TechGear: What could be better than the iPhone?

The hideously named LG KU990 Viewty just might be, says Mike Elgan

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Well, the LG KU990 Viewty could.

I know, I know. Another "iPhone killer." The fact is that nothing can kill the iPhone. It's invincible. However, it's possible to create a phone that's better for many users than the iPhone, and LG's hideously named LG KU990 Viewty just might be that phone.

(First, a caveat. Everything about the Viewty in this piece is unconfirmed. Full and official details won't emerge until Aug. 31.)

Unlike the iPhone, the Viewty doesn't come with its own Steve Jobs reality distortion field. But it does have a vastly superior camera, much faster Internet connection, "haptic" feedback for its on-screen "buttons" and other amazing goodies.

In fact, the Viewty's camera is so good that this gadget is more accurately viewed as a digital camera with a cell phone built in, rather than the other way round.

The Viewty contains a 5.1-megapixel camera (with a maximum resolution of 2,592 by 1,944 pixels) with up to ISO 800 sensitivity for taking pictures in dark places, augmented by an LED flash. It has Schneider Kreuznach optics with both manual and autofocus, plus image stabilization. A second camera lens in the front enables video calls.

One feature that sets the camera apart is a 120-frames-per-second video frame rate. That's about four times the rate you'll find on a standard camcorder and eight times the rate on your typical high-end camera phone. You can use that frame rate to produce smooth, super-slow-mo videos. And uploading to YouTube is just a button push away.

The Viewty comes in any color you want as long as you want black. It's small and light, but not thin: 4.1 by 2 inches across the surface and 1-inch thick. It weighs just 4 ounces.

The Viewty's 400-by-240-pixel, 262k-color display features a touch-screen interface with software buttons like the iPhone, and a "haptic" response system for those buttons like the Motorola Razr 2 V8 (when you push an on-screen button, the whole phone vibrates for a fraction of a second).

The Viewty comes with a stylus, FM radio and microSDHC flash memory support. Programs run on Java, and it uses T9 text input.

Its built-in audio player supports AAC, eAAC, MP3 and WMA files.

It should be fast, too. It boasts HSDPA-enhanced 3G broadband data for 3.6M bit/sec. Internet connections.

The phone should become available in the U.K. in October. LG has not announced pricing nor North American availability.

Apple requests removal of iPod Nano snaps

Photographs reportedly showing the next-generation Apple iPod Nano appeared briefly on blogs yesterday, then disappeared after Apple's lawyers requested removal.

The pictures, which showed five players arranged in a circle, first showed up on a blog called 9to5Mac. If the pictures are real -- and blogs are speculating that Apple's concern about them confirm their reality -- then the next Nano will come in five muted colors, be short and squat (rather than tall and thin like previous Nanos) and sport a relatively wide horizontal screen that takes up half the surface area.

New Sony cameras optimized for people photos

It's happened to everyone. You get the whole group together for a picture, and everyone is smiling but one person. A new line of Sony cameras boasts a unique feature called SmileShutter, which actually waits until everyone is smiling before taking the shot. Sony has officially announced its Cyber-shot T200, T70 and DSC-H3 cameras, which cover a wide range of prices and options. Another nice feature in all these cameras -- if you have the right kind of TV -- is high-definition output. You'll need a Sony Bravia HD-TV to see them in all their HD glory.

My Picks: Google looks up instead of down

Google's "Earth" application gives you a view of our planet looking down from space. But a new add-on called "Sky" reverses that, and gives you a view of space looking up as it appears from Earth.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com or his blog, The Raw Feed.

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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