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Review: LG Lotus

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Oct 31, 2008, 11:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The LG Lotus is one odd duck. Hidden in its goofy shape is an average phone that does many things, some of them well, others not so much.

Form

Is It Your Type? 

If you like the unconventional and have a high tolerance for being made fun of, the Lotus might be the phone you're looking for. With its squarish shape, there's no doubt it is somewhat odd in appearance. If you're willing to look past appearances and judge the Lotus on what's inside (because that's what really counts, right?), there's a lot to like about the Lotus.

Body 

There's no nice way to say it: The LG Lotus is an odd duck. Ditching the normal soap-bar-sized clamshell form factor, LG has crafted a device that resembles a woman's compact make-up kit. Given the resemblance, it is possible that women are the target demographic for the device. That it comes in purple almost solidifies this assumption. (For the men out there, it also comes in matte black.)

The Lotus is wide. Whether closed or open, it feels fat in your hand and you won't be able to get your hand all the way around it. The plastics feel good, though, and the rounded edges mean it will slip into and out of your pocket easily.

Closed, the front face is dominated by a large external display that is framed in silver. It is not obvious at all, but there is a button below the display that allow you to access your music. The button is hidden until pressed, only then does it light up. The button itself has good travel and feedback.

On the left side of the phone is the volume toggle. Travel and feedback were a little bit on the mushy side. Below the volume toggle is a hatch covering the microUSB port.

The right side of the Lotus has a little bit more going on. There is a hatch near the top that covers a 2.5mm headset jack. Under that are keys for the music player and camera. They stand out more than the volume toggle, and have better travel and feedback. Last up is the hatch covering the microSD port.

Open, the Lotus looks even odder than closed. We're so used to a particular size for clamshells, that the extra width of the Lotus gives it a very strange appearance. The width means there's plenty of room for a large display on the top half of the phone and a full QWERTY keyboard on the bottom half.

The entire keypad works great. The D-pad is rectangular in shape and is contoured nicely. The center select button is also a rectangle and sticks out the perfect amount so you'll always be able to find it. There are six buttons flanking the D-pad, three on each side. On the left, you have a wide function button and the send key and speakerphone key. On the other side is the other function button, the back key and the end key. All of these buttons feel good, and have good travel and feedback.

As for the full QWERTY keyboard, I am a fan. It is one of the more usable QWERTYs I've encountered in a while. It's not too wide, and it's not too narrow. This means your thumb doesn't have to go too far to reach the keys, and it also doesn't feel squished. My favorite feature is a button in the bottom right corner that says "Text". Press it, and it automatically takes you to the text message composing screen and offers a quick link to the last person you sent a message. That's a nice little time saver. When holding the phone open in two hands in typing position, the Lotus is comfortable and feels more natural than when it is held in one hand.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The Three S's 

Screen

The Lotus has two displays, one external and one internal. The external display is a bit more than a square inch in size. You can use it to check notifications as well as surf your music and frame pictures. It is barely readable in the sun, but images look sharp.

The internal screen is similarly unreadable outdoors, but it looks fantastic inside. The large size means interacting with the phone and its menus is easy, and images look superb, Web pages look clear and sharp, and pictures display brilliantly. It is a shame that both screens fail to perform well when out in the world.

Signal

The Lotus fared on par with other Sprint phones I've tested where I live. Sitting in my office, the Lotus held onto two bars, same as nearly every other Sprint phone does. The Lotus dropped to zero bars in my basement, same as other Sprint phones. Despite the signal strength (or lack thereof), the Lotus did not drop calls. When I took it to areas that i know to have good coverage, the signal indicator reached a full five bars. In other words, the Lotus does a good job and finding the signal that's available.

Sound

There was a slight hiss noticeable on all calls made/received with the Lotus. Otherwise, there was no other interference, crackling or noise. The earpiece volume can be made sufficiently loud. I didn't have any problems hearing callers when in a coffee shop or outside. The ringer volume depended a lot on which ringer you choose. Some were louder than others. I missed several calls because I didn't hear the Lotus ring. Using the vibrate+ring alert helped eliminate this problem.

Battery

I found the Lotus to have excellent battery life. Even with regular use, the battery lasted 4 full days. If you crank up the amount of time you spend surfing the web or watching Sprint TV, battery life will drop. It also drops faster if you have Bluetooth on. Using Bluetooth drains the battery a full day sooner. Considering the battery life of some of the competition, the Lotus will give you nothing to complain about.

