One of LG’s latest creations is the KU990 – a touch-screen mobile dubbed the “Viewty”. The Viewty is an upgrade to the not-so-popular Prada phone, which was released towards the middle of 2007. The two devices are quite similar physically, but in terms of features differ greatly.
On paper, the Viewty is quite impressive: 2G & 3G network compatibility, HSDPA data support, 5mpx auto-focus digital camera, DivX playback support, touch-based UI, microSD memory card support and a 3” 240 x 400 pixel LCD display.
And in real life? Read on for all the answers!
The KU990 Viewty has a range of upgrades when compared to its precursor, the Prada. Although both devices utilise a touch-based user interface, the Viewty’s is much more responsive and a lot easier to ease. There’s also a vibration-feedback option that gives the impression that you’re actually pressing a real button – but more on that later.
One of the Viewty’s key features is its 5mpx digital camera. The camera has a plethora of advanced features including manual- and auto-focus, strobe flash, video recording at 120fps, image stabilization, and manual ISO settings. Dedicated camera functionality keys and an easy-to-use viewfinder application make capturing images and video a breeze.
The Viewty supports DivX video playback, a popular format used on the Internet due to its impressive size/quality ratio.
3G network compatibility has been added to the Viewty, with full support for the UMTS 2100MHz band and HSDPA data for mobile broadband connectivity. The HSDPA protocol can communicate at speeds of up to 3.6Mbit/s.
The internal memory on the Viewty has been boosted to 100MB, compared to the Prada’s measly 8MB offering. Like the Prada, microSD memory cards are supported (up to 2GB) for expanding the overall memory capabilities.
However, both the dimensions and weight are still within acceptable ranges for a mid- to high-end handset, and will not cause any distress in pockets or bags. The size of the Viewty is advantageous in some regard, as you can hold it with both hands and use two thumbs to control the touch-based user interface without finger crossover.
The KU990 Viewty has two fronts: a Prada-like ‘face’, with 3” LCD display, three physical buttons and a forward-facing camera. Flip the Viewty around and the large camera lens and flash give the distinct impression of a dedicated digital camera.
Encased in stylish black plastic, the Viewty is a device of simplistic beauty, with a colour palette of just black and silver. At 103 x 54.4 x 14.8mm and 112 grams, the Viewty has grown when compared to the Prada, as shown below:
||103.5 x 54.4 x 14.8mm
||98.8 x 54 x 12mm
Following in the Prada’s footsteps, the Viewty only has three keys on its front: pick-up, cancel (backspace), and hang-up. To aid in the camera functionality LG have placed several keys on the right hand side of the handset: a switch for selecting between image capture, video capture, and gallery viewing, and a two-stage shutter button. A key-lock button can also be found here.
On the left hand side of the Viewty is the interface port, hidden behind a plastic sliding door. I quite like this concept as the usual rubber stoppers can often get in the way when trying to plug in a charger or USB cable.
User interface & display
The LG Viewty is powered by a touch-based user interface similar to that used on the LG Prada phone. The display is a 3” 240 x 400 pixel TFT LCD, capable of displaying up to 262,144 colours. The non-standard resolution provides adequate screen real estate for on-screen buttons and icons that can be tapped easily with a finger or thumb. LG have included a stylus with the Viewty, but almost all functions will not require its use.
In terms of looks, the Viewty’s user interface is almost identical to that of the Prada. Underneath however there have been some major changes. One of the biggest between the two handsets is the way users interact with the handset and button presses. On the Prada, tapping a button would simply make the button enlarge, or highlight, or an application would open, etc. The lack of any physical confirmation of the button press made it hard to switch between years of using physical buttons on other handsets and the new on-screen buttons. With the Viewty, LG have configured the handset to vibrate when a button is pressed – providing that feedback and confirmation that we’re familiar to.
Moving up and down through menus is achieved by swiping your finger up or down anywhere on the display – somewhat similar to the way the iPhone flicks through lists. The Prada sometimes made it difficult to scroll, as you sometimes needed to press the navigational strip on the right hand side of the screen, which is extremely small.
