This post brought to you by LG DoublePlay™. All opinions are 100% the writers.
The LG DoublePlay™ is a mid-range Google Android smartphone that attempts to redefine the hidden QWERTY keyboard market by adding a secondary display for multi-tasking.
The DoublePlay isn’t a device power users will gravitate towards and heavy text messaging users may be put off by the Smartphones awkward keyboard however for low to low-moderate use buyers the devices $99 price tag (typically with two year contract) and ability to process Google Android apps with ease should provide a decent experience in most conditions.
The LG DoublePlay isn’t a small device at 4.8″ x 2.52″ x .63 inches, largely due to the fact that the device supports a hidden sliding qwerty keyboard which makes any device a bit on the thick side, however outside of that fact the design is fairly standard when compared to most Google Android supported Smartphones, for example below the devices frontside display which takes up most of the devices realty users will find capacitive touchscreen buttons which are located far away from the edges to reduce the chance of accidental pushing.
Above the display users will find the earpiece while a front facing camera is missing, a shocking omission given the popularity of the feature in 2011.
To the right of the device the phone features up/down buttons for volume control. The rocker is well designed and sticks out comfortably for pressing however i’m use to using devices with the rocker on the opposite side of the device which made for slightly awkward operation.
To the left a simple flush design with a USB connection is available. Nothing else to say about this side other than the fact that your USB slot is well protected.
Meanwhile the rear of the device features a speaker for speakerphone output along with a 5MP camera and an LED flash.
Finally at the top of the device the LG DoublePlay features a 3.5mm headphone jack and a power/standby button, both of which are flush with the device, ensuring no design distractions for the decently slick device.
Oddly enough the plastic material that surrounds the display reminds me of the HTC Touch, a device that is more than three years old which shows the dating of the DoublePlay in terms of sticking with an old and uninspired outer appearance.
The LG DoublePlay features a 3.5″ HVGA (320×480 pixels) which is surprising given the number of low and mid-range devices that currently feature WVGA resolutions. While the screen is big enough to support the Google Android OS without viewing issues the display experience is muddled at best. For example when using the device in outdoor lighting it becomes nearly impossible to view the display which isn’t helped along by a weak low brightness output. One feature that did strike me as impressive was the devices use of deep color production which provided nice icons and program use when indoor lighting was utilized or when the device was used in the dark (great for a night out at the local bar).
Sliding open the device users are greeted with a secondary 2″ touchscreen display. This display offerings eight icons that are meant to make certain uses easier on the device, the icons include:
Text messages, music player, group texting, picture gallery, email, calendar, browser, and the social+ app.
While having a text messaging icon next to the devices full size QWERTY keyboard is a nice feature I didn’t really find that the shortcuts added to the overall experience. I also would have appreciated the ability to customized the DoublePlay secondary icons, a feature that is sadly not included.
Typically I wouldn’t devote an entire section of my review to a devices Keyboard however the DoublePlay’s entire existence surrounds it’s double displays which contain it’s sliding QWERTY keyboard.
Because the phone uses a secondary display which is centered inside the keypad users are required to use their thumbs to more easily type text messages. Half of the keyboard is located on the left side of the display and the other half are found to the right. When first using the LG DoublePlay the keypad setup was a bit distracting, especially with a bright display interfering with typing however 5-6 hours of use proved in my opinion that the keyboard is functional enough for most light typing users while “professional” text messaging users will catch on quickly to the overall design but will likely find it lacking.
Aside from a function key which provides a .COM output the keyboard is a fairly standard option, you won’t find dedicated Facebook buttons or other functions but it serves it’s overall purpose.
In darkened environments I did appreciate the very bright blue backdrop lighting found on the keyboard which made text entry extremely easy.
One qualm I had, because of the placement of the volume rocker it can be awkward to change volume levels when the keyboard is open since the rocker then sits behind the main display, it’s not a deal breaker and moving the button to the left side would have interfered with holding the device but it is slightly awkward.
If you simply can’t stand to use the physical keyboard at certain times the devices virtual keyboard is actually a better option in my opinion, not only is it more responsive then the physical QWERTY keyboard but it works well with certain Anroid applications that tend to offer smoother operation with a virtual keyboard. I actually found myself using the physical keyboard in outdoor lighting but then switching to the virtual keyboard for indoor and darker lighting environments where the display offered a more “rich” experience.
