The LG Viewty Smart is the slimmest eight-megapixel camera phone on the market and despite being made predominantly from plastic, sports a high-end look.
The S-Class interface is the slickest we’ve seen so far from LG, and the touch-screen is also the most responsive.
The camera has a number of innovative technical touches such as a ‘spot’ mechanism, which allows you to zoom into a particular object on screen, or you can simply use the auto-focus function if you prefer.
The Viewty Smart certainly lived up to expectations, with a competent web browser giving you the option to have two windows open at the same time, and excellent GPS tracking facility and the best touch-screen we have seen so far from LG.
Battery life was average.
The LG Viewty Smart is an attractive, slim handset that definitely has a lot to offer. It may not quite match up to the iPhone 3GS in terms of touch-screen, but the camera is right up there with the best.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:55:39 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Eight-megapixel camera with ?smart? features that auto-adjust settings for a huge range of light environments.
Not able to download third-party apps from dedicated market, unlike comparable handsets.
When the original LG Viewty (now known as the Viewty Lite) hit stores, many saw it as the Korean manufacturer finally proving itself as a genuine force to be reckoned with in the mobile market. Sure, we’d seen the high design Prada, Chocolate and Shine, but here was a device that packed far more than just good looks. It even took the accolade of being the world’s first five-megapixel touch-screen device, and has sold over seven million units worldwide since its launch in November 2007. Since then, LG has gone from strength to strength, so we were particularly looking forward to getting our hands on the Viewty II, more commonly known as the LG Viewty Smart.
The Viewty Smart has its own claim to fame as it’s (currently) the slimmest eight-megapixel camera phone available. Measuring just 12.4mm thick, the handset is also impressively light – weighing in at just 102g – and it certainly rests comfortably in both your hand and pocket.One reason LG has managed to keep the phone down to size zero proportions is because it is predominantly made from plastic. That’s not to say it feels flimsy or looks tacky, which can often be the case for plastic based handsets. LG has always prided itself on its phones’ catwalk looks, and the Viewty Smart is no exception.
From the piano black fascia to the silver back, this handset looks and feels high end. Taking centre stage is the three-inch screen, and while maybe not as big as other top-end touch-screen phones (see the Samsung i8510 HD review on page 14 and the Apple iPhone 3GS on page 22), it is still more than ample. Directly below the screen is a thin silver strip that takes you back to one of four home screens. Sadly, we felt this bar was a tad creaky and slightly undermined the overall bodywork.
We’ve seen LG’s S-Class user interface (UI) in a few devices now, notably the LG Arena KM900. However, we’ve not seen it as slick as it is in the Viewty Smart. The UI consists of four home screens – Shortcuts, Widgets, Contacts and Multimedia – and each screen is customisable. You can decide which icons/shortcuts appear on what page. Press the solitary key on the left-hand side of the phone and these four home screens will condense into a 3D cube icon. Spin it around on its axis and then click on the relevant page to maximise it. It serves no real purpose other than it looks pretty cool, but with Samsung unveiling a similar system on its flagship Jet phone (this one can be flipped vertically as well as horizontally), we’ll have to wait and see how long this novelty factor lasts.
The touch-screen is highly tactile with a good haptic vibrating response with each key press or swipe of the finger. There’s still a slight lag from pressing an icon to its menu opening up, but the Viewty Smart is LG’s most responsive touch-screen to date. Something we would like to have seen is an actual hard back key as opposed to the virtual one, which appears in the awkward position of the top right-hand corner of the screen when you are in your various menus. When composing texts or entering web addresses, you can rely on the standard T9 entry or turn the device on its side to utilise the virtual QWERTY keyboard. We would have preferred these keys a little larger, but with a bit of due care, the keyboard provides a decent typing experience.
The Viewty Smart has some useful browsing featured including the ability to have two windows open at any one time. We’re happy to report that the user experience doesn’t suffer as a result, and maintains an electric pace thanks to the on-board HSDPA. Simply hit the multi-page icon in the bottom left of the screen to alternate between each window. There’s also on-board Wi-Fi to save you a few pennies when surfing the net in a Wi-Fi hotspot. Pairing up to our office connection was a breeze, as was the overall surfing experience. However, it’s the phone’s pincer like mechanism that will grab the most attention, due to the inevitable comparison to the iPhone.
