A small, but steady niche is growing for the under Rs. 10,000 smartphone market in India. We see models like the BlackBerry Curve 8520, Samsung Galaxy 5, Spice Mi-310 among various others making a name for themselves. The popularity of these devices are increasing and many people are opting for these entry level smartphones. LG has also entered this foray by launching the LG Optimus ME P350 which runs on Android 2.2  along with a multitude of apps. Read on to see how well the LG Optimus ME P350 fared in our review labs.

Not too shabby in the looks department

Not too shabby in the looks department

Design and Build Quality
The LG Optimus ME P350 has a candybar design with a 2.8-inch touchscreen. The phone is quite stylish with its black, silver and grey combination. Other color options are available in the market. The QVGA TFT screen has a resolution of 240 x 320 pixels with 262,000 colours. Below the screen are the four capacitive touch sensitive buttons with the option for menu, back, home and search. Below these capacitive keys are two physical buttons; one for making a call and the other to end it. This end button can also switch off the phone as well as put it into sleep mode.

On the right of the phone are the volume keys which have a nice dark grey finish to it. On the left is the concealed mini USB port which can also be used to charge the phone. On the top of the phone is a 3.5 mm jack that can be used for connecting to headphones or speakers. At the back of the phone is the 3 megapixel, fixed focus camera which has 2x digital zoom.

The battery bay of the LG Optimus ME P350 is completely concealed by the plastic back cover. Under the cover there is a slot to house the battery, as well as the SIM card. To the left underneath the cover is a hot swap micro SD card slot. The Optimus ME P350 comes with 155 MB of internal memory and can support a 32 GB micro SD card. This feature is pretty impressive for an entry level smartphone. Overall the build quality of the phone is solid and sturdy; however, I would have liked a flash for the camera.

Features and Performance
Interface
The LG Optimus ME P350 comes with Android 2.2 aka FroYo and is loaded with LG’s own user interface. First time Android users would find this OS and UI quite simple to maneuver through. Like other Android devices, the Optimus ME P350 has multiple home screens that are fully customizable. The responsiveness of the handset is a little buggy at times with there being a noticed lag as well as the OS hanging on a couple of occasions.

In the main menu there are a wide variety of applications preinstalled by LG and a nice feature of this is the ability to create categories. For example, separate categories can be created for similar applications like music oriented apps, business apps, etc. I tried out the Angry Birds game from the Android Market and noticed a slight lag whilst playing. Typing messages or emails is very easy as there is an option to change the keyboard from being a QWERTY keypad or a standard phone keypad. Either way typing was very smooth on both with no lag.

Native web browser was not too bad

Native web browser was not too bad

Multimedia
The LG Optimus ME P350 can play a wide variety of audio formats such as MP3, WAV, WMA and eAAC+. The audio quality on the mono speaker of the phone is average with but some amount of distortion. Bundled with the phone is an in-ear headset that looks and feels very cheap. The audio output of these ear phones is low. I tested the phone with a separate set of ear phones but the audio quality remained under par. This could also attribute to the fact that there are no on board presets to manually adjust the settings. The Optimus ME comes with a built in FM Radio and the quality was quite impressive even in areas where the reception was limited.

Video codecs like MP4, H.264, H.263 and WMV can be played on this handset through its native video player. I tested iPhone/ iPod Touch video content on the LG Optimus ME, and the playback was average with a slight delay in between scenes. WMV and other file formats, at slightly lower resolutions played flawlessly. After downloading RockPlayer from the Android Market, most formats are playable on the handset. I tried .FLV, .MPEG-4, 3GP and a variety of other formats and they all rendered well.
Connectivity
LG has fitted a lot of connectivity options onto this entry level handset which is 3G enabled and capable of HSDPA data speed up to 3.6 MB/s. 3G tethering is also possible on the LG Optimus ME P350. Along with 3G, the device also supports EDGE and GPRS connectivity. This quad band handset is also Wi-Fi enabled and can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The call quality of the phone is really good with no distortion or call drops. People on the other end could also hear my voice clearly and I had no complaints whatsoever regarding the call quality. The quality of the calls was tested in areas where the network reception is low.

The phone also has USB 2.0 support as well as Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP. Overall, where connectivity is concerned, the LG Optimus ME P350 did well.

Entry level LG Optimus running on Froyo

Entry level LG Optimus running on Froyo

Social networking apps like Facebook and Twitter are preinstalled in the Optimus ME thus removing the need to download it manually from the Android Market. Activating email on any Android handset is a breeze and activation is done just once upon activating the handset.  The native Internet browser that comes with the handset is average and one can download alternative browsers from the Android Market.

The LG Optimus ME P350 comes pre loaded with a ton of apps. LG has integrated a few of their own apps in the handset as well as preinstalled a lot of third party apps in it. LG has also offered apps like the LG App Advisor, LG MobileTV and LG World. Besides these, LG has also thrown in a Speech Recognition feature where one can speak to search relevant context. With LG MobileTV, users can watch Indian TV channels and record their content and watch it later. However, to use this feature one would have to have 3G enabled on their handset. The other pre installed apps include YouTube, Layar, Google Latitude and many other Google related apps which are standard with all Android phones.

Miscellaneous Features
Miscellaneous features of the LG Optimus ME P350 include ThinkFree Office where one can use it to read and edit Microsoft Office applications like Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Another feature of this phone is the calendar where it can sync seamlessly with the user’s Google and Facebook accounts. Other features include alarm clock and voice recorder.

Camera
The LG Optimus ME P350 comes with a 3 mega pixel fixed focus camera. I ran the camera through some tests and we found that the image quality was not too good. In outdoor pictures, it was noticed that a red tinge was visible in most images. The pictures appeared grainy and a lot of colour fringing was seen.

A slight red tinge was noticed in outdoor photographs

A slight red tinge was noticed in outdoor photographs

Indoors, the image quality was also average with pictures appearing grainy. The lack of auto focus may be the reason for the poor quality. Macro images also appeared to be lacking focus. The LG Optimus ME P350 has a picture editing tool in the camera and images can be adjusted using the different modes. ISO sensitivity and white balance settings as well can be adjusted on this smartphone. Overall, I was quite disappointed with the camera quality of this handset despite it having these additional features.

A fair amount of image noise was noticed in indoor images

A fair amount of image noise was noticed in indoor images

Battery
The LG Optimus ME P350 comes with a 1280 mAh lithium ion battery. LG rates the battery of this phone at up to 11 hours of talk time and an idle time of 26 days. Under moderate usage, I noticed that the battery lasted close to 36 hours.

Verdict
At a market operating price of Rs. 8,899, the LG Optimus ME P350 has a wide variety of useful features and a decent design. However, there are many quirks that go along with this phone, which are a sluggish user interface, average battery life, low performance music player and an average camera. If you are considering smartphones under Rs. 10,000 you can check our article here for more options.

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