Sunday, September 4, 2011

LG Thrill 4G

The LG Thrill 4G is part of a new 3D craze creeping into technology everywhere. For me it really kicked off when the movie Avatar was launched in movie theaters, giving a 3D experience much better than previous 3D experiences (without the blue and red lenses on the cardboard frame). From 3D TV's to 3D portable gaming consoles like the Nintendo 3DS, everyone wants a piece of the sweet 3D action.

This phone is not only able to show games, pictures, and videos in 3D, but it is able to take 3D pictures and 3D videos for you to share with your friends. So the big question I asked was, "Is the 3D really that great, or is it a gimmick?" The second big questions I asked was, "How does the rest of the phone perform?" Find out the answer to those questions and more in the rest of the article.
- 3D experience without glasses
- Able to plug into any HD TV and "mirror" what's on the phone with what displays on the TV.

- Very long pause between pressing the unlock button and being able to use the phone
- "Cartoony" looking graphics
- 3D gives you a headache after a while of looking at it (although, the phone does warn you about this every time you activate something in 3D)

- Runs Android 2.2 (Froyo) operating system.
- Capable of capturing pictures in 2D or 3D mode. In 2D back camera captures 5 MP stills with optional flash and 1080 P HD video. In 3D mode, back dual cameras capture stills in 3 MP (without flash) or video in 720 P HD. There is also a front-facing 1.3 MP camera.
- 1 GHz Dual-Core processor
- 4.3" 3D capacitive touchscreen
- Up to 6 hours talk time on full battery charge
- 8 GB on-board memory with included 8 GB Micro SD card (expandable to 32 GB)
- HSPA+ Network
- Included HDMI cable for hooking up to HD TV's
- Included microSD to SD card adapter for the memory card

Front top of phone, showing the front-facing camera and the top
This phone has generated a lot of excitement from my co-workers at AT&T, but with a little hesitancy as well. It's been a while since LG has released a sweet flagship device on our network. Phones like the LG Neon left a bad taste in our mouth for it's lack of... well... ability to continue working for very long.

I am pretty new to the cell phone scene, being at AT&T for just over a year and I never experienced the LG Neon or other LG phones failing. In fact, the LG Phoenix was my wife's personal phone for over three months and she loved that little guy. So did I. It worked great. So when I heard about the LG Thrill 4G coming out on our network, I was excited. Finally, we get a 3D phone! I had to get my hands on one and try it out.

As soon as I put my SIM card into the phone and booted it up, my heart jumped. I was holding a sweet 3D phone and I couldn't wait to see what 3D games would be offered and what 3D pictures would look like. At this point, I didn't even know that the phone could take 3D video.

Back of phone, showing the volume rocker and the two cameras
as well as the LED flash.
When the front page loaded, I didn't really even look at it. I immediately hit the dedicated 3D button on the side of the phone. This action brought me to the "3D Space," the section of the phone that is everything 3D. I navigated to the 3D camera option and started playing around with the 3D camera. The first picture I took was of my hand. Cool. The second was my manager's face. Also cool. The third was of the AT&T store. At this point I noticed that the farther away something was in the picture, the less 3D it appeared in the picture. Everything on the back wall appeared in 2D. No big deal. I don't care. I took pictures of the computers, my hand in different poses, my co-workers, my food, and my HTC Inspire, just to taunt it. I moved onto taking a video of me and my co-workers being silly in 3D and a 3D walk-through of the store. Cool. I downloaded a couple 3D games (Shrek Kart and Assassin's Creed) and played those for a little bit. Also cool. I plugged the phone into the HDTV we had in the store and looked at all the cool things on the phone on the 43" screen (not in 3D, mind you). That was cool too. Then it got busy and I put the phone away.

The dedicated 3D button on the bottom, right of the phone.
Now, the usual order of doing things on every phone I get is I put my MicroSD card into the phone and then load all my normal Apps on it. This is what I slowly did in between customers the rest of the day. Once that was done, I was ready to use the phone like normal. Only, once I loaded my e-mail, gmail, and facebook accounts as well as all the apps I wanted onto the phone, a horrible thing happened. I started to experience a significant delay between pressing the unlock button on the top of the phone and the phone actually responding by giving me the lock screen. In order to get into my phone from locked to unlocked and ready to use, it was taking about 7-8 seconds to even light up. "Wow, Rob," was my co-workers response when I told them about this horrible flaw. But think about it. I don't wear a watch. In fact, most people I know don't wear a watch. They rely on their phone for the time. If I want to look at the time, I have to go to all the trouble of taking my phone out of my pocket and hitting the unlock button to see the time displayed on the screen. Add 7-8 seconds to that and it becomes embarrassing when other people with their little flip phones can do it 8 times faster. Plus, with how much I use my phone, I was wasting a good 7-8 seconds every couple of minutes. Unacceptable.

So I did what I normally do with slow phones. I pulled the battery out while the phone was still on, doing a hard reset. I turned the phone back on. I still experienced the same problem. Poop.

You know how sometimes you get enamored with someone from afar? That cute girl in high school that you never talk to? The guy in the same college class as you that you swear was just checking you out, but you caught him and he looked away? Johnny Depp? Then you find out one thing about them and it just ruins your over-all perception of that person. (That girl in high school walking out of the bathroom with a piece of toilet paper stuck to her foot). This was that little thing for me. It grounded me for the rest of my trial period with this phone. I was done with the initial 3D high, and I was onto actually digging into this phone.

