‘Secret’ revealed in RP

- Ann Corvera () - July 12, 2008 - 12:00am

Two weeks into tinkering with LG Secret and the secrets are still unraveling.

When LG global marketing strategy director Fiorina Moon said the KF-750 was given the nickname “LG Secret” because its intrinsic features would engage users to keep exploring it, she wasn’t kidding.

A sales pitch can match the real thing.

The LG Secret is a high-quality, high-fashion yet reasonably priced mobile phone that has finally come to the Philippines.

This latest LG Mobile offering to its Black Label Series was launched last Wednesday at Club Ascend at Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City with executives of LG Electronics Philippines promising consumers a mobile phone that offers the best in design and technology in this growing wireless world.

LG Secret follows up on the innovative design and style made popular by predecessors LG Chocolate and LG Shine, and has improved on features frequently used by consumers, with some surprises along the way.

At first glance, the LG Secret looks straight-up serious — charcoal black with glossy metal and matte black lining the side. Even the small patch of leather-like material on the earpiece conjures up images of business people closing deals left and right.

The designers surely were going for that mysteriously enticing appeal. LG Secret comes in a black box with smaller black boxes for its supplied accessories (earphones, power cord, USB cable) and a small black book as manual. Hey, it’s the Black Label Series, isn’t it?

Perhaps the first thing you’d notice with the phone is the casing of the battery with its three-dimensional checkboard-like pattern. 

It feels different, too. That’s the carbon fiber coating LG Secret’s back, giving it a tough feel and making it “scratch-resistant.” The same goes for its 2.4” LCD screen with its tempered glass.

This is particularly nifty news for butterfingers or those lacking in hand-and-brain coordination.

Even with a small slider frame at 102.8 x 50.8 mm and a thin profile of 11.8 mm, its mass has a comfortable feel to the hand, weighing at 116 grams.

The touch feature of LG Secret could prove therapeutic to the clumsy because it is so ultra-sensitive you would want to learn to be more in control of your finger movement.

The touchpad has four touch navigation keys. On standby mode each key functions as a quick menu, contact list, messaging and profiles. The touch keys are also used to navigate between menus.

As for soft keys, the touchpad has two — left and right — which perform the functions indicated at the bottom of the display. At the center of the pad is the stainless steel OK key and below, are the send and end/power keys.

The manual advises users not to wrap the phone with a case, as the touch screen won’t work with any covering on it. Being scratch-resistant and with a durable carbon fiber coating, which are the main reasons why we use cellphone covers or skins, accidentally scratching or dropping the LG Secret shouldn’t be a concern.

So far after dropping the phone five times and slipping it in and out of the pocket of my pants, it has not one scratch on it.

Initial reviews from the United Kingdom, where it was first launched before it came to Asia in mid-June, labeled the phone as “odd” due to the fact that only the navigation pad and certain media and gaming features are touch-enabled — meaning you can tap the LCD screen to listen to music, view photos, play its motion-sensor games and read documents in Word and Excel formats, text, PDF and PowerPoint via Piscel Viewer.

Nonetheless, the touchpad and touch media are very responsive with the slightest touch. At times too responsive but once the slider is shut, the phone automatically locks the pad. Even so, you can make or accept calls or perform functions that don’t require typing on the number pad like accessing the multimedia.

‘No rivalry here’

When the word “touch” as a feature in a mobile phone is mentioned, Apple’s iPhone comes to mind but LG executives were quick to clarify that there is no competition to speak of in the first place.

Park Sangmin, who designed the LG Secret and was involved in the creation of its predecessors, said, “The design concept (of LG Secret) from the very initial stages was not for an iPhone or a smartphone.”

Park pointed instead to the “emotional” feel the owner of an LG Secret gets from using the navigation touchpad, which can be made to vibrate while it glows neon blue with every tap so you actually “feel” the phone responding to your command.

Another LG executive, Lew Sung Koo, added that LG Mobile aims to offer “more variety” to consumers based on their different needs for style and design, technology and other more specific features.

“We do not think of iPhone as a competitor,” stressed Lew, general manager for marketing of LG Mobile Communications in Southeast Asia, during the Asia-Pacific launch of LG Secret at the recent CommunicAsia 2008 in Singapore.

LG Electronics was back at CommunicAsia with what it touted was its “strongest lineup ever,” showcasing its latest product lines highlighted by the launch of LG Secret.

With advanced wireless solutions, LG is rapidly expanding its presence and market share globally.

LG Mobile may relatively be a “comeback kid” in the Philippines even as it slowly but surely made quite an impact on consumers with handsets like LG Secret’s predecessors Chocolate and Shine, and models like the professional-level camera phone LG Viewty, and the KF600 with its popular InteractPad, among other handsets “engineered with technology and style in mind” that are available in outlets nationwide.

In CommunicAsia, LG Mobile also introduced LG-KT610, its newest smartphone featuring the QWERTY keypad, and LG-HB620T, the world’s first “digital video broadcasting terrestrial” mobile TV phone.

In a seeming onslaught of a wide variety of mobile phones that suit practically every consumer desire, LG Electronics president Jeff Hong and LG Mobile head Jon Santico announced that LG Mobile is here to stay during the Philippine launch of LG Secret.

“We’re back. This year marks the re-entry of LG Mobile in the local market,” Santico told the print and Internet media.

With global design centers situated all over the world capable of producing 100 million units a year, he said LG Mobile aims to advance to the global Top 3 phone manufacturers by 2010.

Core technology and smart design are the two principles that LG Mobile goes for in creating and developing its handsets, Hong said.

LG Mobile is constantly innovating its handsets not just what’s inside but also the exterior, citing carbon fiber as an emerging “keyword for premium designs,” and LCD screens that interact more with the user.

LG Secret offers just that kind of connection with its motion sensor-driven screen adjustor. It’s amusing to feel like you’re right on the batting field swinging strikes or homeruns, hitting or missing the bull’s eye, hooking some fish, messing with the Magic Ball, or playing shotput or “hammer” as the game is called on its motion game feature called the “M-Toy.”

LG Secret’s display technology also offers screen size adjustment and horizontal or vertical rotation of the screen depending on hand movement. With its motion sensor, the phone automatically adjusts the view whether you are viewing video clips or documents or surfing the Internet.

The response time though when switching from vertical to horizontal and back is not quite as prompt at times.

Speaking of the Internet, LG Secret comes with not just a WAP 2.0 version but also a Google package, eliminating the hassle of downloading Google’s mobile application from the site itself.

With the Google package pre-installed, the search feature is ready for use on LG Secret as well as Gmail and you can directly upload from YouTube, map finder with a Google CellID although the features may vary depending on the service provider.

Until now though, I have yet to successfully view a video from YouTube with the operation always timing out.

With LG Secret being relatively new and perhaps because of the hullabaloo on Yahoo’s! futile attempt to partner with Google, the phone model doesn’t appear on the Yahoo! Mobile list of compatible handsets to download Yahoo! Go.

Let’s compare

The launch of LG Secret last May in Europe, then in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific last month came just a year after LG Shine was introduced and nearly two years since the LG Black Label Series kicked off with the unveiling of LG Chocolate.

Both Chocolate and Shine did remarkably well, according to LG, with over 26 million units sold combined and both phones scoring high on the style and design category.

In designing LG Secret, Park admitted the difficulty of “exceeding the bar” set by its predecessors and in weaving together a designer’s vision and the company’s, saying they relied on insights on market trends and technological level.

Park noted the trend in mobile design is that which “defies traditional handset” look and adds to the consumers’ demand for a phone with multiple functions.

So with LG Secret, the makers of the Black Label Series enhanced commonly used phone features and added technologically innovative ones.

The camera, for one, has a five-megapixel resolution — a marked improvement from the 1.3 megapixels and two megapixels of LG Chocolate and LG Shine, respectively.

There are two keys that can be used to capture shots using LG Secret. Without having to slide the phone open, there’s the bottom key on the right-hand side of the phone that doubles as the quick capture function; when pressed for two seconds, it will launch the camera’s viewfinder on the screen. Then there’s the center key on the touchpad.

It might be easier to use the side key to get a shot as the center key is within the sensitive touchpad and it takes some getting used to in maneuvering your fingers without accidentally activating a function you don’t want to use.

The LG Secret has a built-in flash that can be turned off with an ISO800 feature that LG says enables “best picture quality in low light” although it can get tricky to use, as the output sometimes appears either too bright or grainy.

The auto-focus, on the other hand, is accurate even when you got shaky hands from drinking too much coffee.

