For a phone called the LG Lotus, you'd expect something tiny and delicate, and from the outside, this square-shaped clamshell phone looks the part, as it's meant to mimic a makeup compact--especially the purple, etched design. But inside is a feature-packed phone with a QWERTY keyboard. The design is striking and eye-catching, and while it comes up short in a few areas, for $99.99 (with a two-year agreement) it's a pretty good deal.
LG went full-figure with the Lotus; its square, 3.3 x 2.4 x 0.7-inch size and unusual exterior design is stylish and cool. The lid has a 1.3-inch screen and backlit music controls. While open, the keys light up in pink and lavender. The interior screen is pretty large at 2.4 inches, though there's nearly an inch of wasted real estate around the edges--it could easily have matched theBlackBerry Curve's2.5-inch display. A color depth of 262,000 is impressive and the 320 x 240-pixel resolution is fine, too. At 3.7 ounces, the phone is lighter than it looks, and weighs less than both the Curve andLG Rumor.
Though the individual buttons on the QWERTY keyboard aren't as raised as those on the BlackBerry Curve, there's a bump in the middle of each that makes them very easy to press, on a par with the Curve; however, holding down the Shift or Function key while hitting another key is awkward. Above the keyboard are a few controls, including a simple four-way button and large, silver Menu/OK button.
The selling point with many of Sprint's latest phones is a new user interface called Sprint One Click. It's a carousel menu with an icon-heavy look and as few menu iterations as possible to navigate quickly. This carousel is customizable, and numerous functions, such as text messaging, music, and Google, can be added, deleted, or moved around easily. It's intuitive and useful for those daunted by menu-digging. Plus, the LG Lotus can run several apps at a time.
While on the Home icon, a series of informational feeds, called Bubbles, can be added. These include news, weather, and horoscope, and work similar to an RSS reader. Up to eight bubbles can go here, but annoyingly, the news bubble displays only one headline at a time.
Text and Messaging
The Lotus supports text, voice, Picture Mail, and instant messaging (AIM, Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo Messenger, with tab switching between each). Text messaging is threaded, helping heavy texters keep track of conversations. The graphical e-mail application is easy to use, supports all the major webmail services and is pull- rather than push-based, so messages don't reach the phone as quickly.
Like all Sprint 3G devices, the Lotus has uses Sprint Navigation powered by TeleNav ($9.99), and that includes voice turn-by-turn directions, automatic traffic alerts, rerouting, and location search. Loading the GPS program and finding the satellites took less than 15 seconds initially, and operation was smooth from then on.
Mobile Web is one weakness of this phone. With a screen this size and EV-DO speeds, there's no reason why LG couldn't have made a go of a real graphical browser. Instead, only mobile Web sites are supported. Most non-mobile Web sites are malformed and unreadable on the Lotus. The mobile versions of ESPN.com, CNN.com, and NYTimes.com loaded in 7, 6, and 7 seconds, respectively, which is good.
Multimedia and Camera
The Lotus runs on Sprint's high-speed EV-DO network, so 99-cent tracks downloaded very quickly from the Sprint Music Store. Audio sounded tinny on the speakerphone, but the range was good through earbuds. This phone is compatible with Sprint TV, but a screen of only 320 x 240 pixels means that video is low-res and filled with artifacts. Users also have access to NFL Mobile Live, but watching a replay of a football game, it was impossible to read the score.
The 2.0-megapixel still camera and VGA video camera put the Lotus toward the rear as far as new camera phones, and it doesn't have flash. Though the internal memory is 80MB, it comes with a 512MB microSD Card, and supports up to 16GB, so there's little worry of running out of storage. A couple of clicks and that snapshot or video can be easily sent as a message.
Voice quality on the Lotus was average, as both the caller and receiver noted tinny, slightly muffled dialogue. On the plus side, however, there were no dropouts or fuzzy vocals. Calling in a loud environment with lots of background noise did not diminish audio quality much, as the clamshell factor assisted in blocking some of the noise.
Five-and-a-half hours of talk time and 7 days of standby are above average for this kind of phone. Even a few solid hours of heavy Internet, video, and music usage didn't make a dent in the rated talk time.
Sprint LG Lotus Verdict
The LG Lotus certainly is one of the most fashionable messaging phones available, making it a good choice for texting fiends who want to stand out in the crowd. For $99.99 you also get an intuitive, customizable user interface, plus fast data speeds and GPS navigation. For the price, we prefer the even more versatile BlackBerry Curve 8330 (also $99.99), but if you don't need a smart phone, the Lotus is a solid pick.