LG has been a messaging phone mainstay for some time, from the early days of the LG enV feature phones to more advanced handsets like the LG Genesis and the LG Enlighten. But none of them have ever looked anything quite like the LG Doubleplay. It is the first phone we've seen that incorporates two touch-screen displays, where one of them is wedged in between a split keyboard. The design is undeniably quirky, and we're certain not everyone will be pleased with it.
Yet, the dual-screen configuration does offer unique multitasking abilities, and the phone is rich with features--it ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, a 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor, a 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi calling, DLNA support, mobile hot-spot capabilities, support for T-Mobile's 4G/HSPA+ network, and more. It's even priced affordably at $99.99 after a two-year service agreement. In the end, the bizarre design just doesn't work for us, but it might for those willing to try something different.
In its closed position, the LG Doubleplay is a veritable brick of a phone. At 4.8 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 0.63 inch thick, the Doubleplay is a large and hefty handset, weighing in at a whopping 6.7 ounces. Its size is softened by gentle curves and rounded corners, and the smooth matte finish along the bezel and back gives the phone a sophisticated feel. The dark brown color that coats the Doubleplay is called "Truffle" to imply luxury, and we especially like the silver accents along the sides plus the long strip of brushed metal on the back.
On the front of the phone is a very luminous and vibrant 3.5-inch HVGA TFT display. The 320-by-480-pixel resolution serves the display well, and we were impressed by the crisp and colorful graphics and text. The Doubleplay's capacitive touch screen felt responsive to our taps and swipes, perhaps thanks to the phone's 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor. Beneath the display are four touch sensor shortcut keys for the Menu, Home, Back, and Search functions.
The Doubleplay has LG's own Android interface, which consists of four shortcuts along the bottom of the display for the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging menu, and the main menu. These shortcuts persist through the main menu, where the main menu shortcut is swapped with a home shortcut. In the main menu, the apps are divided into separate categories, and you can expand and collapse them by pinching in or out. There are up to seven customizable home screens. As far as manufacturer skins go, the LG interface is not as complex as others, so we don't mind it as much.
Slide the Doubleplay open and you'll immediately see where it got its name. Instead of a regular QWERTY keyboard, the keyboard is split in half to accommodate a second 2-inch QVGA subdisplay in the middle. You can fit up to eight customizable shortcuts on the tiny display, and you can drag and drop them to move them around. The subdisplay is designed only for certain default apps like messaging, e-mail, the browser, the music player, GroupText, and Social+.
The idea behind having two displays is so you can multitask and perform two different functions simultaneously. For example, you can type out a text message on the subdisplay while checking your e-mail on the main display. It also lets you toggle activities within the same application. With the browser, for example, you can view the Web page on the main display and use the subdisplay to flip through Bookmarks or tabbed windows. The same goes for the messaging app--you can swipe through existing messages on one display, and type out a new one on the other.
You can also "send" apps between displays. On the subdisplay, you'll often see an arrow on the upper left corner of an app. Tap that, and the application will be "sent" to the main display. Inversely, you can select the "Send down" option in the menu of the main display so that the app appears below on the subdisplay.
While we understand the theory behind the two displays, we can't say we're convinced. We just don't see ourselves multitasking in the manner the Doubleplay suggests, and the subdisplay ends up being more annoying than helpful. Further, we're not fans of the split keyboard. The keys themselves are large enough, and we appreciate their raised domed texture so it was easy to type. But we're used to resting our thumbs in the middle and reaching across to the other side, which is now not something that's encouraged due to the center subdisplay. We also found that we could no longer just type without looking at the keyboard. It could be a matter of getting used to it, in which case there is definitely a slight learning curve.
On the left spine of the Doubleplay is the Micro-USB port, while the volume rocker is on the right. On the top are the 3.5mm headphone port and the power/screen lock button. Set inside the brushed metal strip on the back is the camera lens, while the LED flash sits next to it.
The LG Doubleplay ships with Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, which adds a few improvements over 2.2 Froyo like a snazzier interface and a much more intuitive virtual keyboard. The Doubleplay includes Swype along with the default Android keyboard, which is a good alternative if you're not keen on the aforementioned physical keyboard.