LG Shows Off Arena Smartphone, Video Watch Phone

LG Electronics CEO Skott Ahn had a little time on his hands before the company's news conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, so he called up his buddy Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, for a video chat on a prototype wristwatch phone.

 
  LG Electronics CEO Skott Ahn had a little time on his hands before the company's news conference at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, so he called up his buddy Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, for a video chat on a prototype wristwatch phone.

The video call somewhat overshadowed the company's purpose in calling the conference: the launch of the glitzy 3D S-Class User Interface on new smartphones, including what LG said is the first phone to run the latest version of Microsoft's Windows Mobile.

The CEOs chatted for several minutes about their partnership, with a somewhat grainy Ballmer looming larger than life on a giant screen relaying the image that Ahn could see on the wristwatch's 1.43-inch display.

The LG-GD910 watch phone can make voice calls over GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks and video calls over 3G (third-generation) networks, transferring data at up to 7.2M bps on HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) networks, according to LG. It contains a digital audio player that connects to Bluetooth stereo headsets, voice recognition and text-to-speech functions, a phonebook and a scheduler, the company said -- but there's no word on whether it tells the time.

This is not the first trade show at which LG has demonstrated the watch phone. It first appeared at CES in Las Vegas last year, and was there again this year. Now LG says it is "market ready" and will go on sale in Europe at the end of this year.

LG's 3D S-Class User Interface will appear somewhat sooner, with the LG-KM900 Arena going on sale in Europe in March and elsewhere later in the year.

Vice President of Marketing Strategy Chang Ma took the Arena for a spin to show off the 3D S-Class User Interface, which he described as "Fast, fun, intuitive."
On the 3-inch, 480 x 800 pixel touchscreen display he flipped through a Rolodex-inspired rotating display of contacts, and twisted the hands of an analog clock around and around -- and around -- to advance an alarm by three hours, although it would have been far quicker to simply type the time he wanted.
His favorite, he said, was the FM radio tuner. Rather than a button for each available station, allowing a fast and intuitive choice, the Arena offers a picture of an old-fashioned dial that must be stroked left or right to change the digital frequency display. Ma rubbed the screen rapidly several times but didn't find his station.