LG Optimus Elite

Green, eco-friendly, and price conscious, the LG Optimus is certainly a budget phone - But is it for you?

When I found out I'd get to do the LG Optimus Elite review, I was happy, to say the least. Most folks write these phones off as bottom-feeders, budget phone lowbies that have no place in our elitist, Android society. To those folks, I must say, I disagree.

For starters, this guy is pretty eco-friendly. More than 50 percent of its plastic case is made with recycled plastic, and in a society of excess and waste, that's commendable right off the bat. It's small, light, and inexpensive. And let me tell you, it's made for ​somebody.

Enough soapboxing for now. There's a review to be written (and subsequently read), so join us after the break to see how the latest phone to don the Optimus moniker handles.

The Good

Small, lightweight, and pocket-friendly. Made out of recycled plastic, so it's eco-friendly, too. Battery will last all day and then some. NFC is included (as is Google Wallet).

The Bad

Gingerbread, again. (C'mon, LG.) Single-core processor is slow, even with vanilla Android. Speaker isn't loud enough. Swiping between screens can stutter. You're locking yourself into antiquated hardware for two years.


The LG Optimus Elite certainly continues the trend of affordable Android devices that the Optimus S introduced. Unfortunately, unless it gets some extreme developer support (like it's predecessor), this phone is destined to sit at the bottom of the clearance rack, while all the newer, faster, less environmentally friendly phones get all bought up.

LG Optimus Elite video walkthrough

LG Optimus Elite Hardware

The hardware on the LG Optimus Elite, from a design perspective, isn't terrible. It's a pretty small phone (with a mere 3.5-inch display), a rubbery plastic battery cover, and smooth metal everywhere else. It's a simple, workable design, but the Optimus Elite certainly won't be winning any design awards.

Diving right in, the front of the device is what commands the most attention, and rightly so. The screen is up there, and with a size like 3.5-inches, you're going to get an appropriately low resolution at 320x480. Yes, it's low, even compared to some first-generation Android devices. You can chalk it up to one of the reasons this phone is so inexpensive. (Really though, it doesn't help that the display boasts a meager 160 DPI.)

There's no front-facing camera to speak of (what did you expect?), but suspiciously and disappointingly absent is an ambient light sensor, so your screen won't be adjusting its brightness accordingly at all. 

The capacitive buttons down bottom are silver (a welcome contrast against the black they rest against) and light up brightly when touched. Still, the silver is easy enough to notice even when they're dark, so you won't be hard pressed to touch the button you're after.

LG Optimus EliteLG Optimus Elite

Off in bezel land, the top bezel is packing most of the action. Up there you've got both your power button and your 3.5mm headphone jack, but no pinhole microphone to speak of. Other than that, there's nothing worth mentioning. The right bezel (like the LG Viper 4G LTE) is completely barren.

I don't know why LG doesn't put anything on the right bezels of their phones. Maybe their lead designer has something against right bezels. Maybe, years ago, he was hurt badly by a right bezel and refuses to honor them with any ports or buttons. The world may never know.

LG Optimus EliteLG Optimus Elite

On the opposite bezel (see: left), you've got the volume rocker. It's plastic, and unlike most other volume rockers I'm seeing these days, has a clear indentation in the middle separating the two halves. (The rocker is still one single piece of plastic, though.) It's also conveniently labeled the two halves with a + and - sign, respectively, for those times when you just can't tell up from down.

The bottom bezel has the all-important microUSB charging port and and pinhole microphone. (Explains why it wasn't on the top bezel, now.) It's also worth pointing out that the microUSB port also doubles as the slit where you'd normally pop off the battery cover. This battery cover is a bit tougher to get off than most, but once you get a good handle on the cover, it'll come off.

LG Optimus EliteLG Optimus Elite

Moving right along onto the back, you've got a plastic, rubberized, textured battery cover. It actually does give more grip if you place it on a slanted surface, but don't expect it to be your final solution. Towards the top of the back is the 5MP camera, along with flash. (Hey, at least we crammed a flash on this thing, right?)

