We first encountered the Shine at CES 2007, where we named it one of the top 20 head-turning gadgets of the show. A few months on it has finally arrived in Australia, although the specs have changed slightly. The local version of this delectable device is 3G, with a customised version (the U970) available on Hutchison's 3 network.
Phone manufacturers have developed a penchant for glossy, shiny surfaces of late, and the Shine is the ultimate example of this newfound devotion to things that glisten and gleam. The phone has a polished-metal body, and the entire front surface transforms into a mirror when the 2.2-inch LCD is idle.
Of course, while there are obvious advantages to having a phone with a giant mirror on it -- being able to check for parsley in your teeth, blinding annoying siblings by angling the phone at the sun -- the downside is that you will need to spend a lot of time doing the old spit-and-polish. The surface quickly becomes tarnished with fingerprints, facial muck and unidentifiable grime, so keep a wiping cloth handy.
The mirrored surface is but one aspect of the Shine's sleek-and-sexy appearance. The phone looks and feels expensive, from the metal finish to the hefty 120-gram weight. The sliding mechanism is solid, and doesn't feel loose or flimsy like some other slider models we've played with. Flicking up the top section reveals a flat keypad, its numbers backlit with blue neon. It's a swish-looking set-up, even trumping the RAZR family's keys in the elegance stakes.
There is one major cause for complaint -- the scroller beneath the display may look cool, but it falls far behind the traditional five-way navigation key when it comes to usability. We found that both the scroller and the teeny buttons to the left and right of it gave us trouble when typing text messages and moving through long lists.
The Shine has 512MB of space for your music and data storage needs. Note that there is no way to boost this capacity -- although the phone has been released in overseas markets with a smaller internal memory and a microSD slot, Australian buyers must content themselves with the boosted in-built memory.
The 2-megapixel autofocus camera comes equipped with a heap of photo-taking options, including a variety of resolutions, five white balance settings, a delay timer and artistic effects. An inward-facing VGA camera allows you to make 3G video calls.
Video and audio are handled with style within a basic multimedia player, with supported formats including MPEG-4, H.263, 3GP, WMV and ASF for video, and MP3, WAV and AAC for sounds. If you fancy transferring a heap of tunes from your PC, you can do so via USB or Bluetooth.
We were wondering how the reflective surface might affect the visibility of the LCD, but the 320 x 240 screen looks fantastic. Occasionally, as with glossy-screened laptops, you will find that you can see your own reflection, but this only happens when the display is dark and isn't enough to be distracting.
The Shine gets pretty toasty when charging, no doubt aided by the heat-conducting properties of its metal housing. It's not quite the thigh-searing heat generated by a MacBook Pro, but it's warmer than we're used to.
The battery powered on for around three days, but we found charging via USB took too long to be practical and advise you stick to good old-fashioned mains power for your juicing-up needs.
We liked the Shine a lot, but the pesky scroller is too small and fiddly, and therefore brought the score down. We can also think of better ways to spend our time than constantly polishing the fingerprinted glossy screen. That said, the phone looks gorgeous if you can manage to keep it clean, and will likely cause envy among those you show it off to.