The Gadget: LG Lotus, an odd little monster of clamshell with a full QWERTY keyboard and a UI by Sprint in collaboration with Frog Design.
Verdict: The form factor is utterly bizarre—a flip phone as wide as Oprah's arse with a full QWERTY keyboard that takes its design cues from a chick's makeup compact thing (whatever the hell they're called). It doesn't bother to make it up by being RAZR-thin, either. Inside is another dumbphone that desperately wants to be smart, but it copies off the bright kids' paper enough to do a reasonable impression.
The UI is remarkably navigable, with real transition animations and a nice, contrast-y design, though it would benefit with a bit more horsepower to keep it 100 percent zippy and silky smooth. When you open it up, you've got a customisable row of icons you thumb left or right through, and after pausing for a second (this is where the bonus horsies would be nice) a pop-up fills the rest of the screen with what it does—for instance, the Google icon gives you Maps, Gmail and YouTube. It has an app manager too, also like a real smartphone. If only Sprint's thoroughly integrated stores were as well designed.
Email is really robust, and better than either Verizon or AT&T's standard email offering—the built-in client gives you access to all the majors (Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail) and IMAP and POP accounts, plus it makes it easy to switch between them. It's the client that's been shipping on Sprint's feature phones for a bit, but since the Lotus has a QWERTY keyboard, it's actually usable now.
The browser is where it really reveals that it belongs in a remedial class—while it's another incremental improvement on generally crappy dumbphone browser, it crashed the whole phone more than once on big pages, though it's totally fine if you stick to mobile optimised sites, especially with EV-DO. The other big flaw in this phone is the media player—it's too tightly wrapped up with Sprint's music store and takes too many clicks to get to, though the YouTube app ain't half bad. Bonus points for the power adaptor, which lets you plug it in with any micro USB cable, though they're sorta negated by the 2.5mm headphone jack.
In short, if you can live with the form factor, the Lotus is a fairly capable little (big) phone for someone who's not quite ready to graduate to a big boy smartphone, though $US150 for a wannabe is a bit steep when you can get one for that much (or less). $US99 would make this a higher recommend. Baby steps, baby steps. [Sprint]