Basics

Menus 

The Lotus is part of a trio of new phones that are among the first to use Sprint's new OneClick user interface. The base home screen has a carousel running along the bottom of the screen. Using the D-pad you move sideways through this carousel to access different menu items. As you pass over each item, a list of options appears above it that you can choose from. For example, if you scroll over the messaging icon, you'll get a list of different things to choose from, such as going to your inbox, initiating a new message, etc.

The carousel itself is fully customizable. You can add or delete icons at will, and move them around to an order that suits your usage needs or style. A few months ago at CTIA we noticed a bit of a lag on all the One Click phones we tested when scrolling from icon to icon. This final build of the software proves to be faster. There is still a delay, but it is shorter than before.

The carousel items are meant to serve as shortcuts to sections of the phone. The Browser icon, for example, lets you choose to open the browser, see your recent history or go to your bookmarks. This lets you jump straight to the web page you really want to go to rather than launching the browser first and then scrolling to your bookmarks or history.

One carousel item is Google. When you scroll to it, it opens a Google search bar, and below that are links to Google Maps, Gmail, and several other Google services. This is a nice touch to have built in mobile search capabilities.

As is common to Sprint phones, there is a carousel item for your favorites. This lets you populate a bunch of shortcuts to action items or applications.

There is also a full regular menu that houses all of the phone's applications and services. This larger menu appears in a standard list or grid view.

OneClick eliminates a lot of the digging around in menus that is necessary in Sprint's current feature phone user interface. By standardizing across the same platform, Sprint is sure to annoy some users who want more ways to personalize their phones, but OneClick does actually make finding the phone's features faster, even if not in "one click."

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Calls/Contacts 

As with any modern cell phone, pressing the green send key brings you to a list of your recent calls. Numbers that are stored in your contacts display the name and what type of phone call it was (work, mobile, home). With any number highlighted, pressing the send key will call the number. Pressing the D-pad will open up information about the call, and show you recent correspondence with that person, including text messages and emails. Being able to see all correspondences from a signal contact in one place is a nice feature. The right soft key acts as your entry to calling options. You can view contact details, the main menu or your entire contacts list during a call.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The contacts application can be reached from the home screen in several different ways, including using the right soft key. Each contact can hold a bevy of numbers, email addresses, URLs, IM screen names. You cab assign ringer and picture IDs at will.

Perhaps the most interesting part is a "secret" function that has been built into the contacts application. You can choose to make a detail's contact information secret. This means the contact can still be seen in the list, but the actual details (i.e., their phone number, email address, etc.) are not displayed. In order to access secret contacts, you need to use the phone's unlock code. This means you can protect your loved ones contact details if you wish, or simply make sure that certain people's information in unavailable to anyone who might pick up your phone.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Messaging 

The Lotus offers SMS, PictureMail, IM, VoiceSMS, Chatting and Email. Not all of them are available from the Messaging icon in the carousel. You have to open the messaging center from the main menu to get at the IM, Voice SMS and Chatting applications. Or, you can choose to add those to your favorites list.

Text messaging is always the default messaging mode. The Lotus's large screen makes for easy message composing. There's plenty of real estate to get all 160 characters of a message onto the screen without having to scroll around. The full QWERTY keyboard is great to type on, and it offers some ways to customize input, such as predictive text mode and shortcuts to add symbols, emoticons, smileys and stuff like that. The predictive text mode is a nice feature to have, even on a QWERTY-equipped phone. It lets you jump through long words faster as the software figures out what you're trying to say. It cuts down on the number of keystrokes.

If you failed to address the message to everyone you wanted to, it is easy to go back and do that after you've typed up the message. You can also insert pictures after the fact to turn it into a Picture Mail message.

Perhaps the biggest improvement is that the OneClick user interface offers threaded messaging. It is about time threaded messaging trickled down to the feature phone level. That's something to thank Sprint and LG for.

In order to use email, we had to download an over-the-air update to the Lotus. Once we did, configuring a POP3 email account was easy. AOL, AIM Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail and "Work" and other IMAP or POP3 accounts. The "Work" email lets you configure an Outlook Web Access account, meaning you can retrieve company email via the Web if you want to.

The email app has three tabs across the top, one each for home, the inbox and your contacts. Having these tabs makes it a bit easier to navigate around your email account and get to what you want to see without clicking all around the screen. You can set mail to automatically sync every so often as well as manually sync it. You can set the email app to show just the subject, as well as one or two lines of text in the preview pane.

