The LG Optimus One runs Android 2.2 with some light customisations by LG. So instead of the App Launcher, Browser, and Phone icons running along the bottom there are Phone, Contacts, App Launcher, Messages and Browser, which seems like an improvement to us. Slide the notifications bar down from the top of the screen and there are quick switches for turning on/off WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS and Aeroplane mode, and there’s a Mute button as well. Again, this seems like a sensible little addition.
Less welcome is the T9-style keypad that LG has replaced the standard onscreen keyboard with. While the phone is a bit narrower than some other touchscreen smartphones, so is a bit more cramped to type on, it’s still wide enough to accommodate a standard QWERTY style keyboard. Thankfully, you can switch back to the very capable standard Android keyboard.
Otherwise, we’re looking at a pretty standard version of Android, so you have five homescreens on which to place loads of widgets and apps. Tap the App Launcher and there’s the full selection of apps to choose from. The phone uses a 600MHz processor so it’s certainly not the speediest going but it generally trots along nicely with few moments of stutter.
LG has added a selection of its own widgets including a calendar and viewers for messages, weather and bookmarks. They all seem to work quite well though none particularly blew us away with any extra features over and above the norm.
Log into Gmail, Facebook and Twitter and, if you so choose, your contacts list will be populated by information from all three services, with you hardly having to lift a finger. It’s a common feature on Android phones now but it’s always satisfying to see.
Messaging services include a text message inbox, instant messaging client and both Gmail inbox as well as a general inbox for other email services. All work very well and are a breeze to use.
GPS is onboard and you have GoogleMaps and Google Navigation to take full advantage of it, or you can download a 3rd party sat nav app as well. The phone seemed to pick up a signal with reasonable speed so we had few complaints here. The slow processor will mean that 3rd party apps (with 3D graphics showing where you’re going) are a bit sluggish, though.
Music is well catered for with an easy to use mp3 player and FM radio, though the player doesn’t support fancier formats like FLAC. Video isn’t so well represented with neither support for many files types nor the grunt to play higher quality clips. Of course, youtube is on hand for the majority of your video viewing.
The web browser is the usual excellent Android affair that is speedy and renders most web pages perfectly. If lacks Flash support but otherwise is more than up to the job. With Wi-Fi as well as 3G you can have fast downloads when at home or on the move.
The 3.0 megapixel camera lacks a flash so is fairly limited in its scope, but will do for the odd social snap in well lit environments. Thankfully it does have autofocus, though, so can be used for taking sharp closeup shots. It can also capture video at a perfectly adequate resolution of 640 x 480. It’s not HD but there’s enough detail to see what’s going on, it’s actually the limited 18fps that hurts the quality, making motion look jerky.
Making a few test calls on the One threw up no obvious issues, though general quality isn’t anything special. There’s no active noise cancelling for reducing the amount of noise transmitted from your surroundings to the person you’re calling. The speaker phone is fairly weedy as well.
Finally we come to battery life and as we expected, the large battery combined with a slower processor and smaller screen meant this phone happily kept going for three days general use.
The LG Optimus One is quite simply some phone. As a budget smartphone, it more than gets the job done and if you can find it on a good deal, there’s no reason for you to avoid it. However, equally there’s little to really make us recommend it. Frankly, the Orange San Francisco still stands out as the bargain choice at the moment.