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[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The LG Vortex, offered in the US by Verizon, is billed as an entry level Android smartphone. At USD 80 after discounts with a two-year Verizon contract, it is less expensive than many other Android phones. Yet it seems to have all the bells and whistles found in Android phones. We decided to take a closer look at what might have been sacrificed for its smaller price tag.

The LG Vortex comes in a small white box, as shown in Figure 1. The contents of the box, shown in Figure 2, include a USB charger, the wall charger that can be used with the USB charger, and the Vortex phone itself. A standard lithium ion battery and a 2 GB MicroSD card come preinstalled. This phone usually comes with a quick reference guide and a product safety and warranty brochure, but these were not shipped with our demo unit.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 1: The box

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 2: The box contents

The Vortex itself, shown in Figure 3, is a typical bar-type keyboard-less phone. It has rounded corners and except for a thin metallic band surround and a plastic screen cover, the phone is covered with a black soft-touch finish. This finish makes the phone easy to grip, yet allows it to slide easily into a purse or pocket. Overall, the Vortex has a sturdy look and feel. It is very similar to the LG Optimus T from T-Mobile and the LG Optimus S from Sprint and has many of the same specifications.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 3: The LG Vortex

[nextpage title=”The Hardware”]

The LG Vortex has a 3.2" 262,000-color LCD touchscreen. It can’t compete with the much higher resolution displays of high end smart phones, but it is adequate for everyday use. In fact, even when zooming in on web pages, text and images were clear and smooth. The capacitive display was responsive and the phone has a proximity sensor and accelerometer, as found in most smart phones. The plastic cover on the screen has a slight bit of give to it, but this did not cause us any problem.

Under the screen are four physical buttons, Menu, Home, Back, and Search. As shown in Figure 4, these are in a contrasting gray color. There is a slight separation between the keys which makes them easier to find without looking. They also have a nice tactile response and we find them preferential to the on-screen keys used on some Android phones.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 4: The navigation buttons

On the right side of the Vortex has an up/down volume toggle, as shown in Figure 5. As with all of the Vortex’s side, top, and bottom ports and buttons, this button is placed on the metallic strip. It is nicely raised and easy to maneuver.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 5: The right side of the Vortex

The left side of the Vortex, shown in Figure 6, has just one opening which is a covered slot for the microSD card. The Vortex comes with a 2 GB card and can handle cards up to 32 GB. We liked the easy access that the placement of this card slot provides.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 6: The left side of the Vortex

The bottom of the Vortex is shown in Figure 7. There is a MicroUSB port for charging and connecting to the computer and a hole for the microphone.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 7: The bottom of the Vortex

The top of the Vortex, shown in Figure 8, has the Lock/Power button on the left and a standard 3.5 mm headphone port on the right. Between these is a notch which can be used to remove the back of the phone.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 8: The top of the Vortex

The back of the phone is shown with the cover on in Figure 9 and the cover off in Figure 10. Figure 9 shows the 3.2 Megapixel camera and the speaker. Figure 10 shows the large lithium ion battery.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 9: The back of the Vortex

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 10: The back with the cover removed

[nextpage title=”Using the Vortex”]

One of the places that LG used to lower the price of the Vortex is in the processor. While most Android smartphones have at least a 1 GHz processor, the Vortex has a lesser-powered 600 MHz processor. The Vortex, however, seems to be snappy enough for everyday use. We noticed a slight slowdown when we used processor intensive processes like the “Live” ever-changing wallpapers. Also, even though Android 2.2 supports flash, you cannot play flash videos on the Vortex because of the hardware limitations. This is an obvious thing you will be giving up to save a little money.

At 3.2,” the screen is a little small. This is obvious when viewing web pages and when using the on-screen keyboard. The Vortex has Swype, which we really like, but the on-screen keys are just slightly smaller than most.

Calls that we made and received on the Vortex were loud and clear. The only times we noticed a bit of crackling was on the rare occasions that we had a very low signal. The LG Vortex has a rated talk time of seven hours and 30 minutes and a standby time of 20 days and 20 hours. However, our Vortex conked out after only five days with minimal use. We don’t think this is a major flaw, since most people who own these smart phones get quite used to having to charge them every night. With average use, the Vortex will get you through t
he day.

As shown in Figure 11, the Vortex has on-screen buttons for the Phone and Contacts on the left and Messaging and the Browser on the right. Between these is a black on-screen icon that lets you bring up the applications screen. As with other Android phones, you can use the Android Market place to download additional Apps.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 11: The home screen

Like other Android phones, the Vortex has a useful notification shade that can be pulled down to show the current notifications. The Vortex, however, has an additional feature. When the notification screen is open, there is a row of settings shortcuts up the top. These include quick access to the sound, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Background Sync features and are shown in Figure 12.

