A couple of months after the sleek-looking LG Optimus smartphone was launched, the Optimus One, a hashed up version of the former, hit the shelves. Ketaki Bhojnagarwala tells you if this Android-based smartphone packs in a punch

LG made its entry into the Android market with its first smartphone, the LG GW620. While the phone wasn't a bad first attempt, it failed to make its mark in the smartphone market. LG then introduced the Optimus, an entry-level smartphone which took some flak for its resistive touch screen. The company recently launched the P500 (Optimus One) in India, a handset which reportedly sold one million units in its first 40 days in the market. We got up close with the phone to see if this was really LG's redeeming Android attempt.

First impressions

At first glance, the P500 is a very unconventional looking smartphone. Encased in a slim rubberised panel, the phone certainly feels sturdier than most smartphones, but doesn't really give you that sleek, corporate feel. The screen is a decent sized one, at 3.2-inches. There are four buttons below the screen, and instead of the usual touch sensitive ones that we're seeing on most phones now, these ones are physical. While these buttons (for Menu, Home, Return and Search) don't really impress with their looks, it was nice to physically click them. The two buttons in the centre are placed on a brushed aluminium surface, which reminds you of the phone's predecessor, the Optimus.

The 3.5mm headphone jack and power button are located at the top, and the mini-USB-cum-charging port is at the bottom. The sides are bare except for a volume rocker switch. There is a 3-meg camera located at the back, but the phone lacks an LED flash. We also missed having a physical camera button.

Unlike in the Optimus, the P500 doesn't have a blinking indicator light, to alert us for new notifications.

User interface

The P500 runs Android v2.2 or Froyo. Although v2.3 or Gingerbread has already made an appearance in the market, Froyo isn't outdated yet and worked well on this handset.

You can choose to have either five or seven home screens, which are customisable.

LG has added a curved dock at the bottom of the screen which houses buttons for the dialpad, contacts, messaging and browser. You can't customise the dock though. You can choose to add a number of widgets on your home screens, including a handy little messaging widget which displays your most recent texts. However you may want to skip this one if you're a stickler for privacy.

You can also add folders to your menu screen, and you can drag and drop applications into that. This feature is especially useful if you have a lot of apps.

Unlike the previous Optimus, the P500 has a capacitive touch screen, which was quite responsive. The only time we had problems was during scrolling, when we would inadvertently activate icons.

You have a choice of Android or LG keyboards. The LG keyboard was actually a pleasure to type on, and even offered predictive text. In portrait mode, you can choose to have either an alphanumeric or QWERTY keyboard, which gets a thumbs up from us. We are big fans of handset customisation!

Media

LG has always outdone itself when it comes to being media friendly, and the P500 doesn't disappoint. The 320x480 TFT screen was excellent for viewing images, and displayed detail well. Videos played without any visible stagger while loading, and although the screen is not high-def, colour reproduction and clarity were good. However the phone does not support AVi files, which most smartphones in the P500's category do.

The phone comes with the standard Android 2.2 media player which organises music according to artist, album, songs and playlists. Sound quality was good, and the speaker was loud enough to be heard in a crowded room. With memory expandable up to 32GB, this phone can be your alternate to the music player.

The camera was a decent 3-megger. It comes with a variety of scene selections, a macro mode, face tracking and controls for ISO, exposure, white balance and colour effects. We especially liked the inclusion of a timer switch for those group shots. Images turned out well for a phone camera, and it took surprisingly good night shots. Images taken indoors in low light were a bit grainy, but that's to be expected from a phone camera. But like we mentioned earlier, an LED flash would have been a welcome addition to the camera.

The P500 supports practically all email accounts, including MS Exchange, and even prompted us to set up a Google account the first time we started up the phone. It also has a handy Gtalk client.

No phone of today would be complete without Facebook and Twitter integration, and the P500 supports syncing for all your SNS contacts. We liked the fact that the phone displays SIM and SNS contacts separately, so we could differentiate between them.

Performance

The P500 is powered by a 600 MHz processor. We didn't have any problems with multi-tasking when it came to using the media player. It even worked with the camera on, which some phones do not support. We were able to run Facebook, Gmail and Gtalk in the background and use the phone normally, without slowing down any processes.

The phone comes with a built-in accelerometer, although it wasn't very sensitive, sometimes taking a while to switch between portrait and landscape modes. There were rare cases when the touch screen became unresponsive, leading to a lot of stabbing at the screen.

The phone comes with a standard Lithium Ion 1500 MAh battery, and the charge lasted us two days with a couple of hours of talk time, and social networks logged in, which was quite impressive.

Call quality was also decent. The phone has a proximity sensor, which worked flawlessly, locking the screen when we were on a call. We were able to hear our callers clearly, and they didn't complain of too much background noise when we were outdoors.

While we had no problems with the screen, it didn't fare too well under direct sunlight. However, for the price LG is offering the phone at, you can't expect an AMOLED screen.

Our verdict

Overall, the P500 was a pleasure to use. It didn't slow down when overworked, and the battery life was great. LG has finally got it right with this phone, but we think it can still do better. We're hoping to see a high-end smartphone from the company that will give competition to the likes of the Nokia N8 and Samsung Galaxy S, but until then, this is one of the best ‘starter' smartphones out there.

Love: Good battery life, media friendly

Hate: Clunky looks

Rs 13,500

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