As the saying goes, it's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, but the size of the fight in the dog. Fortunately for MetroPCS, one of its latest handsets, the LG Motion 4G, has a lot of bite.
Not only is this petite device 4G LTE-enabled, but it has a swift 1.2GHz dual-core processor and runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. In addition, its 5-megapixel camera has 1080p HD recording capabilities.
The most noteworthy feature about the handset, however, is its plan. MetroPCS released the phone in conjunction with its promotional $55-a-month unlimited talk, texting, and data plan. And, since the phone itself costs a reasonable $99 after a mail-in rebate, this phone is ideal for a penny-pinching, commitment-free user.
The LG Motion 4G is compact and small, measuring 4.37 inches tall, 2.39 inches wide, and 0.45 inch thick. It weighs 4.8 ounces and it fits in my petite hands comfortably. I could easily toss it in a small clutch or bag, and it fits well in the front or back pockets of my jeans. Though it doesn't have the most luxurious feel, with its all-plastic exterior, it does feel sturdy and dense.
To the left are a Micro-USB port and a volume rocker. Up top are a 3.5mm headphone jack and a sleep/power button. At the rear is a 5-megapixel camera with accompanying flash. Below that is a small slit for the output speaker. There's a small indent in the bottom edge that you can use to pry off the back plate, revealing a 1,700mAh battery and microSD card.
The device has a 3.5-inch Corning Gorilla Glass touch screen. Photos and video graphics were vivid and rich (especially when the brightness was cranked to its highest level), but the low, 480x320-pixel resolution is disappointing. Although menu icons were crisp, more complex images looked grainy and color gradients were streaky.
The display was responsive when I selected icons, swiped through menus, and played games. However, images were difficult to view in direct sunlight. Above the display is a VGA camera for vanity shots and Web chatting, and below are three hot-key navigation buttons that light up when in use: back, home, and menu.
The handset runs on a zippy 1.2GHz dual-core processor. Opening large apps (like games) is a snap, the camera's shutter is impressively speedy, and there was no lag time when transitioning back to the home screen.
The phone ships with the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, and comes with all the Google goodies you expect: Gmail, Search, Plus, Latitude, Play, Books, Music, Movies, and Store, Messenger, Maps with Navigation, Talk, and YouTube. Other preloaded content from Google includes Chrome (in addition to a native browser), Car Home, which lets users access phone features while driving, and Local, which scans the nearby area for popular restaurants and attractions.
Also included is a handful of MetroPCS apps, such as its hot-spot capabilities app; M Studio, which stores media files like ringtones; MetroPCS Easy Wi-Fi, a Wi-Fi hot-spot app; Metro411, which searches for and locates nearby businesses and restaurants; MyExtras, an entertainment and media app; and MyMetro, which lets you check your account balance and plan.
In addition, the Motion 4G's equipped with several basics 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; an emergency app that gathers emergency and Amber Alerts, Yahoo Sportacular for sport news; a mobile media suite called Pocket Express; and the mobile office suite, Polaris Office.
The device 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 through 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 them to a playlist, the service is intuitive and easy to use.
The device is equipped with LG's user interface, the Optimus UI 3.0, which isn't as stylishly simplistic as the vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich skin. The default icons are boxy (but are thankfully customizable), the widgets look clunky (especially the unattractive weather widget), and even though I like the Roboto font, the keypad and app drawer still look a little outdated. There are a few welcome changes, however, like the fact that you can access up to four apps of your choosing from the lock screen by simply swiping over their icons.
Camera and video
The 5-megapixel camera offers a variety of options: touch focus, a flash, a 15x digital zoom, face tracking, geotagging, a timer, and continuous, HDR, and panoramic shooting. It also has an exposure meter (-2 to +2); five image sizes (ranging from 2,560x1,920 pixels to 1,296x864 pixels); seven scene modes; four ISO options; five white balances; and four color effects. Two novel features are the "Time catch" shot mode that lets users choose and save the best shot before the shutter was pressed, and a voice command feature called Cheese Shot.
The front-facing camera offers the same exposure meter, white-balance options, color effects, timer, and geotagging feature, but only two scene modes, the Cheese Shot command, and one size (640x480p). There's also a "beauty shot" meter that lets you adjust the brightness and blurriness of an image. This comes in handy when you're taking self-portraits and want to soften the photo.