If the LG Vortex looks familiar to you, that's because it's essentially Verizon's version of the LG Optimus T from T-Mobile and the LG Optimus S from Sprint. It has many of the same specifications--it's billed as an entry-level Android smartphone and it ships with Android 2.2, Wi-Fi, GPS, a 3.2-megapixel camera, and EV-DO, and it can act as a 3G mobile hot spot. However, Verizon has added its own flair to it, for example by giving it Bing search and Bing maps, with no way to switch those services over to Google. It's also not nearly as affordable as the other two Optimus devices, at around $79.99 after a $100 rebate and a two-year service agreement with Verizon Wireless. We do think the Vortex is a great device for first-time smartphone users, but it's just not as good a deal as the competition.
As we mentioned, the LG Vortex looks very similar to the LG Optimus handsets, especially the LG Optimus T. It measures 4.47 inches long by 2.32 inches wide by 0.52 inch thick, and is dominated by a large touch screen in the middle. It's wrapped in a soft-touch plastic coating and has rounded corners for a comfortable feel in the hand. At 4.5 ounces, the phone is lightweight and is very pocket-friendly.
The aforementioned touch screen is a 3.2-inch 262,000-color LCD display. We really like it even though it's not as vibrant as the Super AMOLED display on other Verizon Android handsets like the Motorola Droid X. The 320x480 resolution results in sharp images and text, and graphics are colorful as well. You can adjust the screen timeout timer, the brightness, and the animations when opening and closing applications. We like how responsive the capacitive display felt, and we're glad to see the phone has a proximity sensor and an internal accelerometer.
The Vortex has the standard Android 2.2 user interface for the most part. You get the usual five customizable home screens along with four shortcuts along the bottom. They correspond to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the main menu, a messaging inbox, and the Web browser. The phone dialer app has a roomy virtual keypad and a generous number input area, and you can easily access the call log, contacts list, favorites list, and a new text message from it as well. As for text messaging, we're happy to see that the Vortex has the Swype keyboard installed to provide an alternative to the standard multitouch Android keyboard.
However, the Vortex does have a few user interface differences when compared with the Optimus T. For example, instead of the Google search widget, it uses Bing. You also get Bing Maps instead of Google Maps. As far as we know, it's not possible to change these services unless you go through the trouble of rooting the phone. Bing is not a bad experience by any means, but we do think that users should be able to switch these services to Google if they want, especially as Android is seen as a Google-friendly operating system.
The physical keys are where the Vortex differentiates itself from the other Optimus handsets. It has all four keys in a single silver panel, with grooves separating each one. They're also arranged slightly differently--the Vortex starts out with the pop-up menu key, then the Home key, the Back key, and the Search key. On the right spine is the volume rocker, while the left spine is home to the microSD card slot. On top are the 3.5mm headset jack and screen lock/power key, the Micro-USB port is on the bottom, and the camera lens is on the back.
As we mentioned, the LG Vortex ships with , which is the latest Android firmware as of the Vortex's launch date. Android 2.2 had several improvements over 2.1, such as voice dialing over Bluetooth, app storage on a memory card, a new camera viewfinder, app sharing, Facebook integration, and a universal inbox. Even though Android 2.2 technically supports Flash 10.1 in the browser, the Vortex does not have this feature due to hardware limitations. The only way you can play videos is via YouTube or a third-party application.
The Vortex has plenty of other features that will make power users happy, though. You get both Wi-Fi and 3G in the form of EV-DO Rev. A, and you can use the Vortex as a 3G Mobile hot spot for up to five different devices. Keep in mind that you need to sign up for the Mobile Broadband Connect plan for $20 a month if you want to use this feature. There's also Bluetooth with A2DP, object push, dial-up networking, and file transfer support. The Vortex also has GPS, which you can use with the aforementioned Bing Maps as well as Verizon's own VZ Navigator.
Verizon has included a few of its other apps on the phone as well, such as Backup Assistant, Mobile IM (a hub for Windows Live, Yahoo, and AOL Instant Messenger), City ID, My Verizon Mobile (for quick access to your Verizon account information), V Cast Tones, V Cast Videos, and V Cast Music. LG has included a couple of its own apps too--there's a Twitter app and a Facebook app that were both designed specifically for LG. The functionality of both is similar to other Twitter and Facebook apps, except with LG branding.
Other apps that come preloaded on the Vortex include Amazon's Kindle, Scrabble, Skype Mobile, Slacker, Tetris, an RSS reader, a News and Weather app, a calculator, a calendar, and ThinkFree Office. Of course as an Android phone it comes fully loaded with Google apps like Gmail, Google Talk, YouTube, and Google Voice Search. The browser is the standard Android WebKit browser. Unfortunately, these preloaded apps can't be uninstalled. You can always get more apps via the Android Marketplace.