A little more than a year ago, MetroPCS released its first-ever Android smartphone, the LG Optimus M. Though its plastic build made it less glamorous-looking than its counterparts from different networks, the M was competitively priced and did not require a contract.
Fast-forward to now, and boy, do these carriers done grow up so fast. MetroPCS has offered numerous Android handsets since then and it's currently selling 10. One of which is a revamped version of the debut Android device itself, aptly called the LG Optimus M+.
Although the M+ is still marketed as an inexpensive device, it has a bigger screen this time around, and slightly better specs. It also lost some weight, sporting a thinner redesign. Though not as historically meaningful as its predecessor, the M+ still carries on the tradition of being a solid, entry-level phone.
The LG Optimus M+ went through a welcome redesign from its predecessor. At 0.39 inch thick, it's noticeably thinner than before and I'm fond of the new details, like the sharper corners, the tapered sides, and the convex top and bottom. It measures 4.48 inches long and 2.47 inches wide, and it weighs 4.23 ounces. I like that it feels slightly wide in the hand, which makes it easier to hold.
On the left side is a volume rocker. Up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and the sleep/power button. In between these features is the Micro-USB port, which can be covered with a neat, tiny sliding door.
A 5-megapixel camera is located on the back, next to its LED flash. On the right hand corner is an output speaker. Although I liked many design elements of the handset, the texturized plastic backing feels cheap. Once you pry it off you can see the 1,300mAh battery and microSD card slot that holds cards with capacities up to 32GB.
The M+ has a 3.5-inch capacitive touch screen display. Like the original M, it has a 320x480-pixel resolution, but it sports more colors -- 262,000 hues instead of 65,000. Photos and video graphics were vivid and rich (especially when the screen brightness was cranked all the way up), but the resolution is disappointing. Although menu icons were crisp, more complex images looked grainy and streaky. On the upside, the display was responsive to my touch when I selected icons, swiped through menus and transitioned to the homescreen.
Below the display are the four usual navigation buttons that light up when in use: menu, home, back, and search.
The LG Optimus M+ runs on a slightly zippier (800MHz) processor. It's not as fast as the dual-core LG Connect 4G, but I didn't notice any lagging when performing simple tasks like switching from landscape to portrait mode, opening the camera app, or zooming in on photos and Web pages.
The phone ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread and is preloaded with all the apps you'd expect from Google, such as the Play Store, Google Maps with Navigation, Search, Books, Messenger, Gmail, Talk, YouTube, Plus, and Places.
Also included are MetroPCS's own brand of maps and apps for mail, and browsing the Web. M Studio stores media files like ringtones, MetroPCS Easy Wi-Fi is a Wi-Fi hotspot app, Metro411 searches and locates for nearby businesses and restaurants; MyExtras is an entertainment and media app; and myMetro lets you check your account balance and plan.
There also are three Yahoo-branded apps: Sportacular (sports news), Yahoo Movies, and the oh-so accredited Yahoo! Answers. Meow.
In addition, the Optimus M+ is equipped with several basic task management applications, like a clock with alarm features, a calculator, Bluetooth, a calendar, text messaging (with Swype) a voice recorder, and a news and weather app. Uncommon apps include IM and Social, which consolidates all your social networking portals; the mobile media suite known as Pocket Express; and the mobile office suite known as Polaris Office.
The handset also comes preloaded with Rhapsody's music subscription service. For an extra $10 a month, on top of a $50-a-month unlimited talk, text, data, and e-mail plan, you can search and download thousands of albums and artists on major U.S. record labels. Despite the fact that you can't play songs offline unless you add it onto a playlist, the service is pretty neat and more intuitive compared to other music services. Its UI is intuitive, songs downloaded without any hiccups and played continuously.
The 5-megapixel camera comes with a few editing features including a flash, a digital zoom, an exposure meter, six scene modes (auto, portrait, landscape, sports, night, and sunset), five image options, four ISO choices (ranging from 400 to 100), five white balance modes (auto, incandescent, sunny, fluorescent, and cloudy), five color effects (none, mono, negative, sepia, and aqua), and a timer that can go off in 3, 5, or 10 seconds.
The video recorder has similar offerings, such as a digital zoom, a continuous flash, and the same white balance, exposure, and color effects. There are also two shooting modes (one for normal recording and one for sending videos over MMS), three video sizes (VGA, QVGA, and QCIF), three quality options (super fine, fine, and normal), and audio muting.
I tested LG Optimus M+ in San Francisco using MetroPCS' services. Signal quality was decent, but sound quality was mediocre. Although I didn't experience any dropped calls, extraneous buzzing, or audio clipping in and out, voices sounded muffled. Even at the maximum volume, my friends sounded like they were talking under a thin sheet. Friends told me the same thing -- even though I could be understood perfectly well, the audio didn't sound so refined.