U.S. Cellular has really ramped up its smartphone lineup this year, particularly in the Android department, with some great additions, such as the Samsung Mesmerize and HTC Desire. The LG Apex is the latest member of the family, but it doesn't quite shine like the others.
Similar to the LG Ally from Verizon Wireless, the Apex is notable in that it offers an excellent full QWERTY keyboard and affordable price tag. However, the Android 2.1 smartphone also suffers from slightly sluggish performance and shorter battery life, so if you need a high-performance machine, you're better off with the Mesmerize or Desire. If your top wants are a keyboard or a budget-friendly price tag, the Apex is definitely the better option than the similarly featured Samsung Acclaim Originally priced at $79.99, the LG Apex is now available for $49.99 after an $80 mail-in rebate.
Compared to other QWERTY sliders, such as the T-Mobile G2 and Samsung Epic 4G, the LG Apex is rather compact at 4.57 inches high by 2.22 inches wide by 0.62 inch thick and weighs 5.39 ounces. The handset isn't as wide as the others, so it feels more comfortable to hold. It's certainly not the thinnest of phones, but we found that it could fit into a pants pocket without problem. The Apex also has a solid construction, with a nice soft-touch finish on back.
Now, the one trade-off of the more trim design is a smaller display. The Apex has a 3.2-inch capacitive touch screen, whereas the G2 and Epic 4G have 3.7-inch and 4-inch displays, respectively. However, with an 800x480-pixel resolution and support for 242,000 colors, we found the Apex's screen to crisp and bright so we didn't find the smaller size to be a huge issue. There's also pinch-to-zoom support and a built-in accelerometer.
The touch screen was responsive in that apps and menus launched when we tapped the appropriate icons, but we found swiping and scrolling actions to be a little sluggish. For text entry, the Apex offers the standard Android keyboard, but the smartphone allows third-party apps, so you can download and install Swype (currently in beta) if you wish. Of course, you may find that you don't use the onscreen keyboard all that much since the Apex has a physical keyboard.
To be honest, when we first saw the keyboard, we weren't thrilled to see a D-pad on the right side, since we didn't have the best experience with the Motorola Droid, which also had a D-pad. However, LG somehow makes it work. Unlike the Droid, we could comfortably hold and type with both hands without needing to adjust for the D-pad. The buttons are raised above the phone's surface and are a good size and separated, so we didn't have too many mispresses. We also appreciated the dedicated number keys, as well as the home, menu, and search shortcuts.
Below the display, you get touch-sensitive menu, home, back and search keys, as well as physical talk and end/power buttons. On the left spine, there's a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port, while the microSD expansion slot and camera button are located on the right. A 3.5mm headphone jack sits atop the phone, and on back, you'll find the camera and flash.
The LG Apex comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 4GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.
The LG Apex offers a midrange set of features. It runs Android 2.1, bringing along with it such Google services as Google Maps Navigation, Google Talk, Google Latitude, and YouTube. The smartphone also comes preloaded with the ThinkFree Office Suite, as well as a number of U.S. Cellular services: My Contacts Backup, Your Navigator, and Tone Room Deluxe.