LG has a checkered past when it comes to midrange and high end phones. They're sometimes a bit too plastic and LG's custom user interfaces haven't wowed US users. Take the LG eXpo with it's overly busy and stylus-centric UI and the LG Xenon with its unabashedly plastic build. The LG Ally stands leagues apart, and though it might not have an Iron Man build, it's solid and speaks of reasonable quality. Better yet, LG's custom UI on top of Android 2.1 Eclair (oh my goodness, something besides Google's own Nexus One s finally shipping with 2.1 out of the box!) is tasteful and improves upon Android. Just in case you don't like it, there's a Theme switcher app that lets you switch between LG's UI and Google's standard UI.
LG did little things to make Android easier to use, and that OS could use a little tweaking, so we're glad to see it here. They add a large clock widget with weather on the home screen (hello HTC Sense), and a launcher bar at the bottom with quick links to contacts, the web, messaging and phone. The Android programs launcher gets organized with the standard pre-installed applications up top and downloaded applications segregated below. Now that there are over 30,000 Android apps in the Market with many being free, we tend to clutter our phones with lots of downloaded apps and this gives a semblance of order.
The hardware is solid and is more than worthy of the $99 price tag with a 2 year contract. It's much less bulky and weird looking than that other Android QWERTY slider on Verizon, the Motorola Devour. The Ally is made of solid plastics with molded curved corners that feel good in hand and though it's thick (because it's a slider), the curves make it look and feel slimmer.
Reception is strong and we're seeing near Motorola Droid 3G levels (the Moto Droid has super reception).
The 3.2", 800 x 480 capacitive touch screen is very sharp and bright-- we like. With top dog Android phones running 1GHz processors, the Ally has a 600MHz Qualcom CPU, and that kicks it out of "Droid" territory in Verizon's linueup, as does the 3.2 megapixel camera. But the LG feels responsive and we didn't find ourselves pining for our 1GHz Nexus One. Since LG's customizations are light, they really don't put strain on the processor as does Motorola's MOTOBLUR and HTC's Sense UI.
The rest of the specs are what you'd expect from a smartphone: Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi, a GPS and a microSD card slot (a 4 gig card is included). There's a standard 3.5mm stereo headset jack (headset not included) and approximately 100 megs of internal storage (not much space for installing scads of apps). Other than Visual Voicemail, there are no Verizon apps-- that means no VZ Navigator or V Cast services. Since the phone runs Android 2.1, you've got Google Maps with spoken navigation to fall back on, and the usual Android YouTube player.
You can pre-order the LG Ally tomorrow and it will be in stores on May 20.
We'll post our video review later today and our full review in a few days. Feel free to post questions .
-------------------- Lisa Gade Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview