Review : LG Optimus

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When we got the phone in our grubby hands, it was a Telstra exclusive. Days later, it was a phone on all carriers. This is the LG Optimus, one of two running on Android, and the only one here in Australia. However, with rival carriers Optus and Vodafone/3 carrying the phone on a cheaper plan than Telstra’s, is this phone a budget phone or a full-fledged phone? As well, how does it live up with the other Android phones?

Our verdict on the LG Optimus is after the jump.

  • Score:

    5.6 / 10

  • The Good:

    Sleek design; multimedia features galore; screen is easy to read outside; call quality

  • The Bad:

    Resistive touchscreen; no multi-touch; Android 1.6; poor social networking integration

  • Bottom Line:

    A touchscreen phone on a budget.

The phone’s appearance looks good. The design uses a faux-metal look which looks real and it is very hard to believe that it is not real.The body of the phone is very slim, and has several keys for features dedicated for the camera, the home and the volume rocker. The screen looks brilliant, and the colours and icons look crisp and sharp. It is fairly bright and reading it outside isn’t a pain.

The screen does, however, has two main flaws – the fact that it isn’t that sensitive like other screens – because it is using a resistive touchscreen, meaning that you have to physically push down on the screen to actually do something; and that it doesn’t support multi-touch, which is something we kind of expect of many touchscreen phones.

Because of that, you have to resort to use the on-screen keys for zooming, which gets annoying when you are so used to having it on phones that use a touchscreen – like the iPod touch.

It also runs a 600MHz processor, meaning that it is not that fast but does the job without freezing (not to say it doesn’t do it). However, because it has a slow processor, it means that it does slow down when there are a few apps in the background, but it is responsive.

Despite the fact that there is Android 2.2, and Android 2.1, LG has put on this phone Android 1.6; which is a bit annoying since some of the good apps may be on the newer versions of the operating systems. However, we haven’t encountered such a problem. It also looks like there isn’t going to be any upgrades any time soon. So, you are pretty much left with this.

Effectively, this puts it out of competition with the iPhone as, among other things, it lacks an updated browser, user-interface changes, turn-by-turn navigations from Google Maps (and updated maps for that matter). It isn’t the only phone that is running Android 1.6 that is out there in the market in Australia, but with the brilliant features over on Android 2.1/2.2, it is a shame that this is not running it. You might as well go get the HTC Desire as it Android 2.1 than the old Android 1.6.

Features are not the phone’s strong point. E-mail is covered, with options to add your emails, including from Exchange, and many of the features are from Google. LG’s attempt of a social networking aggregation is called SNS, but it simply fails to do a good enough job as compared to Motorola’s MOTOBLUR. It often has a confusing interface which most likely put you off using this.

The camera is alright, with photo quality passable. It also has face detection, which is an added bonus, along with auto-focus. We do have to take note that it does offer a 3 megapixel camera, which is surprising as many other phones of a similar price range offer more than that. It also doesn’t have a flash, so you need to have plenty of light in order to get quality photos than grainy and dark ones.

It also offers support for microSD, but you have to pull the case out in order to get to it. It is not hot-swappable, meaning that you have to turn off the phone, remove the SD card and insert a new one, and then turn it back on.

However, the phone’s multimedia offerings are impressive, and you can tell LG has a lot of experience trying to make multimedia phones. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top and has a FM tuner, meaning that you can listen to Hamish and Andy on the way home. It also uses the standard Android music player, meaning that if you are switching from another Android phone, then it would be familiar. It also plays Xvid and DivX-encoded AVI files, meaning that you don’t have to convert. Despite the colours, the video playback seems to have a washed-out look.

The calls on the phone are fine, with good results when testing the call quality, with both sides able to understand each other clearly. Messaging features are alright, but the on-screen keyboard does make it a bit tough to type out a text – well to me, at least – as you keep hitting the wrong key. However, a physical keyboard might be a nice addition, despite it does make it a bit fat.

The phone, despite its pretty looks, feels a bit cheap, as the features feel tacked on to the product to jazz it up, and the poor choices in hardware – like the touchscreen – leaves a phone not that desirable. However, I must pay credit to LG for giving some fine multimedia choices, and hopefully these are kept when a successor phone is out. Until recently, the phone has been an exclusive phone for Telstra, and putting it on a $49 cap where you can also get the HTC Desire, a much better phone, for the same conditions.

The other carriers, which have gotten access to the phone, have classified this as a low-budget phone, with many of them selling it as low as a $19 cap plan. And I think this is the right area. As an average smartphone on a $49 cap plan, we expect more and better quality hardware, which it fails to do; but as a low-end smartphone, it pretty much does the job – despite the screen.

Calls were made on the Telstra NextG network. Call quality may be different depending on your area and carrier.

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