I personally find it amusing that the Google Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread OS and it’s virtual keyboard option is what made text messaging and email sending easier on the LG DoublePlay and not the company’s touted sliding QWERTY with multi-tasking secondary screen output.
A 5MP camera on a mid-range device is fairly standard and that’s what users get for their money a standard 5MP camera that offers colors on the “cool” side that can be easily drowned out in less than stellar lighting conditions. Indoor photos were bland under artificial lighting while the LED flash offered some assistance in low lighting shots but was drowned out by often grainy images that softened the final output of images.
In outdoor lighting some decent pictures were witnessed but hardly what I would call optimal options even on a lower-end 5MP camera.
One near saving grace for the LG DoublePlay is the camera’s ability to take decent 720P video recordings. Again lighting plays a big part in how well the image appears however the recordings for quick use are acceptable. The camcorder feature offers auto-focus and captures 30 frames per second with neutral color production. If the 720P recording camera has one major flaw it’s the scratchy audio that is recorded on the device, not surprising given the issues with call quality I outlined earlier.
Overall the LG DoublePlay’s camera won’t send you running to your local wireless store to pick one up but it’s still capable of capturing quick photos and videos that you don’t plan to file away in your special moments folder.
1GHz process technology has been around for the last 12+ months so needless to say I was a bit concerned that the device only featured a 1GHz option however I was pleasantly surprised by the smooth responsiveness offered by the DoublePlay. Even when several applications were being run at one time the device never really appeared to strain against heavy use. Would I have liked to see a faster processor? Of Course, but for a mid-range device the Smartphone controls it’s processing power well.
The DoublePlay’s GSM technology unfortunately didn’t offer crisp phone calls on the Smartphone users end. I regularly experienced muffled sounds and background noise, however callers on the other end of the line said my voice sounded fine. I would venture to guess that 60-70% of my calls featured unwanted noise that was slightly distracting but far from the worse I’ve experienced.
The Smartphone also features 3G speeds which are on par with most 3G devices, for example pages loaded decently with very few slow load times and connecting to downloads was swift and reasonable. While 4G connectivity would have been appreciated this is a mid-range device and for the price and specs offered it did the job.
If you simply need faster speeds the devices Wi-Fi is decent, providing faster pageload times than 3G while staying connected on both private and public WiFi networks. I didn’t have a chance to test hotspot functionality on the device however I will assume that the connectivity features in those areas will match the devices standard WiFi connectivity standard.
Also featured is Bluetooth connectivity which offers A2DP connectivity with excellent results. Google Android has always been great at managing music (this device is no exception) and streaming that music to an A2DP supported headset was simple. Then again you can also use the 3.5mm headphone jack to listen to your music choices. I did find some sharpness is tones when the headset was turned up full blast and while the equalizer function helped fix some of the devices noise issues it didn’t solve all “noisy” results at high volume levels.
When turning to the devices battery a full days use is possible if secondary screen interaction is avoided however you won’t want to miss that charge or you’ll be without a powered phone the following day. Considering that my iPhone 4 needs a charge every night I would say the LG DoublePlay is on par with other Smartphones in terms of battery charging needs considering that it offers two displays that must be powered.
First Look Video
Because the phone is such a unique concept here’s a video that show off the LG DoublePlay design:
While I wouldn’t recommend the LG DoublePlay to a heavy user of Smartphone or tablet technology the device does have some nice features that are worth closer examination for potential low-end to mid-range users.
If you want a simple device for occasional messaging, updating Facebook and perhaps using a few Google Android apps the LG DoublePlay should meet your needs and if needed your budget. If you’re new to the Smartphone market the QWERTY keyboard will likely be fine for you since you don’t “know any better” when it comes to text messaging comfort.
Perhaps if the LG DoublePlay had focused on a more sleek design it would look like a more modern device, as it stands it’s clunky, lacks a proper user interface on it’s secondary screen (give us customization options!) and provides mediocre call quality in more than half of all placed phone calls.
Perhaps $99 isn’t a bad price to pay for a Smartphone however $100 more can buy you an iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy or any other competent option that provides a more realistic picture of Smartphones available at the end of 2011.