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LG Xenon (GR500f) Review

The LG Xenon (GR500f) has been created for teenagers who aren't willing or don’t have the money to pay for a comprehensive smartphone, but who still want to use the Internet via their mobile phone.
11/02/2010

The LG Xenon (GR500f) has been created for teenagers who aren't willing or don’t have the money to pay for a comprehensive smartphone, but who still want to use the Internet via their mobile phone. The Xenon has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard as well as various shortcut keys for messaging applications. One important note: This phone is exclusive to Telstra's Next G Network.

The LG Xenon is much like the Telstra Hiptop Slide, which is an extremely popular re-branded Sidekick smartphone from the US. This phone is also designed for adolescents, but technologically it far surpasses the Hiptop, the full touch-screen interface being the first major advancement you’ll notice.

The coolest aspect to the LG Xenon's design is the full, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, which is a rare addition for a mobile phone at this lower end of the market. The keyboard’s keys are well defined and raised, so it’s not too hard to tap on each one separately, although they are quite close together. It may take you a little while to get used to them. An added plus is the row of shortcut keys situated on the left side of the keyboard. These offer instant access to new text messages, emails, recent calls and your contact list.

The LG Xenon’s design is a little lacklustre if you look at its intended target market. Unlike the Hiptop, it hasn’t got the stylish look teenagers desire, and the black handset looks average except for when the keyboard is open. The spring-operated slider is not as smooth or strong as it could be. When you open it the slide jiggles, which really makes you wonder about the phone's quality of construction.

The physical task key is great. When you click on it a list of all running applications is shown, allowing you to close any if necessary. The Xenon also has push-button answer and end call keys, external volume control, dedicated camera and screen lock buttons.

Technologically, the Xenon works a lot like the 8-megapixel Renoir, although its interface is slightly different. You get a resistive touch screen (not capacitive), but most of the time responds quickly. Icons are quite big and need to be pressed hard to activate, while the layout of the menu itself is basic. There are four icons sitting on the right side, including ‘phone’, ‘multimedia’, ‘my stuff’ and ‘settings’. The home screen also has a row of other various icons like ‘dialler’, ‘contacts’, ‘messaging’ and the ‘main menu’.

The Xenon's home screen is divided into three separate screens. There’s a ‘contacts’ screen, a regular home screen and a ‘favourites’ screen. You can drag and drop new pop-up widgets on your home page for easy access, while the favourites menu allows you to choose from three different customisable shortcuts. There are nine shortcut boxes in total, but six are Telstra related and can't be altered.

The main problem with the Xenon is there isn’t an Application Store. You’ll only ever have what you are first provided. Facebook, Twitter and MySpace applications are all missing. If you do want to use these, you’ll have to do it the old-fashioned way with your browser, which takes more time and can be inconvenient. As it’s a Telstra-exclusive phone, the Xenon is packed with shortcuts to various Telstra services and applications like Mobile Foxtel, Whereis.com and the BigPond website. You can't edit or remove these shortcuts in the favourites page, which can be irritating. Telstra shortcuts are in nearly all of the potential menus, including phone and multimedia sections.

The Xenon has the usual list of multimedia features, including MP3 player, but is missing the eponymous 3.5mm headphone jack. LG uses a micro-USB port which doubles as a charging jack. This means you won’t be able to charge the phone and listen to music at the same time. An average 2-megapixel camera with LED flash that also functions as a video recorder is included. 80MB of internal memory can be added via the microSD slot, which can take memory cards of up to 16GB. Other features in the Xenon include a voice recorder, calculator, notepad, world clock, tasks, and stopwatch, tip calculator and unit converter.

The LG Xenon is essentially a good phone, but its construct and abilities are lacking in some areas. You could really miss the option of having social-networking site applications. As this phone is only available on a Telstra plan, it's not easy to say why it has proven so popular, especially considering it hasn’t done very well connecting with the target market’s teenage desire for flair and excitement.

•    Pros:
•    QWERTY keyboard
•    Shortcut keys
•    Well-designed interface responds quickly
•    Widget home screens

•    Cons:
•    Design isn’t exciting
•    Slider isn’t fully stable when opened
•    Too many unalterable Telstra customisations
•    No 3.5mm headphone jack
•    No social-networking applications
•    Telstra plans aren’t cost-friendly

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