Review: LG Stylus DAB+. The Smartphone with Digital Radio – EFTM
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Review: LG Stylus DAB+. The Smartphone with Digital Radio

Great result for DAB Radio, but unlikely to have an impact on users

I don’t think I’ve written three articles about a single phone other than an iPhone before, but that’s the case with this very unique phone from LG – the Stylus DAB which when announced was intriguing and the pricing seemed to hit the spot.  So just how does it stack up?

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The phone is available as of Monday May 2, and at $449 it’s firmly in the mid-range for smartphones which is a very competitive space full of high quality choices – the problem for all the devices in that range is just getting people to consider them.

With the telcos pushing the flagship phones from Apple and Samsung so heavily what is needed is a compelling reason to look down the range.  Perhaps Digital Radio is that reason?

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Commercial Radio Australia is the industry body which co-ordinates lobbying for the industry on regulation and policy, and also work together to promote radio on a campaign level across all Stations, you would have heard their ads at some point for sure.  And that’s where this device has the advantage.

The envy of Huawei, Oppo, Alcatel, Sony and even Samsung and Apple, LG has done something very smart – they’ve created a phone that a single and powerful industry wants so much they are willing to put $5 million of radio airtime toward promoting it.

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That’s right, you’re going to be hearing a lot of radio ads for the LG Stylus DAB+ as the industry backs the phone with ads and competitions – there are plenty to give away.

So if you grab one or are interested – what are you getting?

Out of the box, this phone feels light in the hand, it’s thin but it’s big. A 5.7 inch screen in HD (720p) with a 13 megapixel camera on the back and 8 megapixel on the front.

The Stylus DAB+ in the middle, compared in overall size to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and LG's own G5

The Stylus DAB+ in the middle, compared in overall size to the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and LG’s own G5

A removable back cover exposes the removable 3,000 man battery which seems to be offering me fantastic battery life well into the day.

While it’s running Android 6.0 and a rather clean version, it’s not got the latest WiFi (ac) and that screen is low resolution and doesn’t really “pop” in the eye.  But, for $449 it’s on par with many but perhaps not quite as impressive as a Huawei or Oppo.

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Up in the top corner is a removable stylus, which when removed triggers a stylus menu allowing you to write a note, take a screenshot and scribble or a photo to draw on.  It’s not pressure sensitive and doesn’t offer much more than a quick way to jot a note on-screen as it has no advanced functions as something like a Samsung Note does.

But all of that is irrelevant.  It’s an Android Smartphone that will do all that you need to do well, but doesn’t match the flagship phones.  That’s as you’d expect.

So what about this DAB+ feature.

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Built-in is a Digital Radio chip, which when the headphones are in acting as an Antenna, allows you to tune into the many many Digital Radio stations on offer in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth – and Darwin and Canberra on a trial basis too.

Once you fire it up, it scans the first time for stations, quite quickly too, and then tunes right in as you choose.

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Stations are listed down the screen with logos and names, and you simply tap to tune in.

When listening, the top half of the screen is dedicated to the “Image” (SLS) being broadcast on Digital Radio, while the bottom is for the text (DLS).

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A standard “hamburger” menu button on the top right allows you to get direct link access to things like station websites, and social – with the device warning you that you’re about to use data – something listening to Digital Radio doesn’t do.

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It’s great, the quality of Audio is as expected and the headphones as antenna work very well within the broadcast area.

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However.  It’s a very disappointing app.  The user experience is terrible.  Any experienced “UX” designer would cringe.

Switch to the FM app (also installed on the phone) and you’ve got a “normal” set of six presets – this is what people are familiar with as a radio experience.

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In the Digital Radio app – nothing.  You can’s swipe to change channels, you have “favourites” but that just pushes them to the top of the station list – but the station list is only accessible by two taps of the screen on the menu then station list.

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Then there is turning it off.  You’ve got to go into the station list and then the menu again to “quit” It’s easier to just close the app in the app switcher for Android.

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Perhaps I’m most disappointed that there’s no direct integration to station content or features outside of DAB.  The reason is simple – integrate more station content and you’re using data.  So everything is just linked to.  Fortunately you follow a link and the phone’s back button does take you back to the Digital Radio App.

Battery life isn’t a real issue, yes while listening you are using more battery, but it’s nowhere near as bad as streaming video because the screen doesn’t need to be on.

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The big problem – going out of range. Pop outside the broadcast area and you just get “weak signal” – no switch to FM for FM station, no option to switch to streaming audio instead.

Listening without using data is great.  But data for audio isn’t exactly a pressing issue, so I’m sorry, I just don’t see the need for this device.

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It’s a great smartphone, the Digital Radio works well, but it feels like a rushed attempt at the ultimate free radio app.

If you love your local metropolitan radio station and live in its broadcast area and find yourself listening a lot on your phone – get this, it’s going to be great and will save you data.  But outside of those heavy core users – This is just another great mid-range smartphone with the unique feature of having a stylus to write on the screen – oh, and a Digital Radio.

LG Stylus DAB+ Smartphone
Date Published: 05/01/2016
Great mid-range smartphone at $449 for a 5.7 inch screen with a stylus built in - and Digital Radio for data free radio listening, let down only by the poor User Experience of the Digital Radio App
3 / 5 stars
Categories
Tech

Trevor produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He has a weekly radio show on 2UE, as well as appearances across the country and regularly provides Technology Commentary to Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
3 Comments on this post.
  • Fred Pollak
    2 May 2016 at 5:58 pm
    Leave a Reply

    Hi – I have been to JB Hi Fi and Harvey Norman and they haven’t heard of the phone. I have contacted LG and they don’t when it will be available. Can you please tell me where I can get one? Thanks Fred

    • Trevor Long
      3 May 2016 at 10:34 am
      Leave a Reply

      Optus is advertising it online, so I’d head to an Optus store…

      • Matthew Galeano
        4 May 2016 at 8:51 pm
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        I think the radio license areas rules limit the ability to make dab radio more of a success. My view is the metro radios stations should be similar to what happen with TV where the country viewers can watch all commercial and govt networks. They should be able to listen to metro radio too. Maybe local country radio will suffer. But a lot of those stations repeat the cities content anyway plus Dab reception may not have the reach to cover farms etc compared to analog. So regional radio would not die. Anyway off topic, I agree with you Trevor they should embrace streaming and integrate it with this dab app. Its a start.

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