The LG S310 is a cheap feature phone for mobile users on a tight budget. Its classy exterior belies the humble tech beneath and the lack of 3G makes online access a chore, but it's a solid choice for undemanding consumers. It packs a decent camera for the price, too. The LG S310 is available for around £30 on pay as you go deals, with SIM-free handsets selling for around £80.
Looks can be deceiving, and when you first lay eyes on the LG S310's chrome-effect casing and slim lines, you'd be forgiven for thinking this was a slick and expensive handset. The device absolutely blows away the competition in terms of aesthetics, but the technology contained within is more in line with its budget brethren.
Although the LG S310's casing is fashioned out of plastic, the faux-metallic materials lend it a reassuringly solid feel. Despite its thin size and low weight of 86g, it's doesn't feel flimsy or delicate. There's also no sign of creaking joints when you grip the phone tightly in your hand.
The LG S310's alphanumeric keypad boasts large buttons that are easy to text with, although touchscreen lovers will have to become accustomed to old-fashioned T9 texting again. Both the keypad and the navigation pad above are backlit by blue LEDs, and this makes typing the dark as easy as falling off a log.
Budget phones are typified by poor screens, and sadly the LG S310 doesn't do very much to break the mould. The 2.2-inch, 176x220-pixel resolution TFT display can cope with menial tasks, but viewing Web pages or high-detail images is irksome.
On the plus side, the screen is bright and doesn't suffer from the unequal distribution of backlight intensity that afflicted the similarly inexpensive Nokia 1616.
The LG S310 is running a custom operating system, so don't go expecting any Android-style smart-phone hijinks here. It's basic but highly intuitive, and even the most novice of mobile users will be able to figure everything out without having to consult the instruction manual.
Java apps come pre-loaded, and you can download additional programs and install them to the phone's 15MB internal memory. This means you can download the Google Gmail Java application and run it from the handset -- a neat trick if you're looking for rudimentary email access on the move.
Although the LG S310 supports Bluetooth and USB file transfer, there's no 3G or Wi-Fi. Instead you'll need to make do with 2G and EDGE, neither of which is going to offer blisteringly fast data transfer speeds. For smaller files, you can use the phone's Bluetooth data connection. This limits the phone's ability to serve as a Web-browsing tool, as pages take an age to render, even on the low-resolution display. It's also cumbersome to navigate large pages, and unless you zoom right in close, text just looks like an ill-defined blur.
The LG S310 comes with a suite of Java apps, one of which grants mobile access to social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.
We've seen other budget phones attempt to offer such connectivity and fail miserably (Mojo Chat, we're looking in your direction) and unfortunately LG hasn't been entirely successful, either. The issue is that the Java app provided is woefully lacking in features and functionally, and it takes ages to load -- if it loads at all. Being able to access your social stream on the fly is a real bonus, but when the experience is this clunky you're probably better off saving your pithy 140-character witticisms until you're in range of a proper computer -- or just texting them in.
Surprisingly, the LG S310 has a 3-megapixel snapper. Many phones in this class have terrible cameras or even no camera at all, so it's great to see a budget blower with more to offer in the photographic department.
Granted, it's a fixed-focus affair and the resultant shots are hardly going to make Nokia N8 users quake in their boots, but they'll suffice. Video recording is also possible, and despite heavy pixellation during fast movement, the standard is acceptable for a phone of this class.
If you plan to use the LG S310's camera or its music-playback capabilities you'll almost certainly need to invest in some kind of microSD card. The phone supports sizes of up to 8GB.
Lamentably, there's no 3.5mm headphone socket, so if you're keen to use the LG S310 as a portable music player, you'll have to make do with the dedicated pair supplied in the box.
Although the 900mAh battery supplied with the LG S310 is way below the capacity you might expect to find in a modern phone, it lasts surprisingly long. LG quotes 800 hours of standby time, a boast which is no doubt aided by the lack of 3G connectivity.
We're not sure that figure is entirely achievable with everyday use, but we managed to get a good few days out of the device before it was in any danger of running out of juice. If you're looking for a lightweight phone which sips rather than gulps at its power source, this ranks as a good choice.
It's testament to how good the LG S310 looks that we had colleagues passing by our desk and assuming it was a new and expensive smart phone. Despite the low price point, LG has crafted a seriously attractive handset. Its thin and elegant frame is likely to turn heads.
Slightly less appealing are the average screen, low internal memor, and lack of 3G connectivity. Even these faults, however, are balanced out somewhat by the solid battery life and easy to understand menu system -- not to mention the bargain price tag.
As a phone for a youngster or an elderly family member who is new to all this mobile malarkey, the LG S310 is highly recommended. It leapfrogs over other budget phones like the Nokia 2220 Slide and Motorola Moto WX295 to become one of the best (and most attractive) phones you can buy for under £50.
Edited by Nick Hide