Review: The LG Motion 4G, small price and small size

At a Glance
  • LG Electronics Motion 4G

Low-cost prepaid smartphones are cropping up everywhere, looking to win over the last bastions of feature phone holdouts. The MetroPCS LG Motion 4G is one of the latest entrants in the budget smartphone race. For $149 sans contract (price as of 10/8/12), the device impresses with features like 4G LTE, a 1.2Ghz dual-core processor, a 5MP camera, and Android 4.0. But the Motion 4G is by no means perfect: The phone's data speeds were lacking and its design leaves a bad impression.

Design

The Motion 4G's fit and finish is nothing to write home about. The phone is by no means unattractive, but it just feels like a smartphone from yesteryear. In fact, it somewhat resembles an old iPhone 3G: It’s all black, with a Gorilla Glass front and a plastic (although textured) back, with a thin metallic bezel circling the front. Its 3.5-inch IPS display packs a paltry 480x320 resolution, but the display is bright, colors are vibrant, and viewing angles are good.

At 4.37 by 2.39 by 0.45-inches, the Motion 4G is smaller, yet thicker, than modern high-end smartphones. The Motion 4G has a metallic power button located on the top of the device, along with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. On the left spine of the phone sit a microUSB charging port and a volume rocker. The volume rocker sits flush with the rest of the phone's body, and can be difficult to press down at times.

The phone's built-in speaker is not very loud, and it lacks any semblance of bass. My biggest gripe with the speaker is its position on the back of the phone. It’s easy to cover the speaker with a finger when holding it in landscape with your right hand. Although the phone is composed primarily of plastic, the Motion 4G has a considerable amount of heft to it and feels pretty solid. It is quite comfortable to hold in your hand, and unlike new 5-inch-screen smartphones, the Motion 4G doesn't require you to have freakishly long fingers just to use the device.

Performance

Qualcomm's dual-core 1.2GHz S4 processor more than carries its own in the Motion 4G: The phone's interface is really snappy, if not buttery, and I didn't experience any major lags or hiccups. YouTube videos played back smoothly, even in HQ mode, and games like Angry Birds had no trouble running on the handset. LG definitely didn't skimp out on the on the processor.

The Motion 4G packs a removable 1700 mAh battery, which LG claims is good for 5.4 hours of talk time. I was able to make it through an entire day with some light web browsing and video streaming, about 20 minutes worth of calls, 45 minutes of Spotify streaming, and some minor gaming. Overall, I found battery life to be adequate, given that the device runs on a more battery-hungry LTE network, though heavy users will likely not last more than four or five hours before needing to plug the phone into an outlet.

Call quality on the Motion 4G is good, and the earpiece is adequately loud. I didn't experience any dropped calls, and found reception to be good across San Francisco.

While call quality over MetroPCS's network was satisfactory, the carrier's data speeds most definitely were not: It's almost misleading to call this phone a 4G LTE device—at least around San Francisco. Using the FFC-approved Speedtest.net app, the fastest download speed I got on my first day with the device from our San Francisco offices was 483-kilobits per second. To put that into perspective, my 3G Verizon iPhone 4S averaged between 500 kpbs and 1 megabit per second in the same area. Although the fastest overall download speed during my time with the Motion 4G was 4.4Mbps, on average, the data speeds weren't much faster than what you'd get over a 3G network. These results were somewhat surprising, as MetroPCS' LTE network generally has better data speeds than these around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Software

Liviu Oprescu

While the user interface is really snappy, you get the sense that it could be even smoother if the Motion 4G were running an untouched version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Instead, the phone runs LG's Optimus 3.0 overlay which changes the stock app icons to look more cartoony and adds a handful of 3D animations. LG also packed in its QuickMemo software which lets you annotate pictures, or draw on an easily accessible note pad. It's a novel idea, but doesn't seem to work all that well on a phone with such a small screen.

Speaking of small screens, the stock Android keyboard feels extremely cramped on the Motion 4G's tiny 3.5-inch display. Fortunately the phone comes pre-loaded with Swype to make text input a bit easier, but it's something to be aware of—especially if you have stubby fingers.

Unfortunately, the Motion 4G comes packed with its fair share of crapware—much of it from MetroPCS. There's Metro411, myMetro, Total Protection, MetroPCS Easy WiFi, M Studio, MetroWeb, Metro's AppStore, mail@metro, Metro Block-It. All of these apps are removable, but they serve as a reminder that there are hidden costs to low-priced devices.

Entertainment

If you plan on loading the Motion 4G with music and photos, you had better pick up a MicroSD card, as the phone only comes with 5GB of onboard memory. But nowadays, more and more content is stored in the cloud, so the Motion 4G's internal memory—or lack thereof—is by no means a deal breaker. Spotify playback was smooth on this phone, even though songs sometimes took 3 or 4 seconds to start playing. Again, this is an issue with MetroPCS' data service, and not the device.

Camera

Liviu Oprescu
Early morning.

The Motion 4G is capable of taking 5-megapixel stills and recording 1080p video—impressive, considering it's cheaper than a dedicated portable 1080p cam like Sony's Bloggie. Photos taken with the Motion 4G tended to be a bit noisy, especially in darker settings. Videos suffered a similar issue, and had their fair share of digital artifacts. The Motion 4G has a front-facing VGA camera, which is nice for Skype calls, but not much else.

Bottom line

If you want to make the switch from a feature phone, or are just looking for an affordable contract-free smartphone, LG's Motion 4G is a great device. The phone's speedy processor will keep it humming along, no matter what you throw at it, and you'll get to enjoy all the benefits of having a phone running Android Ice Cream Sandwich. The phone's camera isn't the greatest, and MetroPCS' data speeds don't compare to those of Verizon's or AT&T's LTE networks, but if you can look past those shortcomings the Motion 4G is a great fit for budget-minded buyers.

This story, "Review: The LG Motion 4G, small price and small size" was originally published by TechHive.

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At a Glance
  • LG Electronics Motion 4G

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