Following from the launch of Microsoft’s Window 7 operating system last week, we’ve been playing with LG’s effort, the LG-E900 or LG Optimus 7. Results are very impressive the LG Optimus 7 is a serious IOS and Android rival
All the new WP7 phones follow a similar design. They’re black with three buttons - Back, Home and Bing search - along the bottom. The metal-backed LG Optimus 7 is sleek and attractive, easily fitting into a pocket. It doesn’t feel as durable as the Apple iPhone 4 or HTC Legend however - it’s perhaps a little too lightweight. Our major gripe is that when you press the Windows button it feels hollow rather than durable, something we’ve noticed on two versions of this handset. Instead of an SD card there's internal storage.
LG Optimus 7: WP7 interface
Microsoft has totally overhauled the interface. The odd touch here and there is unmistakably Windows, but far slicker than we’ve seen it before and totally unrecognisable from previous incarnations. Tellingly, there’s been no need for LG, or other WP7 partners - be it HTC or Samsung - to use their own skins.
At 3.7-inches the screen is a good size, although it's not as bright or sharp as the iPhone 4.
The phone comes with six hubs: People, Games, Pictures, Music and Video, Market Place and Office, which are basically ‘live’ tiles that scroll vertically down the screen. These are interactive, in the Games hub your avatar is knocked about by the Xbox Live icon, while the People hub has tiny thumbnails of your friends that continuously change.
Launch a hub and instead of delving into menus, just flick the screen right to access the next screen. Unlike some phones where you have to scroll back through screens, the screens are on a loop. It’s very quick and simple.
Elsewhere the Start screen is populated by static tiles (they look the same as hubs but aren’t live), which are basically shortcuts to applications. This can include internet shortcuts, individual contacts and favourite applications. It looks slick and works well, but doesn’t offer the flexibility of Android. For example you can have a shortcut tile to Settings on the front, but not a shortcut to WiFi.
The hubs and tile list on the Start Screen is fully customisable, so you can move them up and down the screen and add new ones from the full menu by tapping the right arrow and selecting ‘pin to start.’
LG Optimus 7: WP7 Email and Social Networking
In the past setting up push email on Windows phones hasn’t been as easy as it should - and that’s putting it nicely. Microsoft has made some drastic changes, so it’s easier to set up a range of email accounts - including: Windows Live, Outlook, Facebook, AOL, Sky, Yahoo Mail and Google - by entering your email address and password.
A shortcut appears on your Start screen, separate from your SMS messages. In common with other smartphones, SMS messages appear as conversations. We had no problems typing messages using the vertical and horizontal keyboard and text prediction works well.
Synch with Facebook and an icon (or tile) appears automatically on the Start screen, contacts sync automatically on the People hub. Instead of using a dedicated Facebook app, Microsoft uses its own skin and it works well. Clicking through you can see contact information, a profile picture and you get the option to write on wall. A swipe to the right and you can see your news feed. It works well, but we like the way in HTC Sense you can see updates on the top layer.
Link profiles of contacts to view all information on the same screen, as well as creating shortcuts that appear on the Start screen.
LG Optimus 7: Photos and video
The phone includes a dedicated camera shutter which you hold down to activate the 5MP camera from sleep mode. 5-megapixels might not seem as high as other mobile phones, but don’t be fooled. When you consider you can easily print up to 13x 10 inches, it becomes perfectly adequate for most people.
Having a dedicated shutter is far preferable to using a virtual button, depress it half way and the autofocus locks on fairly quickly. It’s not entirely lag free, but far quicker than many smartphones.
The Optimus 7 is very much a snapshot camera for off-the-cuff pictures. Intelligent Shot lets you choose between Portrait, Landscape, Night or Backlight scene modes (among others), while Smart Scene selects the best one to suit the settings. There are a few tweakable camera modes; white balance settings include: auto, candescent, sunny, flourescent and floudy and there are five brightness settings.
Photos are pretty good, although we noticed the occasional colour cast in bright sunlight and it struggles (like many cameras) with light and shadow in high-contrast situations, but outdoors colours are bold and detail sharp. In very bright backlit conditions we struggled slightly to see the screen, but you have the same issue with many cameras.
Beauty shot acts like an in-camera airbrush, smoothing blemishes and reducing redness of your people pictures with very effective results
The Optimus 7 capture 1920x720p HD movies, which you can add Sepia, Mono, Negative and Solarize effects too.
LG Optimus 7: WP7 Browser and video
The default browser is Internet Explorer. Over WiFi T3.com loads in around 26 seconds and BBC.co.uk in 17 seconds, which is respectable. Tap icons at the bottom to: add as favourite, access favourites and add a new tab. The latter lets you swap quickly between browser windows.
The 800x480 screen responds well, with full multitouch support including pinch to zoom, while a double tap realigns the text. Video playback is pretty good, although to watch YouTube videos you need to download the video player from Zune Marketplace, which at the time of writing still wasn’t available.
LG Optimus 7: Games
If you’ve got a Windows Live account the handset automatically syncs with your Xbox Live account and downloads your avatar. From the portal you can try games, accept friend requests and play online, although you can’t control your Xbox remotely like you can with the PSP Go and PS3.
