updated 08:50 pm EDT, Wed April 1, 2009
LG Booth at CTIA 2009
LG's booth at this year's CTIA expo may center on devices that were already announced at Mobile World Congress, but it's still one of the most interesting areas on the entire show floor. Most of this can be attributed to the 2009 phones using the Korean cellphone maker's S-Class 3D interface: although we still see room for improvement in certain scrolling features and in giving users a good frame of reference for their options, the touchscreen UI is surprisingly intuitive and easy to understand. Notably, each phone equipped this way also had a capacitive touchscreen that meant gentle flicks and taps could work; they behave much more like the iPhone and could be one of the few mainstream alternatives to Apple's handset.
The widget feature is surprisingly useful. They're organized in a somewhat scattershot way, but being able to quickly access a calculator, the weather or other mini-apps very quickly is appreciated.
Of the phones on tap, the GD900 was the centerpiece for its transparent, light-up number pad. It admittedly has the aura of a novelty -- the input isn't more sophisticated than for any other touch-sensitive dialer -- but it's a feature that helps keep the phone thin and doesn't wear out easily. Having an 8-megapixel camera and a very sharp display also gives it a decided edge as a camera phone.
The KM900 Arena and GM730 are, for obvious reasons, less impressive but are also much more likely to find their way into users' hands. We liked their fairly thin and easily pocketable form factors, and they both have 5-megapixel cameras that should keep them competitive. We were slightly disappointed by the GM730 for the lower-resolution screen (240x400 versus 480x800) and performance that was very slightly behind its siblings, but adding S-Class 3D does a good job of masking the interface weaknesses of Windows Mobile while still giving the phone room for "serious" smartphone apps.
Release dates for phones were, however, vague at best. Although the FCC recently approved a version of the Arena US-friendly 3G, an LG spokesman couldn't say if or when the phone would show in the US (though likely with AT&T if so). A spokeswoman also would only say that LG's increasingly well-known G910 watch phone should arrive in the fall, though different wristband designs suggest multiple models will ship to suit different styles.
Little else outside of phones is at LG's booth, though the company did take care to show live demonstrations of 4G cellular data using Long Term Evolution (LTE). Using what was clearly prototype hardware in a separate box, the company showed one computer streaming HD video to another while simultaneously displaying a two-way video call. The entire stream successfully held at about 22Mbps, or about 10 times better than most better 3G connections. LG has likewise been showing a MID using an external LTE adapter for similar features, and a netbook on display was performing VoIP calling (difficult to do with 3G lag).
LTE should be available in the US as soon as late 2009 through Verizon, with a wider audience in 2010.
G910 watch phone
LTE (4G) demos