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LG Doubleplay (T-Mobile) review: LG Doubleplay (T-Mobile)

LG Doubleplay (T-Mobile)

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Nicole Lee
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Nicole Lee Former Editor

Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.

8 min read

LG Doubleplay (T-Mobile)
7.0

LG Doubleplay (T-Mobile)

The Good

The <b>LG Doubleplay</b> has a vibrant and sharp display, a 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor, Android 2.3 Gingerbread, DLNA support, Wi-Fi calling, mobile hot-spot support, full Webkit browser with Adobe Flash, support for T-Mobile's 4G/HSPA+ network, a 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and great call quality.

The Bad

The LG Doubleplay's quirky dual screen and split keyboard design is a little too strange for us. It's a hefty and bulky handset, and has poor battery life.

The Bottom Line

The LG Doubleplay has excellent features for a midrange Android smartphone, but its bizarre design is not for everyone.

LG has been a messaging phone mainstay for some time, from the early days of the LG enV feature phones to more advanced handsets like the LG Genesis and the LG Enlighten. But none of them have ever looked anything quite like the LG Doubleplay. It is the first phone we've seen that incorporates two touch-screen displays, where one of them is wedged in between a split keyboard. The design is undeniably quirky, and we're certain not everyone will be pleased with it.

Yet, the dual-screen configuration does offer unique multitasking abilities, and the phone is rich with features--it ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, a 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor, a 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi calling, DLNA support, mobile hot-spot capabilities, support for T-Mobile's 4G/HSPA+ network, and more. It's even priced affordably at $99.99 after a two-year service agreement. In the end, the bizarre design just doesn't work for us, but it might for those willing to try something different.

Design
In its closed position, the LG Doubleplay is a veritable brick of a phone. At 4.8 inches long by 2.5 inches wide by 0.63 inch thick, the Doubleplay is a large and hefty handset, weighing in at a whopping 6.7 ounces. Its size is softened by gentle curves and rounded corners, and the smooth matte finish along the bezel and back gives the phone a sophisticated feel. The dark brown color that coats the Doubleplay is called "Truffle" to imply luxury, and we especially like the silver accents along the sides plus the long strip of brushed metal on the back.


The LG Doubleplay has an unusual dual display design.

On the front of the phone is a very luminous and vibrant 3.5-inch HVGA TFT display. The 320-by-480-pixel resolution serves the display well, and we were impressed by the crisp and colorful graphics and text. The Doubleplay's capacitive touch screen felt responsive to our taps and swipes, perhaps thanks to the phone's 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor. Beneath the display are four touch sensor shortcut keys for the Menu, Home, Back, and Search functions.

The Doubleplay has LG's own Android interface, which consists of four shortcuts along the bottom of the display for the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging menu, and the main menu. These shortcuts persist through the main menu, where the main menu shortcut is swapped with a home shortcut. In the main menu, the apps are divided into separate categories, and you can expand and collapse them by pinching in or out. There are up to seven customizable home screens. As far as manufacturer skins go, the LG interface is not as complex as others, so we don't mind it as much.

Slide the Doubleplay open and you'll immediately see where it got its name. Instead of a regular QWERTY keyboard, the keyboard is split in half to accommodate a second 2-inch QVGA subdisplay in the middle. You can fit up to eight customizable shortcuts on the tiny display, and you can drag and drop them to move them around. The subdisplay is designed only for certain default apps like messaging, e-mail, the browser, the music player, GroupText, and Social+.

The idea behind having two displays is so you can multitask and perform two different functions simultaneously. For example, you can type out a text message on the subdisplay while checking your e-mail on the main display. It also lets you toggle activities within the same application. With the browser, for example, you can view the Web page on the main display and use the subdisplay to flip through Bookmarks or tabbed windows. The same goes for the messaging app--you can swipe through existing messages on one display, and type out a new one on the other.

You can also "send" apps between displays. On the subdisplay, you'll often see an arrow on the upper left corner of an app. Tap that, and the application will be "sent" to the main display. Inversely, you can select the "Send down" option in the menu of the main display so that the app appears below on the subdisplay.

While we understand the theory behind the two displays, we can't say we're convinced. We just don't see ourselves multitasking in the manner the Doubleplay suggests, and the subdisplay ends up being more annoying than helpful. Further, we're not fans of the split keyboard. The keys themselves are large enough, and we appreciate their raised domed texture so it was easy to type. But we're used to resting our thumbs in the middle and reaching across to the other side, which is now not something that's encouraged due to the center subdisplay. We also found that we could no longer just type without looking at the keyboard. It could be a matter of getting used to it, in which case there is definitely a slight learning curve.

On the left spine of the Doubleplay is the Micro-USB port, while the volume rocker is on the right. On the top are the 3.5mm headphone port and the power/screen lock button. Set inside the brushed metal strip on the back is the camera lens, while the LED flash sits next to it.

