T-Mobile LG Optimus T review

It’s common for us to drool over the latest phones and gadgets that come out, but typically most of the salivation will come from playing with the highest-end, state-of-the-art devices that will oftentimes have out-of-this-world specs and beautiful design. This happens often enough that reviewing lower-end devices can feel like a huge letdown.

Enter the LG Optimus T, the little Android phone that could. By simply looking at the specs and seeing some basic hands-on pics of the device, it doesn’t seem worth any sort of consideration. That’s because it’s meant to be a lower-end Android phone geared toward the first time smartphone buyers that are on a strict budget. But it doesn’t feel or look like it, by a long shot.

The Optimus T — we presume the T stands for T-Mobile, since the Optimus S will be on Sprint — is awfully hard to read into at first, since it’s supposed to be a budget phone but yet feels as solid as an HTC Incredible or Nexus One. It has a slow processor but compensates for it by running version 2.2, aka Froyo. It’s an underdog that packs a lot of punches with it. But the more we play with this handset, we begin to realize that there is a lot more than meets the eye with the Optimus T.

Join with us as we put the LG Optimus T to the test and see how it comes out.

First Impressions of the LG Optimus T

It’s hard to discuss our first impressions of the phone without first mentioning the box itself. We expect the latest phones to come in sexy packaging, or at least aesthetically pleasing. The Optimus T box does not disappoint, as it shows off a minimalistic approach yet exudes a humble elegance at the same time. The mostly white-and-green box is not too large or too small; it’s just the right size to fit everything it needs to. Inside the box we find the usual accessories for smartphones nowadays: user information, wall charger with USB cable, and headphones. The phone itself includes a 2 GB MicroSD card.

Placing the phone in our hands was a very nice experience. With a 3.2” touchscreen, It’s roughly the same size as a HTC Aria and smaller than an iPhone’s screen. It’s incredibly comfortable to handle, and it never feels awkward using the screen or the physical buttons, and grips so well that we never feel like it’s going to fall out at any point.

The humble elegance shown off on the outside of the box does a very good job foreshadowing what we see in the device once the box is open. The Optimus T has a professional look and feel, only includes outside buttons for the absolutely necessary features, and is made of materials that feel as though it will last for longer than the first few months. The back is smooth and polished.

Check out my unboxing video below.

Design of the LG Optimus T

The designers of the Optimus T did a wonderful job. The phone feels comfortable and natural in my hand as I use it. There are many minimalistic tendencies that shine through, keeping the emphasis in the right places and lowering the amount of distraction when playing with the phone. Only essentials were added to the outside of the phone, cutting down on pointless buttons that don’t save that much time and simply don’t matter.

The Optimus T is an open-faced Android candyshell phone with a 3.2” HVGA capacitive touchscreen and no external QWERTY keyboard with physical buttons. I worry about the deadly combination of small screen and on-screen keyboard that could cause conflicts for those with larger fingers, but I will spend more time on that later in the review.

It’s small enough to handle well. The official dimensions register at 4.47 x 2.32 x .52 cm, and weighs 129 grams (or, 129 paper clips).

Time for a virtual tour of the outside of the Optimus T. On the front we find 4 physical buttons lining the bottom: Menu, Home, Back, and Search. We really like how the buttons are pushed up and elevated above the rest of the phone, making them easier to press — and making accidental presses more difficult.

On the right side of the Optimus T all we have getting our attention is the volume adjustment rocker, and even that is hard to notice. On the left side there’s nothing. Absolutely nothing. As mentioned before, however, this minimal approach actually seems to work well for the device, since it’s geared toward basic smartphone users who may not require the use of so many extra bells and whistles.

One takeaway I had from looking at the sides of the Optimus T was how similar the chrome bezel that lines the outside of the phone is to the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, which features a bezel lining the outside that has a very modern and cool curvy style to it.

The 3.5 mm headphone jack and a tiny kpower/screen lock button keep the top of the phone from getting lonely, and the bottom only features the microUSB charging port.

Since the screen uses a 320×480 HVGA resolution and supports 262k colors, the images are slightly pixelated and nothing on the screen looks quite as sharp as a phone such as the Galaxy S. I didn’t have any problem seeing text and the display still shows off colors in high-contrast, but it’s still easy enough to tell the difference between this display and that of a Droid X or Galaxy S. The screen itself is not made of glass as some higher-end Androids are; it’s plastic, and I discovered I could push the screen in a little bit. This isn’t normally a deal breaker, but it does cause the screen to be less responsive to my gestures, such as finger swiping and pinch-to-zoom, until you spend some time to get the screen broken in (note I said broken in, not broken!).

LG chose to throw in its own custom version of Froyo, with a few minor changes to the stock version by adding some widgets, 2 extra homescreens (5 is still default), and . As the Optimus T is geared towards the budget-friendly crowd that like messaging and social networking, we can’t expect this phone to be the fastest, though the 600 MHz processor seemed quite speedy. We’ll get more into that later.

In this UI there are just 3 permanent soft keys at the bottom: phone, app tray, and messaging. I have no problem with this setup, simply because those will always be heavily used by any Android user.

Features and Functionality of the LG Optimus T

Speaking of the little Android that could: the Optimus T would have been top of the line a couple years ago, and now it’s considered the low-end Android device that works wonderfully when considering the $30 price point. It’s amazing how quickly devices can evolve over just a couple years, but here we are, looking down at the specs of the Optimus T because they’re sub-par.

But don’t take that to mean the Optimus T is a bad choice. It just means that you get what you pay for. But even to that extent, this phone is still a great value. Not one part of the Optimus T feels cheap, and that definitely helps make the phone lustworthy.

