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Phone Review: LG Optimus One P500
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Phone Review: LG Optimus One P500

The LG Optimus One is unmistakeably a budget smartphone. With a price tag of around AU$175 (can be found cheaper online), it certainly is affordable - but is it worth buying? Ultimately, it will come down to how you intend to use it, and how much you are willing to pay, but hopefully this review will shed some light on the true nature of the phone; both its good points, and its failings.

First of all, the simple no-frills design and black facing leave a completely unremarkable first impression – so if you’re aiming to impress, then this isn’t the phone for you. However you’ll also notice that the phone itself feels quite sturdy and it won’t leave you spending every waking minute worrying about breaking it. The phone has four physical buttons on the front face: Menu, Home, Back and Search, which are handy for navigation.

Now, delving a little deeper into the Optimus, you’ll soon discover that what lies beneath the unremarkable casing is… well… equally unimpressive. That said, when you first use it you’ll find the phone runs smoothly out of the box, and overall feels quite responsive - not bad for a phone of its price range.

However, don’t expect this level of performance to last long. As soon as you decide to install a few apps, maybe a couple of games (not atypical for any casual smartphone user), you’ll soon realise you spend nearly as much time waiting for the phone to respond, as you do actually using it. In fact, I’ve had times where I’ve actually missed calls because the phone lags so badly that it doesn’t register when I “swipe to answer”, until after the call has been missed. For this, you can thank the Optimus’ underpowered processor and measly 150 MB of internal storage, which fills up before you know it.

So, with that basic overview of the phone’s usage, let us look at the features of the Optimus One in more detail.

Performance: Processing speed and responsiveness

The Optimus One’s processor runs at a 600MHz clock speed. This is not bad for a phone of its price, but it’s not exactly great, and even then, the eventual sluggishness of the phone’s response times leaves you wondering if the processor is really doing anything at all. One BIG problem that severely undermines the performance of the phone is what is known as the “LG Optimus One touchscreen bug”. This is a bug which essentially means that whenever you touch the touch-screen (which is all the time), the processor usage spikes to 100%, meaning that any processes or games that might be running come grinding to a near halt.

In fact, nowhere is this bug more evident than when playing the game Angry Birds, or rather, attempting to play it, as the touchscreen bug makes games like this virtually unplayable. Custom kernels can be installed to fix this bug somewhat, but this requires root access to your phone. Even with the custom kernel, the phone still is not overly responsive, and the main culprit is the paltry about of RAM on the device. Install a few apps, and that’s really all it takes to fill it up, and consequently you’ll find the phone lagging in almost everything you do.

You can shift some apps over to a SD card (the phone supports up to 32GB), but this will only work for compatible apps, and is a temporary solution at best. A task manger app is a must if you want to free up memory for doing important tasks, because the phone struggles with multi-tasking.

If you don’t plan to use many apps or games, and just use the basic phone functions, then this should not be much of a problem for you, though you’d expect a bit more from a ‘smartphone’.

Call Quality and Texting

What we must not forget is that first and foremost, the Optimus One is a phone, and as such, you’d expect reasonable performance in these areas. Upon use however, you’ll find that the call quality of the Optimus One isn’t exactly great, and is under-par for what you’d expect for such a device. The touchscreen keyboard is a pain to use, as anyone with reasonably sized fingers will be constantly miss-pressing buttons on the small, cramped keypad, so typically Swype will be the only other option. Unfortunately, Swype is nearly just as frustrating to use, with it constantly suggesting/inputting the wrong words, and its incessant pop-up notifications that drive you to the brink of insanity. Oh, and did I mention how badly the phone lags while using the keypad? You can get halfway through a sentence before your phone decides to respond, usually resulting in copious amounts of backspacing to fix errors induced by miss-pressing buttons on the non-responsive keypad.

So, in short, call quality is below-par, and trying to text on the phone is a trial in patience and restraint.

Display, Camera and Battery Life

The Optimus One features a decent 3.2in, 320x480 capacitive LCD touch-screen, which is surprisingly decent, and the display is often quite clear and well-defined. In low-light environments, it’s great, but unless you ramp the brightness up to max, you’ll have to operate purely on memory when trying to use it on a bright, sunny day.

It also comes with 3 Megapixel camera, which is quite good considering the price of the phone, but it does lack a flash, so if you’re wanting to take lots of photos with your phone, there are probably better options out there. The camera can also record video, but other than the fact it can, there is really nothing more to be said about this feature.

The battery life of the phone is excellent however – usually I can go for 3-days to a week between recharges, although that is largely due to my minimalistic use of the device. Moderate to heavy use of the phone will probably leave you needing to recharge every day or two, but it’s certainly a lot more power-efficient than a lot of smartphones out there.

Music, Internet and GPS

The music playback quality of the Optimus One is actually quite good, although unless you’re an aural masochist, I strongly recommend using anything other than the bundled headset; after all, if you want to listen to music, you do want it to sound good, right?

The phone is compatible with 2G and 3G networks when it comes to data usage, and this will mostly be dependent on your carrier. Wi-fi connectivity is usually ok, although I find the phone often takes a while to find wi-fi networks, which can be a pain if you need to access the internet quickly.

The Optimus One does come with GPS, which is a very nice touch, however as you’d expect, its more of a side feature than anything else – it still comes a distant second to any dedicated GPS device, but it is useable, despite its few bugs and quirks.

The Final Verdict

If you’re looking for a cheap smartphone, with a decent feature set for its cost, and don’t mind putting up with a few performance issues, then this phone may very well suit you. However, based on my experiences with the device, I cannot honestly recommend it to anyone. After a few weeks of owning the device, I found myself with a device incapable of performing the functions of a smartphone to a decent standard, and my 7 month long experience has left me wishing I’d spent the extra dime and bought myself a half-decent smartphone instead.


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