Your first glimpse of the Optimus One will tell you that this is no sleek and glossy fashion phone – but just like your mother is always telling you, looks aren’t everything.
The screen is surrounded by a lot of dead space, save for the required Menu, Home and Back buttons, and an extra zoom button for your convenience. The cheap-but-serviceable theme continues around the back with a curving plastic rear culminating in a simple catch for getting at the battery, SIM and SD slots underneath.
Locate the top-mounted power button and things start to look up almost immediately. The Optimus One is one of the first phones to ship with the very latest version of the Android operating system, 2.2 (also known as Froyo). The importance of this extends beyond the latest onscreen eye-candy.
Recent releases of Android have improved many things, not least the underlying efficiency of the OS. The result is that a budget 600MHz processor can now be expected to perform as well as a 1GHz processor for most tasks. It definitely works on the Optimus One – for ordinary use there’s no noticeable difference between this and a wallet-biting, top-of-the-range model.
Partially, the responsiveness of the device is helped by the decidedly middleweight screen. A 320x480 resolution restricts it somewhat to the minor leagues, as the big boys all have 400x800 these days. That said, the 3.2in screen is bright and legible enough, although not so great for video or more graphically intense web pages.
The small screen does make it a little more challenging to use the onscreen keyboard in portrait mode, but it is pretty responsive and registers your ham-fisted poking readily, along with all the scrolling gestures you’re likely to need for Android apps.
Connectivity and features
The 1500mAh battery is called upon to power a range of features. As you’d expect from any phone wanting to consider itself smart, there’s built-in support for Bluetooth 2.1 (with A2DP), Wi-Fi, GPRS, Edge and HSDPA, but even with heavy use, you can expect to get almost a full working day out of the battery.
The camera isn’t much to crow about. Unlike some budget smartphones, though, you have a reasonable chance of recognising something you’ve taken a picture or a video of – even if it is a little murky and jerky in 18fps VGA.
170MB of storage on the phone itself is supplemented by the microSD slot. With the newer versions of Android there’s no need to store all your apps on the phone itself, so you can add up to 32GB of data, games and utilities.
With only a few minor shortcomings, this is the best overall budget smartphone at the moment, but it is a competitive market. The Orange San Francisco, for example, has a much better screen and costs almost half the price...
LG Optimus One P500
The overall best of the budgets – for the moment at least