Prepaid carriers have never really been known to have the best phones, but it seems like MetroPCS is trying to change that. The carrier is rapidly extending its 4G network coverage and has released its first 4G phone, the Samsung Craft. Now Metro has come back with a new Android smartphone, the LG Optimus M. The Optimus M is a decent mid-range Android device with a 600 MHz processor, a 3.2-inch touchscreen display, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and Android 2.2. It does feature LG's custom skin, but so far it doesn't seem to be too heavy. I've been using the Optimus M for about a day now. Here are a few things I've noticed in my time with it:
- The physical design is top-notch. The other Optimus devices that Sprint, Verizon, T-Moible, and U.S. Cellular carry all have a similar design and it's very drab and cheap-looking. Metro decided to step it up a bit (this is a big deal for the carrier) and really made the Optimus M look spectacular. From the beige-metallic body, to the chrome physical buttons, the Optimus M is stunning. Not bad for a 'basic' phone on a pre-paid carrier. The build quality seems okay too. It is made out of plastic so it does feel a little cheap, but it has some weight to it so it feels solid while you're holding it.
- More on physical design, I'm happy that it has a dedicated camera button. I know it's a small thing, but more and more manufacturers are starting to leave that out and it definitely makes a difference. I haven't had a lot of time with the 3.2 MP camera and I don't expect picture quality to be stellar, but I'll put it through testing to see exactly what we come up with.
- Surprisingly, the 600 MHz processor seems to be doing its job well. Honestly, I was expecting it to be slow and laggy, but I haven't really experienced that at all. Granted, I've only had it for a short time so I haven't put it through its paces, but with the few tasks that I have run on it, speeds seem to be pretty good. So far, it's better than my experience with the Samsung Transform and its 800 MHz processor.
- There is a lot a MetroPCS "bloatware", or pre-installed applications. Metro installed everything from a back-up assistant to MetroNavigation as well as their own app store and email client even though I doubt you'll need any substitute for what Android provides in those departments. Unfortunately, these apps cannot be uninstalled.
- So far, no problems with the touchscreen. It's very smooth and responds well. The phone does support multi-touch, which means you can use pinch-to-zoom when browsing the web or using Maps. A 3.2-inch screen may be small for a smartphone these days, but typing wasn't a big problem and the keyboard didn't feel too cramped. More on the keyboard in the next bullet.
- As I mentioned in the introduction, LG's custom skin isn't too heavy, so that's a plus if you're not into skins. There is a custom dock at the bottom of the home page and it ships with a few custom widgets, but it's really not that noticeable. The phone ships with Android 2.2, and with LG's custom UI you have the option of five homescreens or seven. The phone also ships with the Swype keyboard, though you can switch back to the stock Android keyboard if you'd like.
The LG Optimus M retails for $229 contract-free. So far, I'm starting to think it's the best option on MetroPCS, though that's not saying much since pre-paid carriers don't always have the best options. MetroPCS also just released another Android smartphone, the Huawei Ascend, so we'll have to see if the Optimus can top that one. Check back in a few days and see what I have to say about the Optimus after I've put it through more testing.