The LG Optimus Elite comes with a 1520mAh battery, which for something this small, will go at least a day, easily. The screen is small, there's no 4G radios to suck down juice, so this battery really performs. The microSD card slot is above the battery, so you don't need to battery pull to swap cards out. (Hooray!)

The Optimus Elite is powered by a paltry 800MHz single-core processor, has 512MB or RAM, and 1GB of internal storage. To get around the storage limitation, the microSD card slot accepts cards up to 32GB in size, but still, 1GB is awfully small these days, so if you plan on loading up even a few albums, expect to be at capacity soon.

Call quality isn't an issue for the LG Optimus Elite. The earpiece is loud enough and the microphones do their job. Is it super incredible wowza quality? Nah, but it's not supposed to be, and looking at it just as a phone, it delivers.

LG Optimus EliteLG Optimus Elite

LG Optimus Elite Software

Let's be blunt here: phones shipping with Gingerbread, regardless of it being 2.3.7, at this point in time are becoming a frustration. That being said, let's be perfectly honest with ourselves, too. There's no way we could expect Ice Cream Sandwich to run on this phone's hardware, so Gingerbread it is.

LG Optimus Elite

Like every other phone I use that has vanilla Gingerbread on it, there's not much to say. It's clean, it has minimal Sprint bloatware on it, and it's still out-of-date. What sort of kills the experience of a vanilla Gingerbread experience for me is that it isn't​ perfectly smooth, and it totally should be. There's not enough visual flourish or eye candy to drag down the experience, and that sort of sullies using the device in the first place.

LG Optimus EliteLG Optimus EliteLG Optimus Elite

LG Optimus Elite Battery life

Something LG Optimus Elite owners can celebrate is the phone's excellent battery life. You've got (proportionally) a large battery paired with a small, not-too-bright display, and 3G radios. That's it. Even with heavy use, you're going to have to work at wearing the battery down, but in the world of swapping out batteries and carrying extra chargers, a battery that won't die is a good problem to have.

LG Optimus Elite Camera

Probably one of the most impressive pieces of hardware in the LG Optimus Elite is the 5MP shooter. Sure, it's incredibly basic, takes 480p video, and is essentially as no-frills as you can get, but it's 5MP on a super low-end budget device. (It could have just as easily been 3MP.)

Pictures takes pretty quickly, but in low light situations, the flash has a tendency to yellow the image. (This is evident when comparing the two pictures of a sleepy kitty.) Without the flash, the camera still does alright in low light, but this time has much more accurate color rendering.

Still, if you're not incredibly still, without great light, your picture will come out either blurry or just lacking sharpness, and that's something that not even the flash will fix for you.

Below is a gallery of images taken using the camera on the LG Optimus Elite. You can download a zipped file of all of the images at full size here.

LG Optimus Elite Wrap-up

The LG Optimus Elite is a tough sell. At $29.99 on contract, it certainly won't break the bank now, but you're getting what you're paying for. Mostly underwhelming hardware, a stuttery experience, and an antiquated version of Android all make the Optimus Elite an unattractive option.

If the Optimus Elite can get the same kind of developer love the Optimus S got, well, that'll certainly extend the life of this phone, but with the internals it's packing, there's no amount of recycled bottle caps that'll make purchasing this phone worth it.


Reader comments

LG Optimus Elite review


I wish you would have reviewed the Optimus Elite on Virgin instead. For one you aren't locked in for two years (which seems to be the bulk of your complaints). Two, many people report it works a lot better than the Sprint version (even though it is the same hardware). Third, I don't know about the Optimus Elite S, but the Elite V is clocking in at 1ghz on all benchmark apps. The chip itself is capable of 1.2ghz.

Sounds like your excitement in the first paragraph was that you would be able to tell people not to buy it, and not anything with the phone itself.

To piggy back on the previous comment from Mr. Jedi, lesser hardware than the Optimus Elite can run Ice Cream Sandwich. I'm posting this comment on my Optimus V running tdm's Quattrimus ROM. I agree that if devs get behind this hardware it could be a nice handset, especially on a month to month plan.

"Most folks write these phones off as bottom-feeders, budget phone lowbies that have no place in our elitist, Android society. To those folks, I must say, I disagree."

