- Excellent slide-out QWERTY keyboard
- Small enough to use one-handed
- Wi-Fi, HSPA, Bluetooth, GPS
- Attractive price
- Runs Android 1.5 rather than the most recent release
- Touch-sensitive rather than physical Home and Back buttons
- Battery life could be better
LG's InTouch Max GW620 is the company's first Android smartphone, and it's notable for a high-quality slide-out five-line QWERTY keyboard.
LG InTouch Max GW620: Android 1.5 (Cupcake) and a slide-out QWERTY keyboard
Compact and reasonably pocket friendly, the LG GW620 is nothing out of the ordinary in design terms. It has a black plastic chassis with a rubbery finish on the backplate that helps to stop the phone slipping in the hand or on the desk.
Beneath the screen are two touch-sensitive Home and Back buttons. Generally we prefer physical buttons for these features, and it's easy to brush the GW620's touch buttons unintentionally with a fingertip. We do like the tiny bit of haptic feedback, though, and white backlight that kicks in when they are pressed. Between Home and Back is a button that calls up Android's context-sensitive menus.
Elsewhere, the left-hand side has a Micro-USB port for power and PC connection, plus a volume rocker. The right side has a microSD card slot with a protective tab, a shortcut for the camera, and, unusually, a shortcut that takes you straight to the Android music player.
Multimedia is a feature of this smartphone, which includes an FM radio and a 3.5mm audio jack on the top edge of the chassis. This is the optimum position for a headset connector, as it's less likely to cause pocket-snagging. LG provides a reasonable one-piece headset with rounded in-ear buds.
Also on the top edge is a combined lock and on/off button. You'll need to use this consistently to prevent accidentally tapping those touch-sensitive front buttons, or activating the touchscreen as you pocket the handset.
Despite having a slide-out keyboard, the GW620 is fairly small and light. It measures 109mm tall by 54.5mm wide by 15.9mm thick and, according to our scales, weighs 144g. It's comfortable to hold and easy to pocket, although the screen is on the small side — the TFT display measures 3in. across the diagonal and has a resolution of 320 by 480 pixels.
There's an accelerometer that flips the screen between portrait and landscape mode as you turn it in your hand. The screen is small enough that even people with small hands should be able to reach right across it for one-handed use.
For text entry you have a T9 keypad on the touchscreen when the handset is in portrait mode, but there's no on-screen tappable option in landscape mode. In this orientation you need to slide out the keyboard if you want to enter text.
The slide-out keyboard is one of the best-designed we've seen on a smartphone, although you may find it a little small if you have large fingers. The number row for the most part matches its Fn shortcuts with what you get on a desktop or notebook keyboard, although you have to delve into the second screen of symbols to get a '£' sign, which is a bit of a bind.
The keys are short and wide, individually separated and very slightly domed. This combination makes them easy to find quickly. We were able to achieve about 90 percent of our top typing speed on slide-out keyboards. There's a useful inverted-T arrangement of cursor keys for navigating menus and data-entry screens, or scrolling web pages. A single tap on the shift key puts the next key you press into upper case, while a fast double-tap on this key puts everything into upper case until you hit the key again.
The GW620 ships with an AC adapter, a PC connection cable, a stereo headset and a printed user guide.
The LG InTouch Max GW620 runs Android 1.5, also known as 'Cupcake'. This isn't the most up-to-date version: that's Android 2.1 ('Eclair'). Out of the box, our review sample had 171MB of free internal storage, augmented by a 1GB microSD card. It's a quad-band GSM phone with GPRS and HSPA support (7.2Mbps down, 2Mbps up). Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS are all present.
There are three home screens between which you can flick with a finger sweep. LG offers the option of either a standard Android skin or its own offering. This latter provides a sequence of four shortcuts along the bottom of the screen that take you to the dialler, contacts, messaging and main menu, while retaining the standard Android look-and-feel. If you choose LG's UI, menu items are grouped into five categories: Communication, Multimedia, Utilities, Google and Downloads. These are arranged vertically on a single screen and you move between them with a finger sweep.
LG adds some applications to augment the basic Android complement. An app called Social Networking Services brings together a range of social networks such as Bebo, Facebook and Twitter, uniting notifications from each in one place. More useful for business users is Microsoft Exchange support. An additional application allows you to synchronise up to eight POP email accounts into a single inbox.
The 5-megapixel camera at the back has a flash, which is rare on Android phones. It's only an LED flash, so you need to be close to your subject to benefit, but it could prove useful in low light conditions. There's a face-linking system that lets you automatically text, phone or MMS a contact if you touch their face in a picture after you've tagged an image once.
Performance & battery life
The LG GW620's star feature is its superb slide-out keyboard. Although it might prove a little small for some people, we found the keyboard ideal for tapping out emails and text messages. Battery life is reasonable, and we got between a day and 1.5 days' usage depending on how much we used GPS and Wi-Fi. However, many mobile professionals are likely to have to recharge daily, which isn't ideal.
The GW620's compact dimensions make for easy one-handed use, but the trade-off is a screen size that some may find a little squeezed. Our only real design niggle is the use of touch-sensitive buttons beneath the screen. We'd have preferred physical buttons.
If you want an Android smartphone and require a physical keyboard, LG's GW620 is worth looking at. Bear in mind, though, that it doesn't run the most recent version of Google's operating system.