Did you ever put an empty chip bag in the oven when you were a kid, to shrink the bag into a perfect miniature version of itself? LG's new Shine Slide works on a similar premise; take a popular fashion phone — LG's Shine in this case — shrink not only the handset but the spec sheet and price tag and voila! — a prepaid hit in the making.
The Shine Slide is one of the most impressive handsets we've come across in this price range. Made from 100 percent stainless steel, the Shine Slide shares the same mirror-like surface of its parent phone, under which a 2.2-inch QVGA (320x240) display resides. Unlike many of the plastic handsets in the sub AU$300 category, the Shine Slide feels as sturdy as a phone twice its price.
The sliding mechanism, that gives this phone its name, feels solid. The top half locks into place at both ends and doesn't feel loose on the rails like other sliders we've tested. Under the slider you find a flat numeric keypad, with the keys separated by indented lines. Ordinarily we'd prefer the keys to be raised for definition and ease-of-use, however, the keys here are large enough to use comfortably.
Menu navigation is performed via a rotating toggle under the screen. The toggle is uni-directional — it only spins up and down — but it's very fast, and with a bit of practice we found it to be quite a useful input tool.
The standard selection of buttons on the side of the phone (volume and camera keys) are supplemented with a dedicated MP3 button for accessing the music player. It's a shame that the Shine Slide only has a proprietary LG handset input port, rather than a 3.5mm port for using standard headphones.
Compared to the original Shine, the Shine Slide is relatively feature-poor, but for AU$249 we didn't expect much more on the spec sheet. It's a tri-band 2G handset, and while it has a WAP browser, it's certainly not made for Web browsing. It features reasonably good multimedia playback options including MP3, AAC, WMA, MPEG4 and H264 audio and video file recognition.
For those who have eBayed their digital cameras, the Shine Slide features a 2-megapixel shooter with components certified by Schneider-Kreuznach — similar to LG's Viewty. The camera features auto-focus and an LED photo light to help when taking pics in nightclubs.
Without the glare of high-end bells and whistles to distract us, we managed to discover a few nifty applications buried in the menu on the Shine Slide. One of these is "Lost Mobile Tracker", an application which sends discrete text messages from the phone to a designated number after a thief has replaced the SIM card in the phone. With these messages the original owner can track this person's number and location.
When we opened the box after receiving the Shine Slide we noticed there were a couple of standard accessories missing. LG has decided that the budget price point doesn't cover the extra expense of including a USB cable and a CD with necessary applications in the retail bundle, forcing you to pay extra for the cable and spend the time downloading the software. This is bound to leave many photo-bloggers with a sour taste in their mouths, as it did for us.
With simple phones it's the simple tests that carry the most weight, and during our calling and messaging tests we found the Shine Slide excels. Call quality is excellent with the internal speaker being sharp and audible, and reception was constantly strong. Sending messages is a breeze with the well-defined keys, and the T9 predictive software working similarly to many other popular brands.
The camera works reasonably well, but suffers a few of the pitfalls we saw with the Viewty. The auto-focus works well for the most part, though it sometimes struggled with close-up shots and is quite slow to settle. Colour reproduction was passable, but the images we took outdoors on a clear day turned out looking cold, tinged with a blue hue. These are the optimal conditions for camera phones and shows that LG's camera modules still need a bit of work.
As expected with a 2G handset, battery life isn't a concern, with each battery cycle lasting between four and six days, depending on usage.