Not the fanciest phone on the block, the Optimus One is a cheap and cheerful handsets whose plastic look belie its higher-end specs
The Android 2.2 OS is touch-friendly and simple to navigate, while the touch-screen is one of LG's best
Good range of features for its (low) price, including a great touch-screen, excellent sat-nav, and ability to act as a Wi-Fi hotspot
Generally fast and responsive, though the low-res display impedes web and video a bit. The three-megapixel camera is decent but no good at low-light shots
Above average, with the phone lasting more than a day with Wi-Fi, HSDPA and sat-nav used
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/12/2011 3:59:48 PM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Great lineup of sat-nav features including voice control and directions, excellent email and especially Gmail, good value for money
Low-res screen makes webpages look worse than other Android devices, some clunky software, design is pretty average veering on low-rent
Smartphones no longer require a fat wad of cash in exchange for snazzy email, web and app features. LG has always been one of the most prolific purveyors of budget to mid-range smartphones, and the Android-powered Optimus One is one of its most capable – and it clocks in at free from £20 per month, or a phenomenally low £130 on pay-as-you-go.
With a 3.2-inch touch-screen, HS DPA and Wi-Fi internet, plus the latest version of Android, the Optimus One is a very respectable stab at smartphone goodness. As we’ve (unfortunately) come to expect from LG, its actual body is rather low-rent, made of plastic and edged with a silver trim on the sides. Four hard buttons line the base of the phone, a useful addition that means you can at least operate the phone when wearing gloves. Because, yes, the Optimus One is one of the few LG phones to pack a capacitive touch-screen, the more responsive type that responds to electrical stimuli from fingers.There’s a 3.5mm audio jack, and though the on board memory is a measly 170MB, this can be expanded via the microSD slot, which supports up to 32GB more. A 2GB card is bundled with the phone.LG has tweaked the standard Android OS somewhat with a custom interface, but not really for the better. Unlike HT C’s Sense skin, which wraps around the core OS like a symbiotic lichen, LG’s additions are a tad clumsy – rather basic widget designs and a shortcut dock that attempts to ape the iPhone’s but falls short in elegance. For example, you add an icon to the dock by dragging it from the home screen, but that results in two copies of the icon, one in the dock, one on the home screen.The other main tweak is in the number of home screens – Android 2.2 comes with five native screens, but in the Optimus One you can switch between this and seven. Like other Android phones, you can customise these with any combination of widgets and apps.
The newest Android update, 2.2 or ‘Froyo’, packs some mighty features that are impressive to find in a phone the price of the Optimus One. You can hook it up via USB to a computer and use it as a modem, or turn on its Wi-Fi hotspot capability, where it’ll convert its 3G signal into Wi-Fi that up to five other devices can connect to. Email is as fully featured as on any device, with Gmail being particularly well-implemented – instant notifications of new messages, access to all your folders as far back as you want, and autosuggest in address fields for literally every contact you’ve ever emailed on Gmail. Ever.Voice navigation is also a great feature that means you can use your Optimus One as a bona fide sat nav. LG’s bespoke Car Home app, which pops a sat nav dashboard on the home screen, enables you to speak your destination into the phone and get voice directions. Because it’s now the home screen till you exit the app, there are options to call contacts without leaving the app, as well select music to play from the phone’s library. There’s a car mount you can buy to prop the phone on your car dashboard and use it in landscape orientation for extra comfort.One long awaited update is the ability to save your apps to the microSD memory card – meaning there’s room for far more apps, especially if you pick up a maximum memory 32GB card – though many apps don’t support the feature. We’re big fans of the Chrome to Phone capability – download the app for your phone, then the corresponding software for the desktop browser, and you can send webpages, map links and even phone numbers from your computer to phone. Why’s this useful? Because not only can you continue browsing a page you were looking at on the computer, map links open up in the Google Maps app so you can easily grab the directions you were looking up on your PC, while phone numbers open directly in the phone’s dialer to save you a few seconds copying a number over.
Web is pretty nifty with a full HTM L browser, pinch to zoom and support for Wi-Fi and high speed HS DPA internet. The 3.2-inch screen is comfortable enough, but the 320x480 pixel resolution means pictures look a tad pixelated. It does support Flash though, so you can play embedded video in sites such as the Guardian, but the low res screen means these videos don’t look great. YouTube videos fare better, as they open directly in the YouTube app. You can open several pages at once, create bookmarks and send links via text, social network or email.Another way LG has cut costs is with the three-megapixel camera. It’s definitely not one of the company’s best – it gave us the Viewty, after all – but produces snaps of decent colour and clarity in daylight. Auto focus helps, but the lack of flash means lowlight shots are a no-go. It can also record video at a fairly mediocre 18fps (DVD quality is 30fps), but as with its photos, videos are perfectly suitable for uploading to social networks and such.More impressive – especially for a phone at this price point – is the video player’s support for a wide range of video formats, including DivX, the codec that is going to be increasingly widespread for high quality online video. It also supports H.264 and MP 4, the other biggies, which means you can play pretty much any video you download, and the phone is future proof for video at least. For all its media can-do, the phone’s battery life is pretty impressive, and lasted over a day with Wi-Fi, HS DPA and some media viewing.
LG has been pretty quiet on the smartphone front this year, but the Optimus One marks the start of a busy season, with a serious focus on the Android operating system. It’s not the prettiest phone on the block, but LG has managed to pack in the full house of smartphone specs – great sat nav, decent internet features, push email, social networking knowhow and of course, access to tons of apps via the Android Market. An excellent device for the price.