For most messaging enthusiasts, there's nothing like clacking away on a physical keyboard while drafting up texts and emails. But while some devices feature small, cramped keyboards, T-Mobile's $360 off-contract LG Optimus F3Q conceals a comfortable board with plenty of room to let those fingers fly. (And yes, in case you're wondering, the "Q" in its name stands for "QWERTY.")
This slider handset contains plenty of respectable mid-level specs as well: a decent 5-megapixel camera fulfills your casual photo needs, 4G LTE speeds keep you connected, and an IR blaster lets you control your TV.
Sure, the Optimus F3Q isn't banging on all cylinders when it comes to the latest in mobile technology. It isn't even the highest-end messaging handset compared to the BlackBerry Q10's theoretically faster processor and greater memory capacities. Yet, for it's price and solid performance, the Optimus F3Q is worth considering for any prepaid user looking for a reliable QWERTY phone.
The LG Optimus FQ3 looks similar to its QWERTY-less counterpart, the original F3. However, this version struts an attractive dark blue battery door, which is accented with a shimmery (but subtle) tile pattern. It's also thicker, given that it struts a keyboard underneath the display.
At 4.82 inches tall, 2.55 inches wide, and 0.55 inches thick (122.43mm by 64.77mm by 13.97mm), the device is compact (in terms of QWERTY handsets) and comfortable to hold. With the aforementioned keyboard, however, keep in mind that it'll be heavier than your standard smartphone. In fact, the Optimus FQ3 tips the scales at 6.41 ounces (181.72g), and you'll notice its presence easily when it's in your jean pockets, or placed between your shoulder and face during a phone conversation. This isn't necessarily a deal breaker by any means, especially since it does have a keyboard to carry around, but it is something to keep in mind.
The shiny blue keyboard underneath sports five rows, and includes a row for numbers, four navigational arrows on the bottom right, and shortcut buttons to open the memo app and Google Now. The closing mechanism is sturdy, and I can easily open and close the keyboard with one hand. Each key is generously sized and spaced, and I didn't have any difficulties typing out messages. I especially like the expansive space bar, and the convenient back, home, and menu keys located to the left of it.
On the left edge lives a volume rocker and Micro-USB port for charging. The top edge houses a 3.5mm headphone jack and an IR blaster (more on that later), while the right features a sleep/power button.
You'll find the 5-megapixel camera and flash on the back, which sits above the audio speaker (indicated by two small slits). You can remove the back plate to access the 2,460mAh battery and the microSD card slot, which is capable of up to 32GB of memory expansion.
The 4-inch WVGA display has an 800x480-pixel resolution and 233ppi. Granted, this doesn't make it the sharpest screen compared to top-tier devices, as evident by the aliasing one can see when zooming into texts up close. For the most part though, the screen is excellent. It's easy to view in sunlight (as long as brightness is cranked all the way up), it's responsive to the touch, and photos and videos still look clear.
Above the screen in the upper left corner is a VGA front-facing camera. Below you'll find four hotkeys that light up white when in use. The buttons consist of back, home, recent apps, and menu, but if you can long press the home key, you can launch Google's Now service.
The handset features Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, and while it'd be nice to see it running a more recent version of the OS, you'll still get your usual collection of Google apps: Chrome, Drive, Gmail, Search, Plus, Hangouts, Maps, Photos, access to the Play store's Books, Games, Newstand, Movies & TV, and Music portals, and YouTube.
T-Mobile loaded a small number of its apps in as well. You'll get T-Mobile My Account, which gives you information about your phone and data plan; a trial subscription to the caller ID service Name ID; and apps that help set up your visual voicemail and mobile hotspot. Lastly, the media streaming service T-Mobile TV offers a 30-day trial to channels like Fox News and ESPN.
LG's Optimus 3.0 user interface comes with a few signature software features. Some include the option to customize app icons (under two different themes), and QSlide, a multitasking function that enables you to view and resize apps (like the browser and calculator) while using other apps or viewing the home screen.
There's also LG's branded note-taking app, QuickMemo, which lets you jot down notes or sketches directly over images onscreen, and the multi-tasking app tool, QSlide. QuickRemote is also included, which works in conjunction with the aforementioned IR blaster on the top edge, and turns your Optimus F3Q into a universal remote for things like TVs, DVD players, and projectors.
As for basic apps, native browser and email clients are preloaded, as well as a calculator, a calendar, a clock with alarm functions, a memo pad, a weather app, a dictionary, a to-do list, a voice recorder, a voice dialer, and voice search.
There are a few other goodies too, such as two file-sharing apps (SmartShare and FileShare), the Polaris Viewer 4 mobile office suite, a language translation app, and Lookout Security, which backs up data and scans apps and files for malware. Additional features include a mere 4GB of internal storage, 1GB of RAM, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0.
Camera and video
Photo quality for the 5-megapixel camera was satisfying. With ample lighting, objects looked clear and sharp, and colors appeared true-to-life. When I took a shot of a flower up close, the pedals in the foreground were in focus and vibrant. Indoor pictures taken with dimmer lighting showed a noticeable amount of digital noise and artifacts (especially where dark hues are concerned), but objects were still easy to make out. In addition, the camera itself was nimble -- the shutter reloaded quickly after it was clicked, and there was no little to no lag between my moving of the camera and the feedback I saw in the viewfinder.
Both the 5-megapixel camera and the front-facing VGA camera offer five white balance options, a brightness meter (from -2 to +2), four color effects, a timer, geo-tagging, and a voice shutter function that lets you operate the shutter by saying certain words like "cheese" or "whiskey." The two cameras also have Night and Portrait+ modes, with the latter enabling users to adjust the brightness and blurriness of an image.