LG are one of those companies that release phones that push the market further each time, and what they promise is what they produce. The LG U8110 is a mobile handset compatible with the new media-rich 3G networks, only one of which we have here in Australia - namely “Three.” The 3G network’s main attraction is the ability to perform video calls, enabling you to call another user with a compatible phone and look at the person while they’re looking at you - and talking. This is aided by a great quality video camera.
The LG U8110 is one of the smallest dual-mode handsets on the market today, but the size reduction doesn’t mean a huge feature reduction. The handset brings most of the features we love to use - but some have not been included.
Please note: Many of these features mentioned in the article are NOT available to users on 2G networks. Using a 2G SIM card in a 3G phone may cause permanent damage to the handset and/or the SIM card.
The U8110 is a first from the Korean company to have support for WCDMA networks and data speeds. This in turn means it’s the first 3G compatible mobile phone to hit the Australian market. Videotalk and WCDMA are the fundamentals of 3G - so yes, they are supported on this handset. Other features like an MP3/AAC audio player, digital camera with still and video support, video player, a huge colour display, and infrared/USB connectivity are some of the outstanding features.
WCDMA is a network protocol which stands for Wideband Code-Division Multiple-Access. It is the main implantation for 3G networks and enables data rates of up to 384kbp/s, allowing a large amount of data to be transmitted at once. This technology adds the ability to video talk with another WCDMA user - so two people can view each other while having an audio conversation. Because the bandwidth on the WCDMA networks is large, a basically uninterrupted video stream can be sent and received along with a stereo audio stream received and sent too.
The LG U8110 is a multi-media rich phone in all aspects. Some examples of this is the MP3 and AAC audio format player. When you’re on the go and want something to listen to - your favourite band, or your own music - you can listen to these files on this handset. Once downloaded from a PC or from a WAP site, you can listen to the files with the inbuilt program - through the speakerphone or with the stereo headset. A video player with MPEG4 and 3GPP support is also accessible on the U8110.
Most 3G phones have two digital cameras, an internal one and external one - the internal one is mainly used for video calls. The LG U8110 however only has one digital camera, but it has the ability to rotate a full 180°. It can aim outwards like most mobile phones cameras or inwards like the 3G handsets for video calls. The digital camera can capture VGA standard size images, as well as a range of other sizes and qualities and effects. For more information the Camera Performance section is on page two. The camera can capture still images and video clips too!
The main display on the U8110 is internal - as the phone is a clamshell. It is a 65,536 colour LCD at 176 x 202 pixels. It’s bright and acts as the viewfinder for the digital camera and brings to life WAP pages, images, everything and anything on the U8110. A good quality display is vital for a 3G phone, video calls are almost everything! You’re going to want to see the person you’re talking to in reasonably good quality, aren’t you! ;) An external monochrome display with a blue hologram background (and green backlight) displays the caller ID of an incoming call, or the time/date and other icons when idle.
Connectivity to a PC or laptop is vital for local synchronizations or to just transfer data like music files, images, messages, and more. One way to do this is via the USB data-cable that is included in the sales package of the U8110. If you don’t want to use this method or have an Infrared adapter on your PC/laptop you can start an infrared connection between the two devices. Sadly, Bluetooth wasn’t included on this handset - but I’m sure it will be on the next 3G handset from LG! ;)
The WAP browser on the U8110 has support for WAP 2.0 pages, and xHTML pages also. WAP pages have endless information about any subject what-so-ever. The “Three” WAP homepage is heaps of fun - you can download the latest video clips from your favourite band(s), watch the latest news headlines and so much more from the one place. A dedicated key on the keypad starts up the browser and connects to the homepage.
For more information about the main features on this handset from LG, click over to the Major Features section on page 3.
The U8110 isn’t the best looking handset I’ve seen, but it is very simple - which makes it easy to explain! Chrome/silver finishes and a black backdrop around the monochrome display keep the design as uncomplicated as can be. The phone doesn’t excel in this area, but it’s defiantly not an ugly phone as you’ll see in the pictures attached to this article. The simpleness of the U8110’s design doesn’t mean it doesn’t perform - it does.
