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The LG Lotus, available from Sprint for $150 with a two-year contract (as of 10/24/08), manages to pack a variety of multimedia features within a stylish yet functional design. But the Lotus is a lot like high-fashion clothing: If you shop around, you can find similar--or even superior--features, and a better value.
The Lotus has a square, clamshell design that resembles a makeup compact. The exterior of the phone has a nice-looking 1.3-inch external display with dedicated music controls that glow when activated. Opening the phone reveals a sparkling 2.4-inch-diagonal screen and a full QWERTY keyboard. It comes in satin black as well as royal purple with an embossed floral motif.
When I first saw the Lotus at CTIA, I was a little unsure about its design. The square, squat shape seemed awkward and looked a bit like an LG enV that had gone through a trash compactor. But after I used the Lotus for a while, the unusual shape (not unlike a second-gen iPod Nano) began to grow on me. Measuring 2.4 by 0.7 by 3.3 inches, the Lotus will fit nicely into your pants pocket or bag; at 3.7 ounces, it isn't hefty, either.
I found the width of the phone to be an issue, though. The Lotus is about the same width as my palm, so I had to stretch my hand to grasp it; holding the phone became uncomfortable during a long phone call. Its shape might not affect people with larger hands, but my smallish hand had problems with it.
In my tests, I experienced very good call quality with the Lotus over Sprint's EvDO network. Audio on calls both to cell phones and to landlines was clear, with no static or hiss. Parties on the other end reported the same. Even when I was standing on a busy city street, they could hear very little background noise, and they said that my voice sounded sharp.
LG touts the Lotus as a texting device, but I found its QWERTY keyboard disappointing. The keys are quite narrow, and texting anything longer than a few words was tedious. Though my fingers are small, I still found myself accidentally pressing the wrong keys. The Lotus's keyboard has integrated numbers, too; the device would have benefited from a separate numeric keypad, since dialing numbers on the cramped keyboard is no treat.
The Lotus is one of the first phones to utilize Sprint's One Click interface, a customizable overlay that runs on top of the phone's own OS and is similar to the interfaces of smart phones. One Click consists of up to 15 shortcut tiles, lined up in a row at the bottom of the screen, which you can add, delete, or rearrange however you like. As you navigate through the tiles, submenus of the appropriate application pop up. Among the available tiles are Internet, Messaging, Music, and--my favorite--Google, which gives you a shortcut to services such as Gmail and YouTube. Overall, I found One Click extremely intuitive and useful.
In addition to external music controls, the Lotus has a dedicated music button on its side that will instantly take you to the Sprint Music application and store. The music player has standard features; you can choose how you want to view your music library (song artist, genre, or album), create playlists, and view album art on the now-playing screen. The phone also has an option to run the music application in the background, so you can do other tasks on the handset while listening.
For the most part, videos from YouTube played smoothly and looked good on the Lotus's 240-by-320-resolution screen. A few of the SprintTV clips I viewed, however, were disproportionately oblong, showed a lot of pixelation, and looked blurry. I couldn't watch more than a few minutes because the quality was so poor.
Music sounded relatively good from the Lotus's two external speakers. Unfortunately, the Lotus does not have a standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which limits its viability as a music player. And though it supports stereo Bluetooth, it doesn't come with a headset.
Another shortcut button, next to the music button on the phone's side, launches the 2-megapixel camera. Though it lacks a flash, you can adjust its brightness and white balance, set a self-timer, and zoom up to 2X. Overall, the image quality was quite good outdoors, but indoor and night photos could have used a flash.
Applications and the Web browser loaded quickly over Sprint's EvDO network, and songs downloaded in minutes from the Sprint Store. Sprint Navigation, the Lotus's GPS application, was equally impressive; it found my location in San Francisco right away. Sprint Navigation's maps aren't as detailed and accurate as those of, say, Google Maps or Nokia's maps program, and traffic rerouting was slow at times. Nevertheless, the application is very useful, and a convenient inclusion.
Though its form may take some getting used to, Sprint's One Click interface makes navigation a snap and puts a variety of multimedia features at your fingertips. But at $150 for a two-year contract--only $30 less than T-Mobile's impressive new G1 Android-based phone--the Lotus feels a bit overpriced for what it delivers. And Sprint's two other new phones this season, the Highnote and the Rant, have the same One Click interface and apps, but come at a much more reasonable price.
The Lotus's couture design will turn heads, but it's overpriced for a midrange phone.
- Eye-catching design
- Intuitive interface
- QWERTY keyboard feels cramped
- Overpriced for a midrange phone