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Hands-on with the LG Motion 4G

We take the tiny yet scrappy Android 4.0 4G LTE phone for a spin.

LG Motion 4G
The LG Motion 4G is small but packs an LTE punch.
Sarah Tew/CNET

Finding a satisfying Android phone on a prepaid carrier is getting easier every day. Case in point, the new LG Motion 4G for MetroPCS. This pint-size $149.99 handset features Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, a 3.5-inch screen, and a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, plus 4G LTE data.

It's been a while since I've seen an Android phone that's as compact as the LG Motion 4G. The handset is so small, in fact, it took a while to get used to the way my fingers wrap completely around its plastic frame. Weighing a solid 4.48 ounces, though, the Motion 4G has a dense feel that belies its tiny stature. Also, while I can't say the device oozes luxury, it does convey a sturdiness that is comforting. Too bad it's not crafted from metal, my preferred smartphone material, like the HTC One V (Virgin Mobile).

LG Motion 4G
The LG Motion 4G's plastic construction is solid but not premium. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Motion 4G's 3.5-inch screen at first glance seems to get pretty bright, but its resolution looks low, rendering text and images way too blocklike for my tastes. There are three capacitive buttons in the form of Android functions (Back, Home, and Menu), which sit below the display. Above it is a VGA-quality camera that can snap vanity shots or conduct video chat in a pinch. Ports are typical for a midrange Android phone; on the left edge are small volume keys and a Micro-USB port, while the top holds a 3.5mm headphone jack and power button.

On the backside is the Motion 4G's 5-megapixel camera and LED flash plus a speaker. The back plate is textured, too, though it still feels slippery. Under the battery cover is a 1,700mAh battery that you can remove without interfering with the phone's microSD card slot. Still, adding widgets and app shortcuts from the app tray is easy, and Android will automatically clear a path to make room for new additions.

LG Motion 4G
On back is a removable battery and microSD card slot. Sarah Tew/CNET

Running Android version 4.04 Ice Cream Sandwich, the LG Motion 4G serves up four home screens by default but provides the option to add up to seven. The phone's interface certainly isn't stock Android, with LG's special user interface enhancements evident. Instead of spinning in carousel fashion like on HTC Sense handsets, or simply sliding from pane to pane to view home screens, icons will slide up and down retreating into the distance depending on which way your swipe.

LG Motion 4G
There are a few home screens to start, but you can add more. Sarah Tew/CNET

Despite being an affordable smartphone on a no-contract carrier, the LG Motion 4G's camera app offers plenty of shooting modes and settings. Image quality settings range from 1 megapixel and top out at 5 megapixels and you can manually adjust the ISO if you'd like. There's a Panorama mode, Continuous Shot, and even HDR (high dynamic range) function, too. Snapping a few test shots, the device captured images quickly. I'll hold my final conclusion on picture quality until I perform more tests.

LG Motion 4G
The Motion 4G's 5-megapixel camera has lots of extras. Sarah Tew/CNET

With its 1.2Ghz dual-core processor, the LG Motion 4G felt lively in my hands, churning through menus and apps with surprising pep. Frankly, it seems to have more punch than Sony's NXT line of Android handsets. Of course I reserve final judgement until I run some benchmarks.

Data throughput in New York on MetroPCS' 4G LTE network was nimble as well. Initial tests recorded downloads hovering around 6Mbps, once breaking 7.5Mbps. Likewise, download speeds almost reached a full 5Mbps.

For a moderately priced Android phone on MetroPCS, the LG Motion 4G offers quite a bit. It's also fast, boasts a quick LTE data connection, and Android 4.0 ICS. Stay tuned for our full review to see just how it stacks up.