Yacko, Wacko, and Dot are no more
The first thing I noticed after the initial lock screen let-down was that the user interface (UI) on the phone looked really cartoony. I described it best when I told my friend that it looked like an Animaniacs cartoon had exploded on the screen and stained all my application icons. It was silly looking. The native LG wallpapers added to the silliness of the phone. People often complain that Android phones in general look too cartoony and I may be able to argue that point to a certain degree... but not on this phone.

After making several calls on the phone, I realized that the pause between locking and unlocking was not the only pause period on the phone. All touchscreen smartphones, when in a call, will blank-out the screen while you're talking on them. There is a sensor at the top of the phone that senses when it is close to your face and then shuts the touchscreen off. That way, you don't hit the touchscreen button and hang-up on your boss, friend, mom, etc...  The LG Thrill does this as well, only when you pull the phone away from your face, the screen should immediately pop-up, ready for you to use other aspects on the phone or to simply hang up (as it does with every other touchscreen smartphone I've ever experienced). With the LG Thrill, it took 6-7 seconds for the screen to pop-up again. This meant that after bidding my talking partner, "Good-bye," I had to pull the phone away from my face, hold it out in front of me, and wait 6-7 seconds to hang up. Most of the time the other person just hung up on me before I got a chance to. But you know how Grandma is. She always waits for you to hang up first. A couple of times I heard the other person say, "Are you still there," just as I hit the hang-up button. Then they would either call me again or I would call them just to clear things up and ensure I didn't have anything else to say. Grrrrr.....

The bottom of the phone, showing the usual four Android buttons
At this point I was sure that LG scheming against me to waste my life away. My co-workers talked some sense into me and assured me that as soon as the Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) update was installed on the phone, it would be fixed. My problem with that is that the update isn't yet available for the phone. So that's a problem for me.

At this point I was in my second day of having the phone and I have a mandatory, self-imposed 3-day minimum for testing phones before I ditched them in frustration, so I decided to go over all the things that I liked about the phone.

The first thing I really liked was how fluid the rest of the movements of the phone were. Switching from homescreen to homescreen, or opening up apps (unless they were 3D, understandably) was very quick and the phone responded well. I had no problems with the phones speed outside of phone calls or unlocking the phone.

Top left of phone, showing the charging port, HDMI port, and
headphone jack.
Another thing I LOVED about the phone was that I could hook it up to any HDTV and it would mirror whatever was showing on the phone and put it up on the TV screen. I saw numerous uses for this. Recreationally, I could play games on the screen in super large HD quality. I could show pictures and video on the screen. I could bring up Youtube videos and download movies to the phone and then watch those. On the business side of things, I could show power points, excel spreadsheets, and other media for presentations on a larger screen, without tons of cords and without lugging my laptop around. This was an awesome resource and for a college student or working professional, it would make it work while.

I should mention a little bit more about the camera besides "I liked it" and "the 3D was cool." The camera took great 3D shots. In order to view anything in 3D, you need to hold the phone a certain distance away from your face and at a certain angle, but then it looks great. The 3D photos are not just for any old time, though. When taking pictures in 3D, you need to make sure you have good lighting or it won't show up properly. The flash does not go off in 3D either because it would screw up the effect. Pictures of things that had multiple layers, like a bushel of flowers or a row of fence posts were extremely cool because it really made the 3D effect pop even more.

A look under the hood.
2D pictures turned out well. The flash helped in low-light and the 5 MP camera performed as well as could be expected from a 5 MP camera. Video was good as well, both in 3D and in 2D.

The look and feel of the phone was very professional as well. It is sleek, smooth, and feels very solid in your hand. The silver bar outlining the cameras on the back is a nice touch and the glass screen is shaved down ever-so-slightly on each side to create a very smooth look and feel. On the physical button side, there is a volume rocker on the right, a lock/unlock/power button on the top right and a 3D button on the bottom, right of the phone. The left top of the phone sports the charging port and the HDMI-out port, both conveniently covered by little doors and labeled accordingly to prevent dust and dirt from getting in. The phone was a little taller than other 4.3" screen phones, but it wasn't anything to complain about.

The battery life was average for a phone of this size. I was able to make it through most days with only one charge unless I used the 3D extensively. Even then, I could charge it halfway through (lunch break) and make it the rest of the day. Nothing to complain or rave about here.

Over-all, I could never own this phone. I personally can't get past the long pauses between unlocking and use and hanging up on a call. However, I can see a college student or a young working professional enjoying both the 3D aspects of the phone with gaming and pictures/video as well as the benefit of being able to easily present to audiences using the HDMI-out port. For me, it can't quite keep up with my lifestyle, but if it works for you or if you were thinking how ridiculous I sounded when I was talking about the delays and you are craving some 3D action, then this is the phone for you.

P.S. I will be revisiting this review when the phone upgrades to Android 2.3 to see if this does fix the delay issues. Stay tuned!


  1. Would it work faster for someone who didn't have all the apps on it that you put on? Is that what bogged it down?

  2. Three of my co-workers used the phone "without problems." Another co-worker did experience the problems. Out of the three that didn't: one of them did experience it but it didn't bother them, the other two didn't put much on it. So, as long as you don't load it up with a ton of applications, you'd probably be good.

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