In the beginning of 2005 phone manufacturers were abuzz with the promise that this year would be the year of the MP3 mobile phone. Alas, many models later there has yet to be an impressive implementation combining a handset and a media player into a user friendly package (besides maybe the Sony Ericsson W800i). Handsets have been plagued by either user interface problems, lack of memory or mediocre sound quality.
The M4410 is LGís latest attempt at creating a handset with the focus on MP3 playback. Despite many handsets having the ability to play back various media, the LG M4410 makes an effort to make this an easy and quickly accessible feature. Letís see how LG has faired with their latest offering.
The first noticeable feature of the phone is the slick black exterior, a step in the opposite direction compared to most currently available phones which tend to go for a silver chassis. The black is a departure from the status quo however it looses the class and style that gadgets get when they are encased in wonderful silver. Also, LG have integrated three MP3 buttons on the exterior of the phone, aimed at making MP3 playback an easily accessible feature on the phone.
The LG M4410 has a 1.3 megapixel camera integrated in the front of the phone. LG have also included Bluetooth and USB connectivity options for connecting to a PC and using the phone as either a modem or synchronising messages/contacts. The unit features a 176 x 220 pixel screen and also a 96 x 96 pixel OLED screen on the exterior of the handset. 176 x 220 is generally an adequate resolution for a phone this size, however owners changing from a 240 x 320 pixel screen will notice a sizeable reduction in quality.
In terms of outstanding features thatís about it. There isnít anything new or remarkable about the M4410. The phone has all the standard inclusions one would expect from a handset in this day and age.
Physical aspects & Build quality
The M4410 is by no means a small package. It would have to be classed as one of the larger sized GSM clamshells (or flip phones) on the market. It will fit into a pocket, despiter feeling pretty bulky in there. The handset does have a nice solid weight to it when it is picked up but it will make those pants sang a bit. The LG M4410 weighs in at 107g and its dimensions are 94 х 47.8 х 25.5 millimetres. The antenna has been thoughtfully placed internally, so there is no stub poking up from top of the handset.
The handset feels like itís reasonably well constructed and with sleek shiny black exterior and silver inserts. The front facia incorporates the M4410ís 1.3 megapixel camera which also includes a LED flash light and the OLED display. Generally the black does look different from other handsets however it is not as classy as some other offerings and itís that type of plastic that can get greasy finger marks over it very quickly.
On the left-hand side are the volume adjustment keys, used when in a call or playing an MP3 file, or to switch on the OLED display from sleep mode when the clamshell is closed. The right-hand side features a camera snap button, a proprietary headset connector and a miniSD card slot. On the bottom is the charger socket, which is not protected by a plastic cover as is the norm in most other phones. One thing good about the charging connector is that it is really easy to plug in and you donít have to fiddle with the port as is the case with some other phones. For the ports which are covered, the LG does provide nice plastic covers which are much better than the rubber covers used on other phones. These tend to wear and tear and the plastic covers are also easy to get off even with short nails like mine. The back of the phone is dominated by the battery which itself is covered by the handset chassis. Underneath it is a typical SIM card slot.
When opened the flip will swing back and want to lock into place, although without any audible click. A problem I had with this clamshell is that it can only be either fully closed or open and it is not possible to set the screen half way if the need arises.
The top half of the clamshell includes the main screen and the bottom section includes the keypad, which although flat, feels good to press. The arrow-pad links to the phoneís most used functions. Pressing the right button will bring up the quick access menu including messages, voice mail, schedule and alarm. Up displays the phoneís favourites list which is easily edited, while pressing down shows the contact list. Finally, pressing the confirm button in the middle of the arrow-pad brings up the main menu. On either side of the arrow pad are two buttons that function as soft keys for menus. There are also two buttons directly above the directional pad which initiate the camera and the MP3 player. Beneath the directional pad is a row of three keys Ė dial, delete and hang-up. Further below is the set of 12 number keys. There is a small problem with the layout of the keys around the directional pad as when trying to press the buttons at top for menu selections, your fingers tend to press the camera/MP3 buttons below.
User Interface & display
The internal screen is a TFT LCD capable of displaying 262,000 colours, at a resolution of 176x220 pixels and while being one of the better screens out there, it is functional but at the same time unremarkable. The screen is bright, the contrast is good and the text size is large and clear so that it should be legible for most people. The phone is theme-able and it is also possible to change the background image for personalisation.
The external screen is a 65,000 colour OLED display, at a resolution of 96 x 96 pixels and is one of the larger displays found in phones. It displays the phoneís status including time, network reception and battery life and it does this effectively. It can also act as the viewfinder for the camera - useful for self portraits. The OLED display is great as everything is visible even in bright light.
The main menu in the phone displays the standard 3x4 grid of icons. The icons include Games, Contacts, Organiser, Multimedia, Messages, My Stuff, Display, Profiles, Tools, Browser, Call Register and Settings. Selecting an icon with the centre key will take you further through the menu system, with the rest of the menus using text lines. Each menu option is accessible by number key shortcuts. For example, to access security settings, you press the Menu button, then #, 4.Generally if there is a number next to a link, pressing that numberís button will activate it.
