LG has been pumping in more attention (and cash) into its mobile lineup recently, particularly into its Android smartphones. Before the LG Optimus One descended, we had the first Optimus handset, reviewed here. Based on its specifications, the Optimus One is a decidedly improved cousin, one that heavily outclasses its predecessor (especially considering that the latter came with a 3.0-inch resistive screen).
Off the bat, the Optimus One bears a certain resemblance to a recently-tested Android smartphone, the Motorola Quench XT3. Similar to the Quench, the sturdily-built Optimus One comes with a black waxy and soft-touch exterior that is a vast improvement over phones that come with glossy ones; manhandling your phone leaves no fingerprints or grime. Our main concern is that the surface feels vulnerable to scratches, but on testing (like scratching it with our nails), no marks were visibly seen. Turning the phone on its back, the words "with Google" are inscribed below the camera, a clear indication that the device was made in conjunction with Google. The phone isn't exactly the slimmest phone in the market, but it fits nicely in our palms, and will definitely fit into a back pocket or a handbag easily.
In tandem with how most smartphones are built these days, this smartphone comes with just four physical buttons: Menu, Home, Back and Search.
Retrofitted with Android 2.2, the phone gives you the option to choose from either five or seven pages to fill up with widgets, folders or shortcuts. The UI is almost exactly the same as the one found on the Nexus One, so those have used an Android phone will have no problems adapting. LG has included a few noteworthy apps like the LG App Advisor, an app that recommends 10 top-rated applications every two weeks, and NDrive, a pre-bundled third party navigation app.
With a screen that is relatively small at 3.2-inches compared to recent juggernauts like the HTC Desire and the Samsung Galaxy S, the Optimus One takes a nosedive in terms of SMSing or typing. Its size and resolution (320 x 480 pixels) is definitely sufficient for viewing photos and websurfing, but the QWERTY keys are noticeably narrower, even more so than on the HTC Hero (another Android phone with a 3.2-inch screen). This impedes emailing and MSN-ing to a large extent, resulting in several misspellings and typos.
On the plus side, screen transitions were extremely smooth and responsive, with apps loading quickly even with a live wallpaper running in the background. This is definitely good news since animated wallpapers tend to draw a bit more processing power; combined with the Android 2.2 OS (reported to run 2-5 times faster than 2.1), the phone does not run slowly despite a 600MHz processor.
Another thing we noticed while playing with the device is that it does not have any ambient light sensor - not a dealbreaker for sure, but one that could have been implemented in the phone for better battery life efficiency.
However, a possible dealbreaker might lie in its frills-free camera, a 3-megapixel shooter with only AF - yes, no flash - capabilities, something it shares with its predecessor, the Optimus GT540. While the AF kicks into gear pretty quickly, image quality was mediocre, with fuzziness and noise across the picture. One thing you can try to do is tone down the noise and choose to shoot on a lower ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400 available) but the difference is minimal. Colors, on the other hand, had a good balance across the various hues.The other plus point here is that the interface is easy to use and optimized for quick snapshots.
Otherwise, the 3.2-inch screen and resolution of 320 x 480 suffices for decent video viewing, but is definitely not mind-blowing. The audio playback is decidedly average with weak bass and airy vocals.
With its 1500 mAh battery, this LG smartphone chugs on for almost a day and a half, relatively long-lasting considering that there was intermittent web-surfing; 3G and live wallpaper on the whole time; social feeds pulling data during the entire period; fair bit of MSN-ing, calling and SMS-ing.
The LG Optimus One definitely shares the same class with entry-level smartphones like HTC Wildfire and the Motorola Quench XT3, but its winsome build and the presence of Android 2.2 place it in a favorable spot. The device ranks high on usability with its responsive buttons and screen transitions, but as mentioned earlier, scores lowly on multimedia features, not an uncommon trait for entry-level smartphones. While the price has not been formally announced, we reckon that it will be priced similar to its competitors.
Do note that the product tested in this review is not the final commercial unit and might have existing minor problems that may be resolved when it reaches retail markets.