LG at MWC: All the phones, all our thoughts
The dust has settled over Barcelona as Mobile World Congress drawn to a close for another year. The big manufacturers have displayed their devices, hoping to capture customer enthusiasm and be the next big handset. We’re looking at each of the individual company’s offerings and considering what they’ve put on the table.
LG took a Monday morning spot to officially launch the first phone to pack in a 3D display, following the launch of the headline grabbing LG Optimus 2X and Optimus Black at CES 2011 in Vas Vegas. LG hit the mid ranges in 2010, but now have some more serious propositions at the top end. They haven't abandoned the middle of the pack however, with phones that provide some degree of variety. But is the differentiation too extreme?
LG Optimus 3D
With 3D still being taken by some as a gimmick, there will always be detractors from LG’s efforts here. But the LG Optimus 3D makes one critical move in the 3D story: it doesn’t forsake 2D. That’s right, the 2D experience on the LG Optimus 3D is still superb, with a fantastic display that is bright and vibrant.
The body of the phone swells to accommodate the 3D. A fat phone it might be, but it doesn’t lack features. Not only is it powerful, but it supports that 3D story too. Around the back you get two cameras so you can capture your 3D footage and a run of deals have been lined up to ensure you don’t find yourself with a device that offers 3D, but lacks any content.
Gameloft have offered up some games and a deal with YouTube 3D should keep you entertained. It is something of a brave move from LG - without the content, the Optimus 3D may well fall flat. If you’re already a 3D fan the Optimus 3D gives you a portable 3D option and might attract some who were considering the Nintendo 3DS. From looking at both, the 3D effect on the LG looks better and you get a smartphone to boot.
LG Optimus 2X
We’ve already seen the LG Optimus 2X for a full review here and in its current form it needs some updating to make it run smoothly. We’ve been talking to LG about this and when the phone does get itself upgraded, we’ll have another look to determine whether the changes make it a top device. The Optimus 2X was showcased in Barcelona alongside the rest of the range.
That said, the screen is stunning, it packs in Nvidia’s dual core Tegra 2 chipset, and like the 3D, to really take advantage of this power, we need to see more tailored content coming through the TegraZone, and that will happen once Tegra 2 devices really start hitting the market (currently the service is a holding page on Android Market). But cutting through daily tasks the Optimus 2X is a great handset, the curved screen edges give a nice feel and the Full HD video capture gives some great results.
Again, the Optimus 2X isn’t as slim and sexy as phones from rivals, and we do have some issues with some of the customisations that LG have made, but overall, given a software tweak, we could see many drawn to the LG Optimus 2X.
LG Optimus Black
The highlight of the Optimus Black is the "Nova" display, which saw its European debut at MWC. This display is unique to the Black and LG tell us that this is their best display.
The 4-inch Nova display is eye-poppingly bright (measuring 700nits, apparently) and packing in IPS technology meaning great viewing angles. Exactly why you don't get this display on higher models we can't quite fathom: it seems to be a case of "the one with the 3D", "the one with the dual core processor", or "the one with the display".
Still, the LG Optimus Black is thinner than most coming in at just 9.2mm which certainly is slim. That translates into lightness too. LG's Android-based Optimus UI 2.0 feels extremely familiar and therefore very intuitive to navigate, but it's the screen that really stands out.
Elsewhere there is the back-mounted 5-megapixel camera looks and works reasonablly enough (in our quick play on two occasions now) and those who aren't fussed about the black will be pleased to know the LG Optimus Black will come with swappable back covers in a range of colours. If you're after skinny phone with a large screen, you might find yourself eyeing up the Sony Ericsson Arc at the same time, although LG probably have the edge with a more premium feel in the hand.
LG Optimus Me
While the Optimus 3D, Optimus 2X, and Optimus Black are teasing those looking for a top of the range model, LG hasn't forgotten about those just getting into the smartphone game either. The Optimus Me is a starter smartphone that will be coming to Orange in the UK. It's fairly basic with little to get excited about if tech specs and uber-impressive features are your thing.
The new phone will come with a 3.15-megapixel camera, 140MB of internal memory, a microSD slot that can take a 32GB card, GPS, Wi-Fi (b/g), FM radio, HSPDA connectivity and Bluetooth.
That said it shouldn't be overlooked. It's cute, is well made, and it will come in a range of different colours to suit the teenager in your life. LG does well in the entry-level pool providing a stack of specs for a low price point and that's exactly what they've done here and looks to follow on the success of the LG Optimus One.
LG Optimus Chat
Hidden at the back of the LG stand at Mobile World Congress was the LG Optimus Chat a QWERTY keyboard version of the Optimus Me that is likely to be seen as the new LG Town for the Android generation.
Build quality is good, and the keyboard is spaced out enough to be comfortable to send a message on although the space bar is pretty small. Other specs include a 2.8-inch touchscreen has a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels.
Like the Optimus Me it's fairly basic in its approach and should be fairly inexpensive when it comes out. Where it will come out is more the pressing question though. While LG have told Pocket-lint that the handset might make its way to the UK, there are no plans to do that as yet.
Our pick of the bunch
There is no doubt that LG have a more distinctive range of devices than they've had previously. There are some serious devices here - the power of the Optimus 2X, the incorporation of 3D - features that currently make LG stand out. Other manufacturers in the Android world don't have these features and it's a credit to LG that they're willing to stand up and be counted.
Our experience with the Optimus 2X leaves us with a slightly jilted opinion. It feels like a device that could be destined for greatness, but even with a software build that isn't entirely stable, it hints at a few features we're not sold on. Tying the experience to their own versions of some basic social networking apps left us questioning whether the experience was refined enough.
But, and it's a big but, if the software is updated going forward to make the device reliable for day-to-day use, it would probably take the prize. The Optimus 3D is much better than we had expected, but ultimately, despite the entertainment value of 3D, we can't see ourselves using it that much until the content comes flooding in.