LG was not the first manufacturer to incorporate a touch-screen interface with a QWERTY keyboard on a phone, but it has been one of the most successful. We were really pleased with the LG enV Touch from Verizon Wireless, and the LG Xenon from AT&T Wireless wasn’t too bad, either. Now LG has made yet another touch-screen keyboard combo, and this time it’s the LG Tritan, which is available from Alltel and U.S. Cellular. We weren’t terribly pleased with the touch-screen interface, but we were impressed with the keyboard design, the customizable home screens, and the multimedia features. The LG Tritan is available for less than $80 for both carriers with a mail-in rebate–Alltel requires a one-year contract, while U.S. Cellular requires a two-year agreement for that price.
Like most touch-screen phones, the LG Tritan is dominated by a large display on the front. Measuring 4.45 inches long by 2.24 inches wide by 0.65 inch thick, the Tritan is fairly blocky because of its girth, but it does have curved corners, making it feel comfortable in the hand. It’s also quite heavy at 5.03 ounces, which would probably weigh your pockets down.
The display is generous at 3-inches diagonal. It looks quite stunning, thanks to the 262,000 color support and the 240×400-pixel resolution. Graphics appear rich with color and detail, and both images and text look tack sharp. When the phone is idle, a screen overlay displays the date and time information, any missed calls or messages, plus a rundown of the day’s schedule. You can adjust the display’s backlight time, brightness, menu style, and both the font type and the dial font size. The LG Tritan also has a built-in accelerometer that will tilt the display from portrait to landscape mode and vice versa.
The LG Tritan has not one, but four home screens. You can switch between them by swiping your finger horizontally across the screen, and you can tell what screen you’re on by the header at the top. There is the Main home screen that has a customizable greeting banner plus date and time information. The Widgets home screen houses widgets, application shortcuts, and browser bookmarks. The Contacts home screen holds your favorite contacts. And the Multimedia home screen keeps your favorite media files. For the Widgets, Contacts, and Multimedia home screens, you can select an “Align” icon on the upper right to snap the icons to a grid.
To add a widget or a shortcut to the Widgets home screen, simply tap the little arrow on the bottom left of the screen to reveal a tray of selectable icons. If you don’t see the widget or shortcut of your choice in the tray, you can select the folder with the plus symbol on it to access the phone’s entire menu of widgets, applications, and browser bookmarks. From there, just select the widgets and shortcuts you want added to the tray. You can then drag and drop icons to the home screen. If you like, you can choose to launch the widget or shortcut directly from the tray–you do this by tapping firmly on the icon until you feel a vibration. To remove the widget or shortcut from the home screen, hold down the icon, and then drag it to an empty folder icon on the right.
For the Contacts home screen, just select one of the three tabs on the right, and then select your favorite contact from your contacts list. That contact will automatically show up on the Contacts home screen, with their photo as the icon. You can have up to six contacts per tab, giving you a total of 18 possible favorite contacts accessible from the Contacts home screen. If you tap a contact’s icon, you’ll see four shortcuts surrounding it leading to a new text message, that person’s contact information, a delete option, and a new phone call. Underneath the three tabs on the right is a messaging shortcut that prompts you to select which favorite contact you want to send a new message.
The Multimedia home screen is similar to the one for Contacts. There are three tabs on the right; when you tap a tab, you’ll be prompted to select an image, music file, or video to be added to the Multimedia home screen. To remove a shortcut, simply drag and drop the icon to the trash bin icon.
All home screens have four shortcut icons along the bottom that correspond to the messaging menu, the phone dialer, the main menu, and the contacts list. You can also tap the top part of each home screen to reveal rotating shortcut tiles that lead to the Bluetooth toggle, a new text message, the alarm clock, memory information, sound settings, the location toggle, and power save mode.
As for the touch-screen interface, overall, we have mixed feelings about it. We definitely like the haptic feedback that gives a vibration to let us know when our touch has registered–you can even adjust the strength and length of the vibration, plus the type and volume of the vibration’s sound effect. You also get a Touch Calibration wizard to ensure accuracy and a Thumbpad Effect setting to adjust the touch response time. Still, we have to say that there’s a learning curve involved. We would often activate something by mistake, often when scrolling through lists or when selecting an icon to drag and drop. The touch screen is just not as intuitive or responsive as we would like.
This is why we’re rather glad to see real physical keys underneath the touch screen. There are the Talk key, the Back or Speakerphone key, and the End/Power key. To the far right is a navigation joystick that is handy for scrolling through long lists and for surfing the Web–you can use it to move around the cursor and for scrolling through large Web pages. As handy as it is though, we thought the joystick was set a bit too deeply in the body of the phone, making it slightly difficult to maneuver at times.
Going back to the touch screen for a bit, the phone dialer application has nice big virtual keys, so it was easy to dial numbers. If you want to type out a text message via the touch screen, the Tritan offers up two options–a virtual number keypad for ABC or T9 input, or a virtual QWERTY keyboard when you tilt the phone to landscape mode.
But of course, it’s far easier to just use a physical QWERTY keyboard. Slide the phone to the right, and you’ll reveal a full four-line QWERTY keyboard on the left. When you do this, you’ll get a special home screen in landscape mode. This home screen features five rotating shortcuts to a new text message, a new picture message, the Web browser, U.S. Cellular’s EasyEdge portal (on the U.S. Cellular version), and the notepad. The keyboard itself is quite roomy and easy to use–all the keys are raised above the surface, which makes for quick typing as well.