The LG Optimus 7

The Optimus 7 is the first LG phone we've ever looked at. In fact, it's the first device we've received directly from LG. I will say that out of all of the smartphone makers, LG is at least the most forthright about its products. We got very little marketing associated with the phone, just blunt statements about what it is and what it isn't:

"Look, you already know Microsoft has put some very strict guidelines on the hardware for these smartphones so the challenge from the start was how to physically stand out in a field where specs are going to be virtually the same.

Optimus 7 has a couple points we're quite proud of, namely:

1) 1,500mAh user-replaceable battery
2) 16GB memory
3) Solid and substantial "feel"

But we recognize hardware differences aren't enough to stand out among more-than-capable competitors like Samsung and HTC. The user experience is what we think will separate one device from the next in the WP7 world.

And in this regards, we think we have a solid strategy of delivering software solutions which are unique to just our WP7 device:

1) Play To
2) Scan Search
3) Voice to Text for SMS

And we're proud of the fact that we don't load Optimus 7 with a lot of "LG apps" or a fancy animated UI which gets old in a few weeks. :-)

But Optimus 7 isn't "optimal" in all aspects, either. Maybe we should have offered a bigger screen. Which isn't to say we don't think 3.8" isn't big enough, we think it's a good trade-off for usability and long battery life. But you know how people react when they see a 3.8" next to a 4.3".

Well, it's our first attempt, I'm sure we'll learn a lot from this experience."

I have to say, if all companies behaved like LG I might just be out of a job. Other than the screen, LG's assessment of its own phone is shockingly accurate.

It does have a solid and substantial feel to it, the Optimus 7 is very well built. Weighing in at 157g, it has all of the weight of the iPhone 4, plus a bit extra. It's not what I'd consider too heavy, just hefty.

The weight is all in the materials. You get a solid metal housing and a brushed aluminum backplate. The back cover is spring loaded; press down on the release button and it'll pop up slightly.

The Focus is thin and wide. I appreciate the thickness but I'd prefer it if Samsung opted for a narrower design. LG on the other hand I believe got the form factor down pat. A lot of this is personal preference, but I do believe the sweet spot for Windows Phones may be around the 3.8-inch mark. All navigation elements in the OS are big enough where you don't need a huge screen to get around quickly. And the larger screen doesn't really add anything, particularly at the same resolution. I don't believe the same is true for Android phones, but for WP7 I don't believe bigger is necessarily better. Funny that the ideal Windows Phone size is very similar to the iPhone, given how similar Microsoft and Apple's OS design philosophies were.

LG opted for physical buttons on the Optimus 7. It's actually more like a really long rocker switch than three individual buttons, but it works well. You get confident feedback from every button push.

All Windows Phones must have a physical camera shutter release button. On the Optimus 7 this button protrudes more than I'd like. I found myself accidentally hitting the camera button while fumbling around with the phone.

As an aside, while I appreciate the requirement for a hardware shutter release, I do believe it's a mistake not to allow for a software capture button as well.

The battery is huge for the Optimus 7. The 3.8-inch HTC Surround has a 4.55Whr battery, while the 4.0-inch Super AMOLED Focus has a 5.55Whr battery. The Optimus 7 falls smack in the middle of those two. You get a 3.8-inch low power LCD display like the Surround but with the battery capacity of the larger Focus. As you may have already seen, the Optimus 7 delivers the longest web browsing battery life of any of the three Windows Phone 7 devices we've tested thus far.

The Optimus 7 ships with 16GB of internal NAND and there's no user accessible microSD slot to change things. The larger NAND capacity does work well on WP7 because of how media-focused the OS is. It arguably provides a better audio/video playback experience than the iPhone.

I'll get to the software in a moment, but LG does ship some of the more useful apps I've seen from a Windows Phone 7 OEM.

Unfortunately the Optimus 7 isn't headed for any carriers in the US. It's available in Canada, Europe and Asia.

