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Formed as 'Lucky-Goldstar' in around 1958, LG has taken a while to make itself a worldwide player in mobile phones. The decision to abbreviate the company name was a wise one given Goldstar's terrible reputation in Britain for electronic products, but unfortunately, the mobile phone division did not earn itself much of a better one. 'Life's Good' is LG's apparent corporate slogan, but for many it may as well have been 'Life's Bad'.
Although they were not the first phones marketed by LG in Britain, the U8-series of flip phones on Three (U8110, U8120, U8360, etc.) were some of the least reliable products ever to grace the mobile phone world. A friend of mine had three of them in as many months. Although they were reasonably attractive on the outside, and probably the most 'normal' phones Three did at the time, the U8120 distinguised itself on being one of the only phones I have seen to have its own report on the BBC's Watchdog. It was thus that LG created a bad name for itself in something approaching just twelve months, and they are still recovering. However, LG has recently become the by-word in the industry for good-looking, trendy phones, like the Chocolate, Shine and Prada, and suddenly no one remembers the bad old days any more. Maybe the fashion phone market is a lot more fickle than one had thought, but their new lines are not normally described as ugly. However, all these new models have their roots in one of the unsung heroes of LG's renaissance, the S5200.
Launched in early 2006, and only available through Carphone Warehouse at the time, the LG S5200 was also the first LG I have ever seen advertised on television. 'Looks beautiful, works beautifully' was the slogan used. Fortunately, the first part of this at least was not misleading. The phone is something of a design clone of the Samsung D600, but functionally closer to one of their lesser models, such as the E370, since it has no memory card slot and only a 1.3 Megapixel camera. This means a small, black slider phone with a blue backlight on the keypad and a lovely matt finish on the battery. Indeed, the phone is probably better looking than the E370 itself.
LG also opted to include the full kit with the phone, rather than the paltry handsfree kit and charger with the E370, and in the box was a software CD and data cable in addition to the stereo handsfree kit, the phone and the charger. The data cable never seemed to work with the computer I normally use, however (although my mother's ancient laptop is hardly the best subject for such a trial), but I am sure with a little persistence it probably would. However, turning the phone on makes the phone start to show its weaknesses.
The screen on the phone is quite small, and only displays 128x160 pixels, which was barely adequate a year ago and now looks prehistoric. Mind you, it is quite bright, and photographs taken with the built-in 1.3 Megapixel camera look surprisingly good on it. This is probably due to the fact that it ostensibly displays 262,000 colours, rather than the 65,000 which would be normal on such a small screen. The phone also vibrates quite violently when turned on, which is unusual. Many people will want to know how the S5200 operates as a phone, however, and this is where we notice the first problem.
There is no speakerphone on the S5200. Nor was there one on the subsequent KG800 Chocolate. This has now been fixed on the new Chocolate models, and was always present on the 3G models, because, of course, they needed the speakerphone for video calling. Mind you, it does seem to work all right with a Bluetooth headset and the included headset if this is a real issue. The keypad is well-spaced, and the keys have a good feel to them, although the top half of the slider, which contains the navigation keys, does not offer much feedback for users when they are navigating through the phone's menu system. The signal strength is also slightly suspect, although it is probably no worse than average. The S5200 does all the normal things such as separate SIM and phone contact lists and a photo phonebook, but there is always some strange picture which comes up when accepting an incoming call, and this is not something which can be turned off, as far as I can tell.
Text messaging is relatively straightforward, and the phone counts the number of messages when writing a text as well as the characters. However, changing from capital letters to lower case does present more problems than it should do, as a few options need to be toggled through (T9 on: Capital letter, T9 on: lower case, etc) in order to perform this relatively simple function. The phone also does not support custom message alert tones, so the preset ten or so are the only ones to choose from.
As mentioned before, the 1.3 Megapixel camera is actually surprisingly good, and would probably look even better on a larger screen. There is also a useful flash function, as well as video recording. The camera is probably the same as in the later LG Chocolate, which is no bad thing. Unfortunately, photographs sent to the phone from other sources do present problems. Like some other LG phones, the S5200 will only accept pictures of under 400kb in size. This rules out a lot of 2 Megapixel pictures, and those of even larger size would not have a chance at all. Indeed, the whole file transfer and storing system on the S5200 leaves a lot to be desired.
The Bluetooth on the S5200 is one of the hardest to understand that I have ever come across. For a start, the Bluetooth function is in the office tools menu rather than in the settings as it is on most other phones. Additionally, half the time it operates very slowly or hardly at all on numerous occasions, although it will normally finish a transfer. It may just be a little slow about it!
With 64 MB of built-in memory, the S5200 is perfectly adequately equipped for what the vast majority of its users will use it for: the odd photograph, one or two MP3s and some videos. (The P7200, one step up in the range from the S5200, took transflash cards, and also had a better camera.) Useability issues still plague LG phones of this vintage, however.
Navigating an LG menu is not always as easy as it could be, due to some of the peculiar terms used sometimes, the slow processing power of some of the phones, and the fact that some options are not where one would expect, as already discussed. Needless to say, however, that Samsung phones can also have similar problems, but are on the whole slightly better than this. The LG 3G phones, with something like fifteen different navigational buttons, are much worse than this too.
There are Java games on the S5200, but I do not recall them very well, so they cannot have been that memorable. What I do remember is the phone having terrible battery life, not helped by a wildly inaccurate battery indiator. The phone's battery life on average was about two days.
To sum up, therefore, the LG S5200 is an attractive little phone, if slightly guilty of copyright infringement, which has reasonable multimedia features and reasonable specification. However, it is let down by useability flaws, poor battery life and poor file transfer capabilities. Compared with an industry standard like the Samsung D600, which is only slightly more expensive, it pales completely.