LG Vortex Cell Phone ReviewFigure 12: The notification shade

The Vortex also has other phone features including a conference calling, voice dialing, a voice recorder, and text and multimedia messaging. It also has capable email functionality including access to POP3, IMAP, and Exchange email as well as a universal inbox.

With additional fee to Verizon, the Vortex can also be a mobile hot spot for up to five other devices. The Vortex also supports visual voicemail. We should, however, mention that Verizon charges and additional monthly fee of USD 2.99 for visual voice mail, which is included in AT&T’s iPhone subscriptions.

The Vortex has five home screens and two more can be added. Like other phones of this type, these screens are highly customizable with apps, resizable widgets, folders, and wallpapers. We were able to use Skype Mobile with little effort.

Unlike some of the major changes that Motorola and Samsung make to the Android interface, the LG changes seem minor and much more subtle. For instance, the contact list is slightly different in that it gives you the last status update for each contact just below the person’s name in the full contact list. You can also do a few unusual, but useful things like view only contacts with phone numbers.

There were, however, also things we didn’t like. We had more difficulty setting up a POP mail account on the Vortex than with other Android phone and this may have been because of certain LG customizations. We also noticed differences in the Facebook and Twitter applications and we liked the regular Android apps better, but this may be a matter of preference.

Two things we didn’t like about the Vortex interface was that it was tied to Bing as the search engine and that some applications could not be removed. So we could not make Google the default search engine and we were unable to uninstall the demo versions of Tetris and Scrabble even though they were unplayable without the purchase of the full versions.

[nextpage title=”Browsing, Multimedia and Camera”]

The Vortex uses the standard Android WebKit browser. Although not as speedy as some, webpages draw fairly quickly. The typical pinch and spread can be used to zoom in and out. As mentioned earlier, while you can view YouTube videos, this phone does not support Flash.

The music and video players are standard Android applications, which are fairly bare bones, but they do support a large variety of media formats including MP3, WMA, unprotected AAC, DivX, WMV, MP4, and 3GP. You can sync music between the PC and the Vortex and you can also create and manage playlists. The speaker is loud enough to use to listen to music as long as you are in close proximity.

The 3.2 megapixel camera on the Vortex has many features, but lacks a flash, so it is only useful in lighted environments. There are three picture quality settings and five resolutions. Using the best resolution and highest picture quality, the phone takes decent pictures. Color representation is good, even though very slightly faded. Like many camera phones, you will need a steady hand.

We were especially impressed by close-up photos which under well-lit conditions were crisp and clear. You can adjust the ISO, white balance, and color effects and there are six scene modes (Automatic, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night, and Sunset).  There are also minimal editing tools, like crop and rotate. With Android 2.2 comes a new image gallery that groups images in stacks by date or in your own custom albums. You can also easily send photos to others or upload them to the Internet

The video recorder can capture video in 640×480, 320×240, and 176×144 resolutions, but were of pretty poor quality.

[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]

The main specifications for the LG Vortex cell phone include:

  • Dimensions: 4.47 x 2.32 x 0.52 inches (113.5 x 58.9 x 13.2 mm)
  • Weight: 4.4 oz (124.7 g)
  • Camera: 3.2 Megapixel
  • Operating system: Android 2.2
  • Screen: 3.2" external touch screen with tactile feedback, 262K color TFT, 320 x 480 pixels
  • Bluetooth: 2.1 + EDR
  • Technology: CDMA
  • Frequency: 1.9 GHz CDMA PCS, 800 MHz CDMA (Digital Dual-Band)
  • Data Transmission: EVDO rev. A, EVDO rev 0, 1xrTT
  • Battery: 1,500 mAh
  • Usage Time: up to 450 minutes
  • Standby Time: up to 500 hours
  • More Information: https://www.lg.com
  • Carrier in the US: Verizon Wireless
  • Average Price in the US: USD 310, USD 180 with a two-year contract, USD 80 with a two-year contract and on-line discount, plus a data package (USD 15 mininum), USD 350 early termination fee

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

LG cut a few corners to make the Vortex a less expensive option. This is obvious in the weaker processor which also results in the inability of the phone to display Adobe Flash websites. It can also be seen in the lack of the flash on the camera and the low resolution of the screen. That said, however, most users will still find this an adequate Android phone. It is a way to get an Android smart phone that is less expensive than the higher end models. It may suffice for you as long as you are aware of its limitations.

Strong Points

  • Solid construction
  • Good call quality
  • Good speaker
  • Android 2.2
  • Stereo Bluetooth with voice dialing
  • Mobile hotspot capabilities

Weak Points

  • Processor weaker than most smart phones
  • Bing as default search engine cannot be changed
  • Pre-installed apps including demos cannot be uninstalled
  • No flash on camera
  • Low screen resolution
  • No Adobe Flash support