You start the review off with this, then proceed counter that statement throughout the entire review.

Ironic that it's called "Elite" when it's actually the opposite.

I agree. $29 on contract is exactly what you want for your kids, who will probably break or lose their phone at least once before the contract is up. Even high school kids working summer jobs can't always afford a $200 dollar phone AND the contract.

It seems it should be possible to write a review comparing these phones to others in their price class, and stop comparing the entry level Honda Civic to the Cadillac Escalade.

Agree. I'm a grownup woman (no, not "old, old, old" but admittedly mature.) I tend to want a cell phone in order to communicate and keep on track during my day and week. I opted for an Elite because my Samsung Instinct's touch screen went south and I was almost at the end of my contract. Absolutely, good practical reviews of cell phones are almost non-existent today. I've found not one of them truly useful in shopping cell phones, including this one.

The Elite is small enough to feel good in my petite female hand, and thin enough to be skinnier than the Instinct. It is the first Android phone I have used. I did jump into the Android pool by buying a tablet a while back. I appreciate that the Elite allows me to choose among the broad array of Android Market apps, among which many very good ones are free or very inexpensive.

I guess I don't really "get" the criticisms about "rubbery" plastic or nonmetal housings. I have owned a Palm (yes, "someone" out there used those, before phones became mobile or smart!). It was metal. But of three cell phones I've used steadily, not one is metal. The Instinct does a good job of looking sturdy however, and it didn't even occur to me whether or not it was plastic. Similarly, to this reviewer, the Optimus case -- I chose white -- is esthetically pleasing, reasonably strong plastic, and well, I just don't feel the need to armor-clad everything I guess. I also do not throw my phone at people, sit on it, or drop it. If you do, then I guess it makes sense you'd want a ruggedized device. That isn't the market segment the Optimus is probably aimed at, FWIW.

I inserted the SD card from the old phone in the Optimus and the pictures I had taken came right up. I'm frustrated with trying to get contacts from the old phone - I was foolish enough to use the Instinct network backup and then NOT retrieve that backup before activating the new phone. I also don't like needing to pay a monthly fee to protect that data, so I'll be backing things up on my own as well as using Google Contacts heavily. Google Calendar has mostly exiled Chaos Software's very excellent Time & Chaos application to an adjunct home tool for me, or I would miss that application which can integrate email and phone contacts and the daily schedule. (I admit that I do not know whether there is an Android port of Time & Chaos available although I suspect there may be.) However, (blasphemy alert) I don't like emailing on a phone at all.

I'd have liked a hardware button (maybe on the empty right-side?) To start voice-command mode. On the Instinct, there were a few times when I was driving or otherwise needed to keep my attention on something, and being able to squeeze the side of the Instinct and tell it to make a call, was extremely valuable. I'll have to see how voice calling compares. Sprint Navigation on the Instinct worked so well that I mothballed my portable GPS device, but it's not on the Optimus. I haven't used the speakerphone option on the Instinct yet, so I hope it's as workable as the speakerphone on the Instinct.

I'm a little bit concerned about the battery life, strangely enough. So far I've been doing quite a bit of setup and tweaking, so this is not typical use, but the charge HAS declined more quickly than I would like. I definitely could use the Instinct all day (and often longer) so I am really looking for that longer talk time that the comparisons offered by Sprint show for this as compared to other similar range choices. I see that providers are working hard to encourage everyone to use WiFi everywhere and all the time -- I'm just not convinced that's beneficial enough for me to do that.

All in all, while the Elite will scoff, the Optimus Elite might be a perfectly fine phone if you don't need your phone to telegraph your superiority in life. And the price and eco-consciousness certainly feel right if you like to steward everyone's resources.

I have the Virgin Mobile version, have for 10-odd days, I had the Triumph prior to it, and I must say--I think the Elite is better & a worthy Optimus V successor. I guess the Triumph is okay if you root it (so I'm told), but out-of-box, it's a lemon. The Triumph takes FOREVER for its GPS to lock-on to your location, people can't understand anything I'm saying on it, it sucks the battery like there's no tomorrow, and the screen likes to randomly ignore you.

