Recently, the Hub was wondering how to wait for the iPhone 5 and decided to go with the LG Optimus V smartphone on Virgin Mobile’s network in the meantime. So far, so good! The Android 2.2 phone comes with almost every feature you could imagine: 3.2 megapixel camera/camcorder, 3.2″ color touch screen, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. The phone has been solid performer and hasn’t disappointed.
The Optimus V has a comfortable form factor and is easy to hold. The construction feels a little flimsy with its plastic shell. I haven’t dropped yet so I can’t tell you how durable it is. It’s worth the money to invest in a case and screen protector. If you’re careful, you can pull off the picture of apps from the phone’s display and reuse the screen protector.
|LG Optimus V|
|Side View of the Optimus V. It’s thin!|
As a phone the device has worked well. Voice quality is on par with my former AT&T Blackberry Curve. Back in the 90s, I had a Sprint phone and was disappointed with it’s coverage. Virgin Mobile simply resells Sprint’s network so I was skeptical. The coverage so far has been better than I expected. I’ve only had a couple of dropped calls in the Boston area. While not lighting fast, Sprint’s 3G data network performed fairly well. Testing 3G, the phone’s best download speed was 2.1 MBps and its best upload speed was 800 KBps.
Using WiFi boosted performance to 10 MBps for downloads and 1.8 MBps for uploads. Activating WiFi also stretched out the battery life. The battery easily lasts the day, having 40% to 60% of its charge left with moderate talk and app use (twitter, facebook, gmail, maps).
My only real criticism of the LG is the size of the screen. While the display itself is crisp, it would be nice if it was a little larger. Reading is a little bit of a challenge on the device. It’s also taken some time to get used to the four hard buttons at the bottom of the device. I’m used to the iPod touch where all of the navigation is on-screen. I do like how Android’s notifications in the upper toolbar can be expanded onto the screen.
|Optimus V Unlock Screen|
If you are going to do heavy emailing, I suggest you look for an Android device with a real keyboard. The on-screen keyboard of the LG is adequate but is a little cramped given the screen size. It also has an alternative entry method known as “Swype” which may help some folks but it didn’t help me much.
From the cost point of view, Virgin’s monthly plans are a great deal: The $25 monthly plan includes unlimited data and texting with 300 minutes of talk. For $40 a month, you get 1200 minutes per month. The best part is that there’s no contract. Yep, that’s right! Alternatively, you can also use one of their pay as you go plans. While the phone is now $199 without a contract, I was able to purchase one at Best Buy for $130 on sale (so keep your eyes peeled). Given the monthly savings, you will recoup the cost of the phone pretty quickly.
While I know that the Apple’s App Store has the best selection, I’ve been fine living with the Android and Amazon ones. There’s no danger of me running out of apps to download. So far, I’ve loaded up Angry Birds Rio (already spent too much time playing it), New York Times, Twitter, Pulse (rss reader) and Amazon’s MP3 Cloud Player. This is not including all of the preloaded apps on the phone such as Gmail, Google maps and Youtube.
Amazon’s Cloud Player filled a void in the Android world. One of the most attractive things about the iTunes ecosystem is how it works so seamlessly. Plug in your iPhone and all of your music syncs. Well, Amazon’s player has now offers a similar experience for Android users with the ability to stream your music from the cloud to boot. If you want to store music locally, you will need to replace the 2GB microSD card that came with the phone.
In conclusion, the LG Optimus V is a great value! It has all of the core functions a smartphone should have. Is it as nice as a iPhone 4? No, but it’s fairly functional. When you look at what it costs every month and the fact you can tether (download “Quick Settings” from the Android Market, customize and unhide “Wi-Fi Hotspot”), maybe I should stop waiting for the iPhone 5 and pick up an iPad 2 instead.
Update: The equivalent LG Optimus S is now available on Sprint for $20 with a 2 year contract. Details here.