Another issue is that like many cheaper Android handsets, the GT540’s 3in touchscreen uses resistive rather than capacitive technology. This means you don’t get support for multi-touch (it’s not natively supported in Android V1.6 anyway) so instead you’re left with either double tap zooming or the onscreen magnifying icons to zoom in and out in the browser and Google Maps applications, which isn’t as intuitive as multi-touch zooming. Nevertheless, the screen’s sensitivity is good so it responds well to even lighter touches and swipes. It’s bright too and delivers strong colours.
These attributes combined with its resolution of 320 x 480 pixels means that text and graphics on web pages or in menus are crisp and easy to read. However, entering text can be a problem, especially when you’re using the screen in portrait mode, as the keys on the QWERTY keyboard are frustratingly small, thus leading to numerous typing errors.
When it comes to connecting with the outside world the Optimus covers all the important bases with Wi-Fi and HSDPA for fast data access on the move, plus Bluetooth and GPS support. The latter worked well in the Google Maps application, and if you update the maps app via the Android Market you now also get the beta version of Google Navigation, which provides turn-by-turn navigation instructions complete with synthesised voice announcements. We had no complaints about call quality either as the phone performed flawlessly in this regard. Battery life was also pretty much in line with other Android handsets we’ve tested as we managed to get about two days out of it before it needed a recharge.
The phone’s camera may have an average 3-megapixel resolution, but at least LG has added its own camera software that includes a few extras such as face detection. Shots look reasonable with well-defined edges and fairly accurate colours. It also manages to largely avoid the fringing that you sometimes see on images from camera phones. There’s no flash though, so you need lots of light indoors if you don’t want your pictures to look dark and very grainy.
When it comes to music you’ll find that the supplied headphones are a little below par, but at least the standard headphone jack means you can easily use your own cans with the phone. The audio output is rather good, delivering warm deep bass and crisp high frequencies on cymbals and hi-hats. LG has also added an FM tuner to the handset so you can switch to radio when you’re bored of your own tunes.
The phone handles video pretty well too. Its DivX certified so it’ll play standard definition DivX and Xvid files without any problems. Naturally, there’s also the standard YouTube video player onboard.
LG certainly has some of the ingredients right with the Optimus. It looks stylish, has good performance and a decent range of features. However, the company has dropped the ball by using a resistive touchscreen and lumping the phone with the older V1.6 release of Android. It’s also worth adding that the HTC Wildfire can be had for around £50 more and that handset beats the Optimus GT540 hands down thanks to its capacitive display and newer V2.1 version of Android.