a lot, since I´m already knowing all the technical deets.
regards wolle

Posted by Arne Hess on 07.12.07 - 13:34:05

@Lost in the UK: I have no information yet but AFAIK Vodafone UK isn't yet carrying LG devices.

@guruWW: That's an interesting question I'm often asked and it always depends on the usage pattern. But let me tell you where I cam from and what my choice was/is:
Similar to you, I always used two devices: A Windows Mobile Smartphone (non-touch) as my main phone (for voice, E-Mail and some Web surfing) as well as a Windows Mobile Phone Edition (touch) for E-Mail, more Web surfing and everything productivity which needs more text input.
However, the Samsung SGH-i600 mostly replaced the use of the touch Phone Edition devices since it supported nearly everything I used. At the moment, the Xda star replaced the i600 since it does even more (even if some basic tasks like SMS, etc. are not as convenient to use with a touch device as it is with a non-touch device).
Anyway, for me a real keyboard - doesn't matter if it is slide-out or on the front - always was and still is one of the important features a mobile phone has to have. That's the reason why the LG KS20 wouldn't be an option for me (but the missing keyboard is the only reason - it's just a question of taste).

Like you, I'm always carrying my devices in the pocket, without any cases since it is a mobile phone; not more not less and I don't want to take too much care about it. I was always skeptical with the traditional screens to carry these devices unprotected in the pocket but with the latest screen technologies (which all HTC Touch devices features as well as the LG KS20 and the Samsung SGH-i780) it's not a problem anymore (except the scratches for sure so better don't wear it in the same pocket like your keys).

Last but not least the size: The latest Phone Edition devices are absolutely comparable to other smartphones (doesn't matter if Windows Mobile Symbian devices) so the size and weight isn't a reason anymore not to use it as the only device.

Bottom-line: Size, weight and display technology brought me to use touch smartphones as my current mobile device. If you need a keyboard or not is a question of taste. I want and need one which is the reason why I'm currently using the Xda star/Touch Dual. If you say you can live without hardware keyboards, the LG KS20 or the HTC Touch Cruise is another interesting option.

Posted by MTM on 07.12.07 - 14:53:33

Thanks for the reply, Arne.

Glad to hear that it's normal buttons, since I would be afraid that touch-sensitive buttons would be annoying in use (hitting them accidentally all the time).

Still weird about the RAM. The first ~50 MB (128 MB -> ~80 MB) must be Windows, but what are the other ~50 MB (~80 MB -> 30 MB)? In one of the new pictures you have added it's only 46 MB (so ~34 MB free RAM). Are you running any big applications?

Posted by Arne Hess on 07.12.07 - 15:12:20

That's what I said, I have no idea where the memory went. I'm not running any applications on the device except the apps which comes preinstalled because I'm always performing a hard reset before reviewing it to have it in the out-of-the-box configuration.

Posted by Kaise on 07.12.07 - 16:23:37

Nice review. I was wondering how is the battery performing. In talk time and stanby. Also compare to touch.
thanks

Posted by Arne Hess on 07.12.07 - 16:40:57

Check this: FOLLOW-UP: the::unwired's Slingdex now lists T-Mobile Vario III, LG KS20 & Samsung SGH-i780

Posted by MTM on 07.12.07 - 18:54:48

I hope some custom ROM can clean up in that RAM usage and give 10-20 MB more free RAM. I have no experience on how much cleaning out can help on such things, though. You didn't notice any problems running programs because of too little free RAM?

Right now I'm just hoping it will come out unbranded very soon. If I don't have some pretty certain release date in a week, I think I'll go with Touch Dual. The data prices have taken a huge plunge over the last month or two here ($1.5 -> $0.3 per MB), so WiFi is not that crucial any more. The devices (Touch Dual and KS20) are pretty similar in size when holding them in your hand, right? Touch Dual is a bit bigger on paper, but has more rounded edges and are not as wide, which should help for a smaller feeling.

Posted by Boub on 08.12.07 - 03:14:57

Could someone show me (video) how you write a sms on the LG KS20?
Thank You !

Posted by user on 08.12.07 - 16:54:29

Arne Hess wrote:

@user: What do you mean with disappointing UI? That's what Windows Mobile 6 Professional looks like, except the LG add-ons which are quite handy.

I meant as compared to the Touch devices, which are basicly the LG's main competitors, and include stuff like a normal keyboard, customisable menu, thumb-scrolling etc.  Bottom line is the thing has to be convinient to use, otherwise what's the point.

Posted by kom on 10.12.07 - 08:59:22

Hi Arne and good day to all.
Fantastic review i must say. But please allow me to ask a question, i learned that ks20 could utilize SDHC with some patches, is there any stability issue on that? This is my main concern when considering the LG KS20 vs the HTC Touch Cruise. Thanks in advance smile

Cheers
kom

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