We wanted to like the LG Optimus L7 P700, we really did. For just £215 SIM free it comes running the latest version of Android, has a big, bold 4.3inch colour screen and NFC support. On paper it sounds like a fab mid-range blower. However, it turns out to be a bit of a pig of a phone to use. Why? Well, there are a multitude reasons.
Let's start with the positives, though. The L7's stylish design belies its mid-range pricing. Available in white or black - we had the white one in for review - it looks very classy, partly because it's so slim - it measures a mere 8.7mm thick - but also because the glossy white bezel framing the screen blends nicely with the chrome band that runs around the outer edge of the phone. It’s quite angular, which some people won’t like, and the largish 4.3inch screen means it feels quite broad when you’re holding it in your hand. However, that’s the nature of these large screen handsets and the L7’s display runs almost to the edge of the phone, so we don’t really see how LG could have made it any narrower.
Like the cheaper Optimus L3, the battery cover on the rear of the phone has a textured pattern. It feels a bit like corrugated cardboard to the touch, which detracts slightly from the phone’s premium feel. However, it is very grippy and because the pattern is grooved, rather than dimpled, it doesn't gather dust in the same way the rear of the L3 does.
The button placement is good, too. The power/lock button sits at the top while the volume buttons have been placed on the left hand edge. Google may be pushing to rid Android of hardware buttons, but LG has still opted for a physical Home button beneath the screen. This sits between two touch buttons for the back and multi-tasking keys (even though the latter is used as an option key rather than a multifunction key, but that's Android consistency for you). Naturally, there's a standard headphone jack at the top and a microUSB port on the bottom. In fact, it's the same layout as Samsung's currently employing on its Galaxy handsets.
Prize off the battery cover – easier said than done as there’s no obvious groove to get your fingernail into – and you’ll find the microSD card slot easily accessible, so you don't have to remove the battery to get at it.
Ice Cream Sandwich
Unlike a lot of current mid-range Android phones, this one comes loaded with Android 4.0 – Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) – so hats off to LG for that. However, the company couldn’t help itself from adding its own Optimus UI 2.0 skin over the top. And while the phone may run ICS, there are a few curious omissions. The face unlock feature that lets you unlock your handset by pointing the front facing camera at your boat race is missing, and it doesn't let you resize homescreen widgets – one of ICS’s key new features.
However, you can press and hold the home button to bring up a list of all the apps than you've be using of late, complete with thumbnail images of each, so you can tap on one to instantly return to it. It also let's you dismiss individual notifications just by swiping them off the screen and there’s a handy panoramic mode in the camera app, as well as some neat photo editing tools including an autofix option and some Lomo-style effects. Also, because the L7 has NFC you can transfer files to other NFC phones using the new the Beam feature by bumping them together.
Thankfully LG’s Optimus UI doesn't really change the look and feel of Android too much. There are five home screens to play with and as you swipe from one to the other the background wallpaper pans slightly and the shortcuts zoom out of view via a neat 3D effect. The bar at the bottom of the screen houses up to five apps shortcuts or folders and you can change these at will. The app drawer is also divided up into sections, with entries for apps, downloads and widgets. To access different pages you simply scroll horizontally.