Lastly, the mail application also lets you jump from one email account to another with relative ease. Rather than having to dig back through the email application, you can use the option key to change accounts easily.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Extras

Music 

The Lotus's music player is no great shakes. It is on par with what you expect from any mid-range feature phone that is not focused on providing a killer music experience.

You can launch the player with the phone closed by unlocking the phone and pressing the camera key. With the phone unlocked, you press the button below the external display to start playing the current playlist. There are two stereo speakers on the outside of the phone that can get quite loud during music playback (why the ringers can't reach the same volume levels, I have no idea). The sound is clear and clean, with no distortion even at full volume. You can play/pause and skip forward and back tracks from the external screen.

With the phone open, you have a few more choices. The music player has been updated a bit to reflect Sprint's new user interface, but it does not look like it was a major overhaul. Using the Sprint Music Store to discover and download music is reasonably easy. Browsing takes longer than performing searches for what you may want to buy. Purchasing and downloading takes about one minute per song.

The music player itself displays album art and a progress bar. The D-pad lets you play/pause or rewind/fast-forward. The options menu really only lets you navigate around your playlists or the music store. There are no equalizer presets at all. Pressing the D-pad up or down lets you cycle through the songs in your playlist quickly.

Music can be side-loaded through the phone's USB port, or placed directly onto a microSD card.

In the end, the music player is hamstrung by the Lotus's lack of a 3.5mm headset jack for regular stereo headphones, but it gets the job done.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Camera/Gallery 

The Lotus has a 2 megapixel camera that takes good pictures. Same as the music player, you can open it with the phone closed. Since both the viewfinder and lens face in the same direction, using the camera with the Lotus closed is really only going to work for self-portraits. (Sort of fits into the vain nature of the phone, don't ya think?) You can snap pictures, but that's about it.

Opening up the Lotus gives you a lot more options. The large display lends itself well to picture taking. Images are taken as they appear in the display, which is in the landscape orientation. The external display shows an icon of a camera, so those you're pointing the Lotus at know you have the camera running.

The options include the usual crop of settings controls, such as the resolution, brightness, white balance, and so on. Once you've configured how you want the camera to work, pressing the D-pad captures images in just under a second. The Lotus takes perhaps another second to save the image and you're ready to take another picture. Because the Lotus doesn't have auto-focus, the picture-taking process is fairly speedy.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The gallery application opens up to show a large grid of thumbnails. One thing I found frustrating was that if you select a picture and click on the D-pad, the images don't automatically open. Instead, you've placed a check mark next to the photo. You have to press the left soft key to actually open the image. As you move the selector over each thumbnail, the image expands slightly so you can get a better look at the image before opening it. Once you've opened an image, pressing the D-pad left or right will cycle through your images.

The right soft key offers a wide range of options for moving, editing or uploading the picture. These same options are available with the image open. If you subscribe to a picture sharing service such as Flickr, it is easy to set up the phone to upload pictures there.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The video recorder works exactly as the camera does. Before recording each video, you have to choose if you want to record a 20-second snippet for MMS messages, or a longer video. It warns you that videos larger than 512Kb can't be uploaded from the phone over the air to any Web services.

Photos/Video 

Photos

Pictures taken with the Lotus are solid. I was pleased with all the images I captured, even those taken indoors. The camera does a good job of figuring out white balance and exposure correctly. Most images were sharp and clean and showed little to no grain. Colors looked good, and light sources such as windows or lamps didn't confuse it too much. No only will you be sending pictures taken with the Lotus to your FaceBook or MySpace pages, you may even choose to print out a few 8x10s and be proud of the quality.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Video

The Lotus's video capabilities matched its still images. Video was steady and free of any odd jitters or distortion if you pan the camera around. There was no ghosting or smearing, and the video recorder adjusted well to large changes in the amount of light available. The videos looked good, no doubt.


3GPP2 / MPEG-4 format (viewable with QuickTime)
File size: 509 KB

Browse/Customize 

Browse

The Lotus's browser defaults to WAP sites, but can display full HTML Web sites if you wish. WAP sites load quickly, but HTML sites do not. For example, the Lotus took 90 seconds to load the full home page for Phone Scoop. The WAP page loaded in about 7 seconds in comparison.

