Samsung may have pioneered the concept of the big-ass phone with the Galaxy Note, but LG is already aiming to take it to a new extreme. This week, at the Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, the phone maker is showing off the Optimus Vu, which takes the nickname ‘fablet’ (phone + tablet) to heart. With a 5-inch screen and a 4:3 aspect ratio, it’s one wide phone. My full written and video impressions are below.
Wide without reason
Though I’m a noted skeptic of the Galaxy Note, I don’t mind the core idea of a phone trying to incorporate some tablet-like features. The problem so far has been the implementation. The Galaxy Note is just too big for anyone without colossal-sized hands. It’s usable if you cradle it with both hands and thumb type, but as a one-handed phone (and all phones need to be able to be used with one hand), it’s just inadequate and looks downright goofy if you hold it up to your face. The Optimus Vu, however, is even more of a face pancake. Holding it up to your face feels quite awkward.
Social stigmas aside, the Vu is also difficult to use one-handed, but unlike the Note, it doesn’t really take advantage of its added screen real estate in any meaningful way. Samsung added an extra row of icons on the Note homescreens, but LG has chosen to just stretch out Android’s four rows, which makes for an airy experience. Strangely, a fifth row has been added to the apps list screen.
No slot for the stylus
There is also no slot to hold a stylus. You can definitely use a stylus, and there is some memo-taking software included on the Vu to take advantage of one. LG may even include it in the box, but without a place to store it in the phone, you’re going to forget it when you need it most or lose it after a few days. The whole point of having a ‘fablet’ is to combine the benefits of both device types into one. If LG can’t find room in this massive design to shove a thin stylus, then it should consider going back to the drawing board. Either that or don’t push the stylus at all. I have yet to see a strong sign that there is pent up demand for it anyway.
New phone, old Android
Though LG unveiled the Optimus 4X HD, a fully-functioning quad-core handset with Android 4.0, the Vu is running on last year’s hardware, for the most part. The 5-inch screen is unique with a 1024 x 768 pixel resolution, but there isn’t a good reason why this device should be running Android 2.3 (Gingerbread). Gingerbread is not built for large-screened devices. LG and Samsung may have designed some interesting custom software for the Vu and Note, but the phones’ strange resolutions and screen sizes may cause more headaches than they’re worth as apps just don’t quite fit or look right. LG says that the Vu will get an update to Android 4.0, but when exactly that is, we don’t know.
As for other specs, it runs on a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, has 32GB of internal storage, and is only 8.5mm thick, which could make it the thinnest LTE-capable phone on the market.
Judge for yourself
I got a lot of hate for criticizing the big-ness of the Galaxy Note, which went on sale about a week ago, but you be the judge. Try out the Note and the Vu when it hits shelves. If you want a really wide phone, give it a go. The market will decide whether this new category of devices ultimately sticks around. I’m not so sure it isn’t a fad. What do you think?