LG Optimus G Sprint: Zero to Meh in Microseconds
My old HTC Evo 4G phone died week before last. I had to buy a new phone. I was tired of bumping up against the memory and processor limits of this phone, and swore my next phone had to be a quad-core processor phone.
At the time, the most popular performance phone -- and the best performing Andoid phone available on Sprint -- was the Samsung Galaxy S3. The version on Sprint, however, was dual-core processor. While that may suit now, I suspect I'll be pretty unhappy with the performance at the end of the two year term, given the way the platform and app markets are moving. (Plus, while I like my wife's S2, I'm just not loving the S3. It feels big and clunky and flimsy.)
I was geeking along with everybody else with the new Google Nexus 4 phones just announced. There is a lot in these phones to be excited about, including the fact that they are being offered unlocked at a stunningly affordable price. And, yes, they are quad core processors.
The Nexus 4 won't work on the Sprint network, so I'd have to switch to T-Mobile (which does offer an unlimited 4G data plan) or AT&T (yeah, that ain't gonna happen) which is a bit of a hassle. The dealbreaker is that the Nexus 4 is not 4G (LTE or WiMax), it's just really fast 3G (HSPA+).
It turns out, however, there was another option. The LG Optimus G was going to be available in just one week, and Sprint was accepting pre-orders. This is the same hardware platform as the Nexus 4. It would be one level back on its Android version (Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean), and it would have vendor bloatware instead of the straight-up Android reference release. But it would be the same platform -- just what I was looking for. So I bought one on pre-order.
The Optimus G should be available to the public next week. I got notice from Sprint that my pre-order phone shipped overnight delivery Thursday, and I received it Friday afternoon.
Here are some initial impressions.
First, the physical phone is everything I wanted. It looks and feels great. It's a smidge bigger in my hand (and in the display) than the HTC Evo 4G. But it's still a comfortable size, and fits comfortably in my pocket. It feels like a phone, not at all a pad.
The display visuals are good, and everything is operating well.
That's the good news. The list of bad news is lengthy.
I had a lot of difficulty getting the phone activated, and at one point Sprint wanted me to send it back for another unit. The online activation (transferring my ESN from the old phone to the new one) failed. I called tech support, and was transferred to three different support people trying to get this activated.
My first sign that this was going to be a bad experience -- that Sprint did not have all their support in place for the new phone -- was when the first support person asked me to remove the battery to get the ESN code for activation. The Optimus G is a sealed unit. You can't get to the battery. (The ESN is printed on the box.)
I pitched a temper tantrum when the third person told me to RMA the phone for a new handset. That didn't make sense and I had already been a week without phone service. Fortunately, after trying again they got it to work.
I am forcing myself to use the LG launcher, to try to get used to it, and I am completely hating it. I hate that there is a Google search bar ever-present at the top of every screen, with no way to remove it. I hate that you can't group or hide apps in the app drawer, so the bloatware you never want to use is always there.
The contact app is unusable. When it pulled my several hundred contacts from Google, they were inexpecably exploded into thousands and thousands of duplicates. They allow you to merge the duplicate contacts, but only one at a time. That is unaccepatble.
As I mentioned before, the Android version is one level back, Ice Cream Sandwich instead of Jelly Bean. I knew that going in, and I assume there will be an upgrade in a few months, but I don't have to like it.
I am having difficulty with USB file transfers. That's because Ubuntu Linux does not have good MTP support integrated. That's not an Optimus G issue ... every new Android phone is this way, and that's just something I'm going to have to deal with.
Here is a big problem: the Optimus G has a locked bootloader, which means you may never be able to run alternate ROMs. Even worse, there currently is no reliable method to root the phone, so popular apps such as "Titanium Backup" and "Wireless Tether" won't work. I figure somebody will figure out how to root it at some point, but it a severe deteriment to me not being able to use root apps now.
The worst problem, however, is that I bought this phone because I wanted 4G access, and only now I'm realizing that Sprint has not built-out their LTE network in Austin. (Boy, and do I feel like an idiot.) I'm seeing reports of towers just going up now, and a few isolated regions of coverage. So it might be here soon, but it isn't here now -- at least not in the regions of town where I need it.
That last bit is a total fail, because I bought this phone instead of the Nexus 4 due to the 4G support. I got the support, but now I'm realizing there isn't a network to connect to.
I realize that I bought on the bleeding edge, and I realize that every complaint I identified likely will be resolved either through time or through some download through the Android market. Still, I think I would be much happier right now if I had bought the Nexus 4 instead.
The big question is, would I still be happier with the Nexus 4 nine months from now? Possibly not, if all my concerns get addressed. I need to decide whether I want to gamble on that coming true, or whether I should return this handset.
Nov 12 update: I'm a lot happier with the phone today. This process for rooting the phone worked. I was able to get MTP transfers working, but not with the packages provided with Ubuntu. I'm working on a blog post that describes what I had to do. Finally, I replaced the LG launcher with Go Launcher EX. The only issue that remains on my list is the thousands of duplicate contacts in my address book. Oh, and the lack of Sprint LTE network in Austin.
Nov 13 update: And now the contacts problem is solved. The issue is that the automatically collected "Other Contacts" collection was full of crud. I went into the contacts app and did: Display Options -> Choose Contacts to Display -> Customize and disabled everything but the "My Contacts" group.