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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 88065x
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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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