LG sold 7 million Viewty handsets, so they probably have an idea of how many Viewty Smarts they want to shift, as it steps in as a direct replacement of that handset. We got our hands on the new camera phone at the UK launch, a pre-production sample, still awaiting some final software tweaks before hitting the shelves.
The idea, LG told us, was to supply a direct replacement without asking customers to part with more money for a more expensive contract to get the phone. In that way the Viewty Smart could be seen as something as a compromise: a handset that doesn't break hardware boundaries, but in these hard financial times, won't break the bank either.
The result is a device that pulls together some of LG's recent successes, such as their new S-Class interface seen in the KM900 Arena and GD900 Crystal, and paired with the sort of camera specs seen in last year's KC910 Renoir: an 8-megapixel sensor and a whole collection of digital wizardry that you'd find on a compact camera, as well as some that you wouldn't.
The device itself is slim and light, measuring 108.9 x 56.1 x 12.4mm and weighing 102g. The front is dominated by the 3-inch 480 x 800-pixel (WVGA) widescreen display. Beneath the display is a single bar which gives you your calling buttons and the home key.
Scattered around the body you'll find a good collection of controls, down the right you have a dedicated shutter button and volume controls, as well as a flap for connection to headphones, charging and TV out. On the right you have the slot for the microSD card, so you can expand the 1.5GB of internal memory, potentially up to 32GB. There is also an additional shortcut key on the left.
It's a great size and weight of device, it sits well in the hand and is comfortable to use. The S-Class interface feels as thought it fits well into the Viewty Smart: the intuitive scrolling menus make it easy to navigate. The touchscreen didn't seem quite as responsive as the Arena and neither did the accelerometer. As these seem to be the things that are last to be ironed out in final software updates, we'd expect them to be resolved when the retail version arrives.
LG are insistent that they need to differentiate between devices and maintain a clear device focus. In this case it is imaging, although you'll find pretty much the same entertainment elements found on the Arena, including the Dolby Mobile and DivX/Xvid offerings, but the absence of a standard 3.5mm jack will potentially annoy those that want to use their own headphones. LG said that it is likely to be a dongle offering in the box, so you could always swap out the supplied headphones with your own, and accept that you'll have yards of spare cable.
But looking in the other direction, the Viewty Smart does offer a blistering array of photo features. That said, some of the features are only there for your amusement and lend themselves to sharing, but don't really transfer into the world of mainstream photography. For example you can blow into the mic to fog up the image, to then wipe clean a section of your photo with your finger. Fun, but the novelty will probably wear off pretty quickly. There is the usual array of frames and "beauty shot" and so on, so if you are looking for a bit of photo fun then it should fit the bill.
In terms of real world specs, LG are boasting a max ISO of 1600. This move is partly presented as a compromise for not having a Xenon flash, the claim being that the increased ISO range will let you capture images indoors without the need for a flash that would have bulked the phone out a bit more (and possibly impacted on the price). True, to a certain extent, but we'll have to look at how well it handles the image noise under such conditions in a full review at a later date.
Instead you have an LED "flash", which in our tests gave reasonable short-range illumination. The location of the LED does mean it is prone to being covered with a finger or reflecting off your hands if you don't grip the phone just so, and LEDs do tend to blow the colour out of everything. But again we'll have to give this a full test at a later date.
Touch focusing is a neat a practical feature that we did get to test, making it easy to focus on what you want, rather than just leaving the phone to decide for you. General focusing did seem a little sluggish, perhaps leaning towards that touch focusing as a more positive and useful way to get the shot you want. You'll also find face detection and smile shot as we've seen in previous camera phones from LG.
On the video front you get the ability to record up to DVD quality, with 720 x 480 being the maximum resolution (at 30fps). Whilst being an average resolution for a phone camera, we're starting to see the emergence of HD, for example in the Samsung i8910, so why isn't it here? We suspect LG are saving it for that 12-megapixel phone that they have been promising for some time.
Overall first impressions are pretty good. Packing in the essential specs of Wi-Fi, HSDPA, GPS, Bluetooth, the Viewty Smart is a verifiable data fiend, perhaps only restrained by that operating system, which, whilst glossy and easy to use, perhaps lacks the expandability you'd find in a Symbian S60 handset.
The myriad of image customisation and editing features won't impress everyone and with LG pushing this as an imaging phone rather than an out-and-out entertainment device, if you don't find yourself getting carried away with photos on your phone, then the Arena might be a better option.
As to the actual performance of the camera, we'll be giving the phone a full review in the not to distant future, to really see how it performs.