From the front, the first thing you notice is the monochrome display boarded with black plastic, and the clear circle above the display which is the photo light. The bottom part of the black boarded is curved like an upside down arc, with the LG company logo printed in silver in the middle. This black section is then bordered with a chrome panel which ends and the hinge where the digital camera starts. The bottom section of the front flip of my review unit has the “Three” hologram logo just above the speakerphone, which is a slightly arced dark indentation.
The hinge of the U8110 houses the rotating digital camera, which rotates freely - it is not rotated by movement of the top flip. The same silver that coats the rest of the phone covers the hinge but not the camera lens - it is housed in a chrome square. The antenna is also all silver, protruding from the right hand side of the handset. The back of the U8110 is also all silver, with the occasional grey rubber stopper to prevent the phone jumping off a surface when it is placed down. The LG logo is indented into the battery cover; the two catches are located on the upper part of the back of the phone. The wrist strap hole is directly above the middle of the catches.
The left side of the LG U8110 houses three buttons and the infrared port with its black protective shield. It also has the headset port covered with a grey rubber stopper when not in use. The larger button of the two (lengthwise) is the volume up/down button which can be used in call or when the phone is idle to activate the backlight or change the details being shown. The button below it starts up the camera when the flip is opened and automatically puts it in video mode. The right side of the handset doesn’t have any buttons or ports. The bottom of the handset has the charging/data-cable port.
When open, the U8110 is still simple. A basic blue backlight which is very bright lights up the whole keypad, which consists of 25 silver keys (including the directional keys), and one blue “OK” button. The buttons are large enough to be pressed easily and all have an angled bottom for increased functionality. They are all labelled with their particular function(s), and the hang up/pick up buttons are the only two with colour. The top flip has the main display surrounded with a chrome border and the LG icon at the bottom in silver print again. The ear speaker is also chrome, and on either side are two rubber stoppers to ensure the two flips don’t rub against one another when closed.
There are no interchangeable covers on the U8110 - nothing on the external side of things can be customized.
User Interface & display
The UI of the U8110 is quite similar to Samsung phones, for example the E700. It is not exactly the same, and one of the similarities is the ability to press a number for each option instead of scrolling to the desired option. On some other phones like Nokia if you press a numerical key you are taken to the idle screen where the number you press will act as if you are trying to dial a number. On the display side of things, on the outside of the U8110 you will find a monochrome display, and a full colour LCD screen on the inside of the phone.
The main display, the internal one, measures 176 x 202 pixels and is capable of displaying a full 65,536 colours. It acts as the viewfinder for the VGA camera and enables you to navigate around the colourful menus and interactive WAP pages in full colour and crispness. When the U8110 is opened the display lights up and the keypad backlight does too. You can select how long the main backlight is to stay lit for, and also how bright it is to be - you can choose Normal or Bright. The external display duration can also be changed, as well as the keypad backlight. When idle, the display shows the reception in the top left hand corner (and conveniently indicates whether you are in a 3G, 3G, or GPRS area), the profile icon in the middle and battery life in the far right. Any other icons from functions that are activated will also be shown at the top of the display. The clock and date will be shown below this if activated - and the selected background will cover the whole display without any limitations - it can be animated too! The network name (which in Australia will be simply ‘3’) is positioned at the bottom and below that is a cut-off section which shows the key function labels which will change accordingly.
The menus of the U8110 are by far the most colourful and animated I’ve seen. They take full advantage of the full colour display and are very attractive and interactive. The menus are very easy to get used to, and are all controllable by the two soft keys on either side of the handset, the 4-way directional key and “OK” button in the middle. A style can be applied to the menu - you have a choice of three which are the ‘Arc Style (default),’ ‘Icon Style,’ and ‘List Style.’ The directional keys have functions when the phone is idle, which are as follows; the left key will take you to the profiles submenu, which pops up on the bottom of the display and enables you to select an appropriate profile; the up key goes to the Quick Menu; the right key to the main messages menu; and lastly the down key goes to your contacts list.