The games portal is still in its infancy, so choice is really limited. There are 20 games, including: Bejeweled, Flight Control, The Sims 3 and Tetris. We know from Microsoft that games are still being developed so this will improve.
However, while we can forgive the limited selection, we can’t forgive the price. Prices range from £2.49 to £5.99. EA’s Tetris is £3.99, yet 59p on the Apple App Store. Gameloft’s Earthwork Jim is £3.99 and £2.99 for the iPhone. You get a free trial of five games though.
There aren’t any 3D games yet to test the phones graphical capabilities, so we had to try a few 2D games. Playing Earthworm Jim, graphics are bright and colourful - far more so than on the iPhone 4 - although detail is less sharp.
LG Optimus 7: Office and multitasking
Office lets you create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. However you can't cut and paste yet - and you won't be able too until the New Year, which is totally ridiculous.
Surprisingly the Optimus 7 doesn’t support multitasking, so although you can listen to music and write an email, there’s nothing you can press to see what is open. For example, during a game if you hit the Windows key you exit the application and have to start again. Although the browser remains the same. For casual users it might not be a problem, but ultimately with Android 2.2, IOS and Blackberry 6 offering it, we were expecting it.
Another quirk is that there doesn't seem to be a way of keeping the status bar on permanently. So you don't know how many bars you've got unless you go to the screen lock button or tap the Vodafone UK icon, the same applies to whether you're using Edge or HSDPA.
LG Optimus 7: Apps
We’ve used Windows 7 handsets several times over the last month and this is the first time we’ve been able to access the Marketplace. Click the icon and you can access’s LG’s apps shop, which contains seven apps, including Play To and Panorama Shot, this is part of the marketplace, but specific to LG devices.
At the moment the main ‘applications’ market is in Test Mode, so we weren’t able to test if fully. However it’s split fairly logically including: games, entertainment, music & video, photo, lifestyle, news and weather and sports. View the top, new and free categories of each one.
Most apps start at 79p, although gaming ones are more expensive. You can view screenshots, reviews and similar apps. At the moment the choice is limited, but like the gaming hub - it’s still in it’s infancy - so should improve.
LG Optimus 7: Other features
Each handset developer has added unique features to its phone. One of the highlights of the Optimus 7 is PlayTo. This app lets you use send videos, photos and music over WiFi to DLNA devices such as a TV and an Xbox. Unsurprisingly it doesn’t work with Mac’s and your Xbox needs to be connected to a computer running Windows Media Player.
ScanSearch is an augmented reality application. Hold it in any direction and it can automatically detect amenities up to a five-mile radius, including: restaurants, bars, hotels, public transit and banks. Results appear as icons, which you tap to reveal a phone number, map location and Bing and Google search results. Out of London results aren’t exhaustive, but in our suburban town it found our local pub and Indian restaurant, struggling with the pharmacy and bank. But it’s still pretty impressive.
Hold down the Windows button to launch Voice-to-Text. Commands such as ‘call home,’ ‘launch calendar,’ and ‘open messages’ work very effectively. But it can be selective about what it needs to hear, whereas ‘open internet’ works, ‘open browser’ and ‘open web’ don’t
LG Optimus 7: Verdict
Running a 1Ghz processor, the LG Optimus 7 feels fairly quick, helped in part by a simple interface which means you never have to delve too deeply to find anything. Occasionally as we swapped quickly between hubs we were confronted by the odd progess bar slowing us down for a few seconds though.
WP7 certainly banishes the Windows Mobile of old. The interface is intuitive, quick and feels totally fresh and it’s nice to use something that feels also significantly different to the other operating systems. Full marks to Microsoft for innovating rather than copying.
However it’s not perfect. We’d have liked more integration for Mac users. At the moment plug it into your Mac and nothing happens and because there's no memory card you can't get around it by using a card reader. According to reports online, support will be added later this year though. Elsewhere multitasking is a sorely missed and the interface still isn’t quite as flexible as rivals.
While Xbox Live integration has been done well, until more games are available and more people start using it, it’s really hard to judge it
In terms of the hardware although we think the build lacks the finesse of smartphone rivals, there’s very little to fault with the hardware. Images are pretty good, the screen is bright and touch commands responds well. ScanSearch and PlayTo are well implemented too.
With Windows Phone 7, for the first time a Microsoft handset can be pitched against an Apple, Android and Blackberry handsets without being laughed at - and in some areas even bettering rivals. It’s not perfect, but if viewed as a totally new OS (OK it’s not, but it feels like it), there are always going to be a few niggles. Matching decent hardware with an excellent OS, the LG Optimus 7 is a good, but not perfect offering and easily the best LG handset to date.
LG Optimus 7 Specification:
- OS: Windows Phone 7
- Storage: 16GB internal
- Screen: 3.8-inch WVGA 800x480
- Connectivity: Bluetooth, N WiFi, EDGE, 3G, HSDPA 3.5mm jack
- Camera: 5MP
- Video: VGA
- Video: 1280x720
- Dimensions: 125x60x12mm
- Weight: 157g