We'd really harshed on this phone prior to its release, because... well, when you're used to flip phones looking a certain way, it looks kinda funny. In the flesh, though, the LG Lotus looks just fine -- once you get past the fact that it's basically a perfect square when closed -- and anyone who does a lot of messaging should probably take note.
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LG Lotus hands-on
We were checking out the matte black model this time around, but the stylized purple version seems tastefully done if you're looking for something just a little fancier (random factoid: the purple version has matching purple numeric keys, while the black's got gray). It's not the perfect shape in the hand nor against the face, which probably explains why every other flip in the world is longer and narrower -- but it's still comfortable enough, and it's a reasonable compromise considering the full QWERTY keyboard you're getting in return.
QWERTY messaging phones are all the rage right now, and for the most part they're being billed as cheapo devices geared at a younger set. While we'd argue that young'uns are still going to be the Lotus' main target demo, the phone feels as well-constructed as anything we've tested recently -- rock solid with no creaks, rattles, or wiggles. We bet this thing could take a beating.
Speaking of the keyboard, this is where the Lotus shines. It's not the best keyboard we've used (we like a bit of curve), but the keys are domed enough to keep typos to a minimum -- and hey, let's keep things in perspective: this isn't a BlackBerry, it's just a text-focused dumbphone. To that end, there's a dedicated Text key in the lower right that'll take you straight to the new message screen, which is a nice touch (and a trend we've seen on other recent phones like the Highnote). If you're trying to text someone who isn't in your contacts list, you can't just type the number -- you have to first add the contact, which seems like an unnecessary step and a minor annoyance.
Sprint's new standard dumbphone UI really shines on the Lotus; the toolbar is horizontal and the Lotus' display is landscape, so it's basically a perfect match. It looks great and dumps a lot of functionality onto the home screen that you'd have to go several menu levels deep for on competing devices. It also helps that the Lotus employs a relatively large, easy-to-use d-pad that doesn't try to get fancy with doodads or gimmicks -- it's just your basic, well-constructed four-way. You've also got a dedicated speakerphone key up here -- a rarity for a phone in this class. We're not so sure how often folks who are buying the Lotus are going to be talking on a speakerphone, but on the flipside, something like an internet key doesn't make too much sense with the toolbar just one click away on the home screen -- so we're cool with it.
Would we recommend the Lotus? If messaging is a priority, absolutely -- we were shocked by how good it looks in person, the keyboard's serviceable, and Sprint has obviously put a lot of thought into the operation of One Click. In fact, it looks and feels so good that it could easily be mistaken for a smartphone costing two or three times as much -- and ironically, that might be the phone's Achilles Heel: we can definitely envision people who need a more powerful device being sucked in by this one. If it sticks to the right market segment, the Lotus is a killer.