An audacious format and a very attractive design
The New Chocolate is clearly a mobile that will stand out, due to its wide 4-inch screen (800 x 345 pixels) but also its slim minimalist chic and black lacquered casing. Of course high design has to go further than looks and we’re hoping for a well-studied experience here too. The New Chocolate does indeed give very nice handling. While wider, it is also shorter. This means that, as long as your jeans aren’t too skinny, you won’t notice it too much in your pocket.
LG BL40, LG Arena, Samsung Omnia II, iPhone 3GS
The casing picks up marks...
Now onto the phone’s unusual touch screen. It has a nice quality display, good colours and open viewing angles. Responsive and multipoint, just a light touch is enought. It is however still less sensitive, precise and responsive than the iPhone. You sometimes have to repeat your gesture several times before the BL40 executes. This is a little annoying.
A nice interface but navigation could also be simpler
The BL40 comes with the in-house LG S-class 3 D interface that has been updated since the Arena and the Viewty Smart. Some features are easy to use: the photo and video visualisation interface (ordered chronologically) responds correctly almost 100% of the time. However, though in theory you only have to double-click a thumbnail to open it, in practice, you often have to repeat the gesture to get the BL40 to obey. While the graphics and interface are generally agreable to use (very “mass market”), menu navigation could do with further simplification.
For example, you have four desktops for navigation, contacts, widgets and shortcuts and there are several ways in. You can either scroll the desktops by passing a finger over the screen or select them from the cube. You simply turn it and select once of the four faces, like on the Arena or the Viewty Smart that are identical when it comes to the four desktop home pages. Two means of access then for the same result. Is this really of any use? To access all the features and settings you go to the main menu. Same approach as with the Arena, some features could have been arranged in the same category so as to space things out a bit visually and facilitate use. But then of course it would have been more complicated for LG to give us such a nice icon display.
Among the innovations, note the new messsage interface that is easy and efficient to use (see video). In landscape format the screen divides into two: on one side all the messages in the menu (name or number of caller and beginning of message) and on the other, the selected message. When you have a long message this means it's displayed in full. Then you just have to press at the bottom of the screen to call up a menu bar with a large range of options (add number, copy message, call, quick reply, transfer, delete…).
The virtual keyboard is comfortable to use and quite responsive on the whole, limiting keying errors (haptics when you key), but again not as efficient as the iPhone.
Multimedia not A1
In spite of the BL40s multitouch touch screen, the web experience still falls short. The ‘double-click’ or ‘two finger’ zoom is not as precise or practical as it could be (see video). Ever since the problem with the Arena, we have been hoping for an improvement to this solution as LG is still light years away from the precision offered by the Apple iPhone. Loading a URL is long and the touch zoom frustrating. Navigation within a page requires patience and dexterity: it’s long, fastidious and inefficient. And then, to quit the navigator, instead of just clicking on the main menu to exit, you have to confirm each time. A waste of time.
You can access the audio player via a button on the side of the phone. Audio quality is fine for a phone, though why a white set of headphones is delivered with a black glossy phone we don’t know. The BL40 has an FM receiver (without RDS however) and transmitter.
Audio player interface
The BL40 records only in 3GP, with the use of the zoom (either via the screen or a physical button on the side of the phone), as always, causing jumps and deterioration in the picture.
The terminal plays DivX natively with no need to convert. LG is betting on the mini cinema screen for the success of this phone in the multimedia segment. Videos are indeed nice to watch (don’t watch in an overly lit room or in full sunlight) and you can opt for full-screen – depending on the film you may get a flattened, deformed image. Fluidity isn’t always what you’d expect. While the demo videos are fine, those recorded on the phone or some other files (.avi) make the picture jump at times.
So then, this nice bar of chocolate is not without faults but could be popular among those who have yet to experience an iPhone or the HTC Sense interface. Battery life gives a good day and a half of moderate usage with Wi-Fi on from time to time.