Of all the carriers, Sprint seems to be the most passionate about making eco-friendly devices. Starting with the Samsung Replenish, Sprint has regularly pushed out smartphones that use recyclable materials and earth-friendly packaging. The LG Optimus Elite joins that heritage and brings Android to the budget-conscious masses. It's nothing spectacular (I'm not sure where LG got the idea that "Elite" aptly described this phone) but it's a smartphone nonetheless and it's only thirty bucks on contract. You get a phone with a 3.5-inch display, a 5-megapixel camera, Mobile Hotspot support, and even NFC. I've been using the Optimus Elite for a couple of days and here are some of my first impressions:
- Obviously, the hardware isn't going to make anyone jealous, but it still has some interesting design features. LG has added some accent bands around the edges of the phone and the back features a rough, textured finish. It's light, weighing only 4.25 ounces, and small at only 4.6-inches tall. It fits nicely in the hand and has a somewhat inspired design.
- The 3.5-inch display may seem small, but it's better than other low-end smartphones that have a 3.2-inch display. That may not seem like that much of a difference, but it is, believe me. You may not get as much screen real estate as you would with some of these behemoth phones out there, but I haven't had any problems so far. If the keyboard is too small, you can easily rotate the phone into landscape mode for a larger keyboard layout.
- I've taken a couple of pictures with phone's 5-megapixel camera and they came out about like what I expected - grainy and blurry. Don't get me wrong, a low-end phone like this is not expected to create high-quality images, but don't expect any surprises with the Optimus Elite is what I'm saying. The phone does not have a front-facing camera but it does capture video, though only WVGA resolution.
- The Optimus Elite comes with stock Android 2.3 and Sprint ID. Sprint ID is a service that allows you to download ID Packs that come with apps and widgets that are related to a particular theme. This is a useful feature for those who are new to Android and don't want to hunt around the Play Store for an hour to see what apps are available. If you like music, you can simply download a music-themed pack and get all of the apps that you're probably looking for. For long-time Android users, this feature is probably more annoying than useful.
- The phone has 4GB of internal memory, which doesn't sound as bad once you realize that Sprint has pre-loaded very few apps. Aside from a few things like Sprint TV, Sprint NBA Mobile, and SprintZone, you've got all of that memory to yourself. The phone has a microSD card slot underneath the battery cover if you want to add more memory, but the phone does not come with a card - no surprises there. In addition to this, you can sign up for 50GB of free cloud storage from Box, an offer available to those who purchase the Optimus Elite.
- It's nice to have NFC support, even if it's not widely used in the marketplace. If you happen to be at a retailer that allows you to make NFC payments, it's pretty cool to just pull out your phone and swipe it in front of the reader. That's one thing that might make your iPhone-toting friends jealous. Mobile Hotspot support is also a handy feature. The Optimus Elite is a 3G-only device so you won't get excellent speeds (I'm pulling about 200 kbps down right now) but it may come in handy in emergencies.
- One area where you will definitely notice that you're using a budget-friendly device is in performance. I haven't been using the phone for that long, but the 800 MHz processor is already having a hard time keeping up with simple tasks. Again, I understand that you can't expect perfect performance with a low-end phone, but I've tested plenty of other inexpensive phones that offered better performance. We'll see how the Optimus Elite does after more testing.
So far, the Optimus Elite fits into its mold perfectly. It's an inexpensive phone that proves true the saying that you get what you pay for. The beauty of Android is that you have variety and options. There are inexpensive phones out there that offer great performance and features for the price. I have yet to find out if the Optimus Elite is one of them.