The LG Optimus One has become the Galaxy S of mid-range smartphones. It's on pretty much every U.S. carrier, all versions being pretty much exactly the same, and it's one of the best phones in its category. The LG Phoenix doesn't really bring anything new to the table, but it does maintain the same high level of performance as its other Optimus One brethren. I've been consistently impressed by how well these mid-range smartphones perform and, of course, did not expect anything different from this one. Some consumers may be slightly miffed by the spec sheet, but don't let that fool you. If all you need a reliable smartphone that won't give you problems but that you don't have to break the bank to buy, these Optimus One phones, including the LG Phoenix, are currently your best option.
Design & Features
If you've seen one Optimus One phone, you've seen them all. The Phoenix looks pretty much identical to the other versions. It has the same rounded design, the same silver trim that slowly tapers to a thin border around the top side of the phone, and the same matte finish, this model coming only in blue. You're not going to mistake it for a high-end phone; you'll know that you only paid $49.99 for the phone while you're holding it. Still, the design is simple, comfortable, and fulfills its job of not making the phone look completely boring.
You can guess from the 3.2-inch display that this is a smallish phone. It measures 4.47-inches tall, 2.32-inches wide, and .53-inches thick. That 3.2-inch display has a resolution of 320x480 - pretty low, but again this is not going to compete with the iPhone. Text is slightly pixelated, but it's still bright and I never felt like it was a major drawback.
Interestingly, this version of the Optimus One does not contain a dedicated camera button even though I'm pretty sure all of the other ones do. I personally miss having a camera shutter button since it seems to make focusing and taking a picture so much easier. This won't bother everyone though. Without the camera button, the right spine of phone contains only the volume rocker keys. The left spine is empty, the top of the phone contains the 3.5mm headphone jack and Power/Screen Lock button, and the microUSB port is on the bottom. The phone does have a microSD card slot but it's underneath the battery cover. It ships with a 2GB card and supports up to 32 GB of additional memory.
Usability & Performance
The Phoenix's 600 MHz processor delivered impressive speeds with little to no lag. Transitions were smooth and there was little delay when opening an app. Granted, there will be times when the delay is longer and pinch-to-zoom wasn't seamless, but it performed well above my expectations.
LG has included their custom UI on top of Android 2.2. As of the writing of this review, we have no word on if or when the Phoenix will receive 2.3. LG's UI is one of the more mellow User Interfaces out there and adds little more than a simple dock, a categorized app drawer, and a few toggle options in the notification bar. The phone does ship with a few custom LG widgets and LG's keyboard, but you don't have to use them if you choose not to. I found that the stock Android keyboard performed much better than LG's custom keyboard. By way of custom apps, AT&T has included FamilyMap, Code Scanner, Hot Spots, myWireless, Navigator, Radio, and Live TV, an app that can be used to, you guessed it, watch live TV through your U-verse subscription.
As with all of the Optimus One phones, the Phoenix ships with a 3.2-megapixel autofocus camera. Picture quality was decent, but the exclusion of a dedicated camera button takes away from the camera's overall performance. With a camera button, you can manually focus and then take a picture. If the camera does not focus properly, you simply release the button and retry it. Without that luxury, the only choice you have is to press the shutter button on the screen and hope that it focuses properly. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. There were times when I had to take a picture several times before the focus was right. With a dedicated camera button, I wouldn't have to do that. The camera also captures video, though the quality was pretty terrible. VGA resolution doesn't promise much to begin with, but it certainly didn't over-perform. Videos were grainy and the sound was awful.
The Phoenix is a 3G device and I've found AT&T's network to offer decent speeds. I'm averaging 600-900 kbps for downloads and 200-300 kbps for uploads. Call quality was also decent, though AT&T's network is at times choppy, at least in the Dallas area where I tested it. Battery life was impressive. I was able to make it through a full day with the Phoenix's 1500 mAh battery. I did have to charge it every night, but it at least lasted the entire day with normal use and with a few widgets running in the background and notifications turned on.
Based on my previous experience with other Optimus One phones, I had high expectations for the LG Phoenix and it did not let me down. The processor kept up with most everyday tasks and made everything smooth with little to no lag. This may not be a high-end phone, but it is definitely a viable option for budget-concious consumers and is well worth the low price you'll pay for it.
What's Good: Smooth performance with little to no lag; LG's custom UI adds nice design details but isn't too heavy; good battery life; live TV through AT&T U-verse.
What's Bad: Somewhat boring physical design; no dedicated camera button.
The Verdict: Who says that budget phones have to be disappointing? With a solid feature set, this phone proves them wrong.