LG GW620 InTouch Max in-depth review -

Look and feel

A QWERTY slider with a three-inch, resistive touch-screen and a QWERTY keyboard that is ideal for small hands.

Ease of use

A good entry-level smartphone with great email functionality and an intuitive user interface.

Features

Excellent camera and messaging features, a responsive touch-screen and full QWERTY keyboard all add up to excellent value for money.

Performance

There was a bit of a lag between pushing an icon and an action occurring, and it visibly slowed down when more than one app was running. But messaging functionality was good, and the browser and web experience was excellent, particularly compared to other phones at this price point (free on a £20 a month contract).

Battery life

Battery life was above average.

 LG GW620 InTouch Max Review -
4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:57:20 PM

6

out of 10

Performance

8

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

8

out of 5

Features

8

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Great email functionality, good build quality for the price, intuitive OS, easy syncing of contacts and calendars, access to Android Marketplace.

Cons:

Slight delay between input and action, phone seems to slow down during RAM-intensive apps

LG has been steadily becoming a big name in mobile and it’s mostly down to its mid-range phones. In fact, while a phone such as its multimedia flagship Chocolate BL40 never sold too well, ostensibly less impressive phones such has the budget touch-screen Cookie have sold millions and counting.

Now the Korean manufacturer is trying its hand at smartphones and it’s using the same strategy with its first Android device. The InTouch Max GW620 is a low-cost smartphone that may lack the finesse of its pricier peers but delivers most of the same features, and at a price that won’t put off people who don’t actually care about processor speeds and precisely what touch-screen technology is being utilised. Which, as LG has proven with its seven-figure sales, is quite a lot of people.

First, the hard stuff

As in, hardware. The GW620 is a QWERTY slider with a three-inch touch-screen – and it’s resistive, or pressure-sensitive, so you’ll be pressing harder than on screens like the iPhone’s, which recognise electrical impulses. We found the screen very accurate, though there was sometimes a small lag of half a second between an input and the action, and response time took a serious hit when scrolling through long lists such as the contacts book. However, we had similar lags when typing quickly on the hard keyboard in the browser, so it seems that the phone responds more slowly when running data-intensive programs.

Beneath the display is a single hard menu button, and two touch areas to return to the home screen, and go back one screen. The touch areas could be better placed, as we often unintentionally swiped the home button.

The QWERTY keyboard is a great width for typing – especially if you have small hands – and has the full five lines and a dedicated number row. Symbol keys are intelligently placed, and the number line has the same alternate characters as a US PC keyboard. We really appreciated the inclusion of direction keys, which let you easily skip around a message. The tablet keys are a little bouncy but decently spaced.

In terms of connectivity, the GW620 has GPS, Wi-Fi and HSDPA internet, along with a 3.5mm audio jack, radio and accelerometer so the phone will automatically reorient its display. All this is pretty impressive for a phone that’s free on a £20 contract. Its camera packs a five-megapixel lens with auto-focus, flash and video recording, and is one of the best ones we’ve tried on an Android phone.

The LG touch

Many Android phones are fairly barebones, with their manufacturers simply creating the body and loading on the intuitive Android OS. It’s a pity, because Android is a powerful platform that can easily support lots of cool add-ons, and it’s great that LG has actually done plenty of customisation. Along with creating its own look with LG-style icons, you can also choose between the classic Android theme or the LG one, which features an all-programs menu divided into utilities, comms and so on, like the S-Class interface seen on its other handsets.

You’ll need a Google account to use most of the phone’s features, and as soon as you try to use Mail, Contacts, Calendar or the App Marketplace, the phone will prompt you to sign in. It automatically syncs to all your Google accounts with push notifications the first time you log in. It’s an incredibly useful solution – at least if you do a lot on Google.
In case you don’t though, also preloaded is Moxier ActiveSync, a program created for LG so the phone can sync to Microsoft Exchange contacts, mail and calendar, and My Email, which lets you load up to eight other email accounts, including Hotmail, Yahoo! and other Gmail accounts, with push support for these as well.