I got the Elite in its place, and it's so much better--GPS just locks on quickly, people can hear me, the screen NEVER ignores me and as noted here the battery lasts a lot longer. Even though its 3.5" screen is small vs the 4.1" on the Triumph, it still feels like a good step up from the V's 3.2" & you have WAY more internal storage for apps. It just feels like a "refreshed" Optimus V in a GOOD way--rock solid, just works, but not as out-of-date in 2012.

Gingerbread on this phone... that's insulting. First, it's not link LG will update it later. It isn't like LG had this pile of Gingerbread licenses they paid for and needed to move them. Plus, it's running without LG's customized UI, making the use of outdated Gingerbread even less excusable.

People, people. This is the phone you get your child when you add them to your family plan, duuuhhhh?

I mean come on. Would you really buy a 12 and under child a $600 phone that was subsidized down to $200, as their first smartphone?

Get real people, this phone was and is not being marketed to you unless you're a very very very very mature of age person or a child that's just happy to get its first smartphone.

the phone is marketed to people who are on a budget, douchebag. Take me for example. I live on a measly graduate stipend and would rather not spend $100 plus dollars/month on a phone plan when I could spend $45/month. However, after I finish my doctorates degree, I will be rolling in the dough and can spend frivolously. but until then, it's all about making 'pimpin decisions' with my money.

It's not just for the people you or the guy on the doctorate track described. It's also for those of us that don't feel the need to telegraph how "bloody f^&*ing cool I am, so I'm joined to the hip with my phone, man".

I am on a budget too, like the future doc in training. I've auditioned this phone, along with the Evo V, and I'll still probably go for the Elite if and when I can spring for a new phone (or for some reason my rooted V takes the almighty dump on itself)... unless I get a huge ca$h advance soon.

Apple? Sure. Only if I can eat one for a snack... LOL ;)

Battery life is decent, but my battery actually wore out, or something because currently my LG Optimus Elite needs to be plugged in to the wall just for me to use it. I've had the phone for about a month and bought it from Virgin Mobile. Not sure if they can help me with this problem or not, but something was either inherently wrong with my phone, or the battery isn't as strong as you say. One second my phone is fine and on 50% battery, I wake up the next morning and it's dead and will not hold a charge but says it's charging but stays on 0% battery...

It is worth it if you don't want to spend $200 on a sweet Samsung or iPhone, be locked in for two years AND pay $85 per month with limited data and minutes.

Is this phone as nice as a Galaxy S III or iPhone? Of course not. But you don't have to take out a second mortgage to own and operate it.

I owned every iPhone every made to date. I was sick of paying $85/month and blow through my data and texting. So I bought a Galaxy Tab and this little phone. Now I pay $65/month, have two devices with one of them (the tab) top of the line, and can do more than an iPhone or Galaxy s III can. Now what?

By the way, I like Andriod. I am not an Apple iOS snob. Of course, I can't live without my Mac!

You downplay this phone so to speak as usable, but not worth getting. The "buy it for the kids" reference is something I don't take to either. Sure, I'd love to see ICS on it, but for now I am happy with it. I got the Op Elite because my Op V and Samsung Intercept before it had no real internal storage to it. They kept screaming low on space due to the bloatware and the fact that a lot of apps could not be moved to SD. I got my Elite for $149 at the time, had the guy at Best Buy activate it, and I took off. I have loved Google Wallet on it (Even though they say there are supposed security risks, I have yet to see one here)and have freaked out a lot of clerks at Rite Aid, CVS, McD's, etc. I currently have 134 apps on the phone I use with no trouble (Most being Weather Apps since I am a storm chaser s2s. My phone never runs really slow or hangs. Battery life is good. It just does its job. Sure, I could get an EVO V or a Galaxy SII or iPhone, but why waste the extra money when I have a phone that does what I want when I want it? Only thing I hated was in getting the new Elite, I had to give up my $25/mo plan I had been grandfathered into by VMUSA. Be well :-)

This review is BS. The battery is horrible. I have a brand new Optimus Elite and the battery lasts no longer than 4 hours. I do you use it to browse the internet quite a bit, but still the battery life is ridiculously horrible.