The LG Optimus T is a good deal for a budget Android handset. It runs on Android 2.2, supports Wi-Fi and 3G, and even acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to five other devices -- all features you wouldn't usually find on a $30 phone.
The Optimus looks high-end just out of the box, with its gray-and-burgundy soft-touch case. It measures 4.5-inches long, 2.3-inches high and 0.5-inches thick, and weighs 4.5 ounces -- small enough to slip into your pocket but substantial enough so you won't forget it's there.
The 3.2-inch, 320-by-480 pixel touch screen is very responsive, bright and vibrant, but it's on the smaller side, so typing is more challenging than on phones with larger screens.
True, the touch display isn't made of glass, and its resolution is lower than other phones, but it still looks great, despite its smaller size. It also uses capacitive technology, which means it measures by touch rather than pressure, so it has iPhone-esque multi-touch and pinch-to-zoom support.
The 3.2-megapixel auto-focus camera is sufficient. You won't win any photography awards with your pictures, but you can still get decent snapshots, particularly if you take them outside and subjects are standing still. It comes with a few standard settings, including color effects, a timer and scene modes, as well as an adjustable ISO. There are also four focus modes and a digital zoom, so you do have some control over how photos turn out. But unfortunately, even if you calibrate it just right, there's only so much the camera can do.
For a low-priced phone, Android 2.2 is the exception rather than the norm. You don't often see a robust platform on similarly-priced feature phones. So you'll get the access to Google's wide slate of products, including Gmail, Google Maps and Google Talk. And if you need apps, you can always head to Android Market to pick from hundreds of thousands of third-party apps. You'll also get Facebook integration, voice dialing with Bluetooth, and even a new camera viewfinder.
With five customizable home screens, the usual shortcuts are there, along with a virtual keyboard with Swype predictive text, giving you a speedy way to send messages and surf the Web.
In addition, it's also one of only a handful of T-Mobile smartphones that lets you call people over Wi-Fi. It's not as reliable as network calls, or as clear, but the option is good to have for when you want to save a few bucks while calling from home. It comes with 170-megabytes of storage, but you'll get a 2-gigabyte microSD card in the box and the option to buy cards up to 32-gigabytes -- giving you more room for all your music, videos and apps.
Overall, the Optimus is a great choice if you want a smartphone for a low price. Android will help you forget that you didn't spend $200 for a new device. But there's a catch: the 600-megahertz processor is slower than comparably-priced smartphones, so don't expect the smoothest experience.
The Wi-Fi hotspot, coupled with the ability to make Wi-Fi calls, make the Optimus worth a look. After all, the word "budget" doesn't always mean second-best, and in this case means you'll get a solid bargain for the price. ♦
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