Reviewer: Luke Coleman
The marketing push behind LG’s third ‘Black Label’ series handset speaks volumes about the company’s market intentions. LG is serious about the fashion phone, and it’s saying so loud and clear through its financial department. The advertising blitz that heralded the arrival of earlier Black Label phones returns, but unlike the Prada, LG has this time opted out of the brand label to go it alone. The Prada tag wasn’t enough to save that device – can LG learn from its past and finally deliver beauty that’s more than just skin deep?
The LG Secret is a gorgeous phone to hold – it’s super slim, and replaces the typical navigation keypad for a ‘Neon Touch’ glowing touch-pad. It’s almost like a sort-of touchscreen, just a bit below the screen. Each finger press gives a nifty animation under the glass as you tap it with your finger.
The body is made from tempered glass and carbon fibre – it feels expensive. Which is nice. Like a luxury car in the guise of a phone.
But more than the touch pad, the skinny handset manages to pack in an impressive 5 megapixel camera (notably above the today’s standard) with video capabilities not dissimilar to LG’s successful (and chunkier) Viewty.
One strangely underutilised feature of the Secret is the built-in accelerometers, which appear to only be used for games. The wildly popular Apple iPhone kicked off the trend towards accelerometers (which know how the device is being held, so a tilt of the screen can allow you to navigate menus or change from portrait to landscape) but I fail to see why they were put into the Secret but for some cute games?
But while the Secret is a beautiful device, it is not necessarily a functional one. The ‘Neon Touch’ input is imperfect – responses can delayed only by milliseconds, but it’s enough to be consistently annoying. As cool as it looks, the traditional keypad is more usable by far.
And for all the efforts put into the device’s swanky facade, the interface is quite ugly. Graphical menus are stark, text menus blocky and dated. It’s a real turn off to have such an attractive design marred by such unattractive menus
The $899 RRP price tag is not unusual for a device of this standard – great design, above-standard 5 megapixel camera, quasi-touch interface. But it’s not great value for money when you look at the competition. The most obvious price competitor will be Apple’s iPhone, which a queue of consumers are lusting after and outranks the Secret in usability stakes by a mile. Similarly priced Nokia devices have superior software and interfaces – but the Secret’s strong seeling point remains its looks. Those looking for a slim handset that’s not lacking in features will find the Secret a reasonable (not bargain, but reasonable) buy.
A mixed bag of results from LG’s latest. The handset maker is experimenting with different input methods with wildly varying degrees of success – and unfortunately this one is a fizzer. LG should ditch the ‘Neon Touch’ for a keypad. Great camera, great looks on the outside, lots of useful features you’d expect from a high-end phone. But not easy to use, and coming with a weighty price tag. It’s got enough packed in to make you investigate a purchase, but you’d want to have a good long play with it before parting with your cash.