In some ways, designing a prepaid mobile must be more difficult than designing the flagship model for a brand. After all, a prepaid model must be cost effective, but it can't appear to be. The Optimus Spirit is a good example of this, with LG choosing solid-feeling plastic materials for the handset — although the Spirit is a handset that would never be mistaken for something more expensive.
LG's decision to use a 3.2-inch HVGA LCD display is generous at this price point, though it's also the minimum you'd hope to have in an Android smartphone. Any smaller, or less clear, and you'll notice it in everyday use. As it stands, the screen here is fine; it's colourful, there are enough pixels to work comfortably and the panel isn't recessed too deeply below the glass, so there is decent richness in the blacks and darker notes.
The look of the Spirit isn't particularly pleasing, but it's definitely functional. The external buttons are a little smaller, and the power button in particular is hard to press. On the back is a 3-megapixel camera, but no flash, and under the battery cover (and battery) is a microSD card slot, but no microSD card.
User experience and performance
LG adds colour to the stock Android Gingerbread experience with the same custom interface overlay that we saw earlier this year on theand the , minus some of the more processor-taxing widgets, like the 3D clock/weather widget. These omissions show that LG was concerned that the 800MHz processor in the Spirit wouldn't handle the complete LG Android experience, but we'd argue that LG didn't go far enough in its trimming back. The user experience, although perfectly functional, is a bit sluggish in a number of places across everyday use.
If you find the jerkiness of the animation across the system irritating, you can turn off most of the animations in the system menu. Start by selecting the hardware Menu button, then choose Settings. Under Display, you'll see the Animation option, and you'll be able to choose to show only some animations or turn them off altogether. This doesn't help to smooth out the transitions when sliding between screens, but it will help the phone feel a bit faster overall.
These criticisms shouldn't be confused with criticisms of LG's UI, though. Even the system is a bit too taxing for the hardware included, and the UI is still well designed and adds some important usability enhancements. We love that you have several app-drawer layout options, and the quick settings and music player on the notification curtain.