The home (standby) screen on the Viewty is identical to that on the Prada. Reception, battery level, profile, and other status indicators are located in a row at the top the screen, with four buttons at the bottom of the screen providing shortcuts to frequently used applications. On the Three-branded version of the Viewty two additional icons are located above the four-icon strip, linking to the 3 Launcher and Planet 3. These icons cannot be removed.
There are several configuration options for the home screen, including the way the calendar and clock are displayed and the wallpaper. There are three user-interface themes, which customize the colour scheme of the handset, backgrounds, and screensavers. There’s Black (which is similar to the default Prada theme), Silver, and Fish.
The Viewty’s user interface is also much faster than that of the Prada, and although I could not find exact details it appears the CPU and possibly RAM have been upgraded. Some areas are still a little slow, such as the main menu and moving back to the home screen. I commented in the Prada review that the plastic covering the display was quite thick, which caused the handset to be unresponsive at times and not recognize light taps on the screen. Thankfully, LG seem to have assessed and solved this issue with the Viewty.
I’ve given the Viewty 4 ½ stars for this section, mainly because although problems with the UI in the Prada have been rectified, the UI does lag in some areas and is still a little fiddly to use. Never the less, the UI is impressive and definitely makes it easy to switch between physical keys and new-age touch screen keys.
Making and receiving calls
The LG Viewty supports regular voice calling on 2G and 3G networks, with video calling available when connected to a 3G network. A forward-facing digital camera especially for video calling is located above the LCD, on the right hand side.
A call can be made from the standby screen by tapping the second icon at the bottom of the screen – which launches the phone application. A regular numerical keypad is displayed on-screen, with keys large enough to be easily tapped by a finger or thumb. The process is simple – tap in the number you want and press the green pick-up button under the LCD. If you wish to make a video call to the entered number, press the video call button at the top of screen. You can also tap a single number and push the speed-dial icon, if you have set-up speed dials.
The video calling application is horizontally-aligned, with a row of icons across the bottom of screen enabling you to quickly pause/start video sending, mute outgoing audio, swap cameras, zoom in/out, capture a screenshot of the incoming video, access advanced features, and open the dial pad. The middle of the application displays the incoming video (large square) and outgoing video (small square).
If you prefer to use the contact book to make calls, simply open the application, tap the person/number you wish to call, and then hit the green pick-up button. For video calling you will need to open the options menu and select the appropriate option.
The sales package includes a stereo headset, which has a microphone built-in, and can therefore be used for hands free calling. Tapping the bottom right-hand icon during a voice call will activate the integrated speakerphone. Volume through both the speakerphone and the earpiece was adequate.
The Viewty’s Bluetooth 1.2 module supports the Headset, Hands free, and A2DP profiles, so both new and old headsets can be used for wireless calling.
SMS, EMS, MMS, and e-mail messaging is supported by the LG KU990 Viewty. As the Viewty is utilizes touch-based UI, text input is achieved by either writing on the screen with the stylus or tapping an on-screen numerical or QWERTY keypad. T9 predictive text dictionaries are included for major local languages.
The messaging application can be launched directly from the standby screen by pressing the shortcut button (second from the right), or by opening the menu and selecting the appropriate icon. From here you can select “create new message”, access the SMS/EMS and MMS folders (inbox, drafts, outbox, and sent items), or the mailbox (e-mail).
The Viewty uses the same system for creating SMS/EMS messages as it does with MMS messages. All messages start at SMS/EMS, and will remain this way until multimedia content such as images, video, or sound is added.
Four text input methods are offered: keypad, keyboard, handwriting (screen), and handwriting (box). The keypad option displays three lines of text at the top of screen, with the rest of the screen displaying a numerical keypad as you would find on any regular handset. This is the easiest and will most probably be the most popular way to input text on the Viewty. The ‘keys’ are large and the vibration feedback gives a sense of satisfaction when a key is pressed.
T9 languages included on the Viewty I received were English, Italian, German, French, Swedish, and Danish. Like most T9-loaded handsets, words can be added to the dictionary. The method for switching between dictionary words has changed on the Viewty (compared to the Prada), and is now more Nokia-like: pressing the on-screen * button will change the word. There is unfortunately no virtual backspace key, so you must switch between tapping the display and pressing the physical “c” key if you wish to delete a character.