Features
The LG Doubleplay ships with Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, which adds a few improvements over 2.2 Froyo like a snazzier interface and a much more intuitive virtual keyboard. The Doubleplay includes Swype along with the default Android keyboard, which is a good alternative if you're not keen on the aforementioned physical keyboard.

As with all Android phones, the Doubleplay serves as a gateway to Google's apps and services. The phone ships with Gmail, Google Talk, Google Search with Voice, Google Maps with Navigation, Latitude, Places, and YouTube. The Webkit browser supports Adobe Flash, and you can get your own e-mail via POP and IMAP in addition to Gmail. Corporate workers will like that the Doubleplay has full Microsoft Exchange support as well.

Along with the usual PIM tools like a calendar, calculator, and voice dialer, the Doubleplay comes with a slew of preinstalled apps. They include 411 & More, Bejeweled 2, Blio e-reader, CMAS emergency alerts, DriveSmart, Cloud Text (T-Mobile's cloud-enabled messaging service), GroupText (T-Mobile's group messaging service), Lookout (a backup and security app), Polaris Office, Richnote, SimCity Deluxe, Slacker radio, T-Mobile Name ID, T-Mobile TV (T-Mobile's video streaming service), TeleNav GPS, Tetris, Facebook, Twitter, and Zinio. Unfortunately most of these preinstalled apps are not removable. You can, of course, download more via the Android Market.

The Doubleplay has the usual connectivity features like GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, and Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n). We're happy to see that it also has mobile hot-spot support for up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices. But what makes the Doubleplay intriguing is that it also supports T-Mobile's UMA-based Wi-Fi calling, which lets you make calls over Wi-Fi. Calls over Wi-Fi are not deducted from your plan's minutes. We were able to switch calls between cellular airwaves and Wi-Fi seamlessly as we wandered in and out of our wireless network. It's definitely a great way to save money and minutes.

Aside from Slacker radio, the Doubleplay has the default Android music player, which works well for the most part. It separates out songs into albums and artists, and you can create playlists right on the app. The video player is decent as well, and you can stream pictures and videos via DLNA to other compatible hardware. It has 2GB of built-in memory plus a 2GB pre-installed microSD card. The phone supports up to 32GB cards.


The LG Doubleplay takes sharp pictures, but the color is often rather overcast.

The 5-megapixel camera on the Doubleplay is quite good. It has a several features like digital zoom, autofocus, and even face detection. The resulting photo quality was tack sharp, though we thought colors were unfortunately overcast most of the time. You probably want to do a bit of post processing to make the colors really pop. It supports 720p HD video recording too. Most of the videos we recorded were decent, but they were often shaky.

Performance
We tested the quad-band LG Doubleplay (GSM 850/900/1800/1900MHz; UMTS/HSPA+) in San Francisco using T-Mobile. Call quality was very impressive. On our end, we heard our friends very clearly, with hardly any static or background noise. They sounded loud enough as well.

On the other end, our callers reported stellar call quality as well. Both volume and clarity were great, and our voice sounded clean and natural. They didn't even hear much background sound even though we were in a relatively noisy environment. Speakerphone quality was good, too--they often couldn't tell whether we were on speakerphone or not.

LG Doubleplay call quality sample Listen now:

The Doubleplay supports T-Mobile's version of 4G, which is HSPA+ 14.4 that promises a theoretical maximum of 14.4Mbps download speeds. In the real world, we encountered an average of 1.2Mbps down and 0.8Mbps up. That's still not a bad speed in comparison to most 3G handsets. The full CNET page loaded in 20 seconds, while CNET mobile loaded in around 6 seconds. This isn't bad at all, considering it also loaded all the Flash content on the page.

While some might lament the lack of a dual-core processor, we found the 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor more than sufficient. There was barely any stutter or lag when scrolling or swiping through lists and screens. There was about a 2-second shutter lag with the camera app, however, and the app itself takes around 2.5 seconds to launch.

The LG Doubleplay has a rather poor rated talk time of 3 hours and a standby time of 11 days. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 0.71 watt per kilogram.

Conclusion
If you disregard its quirky design, the LG Doubleplay is actually a remarkably solid Android smartphone. It ships with Android 2.3 Gingerbread, and has plenty of great features like Wi-Fi calling, mobile hot-spot capability, and support for T-Mobile's 4G/HSPA+ network. We're also mostly impressed with the 1GHz Qualcomm Scorpion processor, and LG's Android overlay does not offend us. Yet, we can't help but be put off by the bizarre subdisplay set right smack dab in the middle of the keyboard. We understand the multitasking reasoning behind it, but we don't think it's necessary--it feels like a solution waiting for a problem. The dual displays might even be a big contributor to the rather lackluster battery life. If you're willing to suspend your prejudices, you're welcome to take a chance with the LG Doubleplay for $99.99 after a new two-year service agreement with T-Mobile, but excuse us if we don't share your enthusiasm.

LG Doubleplay (T-Mobile)
7.0

LG Doubleplay (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 7
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