Swivelling screens might be alluring but will LG Electronics have to twist your arm to persuade you to buy this mobile phone? Read our Australian review. LG currently holds fifth position in the global mobile phone market, according to research firm IDC. Last year we had the chance to put the G7020 and the G5300from the Korean manufacturer under the microscope. They proved to be two admirable GSM phones and we have been expecting high-calibre releases from LG in 2004.
The most interesting (and marketable) aspect of the G7100 is its rotatable display. Being a clamshell mobile phone the swivelling part of the G7100 is between the top and bottom folders. The first half of the phone houses a 16-bit TFT LCD screen with a 128 x 160 pixel resolution. It is secured by a large barrel hinge to the bottom half and a small, 270° rotatable pivot at the base of the screen. The screen can turn 90° clockwise and 180° anti-clockwise.
The handset can be closed in two positions: with the internal screen hidden or facing out. The latter may look good in pictures (see above left) and for advertising campaigns but the phone is virtually unusable in this position. Not only is the keypad inaccessible when the screen is flipped over but accepting a call requires you to open the folder and twist it back into place so the earpiece is in the right spot. Only the camera button on the right-hand side and the volume key on the left can be used.
The G7100's camera is fixed on the left of the barrel hinge. So, combining the swivelling screen (which acts as the viewfinder), the unusual camera placement and the ability to rotate the photo through the menu results in a bit of a struggle to get your subject in the frame. It takes a while to get the hang of it, especially if you are used to regular point-and-shoot camera phones. By default, the G7100 will take a sly photo of someone to your left unless you swivel the base section 90° clockwise (to take a photo of a subject in front of you) or 90° anticlockwise to take a photo of yourself.
Photos can be taken at low/medium/high quality from 48 x 48 pixels up to 640 x 480. Up to nine shots (depending on the resolution) can consecutively be taken at less than a second between shots. Ten comical templates are included to frame people, such as Barbie/Ken-body cutouts or international landmarks backdrops like the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. After taking a photo, you can either save, send or delete. A handy status bar displaying the available phone memory also appears.
Positioned as a fashionable phone, it is not surprising that the G7100 is missing an e-mail client and Bluetooth as we've seen on "smarter" phones (such as the O2 Xphone).
A software suite to manage and backup (in CVS format) contacts, schedule and memos, and a serial cable are included with the product. IrDA connections can be established through the port on the side of the handset. Also bundled on the CD is the LG Contents Bank that contains a myriad of polyphonic ringtones, pictures and Java games which you can upload to the phone. Finally, the LG Internet Kit enables your PC to connect to the Internet through the G7100 via GPRS (General Packet Radio Service).
The external OLEDhas a humble 96 x 64-pixel, 256-colour display that shows the time, date, network and battery status, caller ID and simple animations. A useful feature when the external screen is not displaying information is that it acts as a mirror. The time-out value to display information can be set or the sub-LCD can be completely switched off, giving total narcissistic control. However, the mirror smudges easily with fingerprints, so a quick wipe across the disc is occasionally needed. Another problem with the mirror is that it makes the external display impossible to see under direct sunlight.
The built-in camera flash on the G7100 is a joke. It is a tiny light on the outside of the hinge tucked away beside the camera. Not only is it miniscule but it doesn't produce nearly enough light to illuminate a room or even the face of a person standing directly in front of you.
During our testing period we found the life of the G7100's battery better than expected. Generally we got four days of power even when using the two screens (one being OLED cuts back on power consumption), the (pathetic) flash, playing games, sending messages and making an average number of calls per day.
This dual-band handset is fairly small (89 x 46 x 24 mm) although fashion-conscious buyers might be a little wary of the external antenna that pokes out. The G7100 is a decent proposition on a whole and might even snare some market share away from other chic phones such as the Samsung E700 and Sony Ericsson's Z600.