LG Optimus L3 II review

Pros

  • Nice software features
  • LED notification lights
  • Clever voice-responsive camera

Cons

  • Very poor screen
  • Chunky build
  • Minimal internal memory

LG was so pleased with its Optimus L3, L5 and L7 handsets that it has reused the model names for 2013, bringing forth the Optimus L3 II and Optimus L5 II. I’m looking at the smaller and less expensive of the two here, the Optimus L3 II. This is a tiny, low cost Android handset being sold at a rock bottom price. For example, O2 has it for £69.99 on Pay and Go.

Looking at the price you’ll realise right away that you can’t expect anything hugely exciting from the LG Optimus L3 II but even bearing that in mind the physical design of this phone is a bit of a shocker. It is short and thick.

Now the shortness I don’t mind so much. After all, with a screen that measures just 3.2in - the 101mm of height seems perfectly reasonable. But at 12.1mm thick the phone is unduly chunky and I found this very noticeable.

Still, the build is quite solid and LG has managed to exercise some design skills in putting a narrow silver banding round the edges of the handset. At least this helps break up the overall heavy appearance.

LG has also given you some lighting to play with. Beneath the screen is a physical home button that is flanked by two touch buttons for Back and Menu functions. You can set the backlight of these two touch buttons to be always off, always on, or on for a range of durations when one of them is tapped (1.5 seconds, 3 seconds or 5 seconds). It is a level of user control that you simply don’t get with many handsets, however high-end their specifications.

There’s a bit more too. The central physical home button is a lozenge with an LED surrounding it. This can be set to illuminate in different colours for an incoming call or to notify you of a missed call, SMS or email. It can also be used as an alarm alert, calendar notification or a battery charge indicator when the screen is off. It is all quite neat, though it's a shame the colours are pre-set.

The clever features don’t stop there. The 3-megapixel camera is nothing special by any stretch of the imagination, and it lacks a flash. But LG equips it with what O2 refers to on its website as the Cheese Shutter. There’s no camera side button, but you can set the camera up to automatically activate if you say a pre-defined codeword. You can select from five words – ‘cheese’, ‘smile’, and three rather odd ones – ‘whiskey’, kimchi’ and ‘LG’.

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Now, this sounds all well and good, but to activate it you need to be in the camera app and to have tapped the voice activation button on screen. But after that, you can hold the phone up to frame your shot and yell ‘smiiiiile’ (or one of those other words), and a photo is taken. It works, but it is a bit, well, cheesy.

I also like the lock screen. It is nothing special to be able to unlock the handset directly into up to four apps, but I like how you can pull down the notifications bar and access any notification items or sweep diagonally inwards from either of the bottom corners to go to the app you used last. It’s quite sophisticated stuff for a lower end phone. I also like that incoming SMS messages show on screen till you dismiss them, and it's easy to respond to one just by tapping it. Young users, at whom this handset is largely aimed at, are likely to love this feature.

While I am mentioning neat features I have to give some space to Quick Memo. This is precisely what it seems to be – a little app to use when you want to make notes. It can be launched from the notifications area, which means you can get to it even when the phone is locked down. With it you can write to the screen freehand using either an app as the background or an empty screen. Notes are saved as image files. It is a neat idea, and on a device with a larger screen it would potentially be handy, but the LG Optimus L3 II's screen is so small that it is difficult to make any kind of meaningful note before you run out of space.

You can select a couple of different fonts for the display and choose between two sizes. The size options might help you make more of the small screen, but they can do nothing for its quality, which is poor. Those 3.2 inches house a mere 320 x 240 pixels. This is nowhere near enough for many tasks, including efficient web browsing.

You can’t expect very much from the internals of a handset that costs as little as the LG Optimus L3 II. The 1GHz single-core processor is a little lethargic and it isn’t helped any by the presence of just 512MB of RAM. Things can feel slow at times, particularly if you want to open a large gallery album or render a complex web page. But on the whole, things are acceptable given the phone's price. Speed is no doubt helped by the presence of Android 4.1, which is slicker than its predecessor. There is 4GB of built-in storage, too, but I found that only 1.6GB was available. A microSD card can expand on this, and the slot is protected under the backplate.

Battery life seems good. The 1,540mAh battery doesn’t have a particularly hungry processor or large screen to power, and it's hardly likely that you’ll be doing too much demanding stuff because of the screen. I got through a day easily, but that was because I felt disinclined to do many of the things I normally do with a phone, including web-based and GPS-assisted stuff.

Verdict

The LG Optimus L3 II is a chunky little phone with a very disappointing screen. However, If you can live with that, there are a few features that give it a lift, and it's actually not too bad value for money.

Specifications

Manufacturer and model

LG Optimus L3 II

Network

GSM 850/900/1800/1900

HSPA 900/2100

Processor

1GHz single-core

RAM

512MB

Memory

4GB

Memory expansion

MicroSD

Display

3.2in, 320 x 240 pixels

Main camera

3-megapixel

Front camera

None

Wi-Fi

Yes

GPS

Yes

FM radio

Yes

Battery

1,540mAh

Size

101.7 x 61.2 x 12.2mm

Weight

106.4g

OS

Android 4.1