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printed August 30, 2014
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Review: LG Optimus L9 for T-Mobile USA

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Media

Again, LG plays it safe and sticks with the stock Android music and video applications. The basic music player app is on board, as is the simple video playback app. These are joined by the Google Play Store, Play Music, Play Movies, and Play Books apps. The Store is a fine place to discover and download all sorts of content, ranging from apps to tunes to movies and so on. Each of the separate apps is then used to playback that specific content.

The native YouTube app is of course available, as is T-Mobile Live TV. The Live TV product offers television and movie content that is streamed over the wireless network. It can be trialled for a few days for free, but usually costs $10 per month to use. Performance of the application depends heavily on the strength of the wireless network. The selection of content is somewhat limited.

The L9 also includes the SmartShare application, which helps wirelessly pair the phone to other DLNA-compatible equipment, such as HDTVs.

 

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Camera

The L9's camera software is still intuitive and easy to manage. Since there is no camera button, you have to open it from the lock screen or the main menu. It opens fairly quickly, but I wish it opened a wee bit faster.

There’s a strip of advanced controls down the left side of the viewfinder.

The L9 is a bit finicky when it comes to focusing. It takes a second or two, and sometimes doesn't lock the focus at all. There's a bit of a pause after you press the shutter button before it shoots/saves the image. You can also use touch-to-focus if there's something specific in the viewfinder you want to be in focus.

The L9 offers plenty of features for those who prefer to take more control of their image-capturing experience. For example, it supports panorama, HDR, continuous shot, and "Cheese shutter" (predetermined voice commands make the shutter fire.) The rest of the controls (exposure, ISO, white balance, etc.) are easy enough for any budding shutterbug to figure out.

 

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Photos

I was not expecting to be impressed with the L9's 5-megapixel camera, but I was. I thought results showed sharp focus, excellent exposure, and amazing color. Fall hues are hard to beat, and the L9 got the oranges of my pumpkins and Halloween decorations exactly correct. Shots I took indoors showed a small bit of grain, but nothing I'd call unexpected or detrimental. In all, it’s a good camera.

 

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Video

The L9 shoots video at resolutions up to 1080p HD. I was also impressed with the video quality. Though the results were sometimes shaky when the L9 was moved quickly while filming, focus, color, and exposure were all spot in. The L9 will serve well to record those special moments that happen every day.



Gallery

The L9 uses the same gallery software that's on most Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich smartphones. It's a fine app for controlling your photos. I find it really easy to share pictures via this gallery app to pretty much any social network you want to, and managing your separate photo libraries is a snap.

Rotate and crop functions can be accessed quickly, and a more fully featured editing app loads automatically when you select the "Edit" button. It lets you adjust color, apply filters, reduce red-eye, and other edits. The editing features are nice to have and can make a questionable photo a usable photo. Unfortunately, there is no video-editing app included.

 

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Apps

There are 57 apps/services installed on the LG Optimus L9 out of the box. The bulk of them cannot be deleted, though there's still plenty of on-board storage for your own apps. The number of T-Mobile-branded apps is ridiculous. I could also do without the two separate gaming apps, file managers, and other bloat.

Bluetooth

The L9's Bluetooth radio worked well. I had no trouble pairing it with a half dozen different devices. Phone calls routed to Bluetooth headsets were loud and clear. Calls sent to my car's hands-free system were also good. Music sounded poor through Bluetooth headphones, though.

Browser

The L9 has both the standard Android browser installed and Chrome. Whichever of the two included browsers you choose, the L9 does well as a browsing device over T-Mobile's HSPA+ network. The L9 was relatively zippy at loading web pages via both the stock Android browser and Chrome, both of which do a fine job of rendering web sites. The only time browsing became painful was when the L9 dropped to T-Mobile's EDGE network.

 

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Clock

The L9 has a great adjustable lock screen clock. Out of the box, there's a small, white digital clock at the top of the screen. But there are about a half-dozen other choices for the home screen clock, including the largest digital clock possible for a phone. I like this feature very much.

GPS

Google Maps and TeleNav are both installed on the L9. These navigation applications are well-known to smartphone users and both do a fine job of routing people from A to B and points in between. In terms of GPS performance, the L9 falls into the "average" category. It took close to 30 seconds to pinpoint my location, and was accurate to within about 25 feet most of the time, though it was off by as much as a quarter of a mile from time to time.

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