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January 2010 update: Read our review of the LG Lotus Elite that replaces the Lotus.
Reviewed November 5, 2008 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
In the flood of texting phones this holiday season, the LG Lotus will steal the hearts of those who look beyond conventional form factors. We've looked at the Samsung Rant for Sprint, the Verizon Blitz and the Samsung Propel for AT&T, and none have the speed or performance of the square-ish LG Lotus. With EV-DO onboard, the LG Lotus offers good video playback on Sprint TV, music and movie playback, as well as GPS with Sprint Navigation. The LG Lotus comes with a 2 megapixel camera, a wide 2.4-inch landscape screen, microSD card slot, plus Bluetooth stereo A2DP, 3D gaming, a document viewer and a very usable full QWERTY keyboard.
The LG Lotus is a digital dual band CDMA phone that's available from Sprint. The phone currently comes in two colors: black and purple.
Square Phone with Large Keys
Though the LG Lotus' shape is closer to a woman's makeup compact than a mobile phone, the flip phone looks surprising masculine, at least in black. Measuring 3.30 x 2.40 x 0.70 inches, the LG feels wide and its buttons are large. Guys with big hands and fingers and folks with older eyes will love the wide and large menu keys on the Lotus. The wide body also means the keys on the QWERTY keyboard are bigger than those on many texting phones. The keyboard keys have good travel and click audibly when you press them, but they are not very domed. The QWERTY key rows are straight, unlike the "smile" curved rows of the Samsung Propel and Moto Q9. The four-row QWERTY has number keys clustered just left of center and the only thing you will need to get used to is the period key, which is to the left of the space bar. We also like the heft of the LG; it feels good in hand.
Though not a music-centric phone, the LG Lotus has a dedicated music key and a 2.5mm audio jack for stereo headsets. The microSD card slot is on the right side of the phone and easy to get to.
Phone Features and GPS
When you open the LG Lotus to make and receive calls, the phone feels wide. The reception is very good and voice quality is also clear and loud. The phone has a dedicated speakerphone key, and it comes with excellent voice dialing and voice command software. The LG has Bluetooth v2.0 and supports both mono and stereo Bluetooth audio profiles. We tested the Jabra BT530 with the phone and found performance was average. The audio wasn't bad, but it wasn't super clear and we heard occasional garbling. We could hold conversations with a couple of "repeat that please" moments. The DSP worked effectively, though as it reduced road noise it also degraded voice a little bit. The range was about 10 feet between the LG Lotus and the Jabra BT530.
Most recent feature phones such as the Samsung Rant, Samsung Propel and the Samsung Highnote haven't had great GPS performance. The LG Lotus is an exception and it managed accurate GPS position fixes and good navigation and trip routing. It still had some position delays 1) at the beginning of trips, 2) keeping up with exact location when traveling on the highway, but it's faster at correcting and computing location and routes. The speakerphone is very loud and can overcome highway noise. In our road tests, traffic updates were mostly accurate and automatic re-routing (after you've gone off the provided route) was speedy and logical. Like other Sprint phones with GPS, the LG Lotus also supports Sprint's Family Location service, which is now $5/month.
The LG Lotus is also one of the first phones to come with Sprint's One Click interface, a new user interface that aims to simplify accessing applications and services. The new UI puts popular applications and services in a single line of icons at the bottom of the screen ("carousel" in Sprint's lingo), and you can launch any of them with just one click. These applications and services include Google search, YouTube videos, Sprint Navigation, Sprint TV, music, favorite web sites and any shortcuts you customize. If you prefer the traditional menu UI, hit the Home key to bring it up.
As a texting phone, the LG Lotus supports most common messaging tools including SMS, MMS, POP3 email and mobile IM. The LG offers something extra compared to most other QWERTY feature phones, and that's an Access Netfront-based document viewer that allows you to read MS Office files and PDF files. The Document Viewer's zoom feature makes files very readable on the wide screen. The LG also comes with a full HTML browser, Polaris 6.01 by Infrawave, which can display HTML pages with images and tables intact. The browser is only hobbled by its single-column display mode that doesn't render pages in a desktop fashion, though it does nix side-scrolling.
