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The LG Renoir is a work of art

Last night the MIR Show team was at the LG Renoir Blogger launch. It’s always an interesting exercise to get close to a mobile manufacturer and to see how they handle their blogger relations.

You can tell a lot about a company from how it manages bloggers. Journalists and mainstream media, that’s a piece of cake. Everyone knows how that works. There’s an air of apparent (yet often nonexistent) professionalism when you’re in a room full of mainstream media. They turn up, take the press release, look vaguely in the direction of the person presenting, perhaps take some notes — but, generally, look as though they’re forcing themselves to appear interested whilst the air hostess asks for their polite attention as she points out the emergency exits. Two in front, two over the wing…

It’s all about the people.

LG greeted us with a friendly, welcoming, inclusive air. The chaps from LG gave an overview of the device, then introduced two enthusiastic co-presenters, a chap from Dolby (the LG Renoir is the first international handset with proper Dolby support) and a chap from DivX (the handset plays back DivX footage really, really well).

Then questions.

I waited about 0.5 seconds just in case anyone else had burning issues they needed t air.

Woosh.

I was straight in there with a question about application support. My mind was focused on reader Stefan’s query about getting java support for applications (as well as the many emails I’d had prodding me to ask).

I asked, words to the effect of, “When will you be bringing application developer support to the LG platform?”

Historically, LG has been heavily into Fridges (“Refridgerators”). Or TVs. Consumer electronics. You don’t upgrade the firmware in those. You don’t augment them with little applications to make your Fridge light flash in a really cool way when you open the door. LG makes a consumer electronics device. They engineer it to the best of their ability. Then they shift it out to the marketplace. Binary. One or zero. You either like it — and buy it — or you don’t.

We move on.

That market changed the moment Steve Jobs got on stage and told the planet that they’d had 30 million application downloads over the first weekend of the 3G iPhone launch. Then later, 100m. And goodness knows what the figure is right now.

Even Nokia got in on the act with some utter bollocks about the fact that 100 million applications had been downloaded on to their phones. Sort of. Maybe. You know, with a prevailing wind. Tosh. Whatever the statistic, it’s a downright rubbish, rubbish experience and no brain surgeon from Helsinki will win an argument to the contrary when you stick an iPhone 3G and an N95 and try and get a normob to put Google Apps on to both.

T-Mobile USA was the first operator to break ranks and mention they’ve got an Application Store coming (end of the year, apparently).

Sony Ericsson are dropping hints about developer support.

Back at the LG Secret launch, I asked a question about application developer support and there wasn’t much news on that point.

There was last night, despite the presenters’ shock at my direct question. I think I was meant to ask my first question about the device itself. It was related though. The LG Renoir features widgets on the desktop. Configurable widgets. Clocks, weather, that sort of thing.

I’d like to be able to do develop a Mobile Industry Review widget for the Renoir. Or a widget that shows cinema times for my local cinema. Or … you know, anything that might be useful to me.

The good news from LG is that they’re working on something. There’s a realisation swept across the company, it seems, that open is good. Let the market do the innovation, just provide the platform. I’ve no more details than that — I don’t want to misquote the chaps. Just keep it in mind that LG is heading toward a degree of developer friendliness and we’ll leave it there.

Kudos to the openness and enthusiasm of the LG team and their partners. Refreshing.

Back to the handset. It’s a piece of genius. It’s well constructed and very light. The touch screen is good, despite the attempts of the MIR Show team to try and unlock it with the iPhone right-finger-swoosh. You need to unlearn every iPhone trick you know and learn the Renoir-way. Once you do, it’s pretty good.

8 megapixel camera. Genius. They have gone to town with the camera options. It’ll spot smiles and try and take the pictures when your subjects are *actually* smiling. It’ll spot when your subjects have their eyelids shut — and take the picture when they’re open. It’ll remove blemishes (“Spots”) with its beautification option.

James Whatley looked positively beaming in the photo that Dan took. Although, Whatley looks that good in person, so perhaps that wasn’t an accurate test.

The video options are hugely satisfying. Slow-mo or hyper-fast-mode. The UK & Ireland also get an 8GB memory card in the box with the handset (To help the normob comparison against, let’s say, the N95 8GB for example).

The haptic feedback to the touch screen is pleasant and nicely engineered. Dan was very much taken with it. So was Ben. So was James. We all liked it.

Obviously what we think isn’t that relevant. We’re not the target market.

The Renoir is a high-end top of the range device. But for the fashionistas. For the normobs (“normal mobile users”).

We can’t use the device. Anyone with an ounce of interactivity can’t use LG handsets — because you can’t DO anything with them. They’re sporting a limited toolset. I can’t get my photos off the device on to Flickr via my chosen and preferred route — ShoZu. (An application). Or Opera (An application). Or Screenshot (An application). Or any number of brilliant, brilliant iPhone applications. You can BET YOUR BOOTS that any iPhone application developer would welcome the opportunity to be able to develop for the Renoir… but no. Not supported. Yet.

I can’t use Google Maps. (Or maybe I can… I don’t quite know, I didn’t get a handset to take away with and examine). But it’s a downloadable application. And LG doesn’t do downloads. Unless maybe you’re Google. Anything else though, stuff it. You’re at the mercy of LG’s Far East designers. Who are, obviously, instructed to make handsets that fit the needs of your average 25 year old catwalk-queen-wannabe.

The supplied headset doubles as a camera-trigger. So you can place the handset somewhere in front of you and your mates and press a button on the headset — and woosh — snap a picture. Gifted.

It takes great pictures and movies. It’s a lovely touch screen. The internet looks pretty good on it. The audio is apparently brilliant (but we’ve not been able to experience that as yet) and the video playback is sublime.

Ergo: Excellent. This is a fantastic device for your wife, your sister, your girlfriend-who-isn’t-into-technology-but-likes-a-nice-phone.

It’ll do well, I reckon. Very well.

We’ll have a lot more for you in this week’s MIR Show, published on Monday.

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