LG Optimus F3 (Sprint) review

The LG Optimus F3 really goes the distance, with terrific battery life for an affordable Android phone.
Photo of LG Optimus F3 (Sprint)
249.99

Good things can come in small packages. If you’re looking for a basic smartphone, the new LG Optimus F3 for Sprint ($29.99-249.99) delivers spectacular battery life and decent performance in an easily pocketable package. It’s a worthy follow-up to the successful LG Viper, one of Sprint’s first 4G LTE phones.

Physical Features and Call Quality
Superficially, the Optimus F3 looks a lot like the Viper. It’s a slightly chubby, all-plastic phone measuring 4.57 by 2.44 by .4″ (HWD) and weighing four ounces. The silver back has a pinstripe texture, there are chromed edges, and the relatively nondescript 4-inch, 800-by-480 LCD screen sits above a large physical home button. At this price range, we’re looking for a solid build rather than HTC or Apple-quality materials, and the F3 delivers just fine.

The Optimus F3 is a good voice phone, with a loud, clear earpiece along with some fun, twiddly features to alter the voice quality. Noise cancellation is excellent, although your voice sounds very thin if the noise cancellation is working aggressively. There’s a checkbox to activate Sprint’s new “HD Voice” wideband audio feature, which also increases the volume and puts a bit of hiss behind non-wideband calls. The speakerphone works well enough to use in quiet outdoors locations, although I would have liked even more volume. I was disappointed with the Bluetooth voice dialing, though; while the phone paired quickly, it had trouble understanding my voice when I said names or numbers.

But wow, that battery life. Just wow. Most of the competing phones in this price range rock along at eight hours of talk time or so. The F3 delivered 17 hours, 45 minutes of talk time and 7 hours, 25 minutes of video streaming over Wi-Fi on its 2460mAh battery. That’s just outrageous, and it marks the F3 as the budget choice for anyone worried about running out of battery life.

Notice that I was streaming that video over Wi-Fi, though. Sprint’s 3G network can be painfully slow, and its 4G LTE network coverage is still weak. The 3G network was so slow and congested when I tested it, I couldn’t even download our sped test app without finding Wi-Fi first. Our Fastest Mobile Networks 2013 study tells the tale.

As befits a low-cost device, this isn’t a world phone. It also won’t be able to use the coverage and speed extensions coming with Sprint’s upcoming 800MHz and 2600MHz LTE networks, as it can only use the existing 1900MHz portion of the LTE network.

Beyond that, we have Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, albeit on 2.4GHz only, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0. The GPS locked in very quickly.

Processor and Apps
The Optimus F3 runs Android 4.1.2 on a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor at 1.2GHz. There’s no word on an Android 4.2 update. Benchmark results are unimpressive, but not abysmal. Other low-cost Sprint phones like the Sprint Force and the Sprint Flash benchmark better, but the software here is more polished, so you don’t see slowdowns and delays in real day-to-day use.

LG has added a pretty rich suite of software, some of which is surprising to see on a phone at this size and price level. For instance: QSlide, which offers multi-window multitasking for the Web browser, video player, memo pad, calendar and calculator. Samsung’s competing multitasking solution only appears on its flagship phones. LG also threw in file and application managers and a language translation app, and Sprint provides Sprint ID, which customizes wallpapers and ringtones. Of course, the phone also works with pretty much everything in Google Play thanks to its completely standard 800-by-480 screen resolution.

Multimedia
The Optimus F3′s 5-megapixel main camera is your basic smartphone camera. It isn’t going to win any awards. I appreciate the tap-to-meter exposure adjustment and the HDR mode, because otherwise the camera’s limited dynamic range either buries shadows or blows out bright areas. Many shots looked a little soft, misty or undersaturated. The 1-megapixel front camera is barely acceptable, and it gets really soft and impressionistic in low light.

Video recording is fine as long as you stick to 720p at 30 frames per second; 1080p recording also comes through at 30 fps, but it’s rather wobbly. The front camera records decent VGA videos at 30 frames per second indoors and out.

Audio and video playback fares better, through wired or Bluetooth headphones. The F3 can play H.264, MPEG4 and WMV videos at up to 1080p resolution (although not DivX or Xvid) and it can play AAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA music files without a problem. There’s no obvious way to output to a TV, as there’s no HDMI or MHL output. Yes, you have DLNA wireless, but nobody knows how to use that.

There’s only 1.24GB of onboard memory, but the microSD memory card slot under the back cover takes 64GB cards. Buy one; prices have fallen considerably on these.

Conclusions
If you’re worried about running out of juice, this is the phone for you. Sprint has a number of decent midrange Android phones, including the rugged Kyocera Torque and the much more generic Sprint Force. They all benchmark a bit faster than the Optimus F3, but they have half the battery life. There’s also the Apple iPhone 4S, but I can’t recommend any Sprint phone without LTE. The 3G network is just too slow.

The Optimus F3 doesn’t compete directly with high-end smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One, which are much bigger, much faster, and have much better screens. Rather, it’s a lower-priced option for less demanding users. It’s a good one, though, and the phone we most recommend among Sprint’s lower-cost lineup.

Specifications
Phone Capability / Network CDMA, LTE
Total Integrated Storage 1.24 GB
Screen Resolution 800 x 480 pixels
Dimensions 4.57 x 2.44 x 0.4 inches
Weight 4 oz
Screen Type IPS LCD
Operating System as Tested Android 4.1.2
GPS Yes
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 5 MP Rear
VGA Front-Facing
High-Speed Data EVDO Rev A, LTE, CDMA 1X
Battery Life (As Tested) 17 hours 45 minutes
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 b/g/n
Bands 800, 850, 1900
microSD Slot Yes
Processor Speed 1.2 GHz
Bluetooth Version 4
Screen Size 4 inches
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
Form Factor Candy Bar

Verdict
The LG Optimus F3 really goes the distance, with terrific battery life for an affordable Android phone.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc