The sub-AU$200 smartphone range is a pretty drab-looking mob, a collection of small, plastic boxes with a fairly common, uninspiring aesthetic. LG is often the exception to this rule, offering handsets with sharp looks that disguise the lacking hardware beneath the chassis. The Optimus Me is a good example of this; its plastic body is moulded into a nice curved shape, with a steel-grey coloured strip dressing this unit up like a pinstripe along a sharp-looking suit. On the front of the phone, LG adds physical calling buttons in addition to the standard Android navigation keys, and on the back you'll find the handset's 3.2-megapixel camera lens.
Central to your experience with this phone is its 2.8-inch capacitive touchscreen, and we'll guess that whether you buy this phone or not is a decision based on your impressions of the display. LG opts for HVGA resolution in this already small screen, and the result is small icons, small text onscreen and a tiny QWERTY keyboard to compose messages with. LG does give you the option to convert this small keyboard into a more manageable T9-style keypad, but either way, using this phone for messaging has been a struggle for our stubby sausages.
If you get past the size and usability of the display, the Optimus Me delivers an impressive user experience and a range of features that you'd probably expect to pay a lot more for. This handset runs on Google's Android operating system (version 2.2) and LG keeps the customisations to a minimum. There are a handful of LG-designed widgets, but this is mostly a stock Google experience.
Most importantly, this is a fast, responsive experience. The touchscreen feels snappy and accurate, so navigating around the five user-customisable homescreens and dipping in and out of applications is fast and gives the appearance of a much more powerful machine than you are actually dealing with.
Mobile phones under AU$200 don't tend to offer the best in camera technologies, and the Optimus Me is no exception. The 3.2-megapixel camera is minus both a flash and an auto-focus, and the shutter speed is about a second too slow to take a picture with sharp focus. The colours in the images we took were over-saturated, though this is an effect that many people will appreciate rather than reject.
Media and the web
As with all Android smartphones, the Optimus Me offers a great Web-surfing experience. With the hardware under the hood, we saw page-load times on par with some of the better phones of last year, which is a respectable result for a pre-paid phone of this year. The tiny screen is, again, the problem, with some pages being difficult to read at the default zoom and hyperlinks being tricky to select accurately.
Multimedia playback isn't one of the strong suits of this budget-priced smartphone. The Optimus Me only played one of our standard test video files — a low-resolution MP4 file — and refused to play others that we would expect to use on an Android device, like a file in the WMV video format. Music playback was better, though LG keeps it simple with a stock Android music player which lacks extra features like equaliser settings.
The Optimus Me has mostly exceeded our expectations during testing, delivering speed and reliability on par with the more expensive Android devices of last year. In benchmarks, the Me produced results similar to those that we saw from the Xperia X10 and the HTC Desire before its many firmware revisions. We also played a number of popular games available on the Android Market, like Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja, and found the Me more than capable of handling these titles.
The smaller screen contributes to a reasonable battery life of nearly two days, with LG opting for a generous 1250mAh battery in this pint-sized smartphone. Call quality is acceptable, too, with decent volume and clarity from the earpiece speaker and good microphone performance as well.
The Optimus Me delivers a fast, slick user experience, but this is mitigated by its small display. Android is a complex system and we really feel that you need more than 2.8 inches of screen to use this system comfortably. At AU$199, the Optimus Me delivers a lot for such a small price tag, but we'd still suggest finding an extra $50 and choosing the better LG Optimus One or, if you feel you can handle the small screen, the Huawei Ideos — a handset with a similar spec, but for half the price.