• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

The good news for anyone on a budget is that you no longer need deep pockets to benefit from a decent range of web, app and email features on a smartphone. LG is famed for its smartphones in the low to mid-price range and in the Optimus One it has produced one of its most capable Android phones - and it costs just £130 on pay-as-you-go and is free on a £20-a-month contract.

Back to basics

The Optimus One makes a good shot at the smartphone market, with HSDPA, Android 2.2, a 3.2-inch touch-screen and Wi-Fi web access. We weren't surprised by the rather cheap plastic body with its silver edging - it's pretty much what we've come to expect from LG. There are four hard buttons along the bottom of the handset, which is handy if you're wearing gloves, as it has the more responsive capacitive display.

Audiophiles will appreciate the presence of a 3.5mm headphone jack, although the on-board memory is only 170MB. The good news is that you can increase this thanks to a microSD slot, which lets you add up to 32GB more memory. You'll find a 2GB card in the box.

The Android OS has an LG skin, but it doesn't really offer any improvements. HTC's Sense customisation really fits with the operating system, but LG's attempt is hardly elegant. The widget designs are not great, and the shortcut dock tries to mimic the iPhone's offering but fails to match it in style. For example, drag an icon from the home screen to add it to the dock and you'll find you then have two copies of the icon - one on the home screen, another in the dock.

The other main alteration is how many home screens are on offer - Android 2.2 has five screens, but LG has customised this to give you the choice of seven. These can be customised with apps and widgets, as on other Android devices.

Android 2.2

The latest incarnation of Android, 2.2 - or Froyo - offers some excellent features that you might not expect in a device at this price. It is possible to connect to a computer via USB to use it as a modem or use your phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot (it can convert a 3G signal, allowing you to connect up to five other devices). Email is a good as it gets - we were especially impressed by the Gmail facility - you get instant notifications of any new messages, are able to go as far back as you want to access folders, and start typing in the address field to get autosuggestions for anyone you have ever emailed on Gmail.

To help you find your way, the Optimus One offers voice navigation, which means you can use it as a sat-nav device. It's LG's Car Home app that allows the user to announce their destination and get voice directions. It also adds a sat-nav dashboard on your home screen, yet still allows you to make calls without exiting the Car Home app, or choose music to play from your handset's library. An optional car mount allows you to put the phone in landscape mode on the dashboard of your car.

Something we've been awaiting for some time is the ability to save apps on to the microSD memory card - the Optimus One lets you do this. This means you have more space for your apps, particularly if you buy a 32GB card. But be aware that not many apps actually support this function. We were, however, really impressed with the Chrome to Phone function.

First download the app to your device, and then the software for the desktop browser. Then you are able to send map links, phone numbers and web pages from computer to handset. This means you can keep browsing a page that you were looking at on your computer when you head out, you can check your map links in Google maps when you're trying to find your way, and you can dial numbers directly without having to type them into your phone.

Web and snapper

Internet browsing is pretty speedy with the full HTML browser, support for Wi-Fi, fast HSDPA internet and the pinch to zoom facility. While the screen is a decent 3.2 inches, the resolution (320x480 pixels) means that images can appear somewhat pixelated. However, it does support Flash, but that low-res screen means that even though you play embedded video found on sites such as the Guardian, they are not that good looking. Open YouTube videos in the YouTube app and you'll get a better result. While you're browsing it is possible to open a number of pages simultaneously, create bookmarks, and send your links via email, social network and text.

It's clear LG has tried to keep the handset's price down by including a three-megapixel camera - it's not one of its best efforts but you'll be satisfied with images taken in daylight. Auto-focus is a bonus, but there's no flash so don't expect much from any pictures taken in low light. Video recording is on offer, but as it only comes in at a very average 18fps (30fps is DVD quality) you'll probably only want to use them for posting up on social networks and so on.

What did impress us though - particularly bearing in mind the Optimus One's price - is that the phone's video player supports a decent selection of video formats, including DivX, which is becoming increasingly common for high-quality video online. MP 4 and H.264 are also supported, so you'll be able to play pretty much every video available for download, and can rest assured that as far as video goes your handset is future proof. Despite all this clever media gadgetry, the battery life is pretty good. A full charge took us through into a second day, even when we watched some video, and used Wi-Fi and HSDPA.

The verdict

LG hasn't produced much in the smartphone range this year, but the Optimus One looks like it's starting off a busy period, concentrating on the Android OS. It may not be the best-looking handset out there, but LG has succeeded in jamming in a host of smartphone features - push email, excellent sat nav, good internet facilities, social networking and loads of apps from the Android Market. A brilliant phone for this budget.

Specifications

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