On the standby screen the time and date are displayed at the bottom. The phone statistics such as reception and battery life are displayed on the top. Generally, the user interface is the strong point of the phone as everything is logically put into menus and is easy to access.
Making and receiving calls
The call quality of the M4410 is adequate but not spectacular. One essential feature that is not present in this phone is speakerphone support. It seems an odd oversight as LG have already put in a loudspeaker for MP3 playback and it would have been easy to send the incoming callerís voice to that speaker. The speaker also tends to distort and doesnít seem to be of high quality despite the possibilities in a phone this size. The voice quality does not improve when using the supplied headset as it is of fairly poor quality. However, the M4410 also has the option of using a Bluetooth headset.
There are 10 preset polyphonic, 24 MIDI and two MP3 ringtones that ship with the phone and while these are reasonable, they do distort due to the bad speaker. Other ringtones can be downloaded from various websites/services or transferred from MP3s/MIDI via USB or miniSD card slot. The synthesiser can play 40 tones at once and makes even the low quality ringtones sound good. All of the tones can be set for when the phone rings, when you receive an SMS or MMS.
The address book can store up to 255 fields in the phoneís memory. Each contact can store a photo, several numbers, an email addresses and it is also possible to define their group and specific ring tone for each contact.
The LG M4410 supports the standard SMS, EMS, MMS and e-mail. T9 predictive text is available for all message composition. Several of the main languages are also available for T9. The keypad is nice to use as the keys are large however it tends to be on the flatter and less tactile side.
The M4410 is able to compose SMS messages of up to 1600 characters resulting in a total of ten linked up messages being sent at maximum. However, it is not as intuitive as some other phone models in terms of adding symbols and such. MMS is also supported and it is possible to create multiple slides, with each slide being able to have a picture, sound, video, or text assigned to it.
LG have also included the SyncML application to download emails to your phone and keep a track of when you receive messages on the go.
Being a typical GSM handset the M4410 has the ability to connect to 900, 1800 and 1900 MHz GSM networks. The phone has Class 10 (4+1/3+2 slots) GPRS support that provides internet download speeds of 48kbps. Thereís also EDGE capability to allow 177 kilobits per second to be downloaded over an EDGE compatible network. The browser is WAP 2.0 compliant and webpages look great on the M4410ís large screen.
In terms of local connectivity the M4410 delivers Bluetooth, a USB cable link and a miniSD card slot with the handset. The Bluetooth included in the M4410 works with wireless headsets (that is, it supports headset and handsfree profiles) and it is also possible to transfer data (eg contacts, photos) over the Bluetooth connection.
Using the USB cable, the phone connects to the LG software suite and is able to transfer pictures, phonebook entries, schedule entries or ToDo list entries to another phone, or a PC. The software is simple, and thankfully does not try to take over your computer. However, it does not give the full range of features. For instance you are not able to delete any files of the phone from the software. The installation CD also features modem drivers for the PC to be able to connect to the internet using the M4410 as a modem.
The M4410 has a miniSD card slot to transfer media and programs between devices. It is a shame however, that Infra-red is not supported as most computers still do not include Bluetooth as a standard feature for data transfer and to use the handset as a modem.
In terms of build quality, LG have done a good job with the M4410. The M4410 does feel good to hold but it is a little on the large side. LG have also gone with a glossy black finish and it is different, but I believe that this wonít appeal to as many people as the handset does look cheap and loses the classiness of a silver exterior which most phone manufactures use. The flip springs into either open or closed position when operated (although it doesnít have the nice click sound present in some clamshell phones). However, one issue mentioned earlier is that the clamshell can only be either fully opened or fully closed and doesnít hold itself in any position in-between which can be a pain at times.
The buttons on the side of the handset are also nicely placed and protrude just enough to be functional but are not in the way and the keypad feels nice but may be a little too flat for some users. The battery clicks off a little crudely but this is a not an issue as generally this is not an area which is accessed frequently. One problem that the handset does have is the MP3 playback buttons on the front of the handset. I found that on a number of occasions I had been leaning or sitting down and the MP3 player had started because the buttons were pressed accidentally. I found the buttons on the exterior front of the phone to be a nuisance and I recommend a more rigid external case for people purchasing this phone.
The LG M4410 includes a Li-ion 1000mAh capacity battery giving it a claimed talk time of 3 hours. LG claims that the handset is able to remain on standby for 200 hours which is reasonable. These figures are slightly higher than what we achieved during testing, however for a battery of 1000mAh the talk and standby time are comparably lower to many phones with smaller batteries. Recharging the phone is fairly fast as with most handsets these days and takes just about two hours.
The battery is also fairly difficult to remove requiring either a pen or long fingernails to pry it open.