A New Hope The Samsung Focus
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  • sprockkets - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    Or maybe you can comprehend that light that is picked up from an LCD in their measurements is the LCD trying to mask the BACKLIGHT and why they can never be as black as an OLED screen? Reply
  • popej_ - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    Do you know what is transflective LCD? That kind of screen can be perfectly visible in full sunlight without any backlight at all. You can get the same useless black measurement as for AMOLED :) Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, December 6, 2010 - link

    My understanding was that transflective screens generally are worse on battery due to the need to power the backlight through the additional transflective layer. For a phone that was going to be used extensively outside it might be worth it, for a lot it wouldn't.

    Also I don't think most users are confusing reflections on a glossy screen with bad black levels.
    Reply
  • banvetor - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    Hi Anand, thanks for the great review, as always. These 2 phones are exactly the ones I was setting my eyes on, and I feel I'm leaning towards Optimus 7 (since I live in Italy).

    Anyway, I posted this on Brian's HTC Surround review, but I figure I should ask the same to you also... could you give some details on the usability of each mobile OS when you DO NOT have a data plan?

    I currently don't own a data plan, and actually don't plan on owning one... my main uses for my smartphone are music, taking photos, and some more occasional web browsing and e-mail checking when there is wi-fi or when I really need to (in which case I pay for the KB of data).

    My main issue when switching from my current Nokia N96 to WP7 (I think I sit exactly with the people you mentioned on the first page, not really sold on Android and not wanting to jump into the Apple ecosystem) is how dependent this modern mobile OSes are on a always-on data connection. For instance, I'm guessing that Zune Pass will not be so useful to me, but maybe you can store some songs on the phone to listen to while offline... On Nokia even the maps are offline stored, but I guess this is too much to ask to these new OSes ;)

    Anyway, it would be great if you could post some of your findings about this on your next reviews...

    Many thanks!
    Leo.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    I'm surprised that even the BB Torch and the Dell Streak running 1.6 beat these phones on the benchmark page, despite their faster hardware. Since this is a new product for Microsoft I won't rag on them for this, but it does look like some browser performance optimization is needed. Reply
  • JimmiG - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    The poor battery life of the Focus makes it very hard for me to recommend it to anyone. I know how frustrating it can be, since I have an HTC Desire, probably comparable to the Nexus One... Not being able to use the phone for what you want because you need to take a call in the afternoon and need to make sure there's some battery left, or having the phone die on you after 3/4ths of the commute home in the afternoon...that can be very annoying.. and the Focus is even worse. If I were buying a WP7 phone right now, I'd go with the LG for the battery life. Reply
  • Enrox - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    3 are the apps preinstalled but there are 7 more available in the dedicated LG app store in the markatplace. Reply
  • ltcommanderdata - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    I'm just curious whether your performance benchmarks for Apple's devices have been updated to use the latest iOS 4.2.1? I was interested in seeing if iOS 4.2.1 improves performance and/or battery life compared to iOS 4.1. iOS 4.1 used a Safari based on Safari 4's WebKit while iOS 4.2.1 comes with Safari 5 so it should offer much improved JavaScript performance. It would be useful if you included the iOS version number in brackets for your charts as you do for Android phones. Reply
  • VashHT - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    I was wondering what brightness levels you guys used for the browsing test. On the focus I found that the low brightness level was a lot brighter than low on the HD7 and very usable for daily use (unless you're in the sun). I'd be interested to see how the the brightness level affects the battery life of the focus. Reply
  • Esteban2 - Saturday, December 4, 2010 - link

    Anand, nice job with review. I think it is one of the best I've seen and I've seen just about every one.

    I think you left out one important missing feature--Visual Voicemail. I was about to buy a Samsung Focus (who cares about cut and paste??) when I realized there was no Visual Voicemail. Honestly after almost 3 years with an iPhone I had forgotten about voicemail was like but this brought back the horrors very quickly. Another important missing feature--a favorites list. When you want to make a phone to someone you frequently call you don't want to go to contact list and all the mess of facebook postings, etc that you're forced to with WP7.

    Anyway, I'm hanging on to my iPhone 3G for now and waiting to see when Microsoft updates and brings Visual voicemail. Honestly, I can't understand why this feature is missing it seems so basic but I actually like the OS so will keep watching and waiting for now. If not there in 6 months I may have to bite the bullet and go with iPhone 4.
    Reply

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