Most people will notice that and extra set of keys are located under the main control keys of the handset, between them and the numerical keys. These three keys have very special and dedicated functions - the one on the left initiates a video call to a number on screen, the middle one does just as it says, goes to the Menu, and the key on the right connects to the WAP homepage. These keys cannot be changed (including the soft keys, which go to “Media” and “Contacts”) but you can add links to the Quick Menu, which has 5 default selections, up to 10 can be defined. The other buttons around the directional key is the ‘back’ button, which can be used in menus or WAP pages - it does what the name suggests ;). The ‘clear’ button is on the right hand side, and if held down while in a call it will start up the speakerphone. The pick-up and hang-up buttons are on the left and right side of the handset respectively. The hang-up button is also the on/off button if held down.
The U8110 has a very customizable user interface. There are four colour schemes that can be used, Violet, Blue, Orange, or Green. This colour-customization continues on throughout the phone, the colour and size of the dialling font/clock & date can be changed too. The contrast of the display is user-defined; there is a range from -31 to +31.
The messages menu is the first to be displayed when you go into the menu and for good reason. Underneath that is the call logs menu, then multimedia, moving along with contacts and then applications, then the browser, the organizer, the tools menu, and lastly settings. All 8 menus have animated icons and are easily identifiable between one another. Once you’ve selected a main menu the submenu can be selected by pressing the “OK” key after you’ve used the directional keys to select your sub-menu, or by pressing the number associated with the sub-menu, as stated before. The sub-menu number is on the left hand side of the text label.
All in all, the user interface and both displays are beyond normal standards. The only tiny issue some people would have is with the external monochrome display and the blue hologram behind it - which makes it unclear when the backlight isn’t activated sometimes. Other than that, the user interface & displays outclass many on the market today.
Making and receiving calls
This is the bit I loved about my trial with the LG U8110 on the “Three” network - video calls! I can see who I’m talking to with very little delay, and they can see me also. It really brings people who are long distances apart together in a technological kind of way. Just because the U8110 supports video calling, doesn’t mean you can’t receive and make normal voice calls - you can! Both video calling and plain voice calls were painless. What makes it even better is the stereo headset included in the sales package, as you won’t need to go out and buy one! :)
I’ll start off with video calls, as it’s probably what most people are anxious to hear about. Already explained in the UI section of this article was the dedicated video call button, just above the numerical keys. This button will try and start a video call with a number on screen - which can be from a contact, a message, or a number you have dialled. Only phones on a 3G network that support video calls can be called, if you call a number that doesn’t support it a conditional divert will be activated and you will be informed that the video service isn’t available. Video calls can only be started and received when you are in the 3G ‘Video Talk’ network - which now covers most parts of Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and Adelaide. Several options are available for video calls - you can stop streaming video from the phones camera all together, change the picture size and quality, and even change which side your picture sits on when in a call. Video quality on the U8110 was quite good compared to another model which I was testing with. The video was much smoother and more detailed.
Although video calling areas does not cover most of Australia, voice calls on “Three” is a much larger area. Around 92% of Australia’s population is covered in the ‘Talk & SMS’ zone. There is a zone in between ‘Video Talk’ and ‘Talk & SMS’ zones, the “Messaging zone.” In this area you can access picture messages, video messages, e-mail, SMS, and audio calls. This area is once again larger than the “Video Talk’ area but not as large as the “Talk & SMS” zone. Check whether or not your area is covered on the “Three” website, @
The audio quality in both audio calls and video calls was very much up to standard. Using the included stereo headset was a bonus, instead of the one ear-piece there is the two, and you can control calls using the button on the headset. The volume can be controlled on the U8110 from the two keys on the left side of the handset. Audio going out was very good as well. Ring tones on the U8110 can be in MIDI, MP3, AAC, 3GP, WAV, or AMR format. A rhythmic vibration alert is activated in most profiles, but is user-defined.
