The LG Optimus M+ ($129 direct) is LG’s follow up to the popular Optimus M (4 stars). While we gave that phone an Editors’ Choice award when it came out, the smartphone selection on MetroPCS has improved considerably since then. So even though the updated Optimus M+ is easily eclipsed in terms of speed, power, and design, it remains a good option for first-time smartphone buyers looking to save money with an affordable plan from MetroPCS.
Design and Call Quality
Whereas some sequels adhere closely to the design of the original, LG is going for something totally different with the Optimus M+. Gone are the soft edges and physical buttons in favor of a sleeker, more angular look. The M+ is made entirely of plastic, with a textured back panel and a glass front. The phone measures 4.5 by 2.5 by .4 inches (HWD) and weighs 4.2 ounces. It’s a good size that will fit easily into your pocket or bag. The display has been increased to 3.5-inches, but retains the same 480-by-320-pixel resolution. It isn’t impressive, but it’s bright enough and gets the job done. The physical keys beneath the display have been replaced with haptic feedback-enabled touch keys. Typing on the onscreen QWERTY keyboard was fine.
The Optimus M+ is a tri-band 1xRTT (800/1700/1900 MHz) device with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. Reception is average, and it connected to my WPA2-encryped network without issue. Voices sound full and clear in the phone’s earpiece, with just a little bit of fuzz in the background. Calls made with the phone sound clear and natural, with very good noise cancellation. The speakerphone sounds fine, and goes just about loud enough to use outdoors. Calls sounded clear through a Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset ($129, 4.5 stars) and voice dialing worked fine over Bluetooth without training. Battery life was average at 6 hours, 11 minutes of talk time.
Data Plans and Apps
MetroPCS lacks a 3G data network. The Optimus M+ doesn’t support the carrier’s new 4G LTE network, so it’s stuck on 2G, which can be pretty slow. MetroPCS includes a DeviceScape Wi-Fi hotspot client (which appears in your notification window as “MetroPCS Easy WiFi”) to link together a number of free hotspots, but it doesn’t guarantee widespread Wi-Fi coverage.
But even on 2G, the price is right: The M+ is available with unlimited talk, text, and data for $50 per month. An extra $10 per month gets you the same plan with unlimited music from Rhapsody. Just remember you can also get unlimited, talk, text, and data from Virgin Mobile and Boost for about the same price, though you also get the added benefit of 3G speeds with those two carriers. Note that even with a 4G phone, 4G speeds on MetroPCS are a lot different than 4G LTE speeds on ATT or Verizon Wireless. As we discovered in our Fastest Mobile Networks testing, rather than offering spectacular speeds, MetroPCS is peddling decent speeds at very low prices.
The M+ runs Android 2.3.6 (Gingerbread). There’s no word yet on whether the Connect will receive an update to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). LG hasn’t done too much to the UI, so it’s a relatively straight Android build with some nice graphical enhancements. There are seven customizable home screens you can swipe between, which come preloaded with some standard apps and widgets. There isn’t a ton of bloatware, and thankfully, much of what has been preloaded is deletable.
In addition to its underwhelming display, the M+ is powered by a dated 800MHz Qualcomm MSM7627A processor. That’s a step up from the 600MHz chip powering many of the carrier’s other low-cost smartphones, but it solidifies the phone as a lower end device. Thankfully, the Optimus M+ still feels responsive enough for casual use, though you shouldn’t get it if you’re interested in high-end gaming.
Multimedia, Camera, and Conclusions
There’s an empty microSD card slot underneath the battery cover, in addition to 1.87GB of internal memory. My 32GB and 64GB microSD cards worked fine. The Optimus M+ functions as a versatile media player, and music sounded good through both wired earbuds as well as Altec Lansing Backbeat Bluetooth headphones ($99, 3.5 stars). The phone played AAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA test files, but not FLAC. Video codec support is strong as well. I was able to play all of our test files at resolutions up to 800-by-480.
The 5-megapixel auto-focus camera comes with an LED flash. Shutter speeds were a bit slow, at an average of 1.1 seconds, but test photos were pretty decent for a budget device. Photos show decent color and detail with good lighting, though some of those details get lost in darker environments. It’s not going to replace a good digital camera, but it’s perfectly acceptable for capturing a quick shot on the go. The camera also records 640-by-480-pixel videos that play back at a smooth 30 frames per second both indoors and out.
The LG Optimus M+ isn’t the flat out success that the original was, but LG has made enough improvements to keep this phone in the top tier of lower end devices. The HTC Wildfire ($119, 3 stars), Samsung Admire ($99, 3 stars), and ZTE Score M ($99, 2.5 stars) are all slightly less expensive, but the Optimus M+ is worth the extra $10 to $30. 4G smartphones on MetroPCS cost a lot more than the Optimus M+, though those prices are starting to come down. The two 4G phones we currently recommend are the Samsung Galaxy Attain 4G ($199, 3.5 stars) and the LG Connect 4G ($249, 4 stars), both of which get you more power and much faster data than the Optimus M+. The LG Connect 4G, in particular, is our favorite contract-free smartphone available right now, and costs $70 less than it did just two months ago.
Continuous talk time: 6 hours 11 minutes