One of LG’s key selling points for this phone is Linkbook, a social network manager that so far supports Twitter, Facebook and Bebo. Being about three times too old to be on Bebo, we simply added our Facebook and Twitter accounts, which was straightforward. The Twitter feed has full functionality with a list of tweets, mentions and messages, but the Facebook feed is pretty anaemic with no pictures next to people’s updates, and no ability to like a post, check out a poster’s profile or see other people’s comments. You can comment on posts though, which perhaps if you’re just casually dipping in, might be enough. It also doesn’t register that private messages have been read unless they’re read on the phone.

Unlike other programs that support multiple social networks though, this one doesn’t actually show you feeds from both accounts at once, which we felt detracted from its usefulness. Linkbook sends notifications (albeit only every 30 minutes) of anything that happens, and unfortunately, that includes every tweet and status update. You can only choose to either receive all notifications (per account) or none. By now, you’re probably wondering how this is a better solution to downloading the appropriate Facebook and Twitter apps from the Android Marketplace (though the official Facebook app is equally anaemic), and the answer is: it isn’t, but it could be an easier solution for a first-time smartphone user not necessarily conversant with this whole apps business.

Smartest camera ever?

The camera interface is standard LG, with the same snazzy scroll wheel to adjust settings. Daylight shots came out clear, but shots we took at dusk were a bit soft and grainy when zoomed in. There’s no night or lowlight mode, just auto and macro for those close-ups, and shots we took in lowlight with flash came out a tad too much blue and slightly soft. This is really par for the course for Android though, which so far hasn’t come out with great camera software or sensors, and the quality is good enough for personal pictures uploaded to web, which is the most we’d expect it to be used for.


One of the more special features of this phone was its ‘face recognition feature’ – take a photo of a friend, tag them once, and the GW620 will suggest their name in any future photos of them. It has to be turned on like Smile Shot and Beauty Mode in LG cam-phones of yore, then once you’ve taken the picture, a long-press on the face brings up a menu to tag the friend from a nickname list or from your contacts book. Choosing from your contacts book automatically adds the photo to your friend’s profile. Then, the next time you take a photo of the same friend, the phone is meant to suggest their name based on past photos. However, at the time of this review, an LG spokesperson said the feature had been removed from the current version of the software.


The corollary feature is ‘Face to Action’, and this works pretty well – long-press on a tagged friend and you’ll be able to directly call them from the photo. Useful if you’re going through photos and feel inspired to get in touch, we suppose. You can also share the photo with Picasas, or if you've downloaded them, apps such as Facebook or a Twitter client. Like a lot of LG camera features, these aren’t must-haves, but gimmicky extras are fun too.

Web and Google

At the heart of all this, Android beats merrily away, and you’ve got the same seamless Gmail, Calendar and contacts integration as on any other Android phone. Compose an email and it’ll auto-suggest recipients you’ve emailed from a PC; sign in once, and your Google Calendar is forever synced. The contacts book is as full-bodied as any we’ve seen, and you can choose to view all contacts – including those Google ones you emailed once – or fortunately just ‘my contacts’, which are the actually on your phone or SIM (Google can automatically sync any matching names or addresses). There’s also an extra option at the bottom of each profile to ‘call reject’, so anytime the ‘friend’ calls, they’ll get voicemail. Passive-aggressive cruelty - we disapprove, but know oh so well.


We particularly love the browser on this phone – it can handle full HTML, so you can get the full version of websites, as opposed to the text-only cut-down mobile versions. Pictures are rendered well and quickly, and text has smooth edges. Screen real estate is maximised by a hidden toolbar you tap to access back/forward options, refresh, favourites, new window and settings. The address bar also doubles as a search field, and you can double-tap to zoom in and out between 100% and full-page view. Just about the only niggle we have is that there’s no home button, even though you can set a homepage.

Conclusion

The GW620 is a good phone for its intended market, though the touch-screen could be improved – after all, resistive screens can still be decent, as in the HTC Tattoo, another budget Android device. Aside from the lacklustre social network aggregator, the user interface is sound, fun to use, and easy to customise via the Android Marketplace. LG has integrated some great apps to make transferring existing email accounts and calendars easier, making the GW620 a friendly smartphone for the first-time user.

 

Natasha Stokes

natasha.stokes@nhmedia.co.uk