Among Android handsets with keyboards, the Droid is the indisputable king. The LG Ally, also on Verizon, doesn't change this, but it does make buying a Droid tougher to stomach.
The LG Ally is an odd handset, spec'd through the roof in some respects—its 800x480 screen and top-notch keyboard, along with Android 2.1—while painfully lacking in others—its pokey 600MHz processor and blotchy 3.2 megapixel camera, in particular.
In some ways it's obviously better than the Droid. In more ways, though, it can't compete.
I've been using this phone for a while now, and I still struggle to write about its design from memory, even if that memory is just seconds old. It's remarkably unremarkable, an inoffensively rounded chunk of metal glass, with hints of rubber. It wears a typically LG-ish rounded row of buttons on its face, which blend with its black frame, black body, black trim, black keyboard and black backplate.
The Ally is heavy, though for its size—a bit thicker and less narrow than the Droid—it doesn't feel too dense. I'd be tempted to call it masculine, but next to the Droid and HTC Incredible, its conservative lines don't really earn descriptors more exiting than "lumpish" or "there."
(I will give the phone's shell credit for surviving a gnarly tumble down our office's stairs without a scratch.)
There are a few standout features. I mentioned the screen, which is a wonderfully dense 800x480 unit, somehow squeezes all those pixels into 3.2-inch diagonal inches, which makes this one of the most finely resolved displays I've ever seen on a phone. Font rendering is perceptibly flawless, and you can read text on desktop web pages totally zoomed out, in portrait mode. It's as if the display isn't made of pixels.
Surprisingly, in day to day use this screen quality doesn't matter so much—reading text is a bit more pleasant than it would be on an SVGA phone like the iPhone or HTC Hero, but it's not really any easier. As hardware features go, this is a perk. The display doesn't seem to be too much of a drain on battery life, which easily saw me through an average day of use, and through to the next morning.
But even in brilliant luminance of the display, the Ally's standout feature by far its keyboard, a beautifully laid-out, deceptively compact number with adequate spacing, well-angled keys and stern feedback. It's a joy compared to the Droid's irritatingly flat QWERTY, and it's the one feature that I could see luring users away from a Droid if used side-by-side, as many will in Verizon stores. But on its own, it's not enough.
The Ally's 600MHz MSM7627 Qualcomm processor isn't up to the task of powering an Android 2.1 phone, though I could have told you that before I even used this handset, since it's the same processor used in another, much less ambitious piece of hardware that was also panned for its sluggishness: the Palm Pixi. (The Droid's processor runs at a similar speed, but the architecture isn't really comparable, and in any case, performance is noticeably better.) App launching is quick enough, and the device doesn't really hang, per se, but it isn't responsive. It's 2010. Our phones shouldn't act surprised when we touch them.