The main landing page is Sprint's new Web portal, which features links to news, sports, finance, weather and content such as that. A Google search bar is built into the top of the portal, and you can easily conduct searches.

As mentioned earlier, one of the carousel items in the OneClick UI is for Google services. Sprint has also loaded a dedicated Google tool into the browser. You can find it in the options menu, which brings up a navigation tool. The nav tool shows you your previously visited pages, as well as jump quickly to the Sprint home page, your bookmarks and the settings menu. The Google search tool is one of the options in the nav tool.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Having a full QWERTY keyboard really helps with the mobile Web. It makes text entry so much easier and speeds up a lot of the actions you'll find yourself performing with the Web. I liked the browser overall for what it is, but there are better mobile browsers available in the market. But for simple WAP browsing, it gets the job done and does so with minimal fuss.

Customize

The Lotus allows you to customize it as much as any other feature phone. Ringers, wallpapers, screen savers, etc., can all be set by the user. Perhaps the most useful customization feature is the OneClick user interface itself. Having total control over the carousel and what icons are in it and where they are placed means you can really set the phone to act the way you want it.

 

Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

Extras 

Bluetooth

The Lotus supports mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets. Pairing with either kind was a snap. Sound quality through both was decent, though I thought the stereo Bluetooth sounded better than I've heard on phones in recent memory. The music sounded richer and fuller than through the Lotus's external speakers. The Lotus can also be paired with PCs and send files (such as pictures) easily.

Clock

The Lotus has several different clock configurations. You can set it to be a large analog clock, small digital, large digital, or a combined analog/digital clock. Pressing the camera key or the fey on the front face of the phone quickly will show you the clock. The problem is that the on the external display, the clock rests atop the background image. Rather than be easily visible, it is 50% opaque, meaning you see whatever is behind the clock as much as you see the clock itself. Depending on what you choose as the wallpaper for the external screen, this can make the clock completely unreadable. Even if the background weren't an issue, the external screen is so unreadable outdoors, that you won't be able the tell the time anyway

Java

The Lotus can access and download third-party content via the "MyStuff" folder in the main menu. This includes games, ringers, screen savers and other applications. The top of the Application download center has its own carousel that lets you scroll through featured applications. Sprint calls this the Digital Lounge. You can browse through all the folders, or use the search tool to drill down faster.

The "MyStuff" folder is a bit of a misnomer, however. If you think that's where you're going to find your pictures, videos or music, you're sorely mistaken. It is for applications, ringtones and other content you download from the Internet.


Sprint Navigation

Sprint Navigation is preloaded onto the Lotus. It lets you get turn-by-turn directions from point A to point B. It worked well, and was able to pinpoint my location in about 2 minutes. The software came up with viable directions, and was able to re-route me when I purposely veered off course.

SprintTV

The Lotus can access Sprint's SprintTV service. It took a little bit of time to load, but I was very thankful that Sprint featured "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" in its roster of content. The range of content available to watch is extensive.

YouTube

There is a YouTube application available in the Google part of the carousel. It lets you search for and view YouTube videos. It was a bit on the slow side and completely crashed the phone several times. I had to pull the battery to unlock it at one point. I am a fan of having YouTube access on mobile phones. (What better place to watch Phone Scoop phone reviews, after all?) Videos take up to a minute to begin playback once selected. They played back with little stoppages or hiccups once you find and load them.

Video 

Here is a short video tour of the LG Lotus. You can watch it here:



Or visit YouTube for more viewing and sharing options.

Wrap Up 

In the end, the Lotus is a mid-range device that offers no surprises. Most phones in its price range have a similar feature set. What stands out the most is the Lotus's form factor. The square-ish shape may or may not appeal to you. If it does, you'll find that the Lotus packs in most features you might want or need. The QWERTY keyboard and able email program go a long way to making the Lotus a solid messaging device.

The camera and video recorder do a very good job at capturing both still and moving images. The music player is run-of-the-mill. The revised browser works well and surfs WAP sites quickly.

So, if you think it's hip to be square, get yer Lotus on.

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Comments

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Subject Author Date
Why no mention? WhoDey Oct 31, 2008, 11:44 AM
THIS PHONE...!!! X.ALLY.X Nov 7, 2008, 3:56 PM
This methodology for measuring signal strength is flawed tuolumne Nov 1, 2008, 4:31 AM
This is a good phone bluecoyote Nov 4, 2008, 12:02 AM
 
 
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