2010 wasn’t a great year for LG, but it has managed to churn out a couple of Android smartphones. The latest is still far from top-level, but has a few redeeming features.
With LG branching into the Windows Phone 7 market, it’s pleasing to see the manufacturer isn’t putting all of its eggs into one OS basket and is still considering Android in addition to its own proprietary non-smartphone platform.
After all, it means there’s something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a high-end smartphone (something that this is not by any stretch of the imagination) or a budget device.
The LG Optimus One is LG’s second foray in the world of Android and although it is far more of a budget offering than high fliers like the Samsung Galaxy S or the HTC Desire HD, it is still a solid smartphone.
The chassis is pretty plasticky, although the soft touch rear feels good to touch. It’s certainly nothing offensive and reflects its price (under £200 SIM-free).
On the back, there’s the Google branding – something of a rarity on the latest Android devices.
The 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen dominates the front and although its 320×480 pixels may not be the highest resolution out there, it looks clear and is only beaten by the Orange San Francisco.
Underneath the screen are three hardware buttons. The centre comprises two functions – home and back. Although it’s one button, it’s divided into two; rock to the right for back, left for home.
The button to the left of the centre portion brings up the contextual menu, while the one on the right opens up search.
The LG Optimus One also ships with Android 2.2, which is a nice addition amongst handsets still topping out at 2.1, although with 2.3 now coming there’s no word on whether this will get upgraded.
There are a bundle of new features onboard that aren’t available on earlier iterations of the platform, including voice commands (including the existing voice search), up to five home screens and improvements to Android Market and Google Mail.
LG’s App Advisor offers some help when looking to download apps. It will give you advice about which applications are compatible with the Optimus One and allows you to download them directly from that app instead of Android Market.
A handy Car Home application allows you to control the most important applications and functions on your device while driving. It offers a decent in-car navigation, media and handsfree solution.
From this app, you can access navigation, make calls handsfree, and voice search your contacts or your music collection just by tapping within one single menu. The icons are large and responsive, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road rather than on your phone.
To leave the application when you step out of the car, simply tap the exit button and you can use the phone as you did before.
In the menu, you’ll find applications are divided into sections to help you keep apps in groups – like the iPhone’s folders.
For example, I had Twitter, Messaging and Facebook in a Social Networking folder, while all newly downloaded apps went in a Downloads section in the menu.
The native Android browser is a little sub standard though, but easily replaced with something superior like Dolphin HD. The standard browser is quite laggy compared to other browsers that are supplied on some models, like HTC’s enhanced browser. The phone is slow to zoom in and out on a page, but does support multi-touch.
There are also pretty limited options when selecting text and links. You can open the link in either the same or a new window, add a link to your bookmarks, or copy, save or share the link. However, there’s no extra options to look up a term in Wikipedia or translate it, as there is on an HTC browser.
Another disappointing factor is the keyboard. In portrait mode, you can only use an alphanumeric keyboard. Although this may seem like a good idea when you consider the screen is smaller than many flagship devices, it does get a little irritating if you’re not keen on alphanumeric text input. Sure, you can turn it into landscape mode, but one-handed messaging isn’t particularly easy either.
The LG Optimus One runs with a 600MHz processor and it’s nowhere near as speedy as the current crop of devices using a 1GHz processor. The camera is also in keeping with it being a budget device. At 3-megapixels and with no flash, it is more than a little disappointing. Images are noisy, even in good lighting conditions, while they don’t feel as vibrant as on other devices.
LG has clearly moved along since the Cookie became a popular budget touchscreen device, but Android plays a big part in this. Extras, like the driving app or the App Advisor, are perfect for those looking for something that goes beyond the native Android experience. The phone also has full access to tens of thousands of apps and games.
But, the phone doesn’t enough ‘oomph’ to make this a must-have, and there’s tough competition in this sector, from Samsung’s Galaxy Europa, Sony Ericsson’s X8, the HTC Wildfire and Orange’s San Francisco. The Optimus One is far from optimal.
The LG Optimus One is a well-priced Android handset. It’s certainly not top of the range (thus far, LG hasn’t really got a flagship Android device), but it does cover all the bases. The camera is a little iffy and it’s annoying there is no camera hardware key on the side of the device. The capacitive screen is a nice inclusion on a lower-priced device and the Car Home app and ability to divide your menu are nice added extras, but won’t win the LG Optimus any awards. The Optimus One is a decent phone, but we could do with something that pushes the boundaries a bit.
Ratings (out of 5)