In this section we’ll talk more about the pros and cons of the Optimus T. While the phone deserves praise for being a high value for low cost, it’s not without its flaws and shortcomings.

Even though the Optimus T came with Froyo, by no means should we assume it comes with the entire Froyo experience. For instance, it’s common to assume Froyo always comes with Flash 10.1. Flash tends to be the number one bragging point for anyone with a Froyo phone, but a little-known secret is that it’s not actually installed on every phone that has Android 2.2. The Optimus T is one such phone. After several minutes of trying to figure out why I couldn’t load any Flash content, I did some research to discover that it doesn’t actually come with support for Flash, nor can it be officially installed (as I learned the hard way also).

In every other sense, the internet appears just fine. I didn’t see the websites load up any faster than usual, but it wasn’t dead slow either. Pinch-to-zoom still works, but this was one area where I could see evidence of the slower processor. Otherwise, the internet surfing experience was exactly as expected. If you’re in a 3G area you’ll find HSPA speeds of up to 7.2 Mbps.

One part of Froyo that holds true with the Optimus T is the included tethering and hotspot feature. Other Android devices have had tethering and hotspot features, but it comes natively on the Optimus T. Just go into settings, wireless and network, and there you’ll find the ability to turn these features on and off.

The Optimus T only holds 170 MB of actual internal memory, but compensates for the low amount by throwing in a 2 GB MicroSD card; if this isn’t enough to handle all of your music and movies, it will support MicroSD cards up to 32 GB, so there will be plenty of space.

Also clinging onto the low end of the smartphone totem pole is the 3.2 MP camera. This was standard for smartphones two years ago, but now most Android phones don’t come with anything less than 5. Nor does it come with LED flash, either. The camcorder videos record at VGA resolution, which is okay but nothing like the HD-resolution videos taken from Galaxy S, Droid X, etc. The camera does offer autofocus at least, but this isn’t much solace to anyone who’s looking at the top of the line specs.

Adding to the specs list you’ll find the LG Optimus T features Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, WiFi b/g, accelerometer and compass. It also comes included with FM radio, which is one option that should be standard but still isn’t found on every smartphone yet.

I mentioned the small keyboard earlier. One danger of relying solely on on-screen keyboards when it’s a small screen is that your fingers typically mash together and make for a more awkward typing experience. Fortunately LG was wise enough to include the Swype keyboard as its default instead of the stock keyboard. This turned out to be a great decision that will make a huge difference in typing. Without it, there is certainly more crowded space in there, even when in landscape mode.

Apps Included on the LG Optimus T

Most Android devices sold in the US come with a boatload of crapware. While they may at times be more useful than the term implies, more often than not US carriers will throw in a whole bunch of extra preloaded apps that nobody wants and seldom needs. This crapware often comes in the form of game demos that only allow you to play one level and then pay the big bucks to continue, though plenty of Android devices will come with random multimedia, entertainment and productivity apps that can actually come in handy every once in a while.
First off, T-Mobile throws in AppPack, which is the company’s own version of the Android Market. Ultimately, AppPack apps are just Market apps that are “recommended” by T-Mobile, so when you go into AppPack you’ll find it eerily similar in looks and feel to the normal Market. Forget not that when you enter the Android Market, there’s still an entire section dedicated to T-Mobile’s top picks.

The LG Optimus T comes with a few bloatware apps out of the box: Diner Dash 2, PacMan, Doodle Jump, ThinkFree Office, Twitter, DriveSmart, and YouTube.

Performance of the Optimus T

We tested the LG Optimus T in the areas of call quality, audio quality, battery life, processor power, and overall experience.

Call quality was mostly fine. Callers didn’t have to ask me to repeat myself, nor was there any issue on my end hearing anyone I called. I did notice, however, some hissing in the background. It sounded much like a steady static that was never overbearing but yet was something I didn’t have to strain too hard to hear.

The speakerphone wasn’t super strong. While sufficient to fit my needs in a quiet room, the same couldn’t be said about a noisy environment, where I was softer on speaker and got drowned out.

With more entry-level specs I noticed the battery life lasted longer than a usual Android device. The 5 hour talk time estimate is actually a couple hours shorter than what I got, and my phone stayed turned on in standby mode for 2 days. It’s hard to say that many Android phones have stellar battery life, but the Optimus T didn’t fit the usual mold.

Part of this may be due to a slower processor. At 600 MHz it’s nowhere near the same level of processor as its older Snapdragon-laden brothers, but in reviewing for a budget phone, I need to make sure it’s fast enough for anyone who many need or want to use a smartphone. It is. Sluggish speeds are only noticed from time to time, such as when using pinch-to-zoom in the web browser (I imagine this could have a lot to do with why Flash isn’t included — the processor just can’t handle it). But every other routine task seems to whisk by rather fast and smooth.

As an avid user of smartphones, I was pleasantly surprised with the LG Optimus T. It’s a great budget Android device that feels incredibly solid and it’s built to feel like it’s much more spendy. While I was hoping to see better specs inside, this is the only way to keep the price of the phone so low up front; if you want better specs, the G2 or MyTouch 4G will be much nicer choices for you through T-Mobile. It’s comfortable in my hands, I didn’t have a problem accessing my necessary information such as emails, web and messages, and it’s designed to make you feel like you got a steal of a deal on a brand new phone. I recommend the Optimus T for first-time smartphone goers or students on a tight budget.

Check out my full video review below, in addition to the picture gallery. Please feel free to check me out on Twitter at twitter.com/phonewisdom.

You can get T-Mobile’s LG Optimus T for free from Amazon


Author: Brad Molen

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