LG Optimus F3 (MetroPCS) review

The LG Optimus F3 delivers LTE speeds and a decent display for $149. Unfortunately, installing large apps is almost impossible on this Android smartphone thanks to its tiny internal storage.
Photo of LG Optimus F3 (MetroPCS)

We don’t see a lot of cheap smartphones around here with LTE, the gold standard in high speed mobile Internet. The LG Optimus F3 ($149 list) bucks that trend. It’s an Android smartphone for MetroPCS with LTE and a decent screen. But with too little app storage capacity and poor call quality, you should look at the cheaper Huawei Vitria or $200 LG Optimus F6 instead. Our Editor’s Choice on MetroPCS is the Samsung Galaxy S4, but at $519 it doesn’t really compete with these phones.

Design
The Optimus F3 doesn’t look or feel expensive, but it’s solid enough. The entire phone is made of a dark gray plastic with a chrome trim. It measures 4.6 by 2.5 by 0.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 4 ounces. Its dense, candy bar shape has contoured edges on the bottom and more squared-off ones up top. On the right side near the top is the Power button, and on the left side is the volume rocker. On top of the phone is the headphone jack, and on the bottom is the micro USB port.

The rear camera and flash lie flush near the top of the removable textured back, and a speaker cutout is on the bottom. Underneath the cover is the hefty and swappable 2,460mAh battery, microSD slot (supporting up to 64GB), and micro SIM slot.

The F3 has a 4-inch IPS LCD screen with an 800-by-480 resolution that gives it 233 pixels per inch. Text was sharp enough and images were above average compared with MetroPCS’ similar offerings. While it’s an IPS display, viewing angles were better from the top and bottom than they were from the sides.

Capacitive Back and Menu buttons are on either side of the physical Home button. Holding the Home button gets you to the recent apps with options to open Google Now and access the task manager. Easy access to Google Now is a definite plus considering how many low-cost devices like the Huawei Vitria omit this convenient feature.

Connectivity
At $150, the F3 is one of the cheapest phones you can get with LTE, the other being the $129 Vitria. While speeds vary from day to day depending on overall usage, the F3 averaged 11 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up, a substantial bump up from HSPA+ speeds. The F3 also has the usual 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (at 2.4GHz), Bluetooth 4.0, and DLNA for media streaming. The phone can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot with the right service plan.

Note: The slideshow below is of the T-Mobile Optimus F3, which is physically identical to the MetroPCS F3.

Though it may have LTE, call quality wasn’t great. The Nokia Lumia 521 has the best call quality on MetroPCS, and the F3 fails to compare. Both ends of the calls sounded muffled and exhibited a strange static. On speakerphone my

voice was more robotic, and noise cancellation was very poor. Using the Jabra Style Bluetooth headset, the call was less robotic, but still muffled. The F3′s battery life is pretty incredible. Our talk time tests saw the phone last 12 hours and 16 minutes.

Performance, OS
The Optimus F3 is packing 1GB RAM along with a Snapdragon 400 dual-core 1.2GHz processor. The entire experience is smooth and lag-free during browsing in Chrome or swiping through the app drawer. The F3 is running Android 4.1.2, an outdated version considering the recent release of Android 4.4 KitKat. As of this writing, LG has no plans to update the device.

MetroPCS and LG’s heavy-handed customizations clutter up this small-screen phone more than they do larger devices like the LG G2. The home screen greets you with three MetroPCS apps and a Rhapsody music widget. Pull the notification bar down to reveal half of it covered in connectivity toggles that would be hidden behind the quick settings popdown if it were running Android 4.2.

Preloaded apps include a language translator, four MetroPCS apps for screening calls and viewing your account, an application manager, a file manager, and a dictionary. All are removable, luckily.

In the GFXBench graphics benchmark test, the F3 scored 26 frames per second. But the processor’s gaming performance doesn’t really matter. There’s so little internal storage here, at 1.08GB, that higher-end games like Asphalt 7 (Asphalt 8 isn’t supported) just won’t install, even with a microSD card. Smaller games like Temple Run 2 and Fruit Ninja ran perfectly. A microSD card is highly recommended, but it will only be useful for media files, as you can’t store active apps on the SD card. It’ll read up to 64GB cards.

The F3′s media support is pretty limited. It played every audio file we threw at it, including FLAC, OGG, and WMA, and video files like MP4 and Xvid-encoded AVI files. It doesn’t, however, support DivX, WMV, or MPEG4-encoded AVI files. During video playback the speaker was pretty quiet.  It isn’t the highest quality either, so you won’t be blasting tunes with it. The headphone jack didn’t give me any issues when tested with multiple types of cans.

Camera
The F3′s 5-megapixel camera is also disappointing. Every picture is noisy, no matter where it’s shot. Outdoor shots were obviously better, but still lacked vividness. 1080p video recording was equally terrible. Frame rates routinely dropped indoors to around 10 frames per second. At 720p it dropped to around 15 frames per second.

Recording outdoors didn’t bring up any frame rate issues, but the microphone’s poor quality resulted in traffic sounding more like a Transformers battle than actual cars driving. The VGA-resolution front-facing camera records video, but it’s still a low-resolution camera, so recording anything with it would be ill-advised.

Conclusions
With LTE, the Optimus F3 is already a step ahead of other low-cost competitors, but it’s too far behind on some very important factors. The $129 Huawei Vitria is a cheaper device with LTE, but it has a shorter battery life and more bulk. There’s no app installation limit as long as you have the storage, a major inconvenience on the Optimus F3. If you’re looking for a phone with excellent call quality and adequate video recording, the $99 (LTE-free) Lumia 521 is your best bet, and it’s the cheapest (and most popular) Windows Phone device out there. In the end, if all you want is a mobile hotspot or a cheap, high-speed web browsing device with a decent display, the Optimus F3 delivers there.

Specifications
Phone Capability / Network GSM, LTE
Screen Resolution 800 x 480 pixels
NFC No
Dimensions 4.6 x 2.5 x 0.4 (HWD) inches
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 b/g/n
Video Camera Resolution 1080p Rear
VGA Front
Battery Life (As Tested) 12 hours, 16 minutes
Processor Speed 1.2 GHz
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8930 Dual-Core
GPS Yes
Service Provider MetroPCS
High-Speed Data HSDPA, LTE
Weight 4 oz
Screen Type IPS LCD
Operating System as Tested Android 4.1.2
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 5-megapixel Rear
0.3-megapixel Front
Screen Pixels Per Inch 233 ppi
Bands 850, 900, 1800, 1900, 2100, 1700
microSD Slot Yes
Form Factor Candy Bar
Screen Size 4 inches
Bluetooth Version 4.0

Verdict
The LG Optimus F3 delivers LTE speeds and a decent display for $149. Unfortunately, installing large apps is almost impossible on this Android smartphone thanks to its tiny internal storage.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc