LG KS360 mobile phone

The KS360 is a compact side-slider, measuring 101.5 x 51 x 16.8mm. Whilst compact, it is rather thick by modern standards because it slides open in landscape format to reveal a full QWERTY keypad. Our review sample was a pre-production model in red and black and customised for the Orange network.

The front of the KS360 is dominated by the 2.4in (240 x 320) QVGA screen, which is a respectable size for this phone and is clear and bright. Below the screen are a number of control buttons, basically to select on-screen options and navigate menus, as well as the normal calling buttons. The most interesting, perhaps, is the button that looks like someone using a calculator.

This is in fact the option to enable the touchscreen dialling option. A keypad appears on the screen so you can directly enter the number which works reasonably well if your fingers are not too fat. You can also switch to text entry which will let you then search your contacts, although the text entry is the primitive multi-press type rather than predictive, and is a little clunky to use.

Slide handset open and you are presented with the neat QWERTY keypad in landscape format and the display rotates accordingly. It is a good positive slide action and the quality can’t be faulted here.

The QWERTY keypad also features numbers for dialling in this aspect, as well as navigation keys for using the menus. You’ll also find a shortcut to messaging which is welcome indeed. Whilst in the topic of messaging, the KS360 is a text messenger's dream – yes, you have to move away from your normal predictive text option, but you can bash out messages double-thumbed at incredible speed. The backlighting is a little uneven across the keys, but this is no big issue.

There are some minor foibles with the keypad, however, such as slightly confusing delivery of characters. You can access alternative characters by pressing and holding a key – you can then cycle through the options, but not the alternative symbol printed on the key. So, if you press and hold "A" you cycle through various accented versions, but you don’t get the "4" that also sits on the key. Press and hold toggles the alternative characters so you’ll then have to press and hold to return to the standard character. Sounds confusing, and it does take some getting used to.

There is also a "Fn" function button that will allow you to access the additional characters printed on the keys as well as take advantage of the direction arrows for navigation in a message. A separate "Sym" symbol key give you access to a whole host of symbols if you don’t fancy the press and hold option. What this all boils down to is that if you need a particular character, you can probably find it here, but in everyday usage things run pretty smoothly.

There is a slight problem with navigation once the phone is open. Basically on most screens you are presented with three shortcut options which range across the bottom of the screen. In portrait mode this is no problem as you have keys to do this, but in landscape there is no dedicated key for the central shortcut. On some occasions this can be selected using the OK/enter key, but in messaging this doesn’t work – it gives you a carriage return – so you have to take a more convoluted route to achieve the same result.

Moving around the handset you’ll find an external microSD slot to expand on the meagre 15MB internal offering. There is no 3.5mm jack, so you’ll have to use the standard LG headset, unless you take the Bluetooth option. You’ll also find Orange Music included (in the Orange model) so you can buy tracks on the fly.

Around the back of the phone is the standard 2MP camera, with a dedicated shutter button and on-screen menus that you can navigate with the face keys, making that KS360 a pleasure to use as a quick snapper – although there is no lens cover so it will be quickly scratched up in a pocket or bag and no flash.

Giving a nod to the social pent of this handset, on our Orange review sample, there was an interesting option for a homepage called "Live square" which featured a number of characters. As calls and texts come in, these characters become whoever you are swapping texts with, so from here you can see who you have new messages from – great if you often have multiple conversations running concurrently. You can also read back your messages in conversation style, grouped together, rather than as individual messages.

As to software options for social butterflies you’ll find Orange Messenger, although you’ll have to pay extra for this service and the bundled web browser is basic, but you could always download an alternative. However, the social elements aren’t greatly supported by the hardware. This is a standard tri-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone, so online activity will be hampered in the absence of any 3G option. It is also a shame that there is no Wi-Fi to take advantage the growing number of free Wi-Fi options out there.

Verdict

LG did warn us that the phone might be a little slow because it was a pre-production sample, but encouragingly we didn’t encounter any problems. The touchscreen utilisation is better than in previous phones from LG and is pretty straight-forward to use, but limited only to the dialling and text functions described here.

Overall, we like the KS360. The feel is one of a good quality phone, well built and interestingly designed. The keypad works well and does allow you to bash out quick messages, but there are a few quirks with text entry and navigation of menus in landscape mode that you’ll have to get used to.