The budget Android smartphone market has really taken off in the last year with beautifully made handsets like the HTC Wildfire or models with high resolution screens like the Orange San Francisco being available for well under £200. And, one of the more recent arrivals is the LG Optimus One that we're looking at today.
Clothed mainly in soft touch black plastic, this phone is built around a 3.2in screen, which is slightly smaller than that of your average high-end smartphone and as such the whole phone is a bit smaller than the likes of the iPhone 4. Specifically it measures 113.5 x 59 x 13.3 mm, so is about 5mm shorter and narrower.
It's also immediately clear this is a budget phone from the fact that the screen is a flexible plastic rather than glass. Otherwise, it's an elegant enough device with its smart black and silver livery. The curved edges and general layout of buttons also makes it a nice device to hold and handle.
Eschewing the fashion for all touch sensitive controls, the One has a full compliment of four physical, backlit, buttons running underneath the screen, corresponding to Menu, Home, Back and Search. We rather like the way LG has separated the Search and Menu keys from the Home and Back, signifying their status as less-often used extras rather than main navigation buttons. All four have a nice noticeable click and feel securely planted. Thankfully, pressing the Home button activates the screen, allowing you to unlock the phone, without having to stretch for the power button.
Elsewhere there is a volume control on the right edge, headphone jack and power button on the top, a 3.0 megapixel camera on the back and microUSB on the bottom edge. The volume rocker again has a nice noticeable click though the thinness of the buttons means it's not the easiest control to use by feel alone. Pop the back plate off – via the thumbnail notch on the top edge – and a rather glamorous looking silver inside is revealed. Sadly it's just painted plastic, not metal. You do, however, get a sizable 1500mAh battery and microSD slot for adding up to 32GB of storage to the fairly miserly 170MB found onboard.
Turn the phone on and its screen is presented in its full glory. The LCD panel packs in 320 x 480 pixels, which is lower than the San Francisco and high-end smartphones but is on par with or higher than most cheaper Android devices. Thanks to the smaller screen, the lower resolution isn't quite so obvious, resulting in a sharp looking image. It's no iPhone 4 but you're definitely not going to be constantly distracted by a horrible pixellated mess everytime you try and write a text message. Viewing angles are impressive with the picture not breaking up significantly no matter where you view it from. It also produces nice natural, if slightly muted colours.
It's also nice and responsive when it comes to touch sensitivity, and supports multi-touch for the all essential pinch to zoom gesture. It's just a shame LG couldn't have packed in a glass screen for the price, as no matter this model's merits, it just feels less than premium.