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Thanks to the texting phenomenon sweeping the country, messaging phones are all the rage right now. From the Verizon Wireless Blitz to the Pantech Matrix, it looks like almost every national carrier has some kind of messaging-centric handset. Sprint has answered the call with a few of their own, and one of them is the unusual-looking LG Lotus. Sporting a square shape similar to the Blitz, it has a sleek and stylish design that is quite attractive. It also has high-end features like EV-DO and access to all of Sprint's 3G services. Perhaps the only niggling detail is its price-- the Lotus is $150 with a two-year service agreement. Sprint's other messaging phone, the Samsung Rant, offers the same features as the Lotus, but is $100 less. That said, the Lotus is certainly better designed, so it's your call on whether it's worth the extra money.
A recipient of the Red Dot Design Award, the design of the LG Lotus is what sets it apart from most other messaging phones. Sure the Verizon Wireless Blitz also has a square and compact shape, but the LG Lotus is not only small, it's slim and sleek as well. Measuring 3.3 inches wide by 2.4 inches tall by 0.7 inch thick, the Lotus is surprisingly chic despite its squat appearance. It comes in both textured purple and satin black, and both give the Lotus a nice sheen. The Lotus weighs around 3.7 ounces and has a soft-touch finish, giving it a comfortable feel in the hand.
Underneath the display is a thin silver strip that is actually home to three dedicated music player keys. They are the previous track, play/pause, and next track keys. You can hardly see them when the music player isn't activated, but when it is, the keys glow white. We appreciate that the keys are not touch-sensitive--unlike those of the LG Chocolate--but we wish there was some kind of texture difference between each key. Instead, the keys are completely flat and you need to look at what you're doing to make sure you're hitting the right one.
Right under the external music player keys are the Sprint logo, the camera lens, and the external speakers. To the left is the volume rocker and charger jack, while the right spine is home to a headset jack, a dedicated music player key, a dedicated camera key, and a microSD-card slot.
The Lotus comes with Sprint's new One Click navigation interface. This consists of eight shortcut tiles along the bottom of the home screen, and each tile can become any of 14 shortcuts to applications. You can even have a shortcut that leads to other shortcuts. As you flip through, you will get a small pop-up menu of the application's options. The Google tile, for example, pops up shortcuts to Google search, Google Maps, Gmail, and YouTube. You can also add a "bubble" to the home screen that either displays the latest headlines or your latest horoscope. We found the interface very intuitive and easy to use.
Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a square toggle with middle Menu/OK key, a dedicated speakerphone key, a Back key, and the Talk and End/Power keys. Underneath that is a full QWERTY keyboard, complete with a dedicated Text messaging key. The QWERTY keyboard is one of the best we've ever tried on a messaging phone. The keys are well-spaced, and each key has a bubblelike texture that is raised above the surface of the phone. The navigation keys are also roomy and easy to press.
The LG Lotus is not just a messaging phone-- it also comes with a host of multimedia and high-end features. But before we get to that, let's start with the basics. The Lotus has a 600-contact phone book, with room in each entry for six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, an instant-messenger handle, a Web address, and notes. You can save contacts to groups, and pair them with a photo, any of 35 polyphonic ringtones, and any of four vibrations for caller ID. Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, an alarm clock, a calculator, a scheduler, a voice memo recorder, a notepad, and a world clock. More advanced users will like the USB mode for PC syncing, voice command, instant messaging, e-mail, stereo Bluetooth, a mobile Web browser, and a document viewer. It also has A-GPS, which supports the Sprint Navigation and Sprint Family Locator services.
The Lotus comes equipped with EV-DO, allowing it access to Sprint's Power Vision. This includes Sprint TV for live on-demand television shows, Sprint Movies for on-demand movies, and Sprint Radio for streaming radio from more than 150 stations. Of course, as a multimedia phone, the Lotus also has access to the Sprint Music Store for wireless music downloads.
Speaking of music, the Lotus's music player is simple, but functional. You can either purchase songs over the air like we mentioned or transfer songs via USB. The player interface is pretty generic, with options for repeat, shuffle, and creating and editing playlists. You can send the music player to the background while doing other things like texting. The Lotus comes with 80MB of built-in memory, and if that's not enough, the microSD-card slot allows for additional storage.
The Lotus has a 2.0-megapixel camera, which can take pictures in four resolutions (1,600x1200, 1,280x960, 640x480, and 320x240), and three quality settings. Other camera options include brightness, white balance, spot metering, a night mode, five color tones, a self-timer, multishot, fun frames, a 4x zoom, four shutter sounds, plus a silent option. The built-in camcorder has editing options similar to that on the still camera. We liked the photo quality; images looked clear and sharp, but we did notice the colors appeared darker than usual.
You can personalize the Lotus in a number of ways. You can select different kinds of graphics for wallpaper and screensavers, different sounds for ringtones and alerts, and full games and applications as well. The Lotus comes with three games: Guitar Hero III, a demo version of JewelQuest2, and Space Monkey. It also comes with four applications: Google Maps, Loopt, NASCAR Sprint cup Mobile, and Social Zone. You can download more of these personalization options via the Sprint browser.
We tested the LG Lotus in San Francisco on Sprint's network. We were very impressed with the call quality overall. Callers sounded crisp and clear, without a lot of static. Speakerphone calls were quite good as well, albeit on the tinnier side. On their end, callers said we sounded loud and clear as well, though the voices sounded rather robotic, and they could still tell we were on a cell phone. Automated-calling systems recognized our voices just fine in a quiet room. Bluetooth calls were successful.
Music quality was decent. Bass was a little weak, but the melody and vocals sounded alright. We would recommend using a headset for better audio quality. EV-DO speeds were great. Streaming video from Sprint's PowerVision had no buffering issues. Video quality is similar to other Sprint TV phones. While typing out text messages, we found that text sometimes lagged behind our typing. This isn't a huge issue, but when it happened, we thought it was rather annoying.
The Lotus has a rated battery life of 5.6 hours talk time. Our tests reveal a talk time of 3 hours and 36 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Lotus has a digital SAR rating of 1.360 watts per kilogram.