LG and Sprint announced two new CDMA phones here at CES: the Lotus Elite and Rumor Touch. They also announced an Android phone, the GT540.
The GT540 isn't intended for the US, at least not yet, but it's interesting nonetheless, as a glimpse of how LG applies its interface ideas to Android.
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The GT540 isn't a very high-end device, it's very lightweight, which lends it a slight cheap feel. It's sleek and stylish, though, with a unique shape and nifty pattern on the back that changes in the light. You can tell this isn't a very high-end phone from the resistive touch screen and 3-megapixel camera. It does have wi-fi, though.
On the interface side, LG has expanded the number of Android home screens to seven, and put four icons across the bottom. Three are shortcuts to common things like phone and contacts. The fourth brings up the app menu. Otherwise the UI is very much stock Android.
The camera app is one area LG has put a lot of effort, and it's very welcome. The app has a great interface with handy buttons down the side of the viewfinder, and a pretty rotating dial interface for the more advanced settings. One of the more advanced features of the camera is face recognition.
Here's a video tour of the GT540:LG Lotus Elite
The Lotus Elite takes the popular Lotus design and adds a relatively huge touch screen on the outside. In fact, both the inner and outer screens are 2.4-inches and QVGA resolution. Only the outer one is touch, though (and it's resistive.)
The other features of the Lotus are very similar. The keyboard is slightly larger and there are some new shortcut keys, but the touch screen is the only real upgrade. Sprint's OneClick interface carries over, which is nice.
In terms of quality, it feels nice. It's very solid and the keys are all easy to feel and press. The keyboard and touch screen both work well.
The touch screen has a rotating cube interface, where you swipe left and right to switch between various screens like contacts, messages, speed dial, photos and videos. From the center "home" screen, there's an option at the bottom to access the screens from a list-style menu, and you can also turn off ones you don't use, so you can get to others faster.
One quirk of the Lotus Elite's design is that the camera is built into the hinge and rotates with the top half of the phone. With the phone open, the camera faces you, so to take a photo of something else, the phone needs to be closed, using the touch screen to control the camera.
The Lotus Elite goes on sale January 10.
Here's a video tour of the Lotus Elite:LG Rumor Touch
The big upgrade with the Rumor Touch, naturally, is a large touch-screen. It replaces the smaller screen and numeric keypad of the Rumor 2. It's a resistive screen, and that's apparent. It was a little finicky in our brief time with it. Still, such a large screen on a device like this is quite nice.
The keyboard is better than ever. Many higher-end phones here at CES don't have keyboards nearly as enjoyable to use. Other keys feel good, and the overall build quality is good. It is a bit lightweight and plastic-feeling, so it feels a tad cheap, but that's purely an aesthetic issue.
The main menu of the Rumor Touch is a lot like the Instinct series. It's just one big list that's completely customizable to be your own personal main menu. From there you can reach the standard phone main menu.
One unique feature added by LG is the "Hello" screen. This unique screen offers four pages where you can arrange little photo thumbnails of your favorite contacts. You can put all of your family on one screen, then swipe down to a screen of friends' faces, then put work contacts on a third screen. Within each screen, you arrange people however you like, down to the pixel, so you could arrange your family in a family tree, for example.
In terms of other specs, the Rumor does add EVDO 3G data, a very welcome addition to the Rumor series. Remaining specs and features are largely unchanged.
Look for the Rumor Touch later this quarter.
Here's a video tour of the Rumor Touch: