LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone review

I’ve been using LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone and sharing impressions here for about a month now. But now, as I’m moving on to my next smartphone it’s time to do a full review of this device.

By now everybody knows that Microsoft completely bungled it’s smartphone OS strategy a couple of years ago, when they failed to recognize the changes iPhone and then Android brought to the category, and adapt their pretty popular at the time Windows Mobile smartphone OS to these changes. After fumbling through 2008 and 2009, trying to tweak Windows Mobile to work with finger touch instead of stylus, Microsoft finally gave up and decided to start from scratch.

The problem was, that during the last couple of years , while Microsoft was getting it’s act together, Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android completely took over the most lucrative high end smartphone category. While Nokia’s Symbian ruled among mid to low end smartphones. From a second largest player in smartphones in 2007, Microsoft’s marketshare dwindled to below 3% this fall. Despite being one of the most important smartphone players during this decade, with Windows Phone 7 OS Microsoft now takes on entrenched incumbents Apple and Google as a completely new player, with no installed user base, no app developer ecosystem and only limited OEM support.

Needless to say, LG Optimus 7 and other Windows Phone 7 handsets, launched a couple of months ago, had a lot to prove. Let’s se how LG Optimus 7 fared in that regard.

Design of LG Optimus 7

In the looks department, LG Optimus 7 doesn’t stand out from the crowd. But with it’s strict a bit rounded lines it does look pretty good. And it feels unexpectedly solid in your hand. Maybe it’s a bit of extra weight, the Gorilla display glass, or stainless steel back cover and sparing use of plastic, but LG Optimus really feels like it’s built to last.

The built quality of LG Optimus 7 is very good, with no lose covers peeling away anywhere. And after a month of use it confirms my first impressions. I put my LG Optimus 7 through a pretty intensive wear and tear during the last month, and I only need to wipe out the finger smudges for it to look just like it looked after I first unboxed it. Well, if you look carefully, you may notice some small scratches on the back cover from the quality time my smartphones occasionally spend with a ring of keys in the same pocket, but I couldn’t find a single scratch on the Gorilla glass covered display even now.

Another cool thing about LG Optimus 7 are the mechanical navigation buttons at the bottom of the display. They are easy enough to press, and never once I accidentally exited the running application with an inadvertent key press, which happened to me quite a few times on other Windows Phone 7 handsets in the short time I had to play with them.

Overall – LG Optimus 7 may not go on winning any design awards, but it still looks good, feels solid, well built and after you buy it, you don’t have to worry what it will look like 18 months down the road when you still have 6 month to go on your current contract.

Performance of LG Optimus 7

Performance of LG Optimus 7 is very closely tied to the performance of it’s OS – Windows Phone 7. It is a new first generation OS from Microsoft and I didn’t expect  much going in. In fact, during all these months since it’s announcement at Mobile World Congress in February, I’ve been quietly skeptical about the new Panorama interface, this whole concept of tiles and overall hype WP7 received.

Well, it seems that my skepticism was misplaced. Intuitiveness and ease of use of Windows Phone 7 OS impressed me as soon as I first unboxed LG Optimus 7 and turned it on:

The whole set-up process for LG Optimus 7 took about ten minutes, and after that it was good to go, connected without a hitch to all my e-mail and social networking accounts.

To see if my first impressions will last, I took LG Optimus 7 on a business trip as my main mobile device. You can read a detailed account about how it fared on the road here. The short version – it did pretty well. Despite everyone moaning about the lack of multi-tasking and lack of copy/paste in Windows Phone 7, these weren’t a problem for me at all. Link sharing from Twitter and browser worked very well without copy&paste, and I hardly use this functionality for anything else. The lack of multitasking was a minor annoyance at times, but nothing too bad too.

The only thing in Windows Phone 7 I found inferior to other platforms was the Mapping/Local Search/Navigation stuff. The Maps app is good enough for the basic use to figure out where you are and how to get somewhere, but not much beyond that. Microsoft clearly has some work to do on Bing Maps to catch up to competition.

Still, LG  also loaded a ScanSearch augmented reality app that uses Google Local Search as a data source and overlays local search results on your  display camera feed, which solved my “finding things in a new town” problems pretty well. You can watch me wondering about Dublin using ScanSearch here:

As for the handset performance itself – it is fast, touch responsiveness is great and it has a pretty good battery life for a smartphone, which easily lasts through a day on my daily use routine.

Camera on LG Optimus 7

LG Optimus 7 comes equipped with a 5 megapixel camera, which, according to our smartphone use survey is good enough for most. Well, it was a good enough point&shoot camera replacement for me. LG takes good enough pictures in good lighting conditions, and OK pics in darker environments. What’s more important – the camera is fast, with now noticeable lag between when I press the shutter button and the picture is saved.

Automatic photo sharing capabilities are currently limited to Facebook and Microsoft Live SkyDrive. Once you set up these services and select where you want to upload send your pictures, they are uploaded to SkyDrive or Facebook automatically, with the privacy setting you select. For other services you’ll have to upload your pictures manually, using free or paid apps from the Marketplace. There are quite a few of them in there.

LG also seems to be the only major OEM that was granted access to WP7 camera API this time around, and it added few cool apps to expand your camera functionality – I already mentioned ScanSearch, which overlays Google Local Search results on top of camera feed on your display, another app is Panorama Shot , that allows you to take panoramic pictures with your LG phone.

Apps on LG Optimus 7

Another thing I was worried about when starting with WIndows Phone  7 OS, was the amount and quality of available apps. I shouldn’t have. Though the reported number of 3000 apps pales in comparison with just above any other platform except of WebOS, Microsoft did a great job of getting the key apps made and ready for launch. These include official apps from Twitter and Facebook, Yelp, a good selection of quality weather apps with feeds to Home Screen live tiles and others. The only app I really wanted and missed, was Amazon Kindle for WP7.  The number of apps in the Marketplace is also growing every day, so there are good chances that even if you are still missing an app, you’ll be getting one in the near future.

Microsoft has set pretty strict guidelines of what OEM is and isn’t allowed to do on a WP7 phone. And one point of differentiation for smartphone vendors is the App Marketplace, where vendors are allowed to set-up their own shops with exclusive apps. LG seems to be taking this possibility seriously and has put quite a few interesting apps into it’s own Marketplace. You can read our detailed account about LG Marketplace on Optimus 7/Quantum here. LG has also officially announced that it will be releasing free application packs worth $30 every 60 days, keeping your app selection on LG smartphones fresh.

Conclusions

Overall, after trying it for a month,  I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the new Windows Phone 7 OS on LG Optimus 7. The quality is even more impressive for a first generation OS release. Especially when I compare it to the quality of the first generation Android or iOS. It shows that Microsoft is back in the smartphone game and is serious about.

LG implementation of WP7  in Optimus 7 is also very good, and I can easily recommend to check out this smartphone next time you are in the market for a phone upgrade.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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