If we're honest, and we always are, the mirror-reflected surfaces of the original trio of LG Shines were a bit flashy for our simple tastes. The advertisements for the original Shine showed women checking their make-up with the phone, so perhaps it served a purpose for some beyond being merely eye-catching. For us, tech reviewers whose make-up is always impeccable, the new black Shine is so much cooler, like a chiselled slab of slate or obsidian, and with the mirror-surfaced screen to boot.
Aside from its darker hue, the great differentiator between last year's prepaid Shines (the Bar and Slide) and this newer model is its squat joystick, nestled just below the screen. The word joystick isn't entirely accurate though, its height barely extends beyond the surface of the phone and it's manipulated by very gentle gestures. In practice, using this joystick is more like the optical mouse-pads we've seen on Samsung phones, the Omnia and INNOV8. Instead of pushing the stick you just brush your finger in the direction you want the cursor to move.
The screen is excellent, giving the phone a much richer feel than its actual price tag. Its 2.2-inch QVGA resolution is bright, sharp and colourful, and is great for Foxtel TV. Around the rest of the handset are few surprises; a 2-megapixel camera with photo-light on the rear, and the standard selection of dedicated mechanical keys around the edges. Headphones are plugged in the port shared with the charger, but a 3.5mm headphone adapter is included in the retail package.
Our only major gripe with the phone's design is its cramped keypad. The TU720 is a slider phone with a numeric keypad under the slide, but LG has chosen to include the start and end call buttons on this keypad as well, which adds an extra row to an already cramped space and squashes the number/letter keys to an awkwardly small size. Petite fingers might navigate this pad better than ours, but we'd prefer to see a bigger space dedicated to each key all the same.
Strap on your racing goggles, the TU720 is a little speed demon. The TU720 is Next G ready and features HSDPA web transfer speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, and the results are evident when surfing BigPond content and streaming video through Foxtel TV. Viewing TV on the TU720 is great with the colour display, which features an excellent viewing angle. Even on quite acute angles we could still see the image on-screen clearly. USB and Bluetooth v1.2 round out the phone's connectivity options.
Beyond the data speeds and Telstra services, the TU720 is a bog-standard mobile handset. You have access to a calendar, notes, memos, and a few kooky extras like a tip calculator and the ominously titled "D-Day Counter", which is basically a glorified appointment reminder — though it seemed creepier once we set the name of the countdown to "End of Days" and displayed it on the home screen.
The LG TU720 may not have the kind of features list to make you weak at the knees, but we have been impressed with the way it does what it's capable of. Voice calling is superb and messaging would have been perfect if it weren't for the crumb-sized keys. The Next G delivered as promised and LG's web browser is more than adequate for mobile browsing. The HSDPA connection does take its toll on the battery life though, with LG only estimating talk-time at three hours.
Media components of the phone are decent, though not outstanding. The built-in camera is one of the better shooters at this price-point but is no match for more expensive models. The pictures we've taken are a touch soft in focus and flare in higher contrast areas of the image. Surprisingly, the bundled headphones are quite good, though the 3.5mm headphone adapter means if you want to connect your own headphones, you can.
LG we crown you reigning King of the budget-priced phone. You bless us with good looking phones, similar to your top-end models, and grace us with features that everyone needs, not just those with pockets deep enough for a smartphone. It's not fantastic for playing your media collection, but then, we can't think of a phone for under AU$300 that is. Telstra's range of Next G compatible prepaid handsets now includes some great bargains, like the Telstra T6, but the TU720 is our new favourite in this exclusive list. If you're a Telstra customer looking for something cool without breaking the bank, you should check out the TU720.