LG's Xenon is targeted at teenagers who aren't willing to pay through the roof for a fully fledged smartphone yet still want mobile Internet access. It sports a slide-out QWERTY keyboard and a range of shortcut keys for messaging applications. The phone is exclusive to Telstra's Next G network.
The LG Xenon can be compared to the Telstra hiptop Slide. The hiptop Slide is a re-branded Sidekick device that is an extremely popular smartphone in the US. The LG Xenon is designed to appeal to a similar demographic, but it is a much more advanced mobile phone than the hiptop. For starters, it has a full touch-screen interface.
The best feature of the LG Xenon's design is the full, slide-out QWERTY keyboard. This feature is rare on low-end mobile phones. The keys are quite close together, so it can take a little time to get used to the layout, but the keys are clearly defined and slightly raised, so they provide good tactility. A row of shortcut keys on the far left of the keyboard provides easy access to new message, new e-mail, recent calls and contact list functions. All these open almost instantly.
We feel the design of the LG Xenon is a little underwhelming considering its target market. It lacks the quirky, vibrant feel of the hiptop, and our black review unit looks rather uninspiring until you slide open the keyboard. The spring-operated slider isn't as smooth or sturdy as we would have liked. When opened the slide wiggles slightly towards the left side, raising questions about the phone's build quality. We really liked the physical task key — pressing it opens a list of currently running applications and allows you to close them. The Xenon also has physical answer and end call keys, external volume control, and dedicated camera and screen lock buttons.
Under the hood, the Xenon has a familiar look and feel, employing a slightly different version of the interface used on the 8-megapixel Renoir. The phone uses a resistive touch screen (as opposed to capacitive), but for the most part it's responsive and snappy, and the icons are large and require a slight press to activate. The menu layout is simple: four icons sit on the right side of the main menu (phone, multimedia, my stuff and settings), while the home screen also has a row of easily accessible icons (dialler, contacts, messaging and main menu).
The Xenon's home screen is split into three separate screens: a contacts screen, a regular home screen and a favourites screen. The home screen has a pop-out widget option where you can drag widgets and place them anywhere on the home page area for quick access, while the favourites menu allows users to choose three customisable shortcuts. There are nine shortcut boxes in total, but six of them are Telstra content related and can't be edited.
Our main issue with the Xenon is that there is no App Store, so what you see is what you get. There are no Facebook, Twitter or MySpace apps preinstalled; you need to use the browser to access these social-networking sites, which isn't as convenient as a dedicated app. Being a Telstra-exclusive phone, the Xenon is full of shortcuts to Telstra services and applications, such as Mobile Foxtel, Whereis and the BigPond content portal. Carrier customisation has always existed, but the fact that you can't edit or remove these shortcuts in the favourites page didn't thrill us. The Telstra shortcuts also exist in almost every menu, including phone and multimedia categories.
The Xenon has some basic multimedia features, including a music player, but it is let down by the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack. Instead LG uses a micro-USB port that doubles as a charging jack, so you can't charge and listen to music simultaneously. A basic 2-megapixel camera with LED flash doubles as a video recorder, and the 80MB of internal memory is supplemented by a microSD slot that can house cards of up to 16GB. PIM features of the Xenon include a voice recorder, calculator, notepad, world clock, tasks, stopwatch, tip calculator and a unit converter.
The LG Xenon will be offered for $0 on a Telstra $40 plan over 24 months, but this isn't a cap plan and only offers $35 worth of calls and text. Telstra plans to sell the Xenon as a $50 bundle by including $10 worth of data, though that only amounts to 150MB per month.
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