While the LG Escape isn’t brand new, nor was its release back in September exactly hotly anticipated, we here at Android Central are nothing if not thorough, and we believe that everyone should have all facts before they throw down some sawbucks on a new phone. Here, we’ll take a brief look at LG’s entry-level device and how the $50 Escape fares against the rest of AT&T’s portfolio, just in time for the holiday season.
For $50, LG has created an entry-level device that delivers top-shelf performance and style. The Escape is nimble and blazes on AT&T's LTE network. The Escape's display isn't quite full HD but nevertheless looks quite remarkable.
The Escape's battery life was just average, and the camera is truly disappointing. For $50 more, you could buy one of the best Android devices on the market today, the HTC One X.
Inside this review
The one-take walkthrough
Physically speaking, the Escape is a $50 version of the Optimus G; all of the subtle touches of LG’s latest device strategy are in place here, but they’re done so on a much tighter budget. The Escape’s trim is of a textured finish, similar to its flagship cousin’s, that makes losing your grip of the device no fault of the Escape’s. The Escape’s rear shares the crystallized texture of the Optimus G, though this backplate is removable and comes in the form of a designed plastic rather than glasswork. Pry it open and you’ll find your microSD and SIM card slots, along with a 2,150 mAh battery, capable of squeezing just around a full day’s worth of usage out of the device. I took the Escape off of the charger at 7 a.m. every day and never found myself searching for a plug until at least 9 p.m. that evening.
The Escape packs a lot into a relatively thin and light profile—at just .37 inches thick and weighing 4.5 ounces, this device escapes the curse of thick and heavy entry level phones. Most impressive among these components is the IPS display- at 4.5 inches with a qHD 960x540 resolution, this screen is so much more than sufficient, offering excellent color reproduction, viewing angles, and contrast. It’s nowhere near the full HD display on the Optimus G, but again, it’s hard to fault at $50.
What keeps the Escape ticking is a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 processor, similar (though underclocked) to what we see on Motorola’s RAZR HD line as well as the Galaxy S 3. Coupled with a full gig of RAM, the Escape is no slouch, and consistently puts up some impressive benchmark totals. In real-world usage, I never managed to find a way to slow the Escape down, despite how much I tried. The Escape performs with some serious oomph, though don’t get greedy and expect flagship-level performance. You’ll find some stutters along the way during a graphically-robust game here and there, but for the most part, the Escape can handle whatever you throw at it.
Adding to the Escape’s pleasurable user experience is its LTE capabilities—thanks to AT&T’s seriously impressive network, you’ll reach some mind-blowing speeds. Here in New York City, I consistently pulled 15-20 Mbps down, and with upload speeds falling between 8 and 12 Mbps. We’ve officially entered “LTE for everyone” territory—gone are the days of high speeds being restricted to high price tags.
After having used the Optimus G, the Intuition, and now the Escape, I can say that LG has made a conscious effort to create a uniform, consistent user experience across its portfolio. That’s a good thing, and it shows that LG has realized that the smartphone game has become more than a spec war. LG is creating an identity for itself, and has made the Optimus UI as identifiable as its TouchWiz and Sense competitors.
But creating an identity is only the first step—to stay relevant, LG must commit to the upgrade process. As of right now, all three of its major devices ship with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which has become painfully stale and outdated. LG’s UI does its best to spruce things up, but it can only do so much. Fret not—ICS is still fast and smooth, but once you’ve tasted the sweetness of Jelly Bean, it’s hard to go back.
Just like on the Optimus G and Intuition, the Escape is packed to the brim with LG’s custom touches. The skin here is light and eye-catching, with a focus on color, cartoonish icons, and dramatic transitions. At first glance you might even mistake it for TouchWiz, though LG fans will quickly point out how bloated Samsung’s UI has become.
What you’ll be most interested in here is the Escape’s NFC capabilities, along with Quick Memo and Smart Share. The latter apps have become staples of LG’s UI, and really do add quite a big of functionality to the company’s devices. Smart Share is your typical media sharing service, beaming your photos, videos, media between all DLNA-certified devices in your home. Quick Memo is LG’s super-useful S-Memo knock off, which allows you to draw directly on your display with the simultaneous press of the volume up and down keys. If you’ve used Quick Memo on the Optimus G, you’ll notice that the only thing missing here is the ability to keep your notes on the screen while navigating around your device. I’ll chalk this up to the Escape’s limited horsepower. Quick Memo is most capable on the Intuition thanks to LG’s Rubberdiem pen, though it does just fine without it on the Escape.
You’ll find the biggest and most obvious side-effects of the Escape’s budget-friendly pricetag in the device’s photographs. The 5 MP rear camera, the device's sole shooter, retains most of the Optimus G’s goodies, including Cheese Shot (say cheese and the camera will snap) and a plethora of settings and filters, though it lacks the flagship’s raw quality. Auto-focus is slower than average here, and the results are soft and at times washed-out. The optics here just cannot compete with what we’re seeing on today’s flagships, but this is a trend we’re beginning to get used to: budget-friendly phones may now include bigger and better processors and displays , but cameras are still the corners that are most often cut.
Let’s keep this succinct: if you’re an AT&T customer with $50 to burn, the Escape must not be overlooked. It’s main competition is the Samsung Rugby Smart, but that device’s rugged exterior is meant for a niche and not the mainstream. Sure, you could go for a last-gen device that has dropped in price, but HTC Vivid and Samsung Captivate Glide are downright dinosaurs. And while the LG Nitro offers a better display, its dated UI is not nearly as refined as the Escape’s.
Now, if you can somehow double that $50, your options open up dramatically. The Xperia TL and the HTC One X are both available for $100 and run circles around the Escape in terms of both hardware and software. But wouldn’t we all love to just pick another $50 off the money tree?
The Escape offers solid performance and a great display for an unbeatable price. At $50 you’ll have to sacrifice a stellar camera, mind-blowing battery life, and full HD detail, but for a pocket full of extra spending cash, these are sacrifices I’d be more than willing to make.
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