Tuesday, January 25, 2011

LG Optimus One P500

The LG Optimus One (LG P500) is an mid-range Android smartphone which has created quite a buzz by selling more than one million units within 40 days of its launch, worldwide. That was before its launch in India. We suggested that it was a worthwhile buy and November saw the launch of the phone in India. The LG Optimus One has remained popular with Indian consumers and tech personnel as well. A mid-range Android smartphone with 512 MB RAM and around Rs. 12,500/- ? Practically unheard of. The phones that compete with the LG Optimus One are the Sony Ericsson Xperia X8, the Motorola Quench XT3 and Zeppelin Lite XT5, LG’s own resistive touchscreen-donning Optimus GT540, and of course, the Videocon Evolve V7500 and the Spice Mi-300 (and the soon-to-be release Mi-310). In this review, we look at the various functions of this device in everyday life. One of our in-house geeks has been using this as his primary phone for a few weeks, and we are now prepared to give you the low down. Click that dainty little button to join us after the break.

Prima facie
LG Optimus One P500 - Top, three quarter view

At first look, the Optimus One is not a stunner like the Nokia N8 which we reviewed earlier but it has got the curves to make you want to hold it - at the very least. The relatively large-ish 3.2 inch screen (compared to Android phones with QVGA displays, or the 3 inch-clad Sony Ericsson Xperia X8) displaying the Android Operating System, the LG logo at the top and the four buttons at the bottom, are encased in plastic. These are strikingly apparent on the face of the device, especially the non-me-too looking buttons.

LG Optimus One P500 - Side volume rocker  LG Optimus One P500 - Top, Power and headset jack

One side of the Optimus One contains the volume rocker, as pictured above (far left). The power button and an integrated headset (headphone and mic) jack are present at the top of the phone. The micro-USB port for data transfer and charging is present at the bottom (view image below). All of these elements are enclosed in a metal strip that runs around the entire phone.

LG Optimus One P500 - Bottom, micro USB port

The back cover houses the 3 megapixel autofocus camera. We found the design to be simple and elegant, though not everyone who has seen this phone seems to like it.

On the inside
LG Optimus One P500 - Android System Info

There! The LG Optimus One P500 does have 512 MB of RAM. (ASI doesn’t report the full amount of RAM present, as some is reserved for system resources – you can verify this on any Android phone) Apart from that, there is a 600 MHz chip doing the processing duties, with 512 MB of ROM (170 MB available to the user) for storage. A 1500 mAh battery provides the juice, which again is better than other phones in the HVGA Android class of phones. The phone is 3G ready and boasts a decent 3.2 inch 256K colour touchscreen capacitive display with the HVGA resolution of 320 x 480. The phone is supplied with a 2 GB memory card, although a maximum capacity of 32GB is supported. The unit is sold with the Android 2.2 Froyo Operating System installed, but LG has promised an upgrade to Android 2.3 Gingerbread (which provides significant user interface improvements). This phone also features an accelerometer, digital compass and Assisted GPS among other features, which LG terms as advanced.


LG Optimus One P500 - Homescreen

This phone, with a little bit of extra weight, fits snugly into the palm and fingers of one hand. On powering it on and starting up, the phone asks you for your email address and password. Upon entering a Google account login details, we were good to go. The Android OS has been skinned by LG in many places – thankfully, the tweaks to the User Interface are appealing (We somehow find Samsung’s Touchwiz UI unacceptable on a high-end smartphone). Our one gripe was that LG has loaded the phone with a whole lot of free applications. Though some of them were useful, we found we could live without most of them. We found the Taskiller application very useful and it was one of the first apps to get its own shortcut on the home screen (If you’ve used Android, you’ll know that a task management app is a must-have). LG gives you the option of choosing between 5 and 7 home screens. These screens can be filled with widgets and applications of our choice, as is the case with most Android devices. This short video below should give you an idea of the homescreens and the App drawer on the LG Optimus One P500.

Everyday life
Once you start using this phone, it becomes a part of you – blending in with everyday activities. In regard to making phone calls, we found the device very intuitive and easy to use. The proximity sensor works like a charm, switching off the display to save battery. We installed the Swype keyboard very early on, but this geek found typing on the device a bit cumbersome. The onscreen keyboard is small, with all the keys very close to each other in the portrait view. Once we turned the device by 45 degrees, the accelerometer kicked in and it was more comfortable for typing in the landscape view. The applications installed in the phone can be classified into groups by the user (look closely at the App Drawer in the video above), which is a welcome addition to Android’s App Drawer where applications can really get lost in the long scrollable list. With Google Talk, Facebook, Twitter and Gmail applications, your social life is accessible at a touch (that is also one of the biggest advantages of Android). We found the mapping function of the phone nearly excellent, even in India. Under an open sky, the phone would locate itself with the help of A-GPS with great precision and speed. We gave this phone to an executing officer working in the Indian Navy and he was very impressed with the navigation functions – and we think that says a lot. Thumbs up to LG in this regard. Saying this, we have to mention that the notification light (usually found on devices of this class) was sorely missed. Also, the absence of a track pad (or a scroll wheel) was obvious and made selecting text a pain (which would definitely improve with Android 2.3 Gingerbread’s improved text selection methods).

