Aimed squarely at the younger mobile messager, the LG KS360 may have a slide out Qwerty keyboard and touchscreen dialling but it's certainly more budget-priced social tool than top-end smartphone.
Available for under £80 on Orange pre-pay deals, the KS360 is geared up for messaging duties with its sliding 35-button keyboard.
But alongside its easy to use email, instant messaging, text and MMS, the KS360 is set up for speedy access to online social networking sites such as bebo. Facebook and MySpace, plus other popular services such as Flickr and YouTube.
Although its set up for such services, the KS360 isn't one of the most advanced mobiles around.
It lacks 3G high-speed data, using lower speed GPRS and EDGE connectivity, and as you'd expect with a low-cost phone there's no Wi-Fi onboard.
Its other facilities are limited– there's a Wap 2.0 browser for mobile internet surfing, while the onboard camera is a modest 2-megapixel shooter with no flash.
Still, the KS360 does adopt one of the latest must-have technologies – touchscreen control – albeit in a very restricted manner.
When the phone's keypad is closed, there are just a bank of slightly raised, rounded control buttons showing, and no number keys. But with a touch of a finger-iconed button the display becomes a virtual numberpad for touch-dialling.
Strangely, this is the sole touchscreen function of the KS360; there's no scrolling, tapping or dabbing through menus, just dialling.
It works efficiently enough on the large 2.4-inch 262K-colour QVGA display. This takes up a large proportion of the closed phone, which looks just like a regular sliderphone. Instead of sliding down though, the keypad slides out of the side. This add a slight bit of chunkiness – the phone measures a solid 101.5(h) x 51(w) x 16.8(d)mm, and weighs a heavier than average 111.5g.
The convenience of the Qwerty keyboard though is what the KS360 is all about. When it slides out, the display automatically switches orientation into landscape, so you can immediately start tapping away.
The buttons are quite small and rounded, but there is just enough space between them to allow reasonable typing. It's far from normal keyboard speed, though, as keys aren't well defined enough to enable fast typing – it's easy to slide fingers onto the wrong key.
Also, the backlit keyboard markings aren't that clear on some colour schemes; LG has decked out the KS360 in a number of flashy colour combinations – black and red, black and blue and black and pink among them – but in some lighting conditions characters aren't that readable. Obviously, as you get used to the keyboard layout, you can thumb your way around more dependably, but it's far from perfect.
On the main body, the colour-trimmed rounded navigation controls look eye-catching too, but the navigation select button is a little squashed between directional keys.
The KS360 uses a familiar menu system that's easy to navigate in conventional style, with a cluster of navigation pad and softkey shortcuts fast-tracking users to the key messaging apps and online services.
Messaging is very well integrated. Our KS360 review sample was Orange-branded (as part of its Signature range) and so was pre-configured specifically to Orange services. The phone brings together texting, MMS, email and IM under one menu, and you can view message threads – so you can retrace exchanges with particular people.
The Windows Live Messenger-based Orange Messenger service comes pre-loaded, so you can quickly get up and IM chatting with friends and colleagues. Orange Email is pre-configured too, and you can add your normal email accounts to the list of options as well.
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