It’s relatively easy to edit photos not just to adjust the brightness, contrast and white balance but also when you feel like turning artsy with seven filter effects (vivid, negative, sepia, blue, emboss, sketch and monochrome). There’s a morphing or facial editing feature if you feel like distorting someone’s face or expression.

The camera also features seven different scene modes so you can adjust the settings if you want it on auto mode or use portrait, landscape, night, beach or indoor scene.

Just like digital cameras, the LG Secret has other shooting modes. There’s the continuous mode wherein you could take nine shots automatically in rapid succession. Or opt to take a frame shot with its installed “fun frames” to spice up the photo.

The panorama mode, a feature that LG executives are particularly excited about, allows you to take a picture of a large group of people or capture a panoramic view, and it’s pretty hassle-free to operate.

This slim camera comes with a video recording feature that can take up to 120 frames per second. When you feel like merging videos with your music, the phone has movie-maker software and special effects, too, like fade-out, dissolve or ripple, among others. Or you can add a recording of your voice for some drama.

Its DivX video recording and playback function offers crystal-clear, DVD-like quality, too.

LG Secret has a media editor for images, video and music that you don’t have to rush home to use your laptop or PC to do the job.

Using this function is very simple, too. For instance, when personalizing your ringtone or message tone, it’s easy to use the touchpad in cutting a long intro short or slicing the song to get right into your favorite part.

The audio codec of LG Secret supports MP3, WMA, RA and practically every other oft-used format, while the video codec allows you to play video in MPEG4, WMA and RV formats. LG Secret’s editing features are available for all video types, except for 640 x 840.

After two weeks of using the phone’s camera, video and music features to the hilt, the LG Secret’s handset memory managed to store up to 16,391KB of images, 55,848KB of sounds and 20,578KB of videos. That’s apart from the 363KB of flash contents, MMS, e-mail, Java and other stored items on the phone.

LG Chocolate has up to 128MB internal memory but lacks an expandable one. LG Shine improved on this with 50MB internal and an expandable microSD slot of up to 2GB for tunes, videos and images.

LG Secret commands a respectable 100MB of internal memory and an external SD slot of up to 4GB. With its reserve memory, you can store up to a thousand each of text messages and contacts or list up to a hundred To-Dos you in the Organizer; the same goes for the phone’s Calendar and Memo features.

Compatibility, connectivity

As a user of Windows Vista, I was keen on seeing how LG Secret’s PC Suite is compatible with this security-sensitive operating system once the installer CD is up and running.

Conveniently, the installation was fast and trouble-free. Using the LG PC Suite to manage the contents of the phone is also user-friendly with drag-and-drop, as with backing up your files or synching your contacts and messages with your PC or laptop.

Using the phone to connect to the Internet, however, can prove to be a challenge if you’re using its Bluetooth 2.0 version — once it worked, other times it displayed an error message on link protocol that a fellow techie suggested reinstalling the PC Suite.

But with the USB cable that comes with the LG Secret package, connecting is easy with a few simple steps.

Connecting the USB cable to the computer charges the phone so when it reads that the LG Secret is charged to the hilt, a message pops up on the LCD screen stating so and advising you to disconnect the cable “to save energy.”

But twice, when it was supposed to be charging while the USB was connected to my laptop, without warning the phone turned off on a drained battery.

The phone, then again, at least has an auto-battery save function that can make the LCD screen appear clearer under bright light, and when it’s dark, it adjusts to a gentler, softer glow.

There is that issue on battery life even though LG executives during the Asia-Pacific launch gave assurance that they have improved on that aspect.

Initial charging takes the usual three hours, then after some two hours or less.

On standby mode, LG Secret’s 800 mAh, Li-Ion battery can reach a maximum of 260 hours, according to LG, and its talk time can last up to 229 minutes.

On first use, the phone lasted for one-and-a-half days although it should be noted that I was using LG Secret as a modem to connect to the Internet. The warning sound, however, was either too soft to hear or the low-battery alert too abrupt as the phone, on two occasions, went dead just like that.

What with all the features packed into the small frame of LG Secret, the few flaws are forgivable. All in all, it’s a mobile phone that doesn’t disappoint from its chic design to its smart technology and reasonable retail price of P24,800.

To know more about LG Secret, check out http://secret.lgmobile.com.   — With Eden Estopace

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