The LG Lotus was probably the first fashion-forward messaging phone we ever encountered, back in 2008. It sported an unusual square design, and we were enamored with the version that had the decorative purple tattoo. Apparently fashionistas were enticed as well, as it even made its way to New York Fashion Week that year.
Fast-forward to 2010 and LG has introduced an improved successor to the Lotus, dubbed the LG Lotus Elite. It still has that familiar square design, but it is much sleeker than before. More importantly, it now has a stunning touch screen as the external display, from which you can quickly access oft-used functions like messages and contacts without having to open the phone. We were disappointed that most of the features are still the same, but at least it now has integration with social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The LG Lotus Elite is priced quite competitively at only $99.99 with a two-year service agreement and a $50 mail-in rebate. It also earned a nomination for our Best of CES awards in the cell phones category at CES 2010.
The LG Lotus Elite carries on the fashion phone reputation of its predecessor with an unquestionably bold and unique design. Measuring 3.43 inches wide by 2.44 inches long by 0.75 inch thick, the Lotus Elite pays homage to the original Lotus with its square shape but has a style all its own. Indeed, the Lotus Elite is much sleeker and curvier than the blocky Lotus, with rounded corners and shiny chrome detail along its borders. The phone feels like it is solidly constructed; the hinge seems sturdy as well. LG wisely debuted the Lotus Elite in a stunning bold red decorated with a whimsical floral tattoo, which appears to be a ploy to attract the female demographic.
However, the biggest design update for the Lotus Elite is with its external display. It measures 2.4 inches diagonally, which takes up quite a bit of room on such a small phone. It also boasts 262,000 colors and a 320x240-pixel resolution, which makes everything look sharp and colorful. Not only that, but the display is now a touch screen. Indeed, you can use your finger to tap through options just as you would with any touch-screen handset. The display is resistive, not capacitive, so it's not quite as responsive as the screen on the iPhone or the Nexus One, but since the external touch screen on the Lotus Elite has access to only a limited menu of options, it's not that big a deal.
The first thing you'll notice when you activate the external touch screen is that it has animated wallpaper--the one we have has an animation of a flying butterfly, for example. You will also see the typical indicators like battery and signal strength, plus the date and time. There's also an icon for any missed calls or messages. Beyond that, you can customize it so that you can access your messages, photo gallery (or slide show), speed dial contacts, recent call history, and contacts list without having to open the phone. You simply swipe horizontally across the screen to flip through them. You can also use the external display as a camera viewfinder. You can adjust the external display's screensaver and, if you want, you can calibrate the touch screen for added accuracy. On the whole, we found the external touch screen intuitive to use.
On the left side are a 2.5mm headset jack, the volume rocker, and the charger jack, while the camera key, screen lock key, and microSD card slot are on the right. On the back of the phone is a tiny little metal loop on which you can tie a cell phone charm if you wish. The LG Lotus Elite even comes with an optional red leather strap to attach to it.
Interestingly, the 2.0-megapixel camera on the Lotus Elite is located right on the hinge of the phone. When the phone is closed, the camera lens appears on the upper left of the phone's rear. When the phone is open, the lens appears on the hinge in between the display and the keypad. Since you'll be using the internal display as a viewfinder at that point, it makes it much easier to take self-portraits.
Flip open the phone and you'll find another 2.4-inch display with the same color support and pixel resolution. Unlike the external display, though, the internal one is not a touch screen. It does feature Sprint's OneClick interface, which is a center carousel of shortcut tiles along the bottom row of the home screen. This lets you quickly access phone functions like your messages, your account details, Sprint Navigation, your Yahoo Mail, and more. Notable shortcuts include quick views of your Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace accounts, plus a Google menu that gives you access to Google search, Gmail, and YouTube. You can easily add and remove shortcut tiles from the OneClick carousel.
You can adjust the display's brightness, the backlight time, the font size for messages, the browser, the notepad, the dial digits, and applications, and you can have picture IDs for contacts, unsaved numbers, and private/unknown numbers. The main menu can be arranged in either grid view or list view.
Underneath the display and the hinge are the navigation controls. They consist of two soft keys, a rectangular four-way toggle plus a middle Menu/OK key, a dedicated speakerphone key, a Back key, and the Talk and End/Power keys. With the exception of the toggle, the speakerphone, and the Back key, the keys are mostly flat. Still, there is enough separation between each that we could still navigate by feel.