There’s a certain stigma around any phone that violates the “Stock Android Experience” when it comes to the molten core of the Android community. This volatile group of hotheaded tech gods have a very clear opinion of what Android should look like, and everything else is garbage. Me? I absolutely love anything that’s new. New things are exciting, they force people to think and to change and to do anything BUT remain stagnant. So, when this gigantic box landed on my doorstep this morning when I knew for a fact that the only thing I was supposed to be getting today was the LG Optimus Black for T-Mobile UK and Orange, I had a great feeling that I was going to get to play with something a little less “normal”.
Now, I don’t know whether or not this is the box the phone shows up in when you purchase it, but in my opinion it should. LG greets the users, whoever he/she might be, with a fantastic story of why the phone exists, and what they did to make it spectacular. When the story is over, you get the phone, and you’re already prepared to appreciate it. Out of this epic tome of a phone box comes a power cord/USB cable combo, a set of earbuds, a 2GB microSD card with a SD socket card, and a flat black pencil and notepad that match the box it came in. Slide the microSD card and your SIM of choice in and you’re ready to go.
The Black is very thin, incredibly light, and still feels extremely sturdy in the hand. The back of the phone is curved as you get closer to either side of the phone, but still mostly flat across the back, giving you very organic-feeling places to put your fingers. Across the top of the phone you have the power button, USB port, and the audio jack. The glossy black front and matte black back meet along the side of the phone with the volume rocker and the “G” button on the left hand side. The virtual keys are barely visible unless light is shining directly on them, though they glow very brightly when needed and flash a deep shade of blue when you tap any of them. Accessing the battery means nearly splitting this phone in half, as the battery plate wraps itself around the phone, giving it such a sturdy feel. Take care in removing the plate – once you get the first few snaps undone, the plate feels quite fragile.
It’s not stock Android, that’s for sure. LG opted for their own custom skin that, at first glance, probably has a few UI designers at Samsung scratching their heads. Once you get beyond that first glance, though, LG’s UI is actually very intuitive. Offering up options like the ability to organize your launcher into folder-like sections, and some pinch and zoom quick access in both the homescreen space and the launcher. What really set the UI apart for me was the way you go about attaching things to your homescreen. A very nice menu/UI has been setup to allow for simple navigation and drag and drop of the add-ons you choose. The design is not unlike what’s been seen in Android 3.0 or the homegrown MIUI rom. The stock virtual keyboard seems unable to keep up with the speed in which I type, and as a result mistakes are often made. The UI doesn’t affect any apps and is customizable right down to the launcher, which puts it a step above half of the other UI skins out there today. Android 2.2 is getting a bit tired, however, so let’s hope 2.3.4 is ready for this device soon.
As a single core phone, the Optimus Black is not the most powerful phone out there. In fact, it’s OMAP processor is about the same as the Droid X when it comes to raw power according to benchmarks. However, it’s packing a much more powerful GPU and benchmarks along the same grade as the Droid X for performance on Android 2.2.
Stay tuned for a full review of the LG Optimus Black!