The LG GS101 is one of the most basic budget phones we've seen in the past few months, and lacks many features we take for granted on modern mobiles. For an incredibly modest price, however, it's well built, has a surprisingly bright screen and a straightforward interface that will be perfect for inexperienced users.
The LG GS101 is available on pay as you go for around £10.
First impressions impress
For a device which sells for around the same price as your average DVD movie, the LG GS101 manages to make a surprisingly pleasant first impact. It's light, and its compact candybar shape means it's not going to create an unsightly bulge in your trouser pocket. The build quality is reassuringly decent.
With only the charging socket to break up its surprisingly elegant lines, the GS101 has a robust structure that betrays no signs of creaking or movement when you grip it tightly.
The white version of the device looks even better. The glossy front and matte back make a very agreeable combination, although the grey one-piece key mat erodes this impression slightly. The rubber keys feel cheap under your fingertips and makes the phone resemble a child's toy. It does ensure that dust can't penetrate the internals of the phone, though.
Small but mighty
The GS101's 1.5-inch display is hampered by its postage-stamp proportions, but thanks to the use of TFT LCD technology, it manages to outshine the screens found on rival devices, such as the Samsung E1360 and even its stablemate the LG A140 (although it's worth noting that the GS101 is manufactured by LG itself, while the A140 is licensed from super-cheap phone firm ZTE). Colours are bright and bold, and there's no ghosting or blurring during movement.
As you move away from the agreeable design and the above-average screen, the positives become a little harder to find. The GS101 lacks 3G connectivity and has no Web browser to speak of. Wireless file transfers are impossible due to the absence of Bluetooth, and there's no camera, so don't expect to take candid snaps with this budget blower.
Hands-free connectivity is supplied via the microUSB charging port, but there are no headphones included in the box. Because a 3.5mm audio jack isn't present, you'll have to purchase a specialised pair of headphones in order to make the GS101 safe to use while driving.
Despite supporting earphones, the GS101 doesn't have an on-board radio and can't play MP3s or other audio formats. As an entertainment device, it's limited to the single pre-installed game. Space Ball is a cheeky clone of Nokia's classic Snake, and will only keep you amused for brief periods of time, at best -- Angry Birds it ain't.
One welcome benefit from the GS101's lack of technological grunt is that it sips battery power like a man trapped with a rock on his arm rationing his water. A single charge is good enough to keep the phone running for a couple of days at the very least -- if your usage is modest you can expect to get even more than that.
The GS101 comes with a calendar function, alarm, a basic memo-creation tool and some other standards, including a calculator, a stopwatch and a measurement unit converter. You'll also find the 'fake call' feature that amused us on phones like the Samsung E1170 and E1360. This allows you to create bogus incoming calls that can be used to excuse yourself from certain awkward situations. It's a nefarious practice, but one that proves more useful in the real world than you might imagine.
Compared to powerhouses such as the Nexus S or iPhone 4, the GS101's humble specifications are fairly pathetic. But like all budget handsets, LG's device isn't fighting for the attention of dedicated smart-phone addicts. The GS101 is aimed more at mobile newbies, such as your technophobe grandmother or your pre-teen nephew.
There's no need to worry about installing apps, enduring painful system reboots or performing meticulous memory management. The GS101 is as basic as they come, but with this simplicity comes vastly enhanced accessibility -- something veteran phone addicts often forget.
There are plenty of budget phones around though, and being easy on the eye isn't enough to sell this cheap and cheerful handset. The similarly priced LG A140 boasts expandable memory and a camera, two elements which go a long way to enhancing the mobile experience. But if you can do without these additional trappings and rate a better quality screen over music playback and photos, the GS101 is certainly worth a look.
Edited by Nick Hide