Contacts can be read from the SIM card and from the internal memory on the U8110. Up to 202 contacts can be stored on a 3G USIM, and there is a reserved memory of 500 contacts on the phone memory. Speed dials on the U8110 can be programmed from contacts, and each contact can have several details attached to the name - these include: main phone number, e-mail address, group, memo, image, homepage (web address), home address, company name, job title, and company address. A ring tone can be assigned to voice & video calls from a particular number.
Being a clam-shell phone, the U8110 curves around your face when an audio-call is in place. The length and width of the U8110 aid in the great quality audio which really gets around your face.
The messaging formats supported on the U8110 are MMS, SMS/EMS, and e-mail messages. E-mail messages can be sent and received from a server, and one huge bonus for both MMS and e-mail messages is the variable limit that can be set by the user. No more rejection of MMS messages that are 100kB or e-mails more than 40kB. The message editor on the U8110 is really cool and nicely laid out for easy messaging.
The SMS and EMS messages have support for more than 1 message to be sent at a time. Like many other phones, the 160 character text limit has flown out the window - messages can spread among several text messages and all be sent in blocks, to be compiled on the receivers end.
MMS messages on the U8110 can be up to 300kB in size. Yes, you read right - 300kB! This is triple the amount limited on most other mobile handsets on 2G networks. A 45 second video clip and some text can be sent in one MMS message without limitations and error messages. 300kB MMS messages can also be received on the U8110, enabling other users to send you a 45 second video clip! The MMS messages (as you might gather) can include text, images, audio (polyphonic tone, monophonic tone, MP3, AAC, or AMR) and a video file.
E-mail on the U8110 can be up to 300kB also, and that is definable from the settings menu if you don’t want to receive such large messages. “Three” offers an e-mail service that is built into the firmware of the U8110 and will be set up when you turn the phone on. You can add other mailboxes too if you wish, and download/send data any time of the day or night with the “Mailbox” function in the Messages main menu.
The T9 dictionary on the U8110 is English which enables you to write quick messages and send them off ASAP. Up to 165 text messages can be stored on the phone memory, and 20 on the 3G USIM card. MMS, EMS, and e-mail messages all use up the shared memory of 16mB available on the phone.
The main connection protocol used on the U8110 and other 3G phones is WCDMA, which allows a huge amount of data to be transmitted and received at the same time. GPRS is also supported on this handset, as well as Infrared and USB 1.1 data-cable support for connecting to a compatible PC or Laptop. The U8110 can synchronize with MS Outlook 97, 98, and 2000 on Windows XP/2000 operating systems.
The infrared port is located on the left side of the handset, closer to the bottom than the top. It can be activated by the settings menu and receive data once activated. The data-cable port is at the bottom of the handset, and plugs in where the charger plugs in. A USB data-cable is in the sales package as well as a product CD with all the programs and information you need to get synchronizing and downloading/uploading data in a matter of minutes.
WDCMA supports data transfers at up to 384kbp/s, the main evolution on 3G networks which enables video calling and streaming video/audio. The GPRS protocol only supports data rates at 48kbp/s.
This section of the U8110 was fine. The only main problem I had, well, it was more of an issue was the deepness of the external screen - you can make out the plastic around it by looking at it straight on.
Other than that, the U8110 isn’t going to fall apart on you any time soon.
The battery cover is removed by pushing in the two catches on the back of the handset and then sliding down the back cover - the battery will then be exposed and can easily be lifted out. The battery is labelled so there is no chance of getting it put in back-to-front.
Some people using the LG U8110 have complained about the battery life of the handset, but I found very little problems with it. It lasted a fair while, and I only had to charge it every three days or so. One thing that LG should certainly be congratulated about it the fact that when charging, the external display shows the percentage of the battery that has been charged - you don’t have to guess or unplug the adapter to see how much has been charged.
Battery life from LG is 200 hours (standby time), 120 minutes (talk time), and 100 minutes (video talk time). I could get about three days of normal usage from the battery on a single full charge.