In keyboard mode, the UI is flipped to landscape mode, with two lines of text at the top of the screen and the 26 letters of the alphabet below. When a letter is tapped the icon enlarges to confirm that the handset is recognizing the correct letter – if you’ve accidentally hit the wrong key simply slide your finger (or the stylus) around until the correct letter is displayed. Although the virtual keys are small, because of this confirmation feature this form of text input is actually quite fast and not tedious.
The handwriting (screen) and handwriting (box) text input methods are practically the same, however the first allows you to write anywhere on the Viewty’s screen, whereas the latter limits you to two small boxes at the bottom of the screen. In the screen mode a whole word can be recognized at once, whereas with the box mode input is letter-by-letter.
There are several handwriting-related configuration options, including the width of the on-screen pen, text colour, area transparency, and the delay between the text disappearing on screen and being interpreted by the Viewty.
One of my biggest complaints with the LG Prada was that messaging was unnecessarily long, tedious, and a general pain. I’m happy to report that messaging on the Viewty is a completely different story – and a good one! The messaging UI is responsive, keeps up with key presses, and the vibration feedback gives the effect of actually pushing a real button.
The Viewty supports 2G and 3G networks, with Bluetooth and USB local connectivity. Supported over-the-air data protocols are GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, and HSDPA.
A USB data-cable comes in the Viewty’s sales package, as well as a CD with software for communicating with the handset for file transfer and synchronization. The USB mass storage device profile is supported by the handset, but unfortunately this is limited to just the microSD external memory. The Prada phone provided access to both internal and external memory, as is the new trend with most handsets.
The KU990 Viewty’s Bluetooth radio is version 1.2 compliant, which is a little odd considering the unspoken ‘standard’ of version 2.0 these days. Using my MacBook I was able to transfer files to and from the Viewty at ~40KB/s, which many will find much too slow (especially for large files such as video clips). Thankfully the A2DP stereo audio profile is supported.
I had a problem with the Bluetooth on the Viewty, as when I paired the handset with my MacBook and then tried to browse the file content, nothing would appear. This has happened with other handsets, and is usually related to folder permissions – however I could not find anywhere to configure permissions on the Viewty.
GSM 900, 1800, and 1900MHz networks are supported by the KU990 for 2G connectivity throughout Asia, Europe, and some of America, with GPRS Class 10 and EDGE for over-the-air data. The 3G 2100MHz UMTS network is supported for high-speed connectivity, with both UMTS and HSDPA data protocols. The HSDPA protocol on the Viewty can reach speeds of up to 3.6Mbit/s.
The integrated web-browser has a tabbed interface, but lacks one important aspect of tabbing – links cannot be opened in a new tab. Landscape and portrait viewing is supported, with zoom support making to easy to quickly jump around a large page.
As the results indicate, the Viewty is much more powerful than the Prada with Java applications. JBenchmark 1.0 performance is almost tripled on the Viewty, with JBenchmark 2.0 performance just over 2x better. The JBenchmark 3D performance is nothing special, and some 3D applications may struggle.
The Viewty has a pretty standard set of multimedia applications, on par with most handsets on the market at this time. There’s an audio player, video payer, FM stereo radio, video editor, and support for Java games and applications. Unfortunately, video and image editing functionality is not offered.
A good 100MB of internal shared memory is included on the Viewty, a big boost from the measly 16MB on the Prada phone. With USB and Bluetooth connectivity compatible audio files can be transferred to the Viewty in a flash. The MP3 player has also been upgraded, now including the ability to filter tracks by artist, album, genre, play list, or recently played. That said, there is still no equaliser functionality for enhancing the sound output. Supported audio formats are AAC, AAC+, Polyphonic MIDI, MP3, and WMA.
The Viewty’s video player is almost identical to that on the Prada phone. Videos can be viewed in landscape or portrait orientation. Full screen view is only offered in the landscape mode. The biggest change to the Viewty’s video player when compared to the Prada’s is the support for DivX 5 video clips (up to VGA resolution and 30fps). DivX is widely used in the online community and offers a great balance between quality and file size. DivX 6 and XviD files are not supported – which is a shame, considering the XviD format is now much more popular than DivX. The video player is also compatible with MPEG4, WMV, and 3GPP format videos.
