LG Style with an Ice Cream Sandwich skin

The LG Optimus L7 is the current top of the line in their L-Series of phones a series which aims to look good as well as delivering good performance. We’ve had mixed results with LG phones so far, but I really like LG components and would like to see something which befits their history of excellent quality components show up in their mobile phone division.

The Optimus L7 comes in a small box which contains your phone, charger, USB Cable and quick start instruction guide. The phone itself is quite nice to look at, reminding me instantly of the front of the Prada Phone by LG 3.0. The phone has a volume rocker on the left hand side, the top contains the 3.5mm headphone jack and the power button and the right side is unadorned by any buttons and the bottom contains the microUSB port and microphone. The back of the phone is a plastic battery cover with a 5MP camera and LED flash poking through at the top, the back is flat and sits nicely on a desk. The front has the LG logo at the top with a front facing camera to the left of it below the 4.3″ screen are two capacative buttons (Back and Menu) either side of a physical home button.

On turning the phone on you’re greeted by the LG logo and then an Optus boot screen appears with a tone, these tones always annoy me but that’s a personal thing I guess. The phone comes as usual with a basic battery charge from the factory so a charge is in order which took a couple of hours to reach full capacity.

Software wise I was most interested to get a look at the Quick Memo function which is included, the phone also comes with a great deal of pre-installed Optus software although most appear to be links to webpages, the good thing is you can actually remove or re-install these quite easily through the Application Manager app that comes installed. You also get pre-installed the Facebook app, Memo app, Polaris Office, LG Smart World, Task Manager, FM Radio app, Finance tracker, Remote Call Service for LG to diagnose your phone remotely, LG Smart Share(DLNA), Voice Recorder and Twitter functionality as well as all your standard Google Apps.

LG has aimed the L7 at the mid-range market so with that in mind how does it go?

  • Design
  • Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Nice Bright Display

  • Battery
  • Slow
  • LG Skin

I love the look of this phone, it is very similar in design to the Prada Phone by LG 3.0 -Yes I just like saying the full name of that phone. However they seemed to take what I thought was wrong with the Prada and fixed it, the back plate now sits flush top and bottom of the phone and it sits really nicely in the hand, the 4.3″ screen isn’t overly large and makes it easy to hold for longer periods of time to surf the web, catch up on email or Twitter or just watch some video.

Build quality on the Optimus L7 is nice, it has a textured plastic back which feels quite comfortable in the hand, the sunken power button on top fits in quite well with the whole design aesthetic that LG appears to be aiming for and it is a nice touch that it is some sort of metal, the placement is a personal thing but I found it a little difficult to reach and tend to prefer the power button on the right hand side of the device but that is a personal thing.

The sound quality on the L7 is pretty awesome, nice and loud in fact I had to drop the volume down a little which meant that when needed I could amp it up to really blast that music out when I wanted to. The fact that this phone also has an FM radio in it as well was a surprise but a welcome one, I don’t often listen to the radio but it is nice to have it there in case it is needed.

Display is nice, it is crisp and vibrant as I have come to be expected of the NOVA display that LG supply, the fact that the resolution is only 480×800 was not really an issue as to be expected for the customer base that would be interested in a phone at this price range, a bump to qHD would have been good however there is neither a need or spare specifications to power a 720P display especially on this phone. Videos and web surfing look quite good and there are no defects that I can pick up in the display, viewing angles are quite good as well

In terms of Software I was really pleased to find that the Optus bloatware could be quickly removed or added back if needed. The one feature I thought would be very gimmicky was the QuickMemo, but I actually liked it, the ability to annotate things on the screen or take quick notes and then share them was extremely pleasant and I hope that LG continues with the QuickMemo function, although having it baked into a skin is probably not worth the effort, bravo for the concept I would just prefer it as a standalone app.

Let me just start off by saying this phone is slow, very slow almost painfully slow at times, I performed a factory reset on it twice within the week and a half I was reviewing it, what I found was that the more apps you have installed the slower the phone gets, freeing up space on the phone or keeping some space free, appeared to alleviate the issues somewhat but not entirely. Issues with response when loading applications, using applications and even just swiping around the home screens got painfully slow before freeing up space, even attempting to answer calls was slow trying to drag the green phone across to accept a call was frustrating. However, having to run a minimal app load is not what a Smart Phone is for.

