Available for £70 on Pay as you go, the Optimus L3 E400 is by far the cheapest phone in LG's current line up of Optimus Android handsets. A year ago this price point would have seemed astonishing, but price erosion on entry level Android handset has been shocking and recently Alcatel told us it's going to soon launch its Alcatel OT-903 phone for just £40 on PAYG, which almost makes the L3's asking price seem mid-range by comparison. But we digress, the real question is whether the L3 is actually worth £70 of your hard earned cash.
The L3 may be a budget model, but thankfully its design doesn't look low rent. It feels reasonably solid and the combination of the smoky chrome and glossy black used on the front helps it avoid the cheap and nasty look of a lot of low priced Android devices. That said, the screen does appear somewhat awkwardly placed, as it sits between two big expanses of glossy black at the top and bottom -- something that makes the phone's styling look a touch unbalanced when viewed from the front.
The plastic battery cover on the rear has a slightly strange textured surface that feels a little like corrugated cardboard. This actually looks and feels better than it sounds, especially as it's quite grippy. However, the texture does make the rear of the phone hard to keep clean as dust tends to gather within the pits on the surface. The battery cover is easily removed by pulling on a slight indent at the top and once it's off you can access the microSD card slot on the left hand side without having to remove the battery. There are only two ports on the L3 -- the standard headphone jack on the top and the micro USB socket at the bottom. There are physical buttons for the volume controls on the left hand side, as well as a power/lock button at the top and a home button beneath the screen. The home button is flanked by two touch buttons for the menu and back keys and these light up once the screen is on, but blend seamlessly into the black bezel when the display's off.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the L3 doesn’t run the latest version of Android, but instead uses V2.3.6 – also known as Gingerbread. However, LG has added its own skin over the top of this, which it calls Optimus UI 2.0 Lite. As the name suggests this is a cut down version of the skin used on LG's pricier L5 and L7 handsets and lacks most of the graphical effects that are the signature of the full version. Nevertheless, it does have a slide up screen to unlock the handset and in the app drawer you can sort apps into different sub sections that you can quickly access via simple headers. There are also music playback controls permanently docked in the notification pull down tab, but other than that it's not much different to plain vanilla Android. You may think that's no bad thing, as it saves the phone from being weighed down by bloatware, but it also makes us wonder why LG bothered putting the Optimus UI on the phone at all.