The LG GT540 looks like a version of the delightful LG GW620 Android phone minus the keyboard, at first glance, but don’t be fooled. There have been quite a few changes, especially in the slightly updated Android brew it’s running. Are they worth trading in a full QWERTY for though? Find out here in our LG GT540 review.
We’re a little bit puzzled by the LG GT540’s design, especially after the pleasant smooth lines of the LG GW620 and LG Cookie Fresh GS290: the thick profile and tapered top and bottom edges make it look like a LG Viewty model from 2008, and not an especially attractive one at that. But the LG GT540 is much better specced, with GPS and Wi-Fi built in, a 3.5mm audio port on the top, hot swappable micro SD card slot and a smooth back panel holding a (admittedly crusty) three megapixel sensor.
The 3-inch HVGA screen is also pleasantly crisp, if resistive. It’s just about feasible to use the landscape QWERTY keyboard for sending short emails, but most of the time you’ll be falling back on the portrait 0-9 numberpad method: the LG GT540 is very much a phone for casual users who want the occasional smartphone app, rather than messaging obsessives who want a physical keyboard.
The LG GT540’s build though belies the thoroughly modern software it’s running: Android. While not the latest version (It’s running Android 1.6 rather than 2.2), we don’t think this will be much of an issue for the target audience, and the tweaks are welcome for the most part. Like Samsung, LG has cottoned on that it might be a good idea to stick those GPS and data toggles in the pull down notification bar (Google, please make this the norm), and the browser is easy to use and doesn’t hog screen real estate with opaque buttons.
While we like LG’s additions, we’re not so happy about the pointless apps Orange has stuffed onboard, should you pick it up on the network in the UK. While we quite like what T-Mobile and Vodafone did with Android on the T-Mobile Pulse Mini and Vodafone 845, Orange’s additions are just futile. Contacts back up? Orange Maps? Does Orange not know that Google provides these things as core services on Android? Granted, Orange’s attempts are optional, but they’re also misleading for novices who will turn to the first things in the menu, and we’d like to see the network either give up on this approach entirely, or go back to the drawing board.
In truth though, if you know your way around Android, beyond slapping shortcuts on the LG GT540’s homescreen, Orange doesn’t really ram these down your throat, and all the core Google apps like Gmail, Maps and the Market are still present. We think you’ll still be pleased by the LG GT540. That’s down to its delightful media player – something budget Android phones are not usually known for.
While it doesn’t do anything fancy like link to related YouTube videos a la the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini, its clear and simple UI is, just as on the LG GW620, idiot proof, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that LG has expanded Android’s core video format support – you can now play back AVI files without a hitch, so this is one of the few Google phones you can dump those dodgy downloaded TV shows onto without a hitch.
This, and Google Maps Navigation, are the two reasons we’d recommend the LG GT540 over the older, and very affordable GW620. Otherwise, if we’re going to have to put up with a resistive screen, we’d take the QWERTY keyboard and older Android bake any day. And unless you can find a cheaper option than £20 per month over two years, we’d just go for the HTC Legend instead – no compromises there.
Read the rest of our LG GT540 review
LG GT540 review: Build and touchscreen
LG GT540 review: Android 1.6