The slowness of the phone may in part be due to the overlay of the LG UX which is a cartoony lampoon of the Samsung Touchwiz UI. I had no issues with things such as the changes to aesthetics although I would prefer the stock Android look of things such as the folders but my issue is mainly due to the fact that the skin slows the whole phone down. The app drawer is also quite confusing, I really cannot understand what it is that Android phone manufacturers have against an app drawer that is sorted alphabetically, I understand having the option to add tabs yourself and sort apps into folders in there but having the apps seperated by what is supplied on the phone as standard and what apps you’ve downloaded is a little un-intuitive to me.

GPS was bad, it initially locked on to a sattelite quickly it mis-reported my daily run losing signal for most of the run and also lost a large portion of the signal when tracking my run during the Canberra Times Fun Run. It was Ok for driving directions but I only tried it where I knew I was going as I just was not willing to trust it after the performance tracking my run.

Whilst I love the design and make of the phone the glass screen is still sunk below the bezel, creating a lip this may be a design decision but it is not one I can understand. The lip of the bezel is something you constantly hit when swiping around just using the screen and interrupts the whole experience of using what is to me a very visually appealing phone. The other design ‘feature’ I feel LG could lose is the physical home button, it is not something that feels natural, either stick to capacative buttons or go the ‘proper’ way and go full on-screen soft buttons.

Wireless connectivity on the phone was also something that needs to be looked at. In terms of Wi-Fi, I had issues connecting to my Wireless router which I have had no issues doing with the majority of phones and devices that I have used at home but also when out using Free Wi-Fi hotspots. The 3G connection was slow to pick up and connect to HSPA and even at full signal data seemed to come through painfully slow or not at all, I often had to flick into flight mode and back again to refresh the connection.

The Camera is another thing that is slow, I would take a shot, the preview window would freeze on a frame for a couple of seconds and then slide away, when you check your shot, what was in the preview was not what the photo was. The photos delivered were not the best quality either. I found them to be very grainy and if you moved slightly they were blurry, low-light
shots were pretty average unless you played around with white balance and the settings.

Battery life is pretty average on the Optimus L7 at 1700 mAh I expected a decent battery life and I tended to get from around 7am till 4pm when I would start hunting around for a charger, this was doing my normal load of apps which includes a great deal of Twitter, mobile web surfing, email, listenting to podcasts and an occasional video. For the entry-level to average Smart Phone user I think this would probably be a pretty decent battery life but for more advanced users this is not the battery you dream of.

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  • 4.3″ NOVA Display (480×800)
  • 512MB RAM
  • 3GB ROM with microSD Card Slot
  • 5MP Camera with LED Flash and 4x Digital Zoom + Front Facing Camera
  • Bluetooth 3, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, GPS
  • FM Radio
  • 1700 mAh
    • Standby Time: 2G:Up to 680 hours, 3G:Up to 550 hours
    • Talk Time: 2G:Up to 350 minutes, 3G:Up to 350 minutes
  • 125.5x67x8.7mm @ 122.7grams
  • LG UX Skin over Android 4.0

I would love to see this handset and indeed all LG handsets running vanilla Android especially with Ice Cream Sandwich or in the future Jelly Bean, this would perhaps make the phone a little faster overall but we can’t have everything. I would also be interested to find out how this phone ran with Gingerbread, going with Ice Cream Sandwich is great for a spec sheet but if the speed issues are due to running ICS then I would probably be just as happy with Gingerbread given the option as the handset especially the screen is excellent.

Overall the phone has issues with speed which is the major down side for the phone but at the price it’s not a bad option, given a choice between a decent Gingerbread phone but in a smaller screen size or the L7 I still went to the L7, the big vibrant screen and Ice Cream Sandwich made it very hard for me to put this phone down despite the skinning and speed issues. If you’re after super fast speed, gaming etc then you’re looking in the wrong place, where this phone excels is in giving you a nice big vibrant display, Ice Cream Sandwich with all the added functions it brings and a nicely designed handset.

The Optimus L7 is available in Black from Optus for $269 online or in Black or white from Allphones for $289 outright or on a $30 Optus plan with no upfront or handset repayments, or if you really want you can check out Mobicity who have a pink version as well as Black/White for $269.

  • LG