In the realm of low-cost smartphones, there's usually not a whole lot that entices customers aside from the prices. I know a lot of people who make it a practice to simply buy whatever decent phone is free at the time when their contract is up. They know they're not getting the best phone with the best features, but, hey, it's free. The LG Optimus Elite is kind of like that (except it's $30 on contract), but the difference is that it actually has some pretty neat features like NFC and Google Wallet support and it's eco-friendly. The eco-friendly part may not attract everyone, but NFC and Google Wallet might. If that doesn't do the trick, just look at the price tag again. At under thirty bucks with a two-year contract, it's enough to pique your interest. But what should you expect once your interest is piqued? Should you buy the Optimus Elite just because it's inexpensive?
Design & Features
Like most low-end, inexpensive phones, the Optimus Elite is small and rather homely-looking. There are a few off-color accents around the edge of the phone and from the front it actually looks a lot like the original iPhone. The phone is 4.58-inches tall, 2.47-inches wide, and .39-inches thick. At 4.25 ounces, it's rather light and the cheap build is very noticeable while gripping it. The volume rocker buttons are on the left side of the phone; the microUSB port is on the bottom of the phone; and the 3.5mm headphone jack and Power/Screen Lock button are on the top of the phone. There is no physical camera button or LED notification light. Underneath the battery cover, there is a microSD card slot. The phone has 4GB of internal memory and does not ship with an external card. Also underneath the battery cover, on the bottom side of it, there is an NFC chip which we'll talk about more later on in the review.
The Optimus Elite has a 3.5-inch display with a resolution of 320x480 pixels. This is the typical size and resolution you can expect with a phone in this category. It's not an amazing display, but it gets the job done. It's very bright and the screen is smooth and responsive. A 3.5-inch display may be too small for some people, but that's a personal call.
As I mentioned in the outset, the Optimus Elite is an eco-friendly phone. It is ULE Platinum Certified and RoHS compliant, meaning it is PVC-, halogen-, and mercury-free, its casing is made of 50 percent recycled plastics, and its charger exceeds the EC Code of Conduct on energy efficiency. On top of this, it comes in a box that, along with its packaging, is fully recyclable, printed with soy inks, and was made with a glueless construction. That may sound like a lot of marketing mumbo jumbo, but it basically means that the phone will help you to keep your eco-footprint small.
Usability & Performance
Out of the box, you've got Android 2.3 and Sprint ID. Outside of Sprint ID, there are no other custom UI elements so LG hasn't included its UI over Android. This is a good thing because low-end phones with slower processors have a difficult time processing the OS with a UI. Since the Optimus Elite uses stock Android, performance should be much better. Sprint ID is a nice feature for those who are new to Android. You can download ID packs based on themes that will include several apps and widgets related to that theme. This allows you to download multiple apps at once without having to hunt through the Google Play Store to see what is available. Google Wallet is also included with the Optimus Elite. Google Wallet allows you to take advantage of the phone's NFC capabilities to make easy payments with your phone by swiping it in front of a reader at a store. You can easily link your Citi Mastercard or any other credit card to your Google Wallet account and be set up and making payments in just a few minutes. NFC isn't widely implemented at the moment, but if you have the feature and are mindful of it, you may use it more than you think.
The Optimus Elite has an 800 MHz processor and 512 MB of RAM. That's enough power to get you through simple, everyday tasks and some multi-tasking without any performance issues. Once you start running several apps at once, playing games, or web browsing, you're going to run into trouble. Granted, that's what you get with most low-end phones so it's not like the Optimus Elite is under-performing, but you will experience some lag during use. The processor scored a 2,004 on the Quadrant Standard test and a 2,907 on the AnTuTu Benchmark test.
I'm testing the phone in the Dallas area and honestly, 3G speeds have been pretty terrible. The Optimus Elite is not a 4G phone so you're stuck on Sprint's 3G network. Over the past week or so that I've had the phone, I'm getting average download speeds of about 200 kbps. These speeds will vary depending on coverage in your area, but I haven't been impressed at all with the network performance where I'm at. These are the same speeds I'm getting with other Sprint devices though so the problem is not isolated to just the Optimus Elite. The phone can act as a mobile hotspot, but considering how poor Sprint's 3G speeds have been, I don't see that feature being very useful.
I've been very impressed by the Optimus Elite's camera. Honestly, the camera on a low-end phone is not something you pay too much attention to because the quality is usually terrible. However, the Optimus Elite's 5-megapixel camera did a great job. Pictures came out great with good detail for a phone of this caliber. The detail wasn't excellent, but the pictures were clear and the colors showed up very well. This is a camera I might actually use to take worthwhile pictures. Obviously, it's not going to replace your point-and-shoot camera, but it does a great job nonetheless. The camera captures WVGA video which makes that feature useless outside of sending quick videos to friends. The camera also has a flash and a self-portrait mirror.
The Optimus Elite uses a 1520 mAh battery which should offer great battery life for most users. Considering that the phone is not a 4G device, has a small, low-res display, and uses a low-powered processor, a 1520 mAh battery is actually quite large. In fact, during testing, the battery lasted four days on standby. Now, that's with little to no use at all, but even with moderate or heavy use, you shouldn't have a problem getting through a full day before you have to charge the battery.
The Optimus Elite has a few things going for it. It's eco-friendly, inexpensive, has cool features like NFC, and performs pretty well overall. If you're looking for a decent phone to get you by without having to spend a lot of money, the Optimus Elite is a good option for you. You'll get more bang for your buck with the ZTE Fury, also on Sprint, but the Optimus Elite is a decent second option. Considering that the ZTE Fury is $10 cheaper and trumps the Optimus Elitet's 800 MHz processor with a 1GHz processor (and the difference is notable), I'd say consider the Fury first.
The Good: Great battery life; great camera; eco-friendly; NFC and Google Wallet support; good price.
The Bad: Very slow 3G speeds; small-ish display; doesn't handle multi-tasking and web browsing very well.
The Verdict: Outside of the price, there's nothing about the Optimus Elite that makes it overly desirable, though for some people that might be enough. It's a decent low-end phone, simple as that.