First Look: LG Optimus 7 review

LG officially announced the LG Optimus 7 at the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 launch on Monday and Pocket-lint was there to grab a hands-on play with the new handset - just to see how it matched up against the competition from Samsung, HTC and Dell. In the UK the Optimus 7 is the only smartphone LG is currently offering and the new smartphone will be exclusively available on Vodafone. It is an all touchscreen affair with the QWERTY variant - the LG Quantum - destined for the US and elsewhere.

Dominating the overall design of the handset is the 3.8-inch, 800 x 480, capacitive touchscreen display that is both bright and crisp when viewed inside. Outside and, as our pictures show, you will start to suffer from that reflective screen - as you do for most phones. Most Windows Phone 7 handsets come with devices in this ball park (3.7 to 4.3 inches), but the AMOLED screen found on the new Samsung Omnia 7 wins out if this is important to you.

There is more to the phone than just the screen. As rules dictate there are the three buttons below - back, menu, and search - plus you get dedicated camera and volume buttons around the sides. There is also a 3.5mm stereo jack on the top for the music savvy.

Heavier than the Samsung Omnia 7, the LG Optimus 7 feels solid, well built and strong with a decent weight to it (in a good way). It's not like the lightweight flimsiness of the Samsung Galaxy S for example.

Tech specs wise, the Optimus 7 follows the crib sheet set out by most of the phones announced at the launch event. That means a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 576MB of ROM and a further 16GB of internal storage. The 16GB of storage is more than the HTC 7 Trophy and HTC 7 Mozart, but on par with the HTC HD7.

That fast processor and plenty of memory gives you a quick and nimble device that had no problem flitting between apps or loading up the web via the included Internet Explorer. However, we really have to wait and see how the experience feels when we get the handset in for a full review.

Connectivity comes in the guise of Wi-Fi (b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.1, GPS and Micro-USB (for syncing and charging). It also has an accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and digital compass.

But remember, it's not all about specs, it's about the experience, and here LG hopes to work beyond the Windows Phone 7 standard offering with a number of tricks of its own pre-installed. If you've been following Windows Phone 7 you'll know that the operating system isn't just about yet another set of phones all sporting a grid of apps and features for you to scroll through, but rather a selection of live tiles and breakout areas that Microsoft calls hubs.

While Samsung and HTC have used every inch of leeway to create dedicated manufacturer hubs, offering dedicated apps like the weather, LG's approach has been to create apps that it feels are just useful. The first of those is Play-To. It's an app that will allow you to share content instantly with a DLNA television, for example, at the swipe of a finger.

Play-To basically lets users share multimedia files with other digital devices from the picture, video or music hubs without having to access other menus. Users will be able to display videos and photos captured on their LG Optimus 7 on a TV or enjoy music on their phones through their favourite speakers without wires.

Annoyingly we weren't able to test this feature out due to Microsoft not allowing LG to bring and set up a TV at the launch, however it has tickled our interest and we are certainly looking forward to putting it through its paces when we get a final handset in for review. It does set the alarm bells ringing however, that this sort of feature isn't a native operating system option.

One dedicated app that we were able to test out was ScanSearch, an augmented reality application that connects users to information around them in a very similar way to Layar. Available only on the LG Windows Phone 7 devices, you basically select what you are looking for and then point it in the direction you are walking. Using a database of places, GPS and the digital compass, it will then tell you where those places are so you can walk/drive/run in the right direction. Users can access real-time information about shopping, dining, weather, entertainment and banking, bringing together your online and offline worlds. In our brief play it seemed to work fine, offering plenty of options and being quick to respond to us moving the phone around.

The final exclusive feature is the Voice-to-Text feature, which like Android handsets, allows you to talk to your phone as if it was your PA, rather than wasting time actually typing your messages. 

Like the other features on the phone our time was brief, but we did have a quick go trying to tell it that we were at the Windows Phone 7 launch so it would post that message to Facebook. It worked, but we're wondering just how deep the Facebook integration goes. Something to look at further in the future.

Beyond the exclusive features there is still plenty to talk about. The LG Optimus 7 features a 5-megapixel camera around the back, and the camera functions are the same as found across the board - thanks to those rigid OS guidelines. That means you snap a shot and are instantly offered a plethora of ways to share it.

The quality of the snap we took and sent to ourselves was reasonable although it has to be said it was a perfectly clear and sunny day in October, so we'd expect that. You do get 720p video recording (we weren't able to test this) and a panoramic photo mode that will clearly outline where you've got to move the phone to next and then automatically take the picture before giving you the next direction - very clever and easy to use.

Verdict

We could go on for hours detailing the ins and outs of what the Microsoft Windows Phone 7 operating system will offer. Focusing on what LG brings to the party though, LG has created a handset that stands out enough from the crowd and offers something different from the likes of Samsung and HTC.

Is that enough to make this the handset to go for above and beyond everything else on the market? With only a brief play it is far too early to say, and if you read otherwise elsewhere on the web they are double, if not triple guessing at this stage. However what we can say, is that we like what we see. This isn't one to avoid, but one you should take a closer look at if you are interested in Windows Phone 7 and Vodafone as a network (its exclusive to Vodafone in the UK).

We will be writing a full review of the LG Optimus 7 Windows Phone 7 smartphone once we get a sample from LG in the near future.

The phone will be available in the UK on 21 October. 

UPDATE: You can now read our full and final LG Optimus 7 review to see how the phone rates.