The Viewty has YouTube support, allowing you to upload videos to YouTube direct from the handset. Simply select any video in the file browser, select options, send, and then pick “YouTube”. You will need to enter basic details about the video and your YouTube login – the rest is handled via the handset. As the application warns you when you open it, uploading videos is data-intensive, and depending on your operator can become very expensive very quickly. Check with your provider before using the application.
Muvee Studio is a basic video creation application that is fed still images which are then compressed into a MP4 video. You can choose the background music, transitions between images, colour effects, and even the speed or the slideshow.
Although an image editor is not included, a feature called SmartLight offers a quick fix for underexposed images. It produces OK results that don’t add too much noise when compared with the original.
The FM stereo radio supports RDS and can store up to 12 channels. As always, the headset needs to be connected before the application will start, as it acts as the aerial. For some unknown reason the radio cannot be output to the loudspeaker, and can only be listened to through the headphones. The radio (as well as the audio player) can be sent to the background, allowing you to perform other tasks with the handset while listening to your favourite station or a stored MP3.
Using the JBenchmark suite, the following results were obtained:
Note: The KE850 Prada results were obtained from iMobile’s own review. JBenchmark 3D results were not available for the Prada as it does not support mobile 3D graphics (M3G – JSR 184).
||HQ: 463; LQ: 509
Java applications pre-loaded on the Three branded Viewty are Google Maps, Google Mail, Windows Live Messenger, and Skype. Other network-branded versions of the Viewty and the unbranded version may have different configurations. Application installation is as easy as transferring the appropriate files to the handset via USB/Bluetooth, then launching. Applications downloaded through the web browser are automatically installed after download.
Additional applications include a calendar, to-do list, file browser, voice recorder, memo pad, Google integration, calculator, world clock, and converter.
The calendar is simplistic and offers a monthly and weekly view option. Dates can be navigated by sliding your finger across the screen. The selected date is indicated by a large yellow square. At the bottom of the screen is a simplified view of items booked for that day – a detailed view can be accessed by tapping the “view” button. Up to 100 (total) appointments, anniversaries, or birthdays can be added to the calendar.
100 to-do items can also be stored, but they are not displayed in the calendar. A to-do item contains a date, note, and priority level: high, medium, or normal. A memo application is used to jot down text or drawings, but only five can be stored. Similarly, only five alarms can be stored.
The calculator offers basic arithmetic as well as advanced calculations such as sin, cos, tan, log, square root, and others. Currency, surface, length, weight, temperature, volume, and velocity conversions can be made using the convertor application. The world time application has changed from that found in the Prada & Shine handsets, and does not offer a very complete list of cities – Perth, Western Australia for one has been left out! You can browse cities via a world map or through text search.
A pre-installed Google package includes applications for accessing Gmail and Google Maps, and links online services such as Google Search, Blogger, and YouTube.
The file browser filters files stored on the internal and external memory into groups based on type: images, sounds, videos, games & applications, flash documents, documents, and others. Some sections can be viewed in a list with a small thumbnail and file name, or in a grid of thumbnails; others can only be viewed as a list.
The Viewty has a removable back plate, which provides access to the battery, SIM card, and memory card. Pushing a button at the top of the handset will release the back plate, which easily slots back into place when needed.
I mentioned in the user interface & display section an issue related to build quality that was present in the Prada, but has been rectified in the Viewty: the touch-screen responsiveness. The Prada had a very thick display covering, which meant that you needed to push quite hard on the display for the handset to pick-up the command. The Viewty on the other hand seems to have a much thinner covering, allowing you to lightly tap the screen.
A removable 1000mAh lithium-ion battery powers the KU990 Viewty. Approximately 355 minutes of talk time or 18 days of standby time can be achieved in a single charge. The talk time leaves a little to be desired, but on the other hand the standby time is right up there with the best.
During my testing I found that I could squeeze approximately 3-4 days out of the Viewty with average usage. The camera saps battery life like no other application, and should be used sparingly if you’re trying to conserve battery life. If you’re browsing the web with HSDPA you may also notice the battery life decrease quickly – but nowhere near as much as the camera application.