Pre-installed Apps

The LG Optimus P500 can act as an e-book reader using the pre-installed Aldiko application. A whole lot of free e-books can be downloaded and read using this application. Another pre-installed application called AG Indian Newspapers, provided us access to the content of a wide range of newspapers and magazines in a nice readable format. Think free office, the full version (which costs about Rs. 450 in the Android Market), is provided free with the phone. It can be used to read and edit documents. However, it was painfully slow to use. Since this phone runs Android, thousands of apps are available for download from the Android Market. Check our demo of how the Android Market looks in the video below.

Music, Photography, Video and Browsing
The stock music player supplied with Froyo is simple and an effective way to listen to music stored on the SD card. The FM radio player application was a welcome addiction to the kit, which many Android phones don’t have. As is the case with many phones, though, the supplied headphones must be plugged in for the radio to work. The autofocus 3 MP camera is nothing to rave about and is not one of the strong points of this device, especially when taking photos indoors or in relatively low lighting conditions. Coming to video playback, we simply dumped copied an episode of the sitcom Scrubs (in .divx format) onto the memory card, but the inbuilt video application could not support the resolution (or codec, we presume). Rockplayer, a free application downloaded from the Android market handled it with ease, though. We found that the supplied Android web browser was smooth and adequate for a mobile phone, but flash was not supported. Online videos were diverted to the Youtube player, which worked well over wi-fi but not so well over our EDGE connection.

Battery charging and touching the screen
LG Optimus One P500 - Bottom, three quarter view

While reviewing we realized that the normal battery life could vary from around 24 to 48 hours depending on use. If you are a true geek and you are fiddling with the phone the whole day, then one day of battery backup is all you get (It’s all we get!). On the other hand, if you switch off the EDGE data transfer for most of the time, switching it on only when required, we managed to coax the Optimus One to last two whole days (thanks to that 1500 mAh battery). The touchscreen is quite responsive, proving its capacitive nature. Having said that, we must stress that this phone should not be judged based on LG’s previous Android efforts – the LG Optimus GT540 and the LG GW620 – both of which had resistive touchscreens, and were horrible. The LG Optimus One P500 is a completely different breed, though.

We reduced the brightness of the device to the barest minimum possible, and that was more than sufficient for indoor use. In sunlight however, this setting was no use, and we had to push the brightness up for us to be able to read.

Updating the software
This is one part which was a major “unhappy” bit for us. The phone did not come with any CD. We had to pore through the LG website to find the LG mobile support tool, which is required to install the USB driver. Only then was the phone detected by the PC. The software then downloaded and installed the latest updates. For a novice user, this would definitely be troublesome and a no-no (meaning, don’t buy this phone for your non-techy grandparents).

Quadrant benchmark
LG Optimus One P500 - Quadrant benchmark

We would not be right if we wrap this review up without a shot of a Quadrant benchmark for the phone. It scored 457, which is paltry. The Spice Mi-300 with stock Android 2.1 scored around 413. That meagre improvement could be attributed to the fact that the LG Optimus One P500 running Android 2.2, versus the Spice Mi-300 running Android 2.1 This just goes to show that all that extra RAM does not help much in actual performance output – what it is going to help, though, is all those background applications that you’d want to run, with Android’s crazy form of multi-tasking.

Final thoughts

One word that comes to our mind after reviewing this device is balance. The LG Optimus One isn't the best phone money can buy (we’re looking at you iPhone 4/HTC Desire HD/HTC HD7/Nokia N8) nor is it the cheapest. Its a budget smartphone for the budget conscious Indian. Its a great device for a person new to the Android OS and would be a good fit for the Micromax Ad tagline – My first Android. The phone surely will not disappoint you when it comes to all-round performance. There could be improvements – the phone could do with a notification light, a track pad and a better interface for software updation. All in all, this is a phone that is worth its buck. The Indian Geek has no hesitation in rating the phone very high on the all-round performance scale. The LG Optimus One has certainly set a good standard for the budget smartphone manufacturers currently trying to make money out of Android in India.

LG Optimus One press release (Warning: .doc link)


Zia Asp said...

See my quadrant score

a said...

Hey guys,

This blog/website is super helpful... I just brought my LG Optimus One P500 three days ago and while I fiddled and figured out most of the stuff, its great to find a website which will give you detailed information about how well it works in daily use.  This is my first adroid and I am super excited and happy about it and I do agree that the camera could've been better ( maybe with a flash or sth for indooor lighting). In anycase I think its great value for your buck as now you get the phone for 11 grand as oppose to 12 and a half grand in the  begining of the year

Delhi Hemanth said...

PC Suite comes loaded in the 2GB microSD included! U don't hav to visit website for that!

mehul agarwal said...

nice review.....got my lg optimus one n im loving it..:)

The Indian Geek said...

Thanks for this!

The Indian Geek said...

Thank you for that.

Robert Joseph said...

I have V10e update and i dont know how you got the system info screen. I have Android 2.2.2.

Yours has tabs which says.. system, tasks, apps, logs.. How did you get to this screen. Is this a separate app?

I use Settings -> Applicatons -> Running servies and i see the memory which shows..

200 + 69 MB

Ajay_TIG said...

Hi Robert, you are right. Its a separate app called "Android System Info". You can find it at the Android market. 

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