No matter what mode we used, we were only ever able to obtain mediocre results.
There are plenty of adjustments you can make within the camera app, however. Face tracking and macro modes are included, along with a variety of scene modes, ISO controls (with 400 being the max), five white balance settings plus color effects (like sepia and negative exposure themes) can be applied as well. There's a multitude of shooting modes, including useful ones like continuous shot for sequential pictures and panorama mode alongside more whimsical options like smile shot (which triggers the shutter when it detects a smile) and face effect (which creates mosaic and fish-eye photos, among other effects). The myriad options aren't without appeal, but we wish LG had given the DoublePlay a better camera with which to employ them. No matter what mode we used, we were only ever able to obtain mediocre results. We should also mention that the DoublePlay comes without a front facing camera, which means you won't be video chatting with your friends -- a shame considering the phone's second screen could be put to good use in such a scenario.
Many of the features for still shots can be used when shooting video with the DoublePlay as well. Recordings can be taken in up to 720p, and performance is, as it was taking stills, nothing to shout about. Videos are choppy when shooting moving objects, and results get worse the faster the action gets. Colors, once again, are somewhat pale and washed out, and the camera is slow to adapt when moving from dark objects to lighter ones.
Performance and battery life
Speaking of battery life, we got six hours and 40 minutes out of the DoublePlay's 1,500mAh cell using our standard test: looping video with screen brightness at 50 percent, WiFi and GPS on, plus Twitter polling every fifteen minutes and push email enabled. In our real world usage test -- making a few calls, checking email, and some web browsing -- we had almost 30 percent of the battery left by the end of our workday. The battery's endurance is better than say, the 1,400mAh unit in our Thunderbolt (which isn't saying much), but it isn't the most miserly phone we've used, either. As for benchmarks, well, the DoublePlay doesn't pack bleeding edge internals, and the scores below reflect that fact. It even froze up once or twice while we were putting it through its paces.
Despite its modest silicon, and middle of the road benchmarking prowess, we found few faults with the DoublePlay's daily performance. Web pages load and render quickly enough, with only the occasional hiccup scrolling through content. Similarly, swiping through Android home screens was a smooth experience, and the phone had no problems playing games, music or video.
The LG DoublePlay comes running Android 2.3.4 with Swype's software keyboard
and a plethora of applications preloaded. There's the usual magenta-clad wares like Bobsled cloud and group texting, T-Mobile TV and visual voicemail along with a handful of games, including Tetris and Sim City Deluxe. Those games require an additional download to play (and are only a demo at that), so at least they don't take up too much space -- a bonus considering they can't be uninstalled. Speaking of unremovable bloat, the phone comes carrying a bit less of such software than we've seen before, a welcome change, to be sure. Aside from the standard Android system applications, T-Mo saw fit to add Slacker, TeleNav GPS, Blio e-reader, DoubleTwist, Polaris Office and Zinio (among others) to the DoublePlay's memory banks, plus Lookout's mobile security and backup suite as well.
Among the more useful apps is "Car Home," which provides direct access to voice search, navigation, contacts, call log, music and the dialer with large onscreen buttons to make them easy to use while on the road. You can also add custom shortcuts if the preprogrammed apps don't fulfill your Android automotive needs. We found this application quite handy, as it allowed us easier access to the apps we most often use while driving than would have otherwise been possible.
Apps on the secondary screen work in conjunction with the main display. There are nine apps that use it to provide a variety of functions (though oddly enough, there's only room for eight on the screen). Messaging, music, browser, e-mail, social, calendar, Richnote, photo and Bobsled group text are the chosen ones, with each app providing varied levels of utility. For example, the browser app gives access to your bookmarks via a vertical carousel of webpage thumbnails, while email gives you a list of inbox messages, the social app lets you scroll through a list of recent tweets and Facebook posts, and the calendar shows what's in store for the day. Emails, posts and webpages open on the primary display, so for those apps, the smaller screen simply serves as a navigation tool. The messaging, music and Richnote note-taking apps are fully functional, however, letting you listen to music, compose notes or send and receive text messages while surfing the web and using other applications on the main screen. Of course, it's not true multitasking, as apps opened on the big display are paused as soon as you start scrolling through emails or Facebook posts on the smaller one. We should also note that there's some contextual awareness to its operation as well -- open the browser on the big screen, and the small screen automatically shows you the carousel of your bookmarks.
In our time with the DoublePlay, we found the second screen most useful as a messaging and note-taking device. It was quite convenient to jot down notes about webpages as we read them and sending and receiving SMS without having to exit our game of Angry Birds was incredibly convenient. Overall, the second screen is a successful addition to the phone, and far from being a gimmick, we found it a handy productivity tool.
We must admit: before laying hands on our review unit, we weren't sure whether the DoublePlay's second screen was more marketing ploy or useful feature. After spending some time with the device, however, we can say that it provides some significant utility. The two-inch panel improves the smartphone experience by better enabling Android's quasi-multitasking abilities (in certain apps), but it's by no means a must-have feature. If you have the need for a hardware keyboard, are a messaging maven and crave a handset that stands out from the crowd, the DoublePlay may be just what you're looking for -- just know you'll be sacrificing video chat due to the lack of a front-facing camera and you'll pay for the privilege with weighed-down pockets.