Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
2/2/2012 3:11:07 PM
Too many clicks to make a phone call, app store still in infancy
Great touch-screen, awesome social phonebook, comprehensive support for webmail, some cool exclusive apps from LG, low price for WP7
There are several Windows Phone 7 devices on the market, and thanks to Microsoft’s strict hardware and software requirements, manufacturers have had to go the extra mile to differentiate their phones. LG’s Optimus 7 hasn’t nailed it on the hardware front, but it does come with several exclusive apps and a whole other app store too.
The body is one area where Windows Phone 7 handsets actually look different. The Optimus 7 is a solid, weighty device that feels ever so slightly tacky owing to a plastic chassis with a metal back cover that’s covered in a glossy plastic. The 3.8-inch touch-screen sits above a plastic strip with hard buttons for back, search and the Windows Start logo, which takes you back to your home screen. There’s a dedicated shutter button for the five-megapixel camera, while the charger slot is one of those fiddly ones covered by a mini door. There’s a 3.5mm audio jack at the top of the device where the power button also sits. Though there’s no microSD slot to beef up the memory like you can with Android phones, the Optimus 7 comes with 16GB of on-board memory, which is the maximum Microsoft will allow. Fire up the Optimus 7 and you’re greeted with exactly the same Windows Phone 7 home screen as any other phone – square upon square of ‘live’ tiles, Microsoft’s version of widgets. The important ones are up top – dialer, contacts book, messaging, email – but you can move them around as you see fit. You can ‘pin’ apps to this home screen, where they display in the uniform tile style. Swipe left for the only other home screen, which displays all the programs on the phone. WP7 is a plain and modern OS, its clean design setting it well apart from its competitors, and impressively, it’s as easy to master as the iPhone OS.
As per Microsoft instructions, the Optimus 7 packs a speedy 1GHz processor and an 800x480 pixel capacitive touch-screen – and it’s hands down the best touch-screen we’ve encountered on an LG phone. The virtual keyboard is responsive and accurate, while only the lightest of feather swipes are required to navigate the phone. Colours and text are sharp and bright, while pinch to zoom works a treat in the browser and gallery. The preloaded browser is Internet Explorer and so far, there’s no downloadable alternative. Considering its desktop boo-boos, the mobile version of IE is a surprise hit that renders pages quickly and prettily. You can open multiple windows (no tabs, though), save favourites, and even delete history, passwords and cookies. The one faux pas? No copy and paste function, at least till next year ‘sometime’. Email is one of its top features too, with instant notifications on Gmail, Hotmail, Microsoft Exchange mail and even Yahoo! Mail. Each account gets its own live tile which displays any new messages. New texts and missed calls usefully show in a small bar at the top of the screen for several seconds, then simply display as a number on the relevant live tile. As we’ve noted in other Windows phone 7 reviews, making a phone call is one of the most long winded features in an OS that claims to minimise the clicks required to do what you want (which is actually generally true). The phonebook is a masterpiece though, synching to Facebook, Gmail and Hotmail for a multi-screen display of friends’ profile pictures, latest updates, and a recent contacts screen which shows people you’ve called or texted.
The Optimus 7 syncs to Xbox Live and Zune, Microsoft’s answer to iTunes that has only recently launched in the UK. Xbox Live has a pretty great collection of mobile versions of console games, making WP7 a serious contender for Apple’s mobile gaming crown, while Zune, despite lacking local presence, has a sleek mobile interface that makes it easy to shift your music collection onto your phone. LG has always been a tech-forward manufacturer when it comes to media, and the PlayTo app lets you stream movies and music from your phone to any DLNA-enabled device – like an LG TV or PS3 – or a PC that runs Windows 7. A Help option gives you the full rundown on what’s otherwise a slightly geeky process, but we followed the instructions and set it up in no time. Once both devices are on the same Wi-Fi network, opening the PlayTo app lets you view your content on the bigger device. Scan Search is an augmented reality app that, athough not the first of its kind, just works. These two standout apps comprise 10 of the apps available preloaded at the LG Apps Stor, which will be updated regularly with free apps. It’s on the same page as Windows Marketplace, Microsoft’s rapidly growing app store. You could question the necessity of a separate app marketplace, but the fact they’re free helps, especially as many apps on Windows Marketplace are a little bit more expensive than on other OSes – The Sims 3, for example, is £5.49 versus £3.99 on the iPhone.
It wouldn’t be an LG phone without some pimpin’ camera goodness, and in addition to the regulation five-megapixel snapper with auto focus and flash, LG has loaded on its trademark Panorama Shot, an excellent little add-on that stitches together photos for a 360 degree image. You can simply swivel in a circle and the phone will automatically sense when images have been lined up correctly. We’ll dive into GPS briefly too – with A-GPS, it can successfully pinpoint your location, but Bing Maps is no Google Maps. It can provide turn-by-turn directions for the pedestrian, but without voice navigation, it’s no sat nav yet. More impressive is the battery life, which lasted us over a day with Wi-Fi, HSDPA, music and some A-GPS.
LG hasn’t really managed to jump on board the superphone trend successfully, but the Optimus 7 goes a long way to rectifying that. As with other Windows Phone 7 handsets, it’s a top-notch email and web device with an excellent touch-screen, and the sync to Zune and Xbox Live is a feature we suspect will be an even bigger draw over time. Though it’s one of the less stylish WP 7 devices, it also clocks in at lower tariffs, which could tip things in its favour for consumers wanting to test the WP7 waters.