The LG DoublePlay, at first glance, looks like a typical budget Android device: small LCD screen, somewhat dull body, and no front-facing camera.
But it's certainly not an average budget device, if you can even consider it one. The DoublePlay is being sold by T-Mobile for a somewhat-expensive $99.99 with the signing of a two-year contract. Depending on what your needs are, that price may be either way too much or comparable to a steal.
So, if you'd like to find out which of those two options you fall under, read on for the full review.
Like I said in the beginning, the LG DoublePlay looks a lot like a budget device, and that might be due to the specs inside of it. Unlike some other smartphones that have recently been coming out, the DoublePlay sports a 1GHz single-core Snapdragon, 512MB of RAM, 2GB of internal storage, and a 5MP back camera. Unfortunately, you won't find a front-facing camera here.
As for the screen(s), this device has two. The first one is what I'll be calling the "main" screen, which is 3.5-inches and has a junky resolution of only 320 x 480. It runs Gingerbread, too; while a great OS, it certainly wasn't meant for low-resolution, small screens such as this one. Android is way too cramped on this setup.
Thankfully, LG added a second screen (that I will subsequently be calling the "secondary" screen.) It's a 2-inch QVGA display, which means the resolution is 320 x 240. That translates to higher pixel density on the smaller display, by the way.
As for call quality and network, T-Mobile never failed to impress. This is my first T-Mobile review unit, and I've got to say, I'm definitely craving some more. The network is just insanely reliable and even when I was in EDGE coverage, texts and calls went through without a hitch, and data speeds were actually acceptable.
Design and Quality
Let's start at the bottom of the front for the design overview. Like almost every other Android device on the planet, the DoublePlay comes with the four Android capacitive buttons. I usually complain about capacitive buttons; I prefer the accuracy, feel, and look of hardware buttons better, but this phone does a good job of recognizing my taps and the vibration feedback is always a good feeling.
The phone's earpiece and T-Mobile branding both live on the top. I actually really like this type of earpiece; it's really long, so it gives some good volume and clarity on calls. I know that kind of thing seems trivial, but it still matters quite a bit.
Here are the DoublePlay's main features. As you can see, the 2-inch display cuts between the slideout QWERTY keyboard, which actually makes landscape typing a lot easier. I hardly ever find myself turning a phone over to use the slideout/landscape keyboard, since I like typing rapidly and accurately. Here, though, I hardly ever used the onscreen portrait keyboard.
The keys are really clicky, too, and typing is accurate. Every key press resulted in typing a character, which is more than I can say for some other slideouts.
The left side of the device houses the microUSB connector, and nothing else. However, from here, you can see that the DoublePlay has a nice metallic band around its entire exterior. I think it looks lovely, and since it feels like metal, it gives the device a sense of being very high quality.
On the right side is the very nice volume rocker. Sometimes, rockers can feel really mushy; thankfully, that's not the case here.
Up top, LG threw in a 3.5mm headphone jack and the sleep/wake button.
The DoublePlay's back is made of soft-touch plastic. This stuff feels and acts like rubber, not some nasty shiny plastic junk. Because of this, the back won't scratch as easily, and you're highly unlikely to drop the thing, since this material isn't slippery.
Finally, here's the paltry 5MP camera. In a world dominated by 8MP, 12MP, and even 13MP phone cameras, the DoublePlay's 5MP is a little upsetting. It's aided by an LED flash, but even then, photos are pretty bad in comparison to the competition.
Obviously, the DoublePlay wouldn't be worth writing a review about if it didn't have a dual-screen setup. So let's talk about that, then.
Above is one of the many, many combinations of apps that you can have open simultaneously. Here, I am texting my iPhone while looking at the best website in the world. And if you're thinking that typing on the keyboard would result in the typed text showing up in both apps, you're wrong. The text will only be entered into the field that the cursor is currently in.
It also works wonderfully while watching YouTube on the bigger screen and texting on the smaller, or watching and Facebooking, or watching and surfing the web. And if you want to switch which screen shows which app, no problem! There's a little upwards-pointing triangle that, when pressed, will switch apps and screens. It works really well, and it's a great idea.
Unfortunately, every device has its downfall, and that's no exception here. The paltry 1GHz single-core processor just can't come close in terms of performance to the new dual-core processors. 512MB of RAM doesn't help that situation, either.
For most tasks and users, I'm sure this combination would get by. But I'm not most users, and I use a lot of apps and do a lot of things on my phones. When I tried to do multiple things at once, the DoublePlay stopped in its tracks and slowed to barely a crawl.
To get back on the brighter side of things, though, the DoublePlay can manage its two screens and their apps fairly well, and it's not a totally bad performer. But games and other intensive tasks will slow the device down, and that's quite the bummer. Playing Angry Birds while texting my friends without having to get out of my game has always been a dream of mine, and while the idea is certainly here, the execution of that idea just isn't good enough.
The 1540 mAh battery LG included with the DoublePlay is actually a really good one. It could be due to the lower-power specs, but the DoublePlay lasted through an entire day of heavy use and still managed to have ~50% of its battery life left.
Charging was fast, too. When my battery hit 50%, I would plug the device into the wall, and about a half-hour later, come back and have a fully charged battery. Fast charging is just about as important as how long the battery life is, so if you're looking for a smartphone with absolutely wonderful battery life, the DoublePlay is a serious contender.
Dual-screen devices are usually very poor sellers because they don't offer enough bang for your buck elsewhere. They spend big on the display panels, but skimp on the performance. Unfortunately, the LG DoublePlay falls into the same pit.
However, its incredible idea of being able to use more than one app at a time makes the DoublePlay very appealing for people who do a lot of stuff on their phones. If LG can realize this and make a product with raw power, I'm sure this form factor would take off.
The LG DoublePlay is available directly from T-Mobile for $99.99 with the signing of a two-year contract.