Multimedia services are quite enjoyable thanks to the large and bright screen and fast EV-DO performance. Even though the Samsung Rant also has EV-DO support, the LG Lotus gains some ground with that 2.4" landscape screen that supports 262K colors in full QVGA. Pictures, games and videos look brighter and more color saturated on the LG than on the Samsung Rant and the Samsung Propel. Sprint TV and Sprint movies play smoothly on the LG Lotus. Full-length movies still look better than regular Sprint TV programs, even in full screen mode. You can rent many just-out-of-theater movies for $5.99 for three days.
There's a music player onboard and you can access the Sprint Music store to buy songs over the air. Music downloads are fast, and music playback sounds good via the phone's front-facing speakers (with the flip shut). There are music playback controls below the external display so you don't need to open the phone to control music playback. While the music player's audio quality is quite good via the speakerphone, it doesn't sound particularly clear or full via 2.5mm wired headset. Since the phone doesn't come with one, we used a generic 2.5mm headset in our test. The best sound quality came via Bluetooth stereo headsets.
Gaming is also enjoyable on the LG Lotus. Game download fast and the large d-pad and menu keys are great for fast action games. The number keys are less useable in gaming compared to the d-pad and the menu keys.
The LG Lotus has a 2 megapixel camera that takes very good photos for that class of camera phones. The still images have very good color balance and exposure. It has very little whiteout in outdoor shots, a challenge that troubles most 2 mp camera phones. Photos taken with the camera look excellent on the phone's wide screen, and surprisingly good on a computer screen. The LG can take photos in four resolutions and 3 quality levels, and it has night mode and a self timer. The camera phone can also take video with audio and the quality of the QVGA videos is very good. The videos play back smoothly and audio is in sync with video.
The LG Lotus has average battery life. It comes with a 900 mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery that's user replaceable. The claimed talk time is 5.5 hours and that was on target in our test. The claimed standby time is up to 7 days, which is a little optimistic. Accessing Sprint's EV-DO network for watching TV and downloading music and games will use battery life faster than other tasks.
A surprising dark horse in texting phones, the LG Lotus offers the right features with good performance. It's a good voice phone and a very good texting device thanks to the keyboard and the Document Viewer for attachments. It has a good video player, music player (the Lotus even comes with a 512MB microSD starter card), GPS device and camera-- and these features offer better performance than many of the LG's peers. The price may be the only obstacle: the Samsung Rant and the Samsung Propel both sell for less , but Verizon is selling the Blitz at a comparable price. For folks who want a full QWERTY phone with a document viewer but don't need smartphone features, the LG Lotus is priced right for what you get.
Price: $149.99 with 2-year contract and instant savings.
Web sites: us.lge.com, www.sprint.com
Display: Internal display: 2.4" QVGA 262K color TFT screen. Resolution: 240 x 320 pixels. External LCD: 1.3"65K color TFT, 128 x 160 pixels resolution.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, 900 mAh, user replaceable. Claimed talk time: up to 5.5 hours. Claimed standby time: up to 7 days.
Performance: Phone book can store 1000 entries.
Size: 3.30 x 2.40 x 0.70 inches. Weight: 3.7 oz.
Phone: Digital dual band CDMA 800/1900MHz. EV-DO Rev. 0 for fast data.
Camera: 2 megapixel camera. Support multi-shot feature. Still image resolutions: 1280 x 960, 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 pixels. Can take video with audio.
Audio: Supports polyphonic ringtones and MP3 music tones. MP3 player onboard to play music in MP3, AAC, AAC+, Enhanced AAC+ and WMA formats. 2.5 mm stereo audio jack. Can record voice memo. Supports vibration alert.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.0. Supported profiles: Headset, Hands-Free, DUN, OPP, FTP, BPP and PBAP. USB 2.0.
Software: Supports myFaves. HTML browser and Web-based IM on board. PIM tools include Contacts, Scheduler, Calculator, Alarm Clock, World Clock, Document Viewer and Notepad.
Expansion: 1 microSD card slot. Supports SDHC cards. A 512MB card included with the pages.
In the Box: The LG Lotus phone with standard battery, wall charger, USB cable, 512MB microSD card with SD adapter and printed manual and guides.