It works in much the same way as Apple’s baby, starting with your forefinger and thumb close together, simply spread them apart and you will zoom into your web page. Do the reverse and you’ll zoom out. It’s not seamless and, compared to the iPhone, ultimately disappoints. However, with a bit of practice we got to grips with it.
The same process can be used with the powerful eight-megapixel camera, though this proved far more difficult. It was much trickier to get exactly the right amount of zoom, with over zooming a common occurrence. It’s also difficult to fathom why you wouldn’t simply resort to the volume keys found on the right-hand side of the phone, which are ideally placed and far more reliable.
Positioned as a camera phone, the LG Viewty Smart is packed with snapping features, and the results are excellent. That said, we’d implore LG to start building phones with lens covers. In the Viewty Smart, while the Schneider Kreuznach lens is of the utmost quality, we can’t help but feel with the general wear and tear a phone inevitably endures, a scratch on the glass is only a matter of time. Moan over.
To alter the settings, you’ll have to use the virtual wheel that appears on the left of the screen. Spin it around to select Image Stabilisation, Face Detection (up to three faces), Smile Detection and Beauty Mode (eliminates any blemishes on your subject’s face), all of which worked flawlessly and helped to improve photograph quality.
The Viewty Smart also houses a couple of new additions to LG’s arsenal. The phone is fitted with auto-focus, but you can also adjust this manually or via an innovative ‘spot’ mechanism. This works by pressing the area of the screen that you want to specifically focus in on. For example, you may be taking a shot where your core subject material is on the right of the display. Simply touch the right-hand side of the screen and the Viewty Smart will automatically focus in on that area before you take the photo. It works a treat and is a great way of utilising the touch-screen.
Although there’s no Xenon flash – seen as a must-have by many camera enthusiasts – the power LED flash is assisted by increased light sensitivity of up to ISO 1,600. Basically, the higher the ISO, the more sensitive the image sensor is to the amount of light present. The more sensitive the image sensor, the more capable the camera is of taking low-light photographs. With an ISO of 1,600, the LG Viewty Smart sits right up alongside dedicated compact cameras.
Yet, if this is all getting a little too technical for you, then worry not. LG has also included an Intelligent Shot mode, which automatically adjusts the various settings in accordance to your surroundings. It even displays them on screen, so if you care to, you can brush up on your camera taking credentials. There’s also some fun, if slightly pointless, additions such as fog drawing, which involves you blowing into your microphone as your picture clouds up, before being able to wipe the screen clear with a swipe of a finger.
The original Viewty took much of its plaudits due to its excellent video recording capabilities, and its successor is no slouch either. As well as being able to upload your videos direct to YouTube as soon as you’ve finished shooting, you can also record in both slow and fast motion. It works superbly well and with the on-board Movie Maker you can play Spielberg as you edit, trim, and add soundtracks and subtitles to your mini movies. You can even record in black and white, or sepia if you’re after that Western type look. It’s also quite feasible to watch the real Steven Spielberg’s films on your LG Viewty Smart. Install DivX with the aid of the included installation CD, and when sideloading any movie or video content from your PC, it will be automatically converted into DivX format enabling you to watch on the move. Audio wise, the Viewty Smart rocks surround sound thanks to Dolby Mobile technology, and while there is no 3.5mm headset jack (apparently an intentional decision to distinguish between LG’s multimedia and camera phones), there is at least an adapter allowing you to plug your own set of cans in.
Viewty Smart’s navigational abilities certainly deserve a special mention. Picking up an A-GPS fix was near instant and was achieved even when indoors. The signal was consistent and the excellent Google Maps is present to make the most of it. It’s just a shame there’s no haptic response when using it – an issue that appears to lie more in Google’s court than the manufacturer’s.
The LG Viewty Smart is just that. It looks pristine, has plenty going on inside and has a camera right up there with the best. Although the touch-screen is the most tactile we’ve encountered from LG, it’s still not quite the finished article. It has a slight lag, and the pincer/zooming action needs some perfecting.We also don’t like the fact that there is no way of adding third-party applications in the manner of the Apple App Store, Ovi and Google Android market. However, if the original Viewty announced LG as a serious player in the mobile market, the Viewty Smart highlights how far the manufacturer has come with another powerful device in the portfolio.