Don't just pass this one by - Verizon's potentially got a sleeper hit on its hands with the LG Lucid 2
With a fanfare-free launch, a budget-friendly price tag, and modest specs, you wouldn't think that the Lucid 2 means a lot for Verizon's portfolio; in the shadow of some of the greatest Android devices ever created, it's easy to overlook LG's latest entry as just another filler in Big Red's lineup.
Not only is the Lucid 2 a spectacular device, it marks a major step in the evolution of Android. The days of having to fork over $200 for a decent Android smartphone are long gone, and the fact that this remains true even on the largest (and most expensive) wireless carrier in America is a bigger deal than you think.
The Lucid 2 shines both inside and out: the 4.3-inch display is both beautiful and pocket-friendly, while the Snapdragon S4 Plus and Jelly Bean brainpower provide snappy performance.
The Lucid 2 doesn't have the premium build quality that today's flagships exhibit, and its camera is pretty bare-bones. The wireless charging capability is cool in theory but fails miserably in reality.
Inside this review
LG has made significant strides in the past year to reestablish itself as a major Android OEM, and luckily for consumers its focus has been shared between its top, middle, and bottom shelves. As impressive as the Optimus G was for a flagship device, the Lucid 2 is equally as impressive for an mid-range smartphone. This is one hell of a device, despite what its $0 price tag might imply.
On the hardware side of things, the Lucid 2 merges an eye-catching design with a healthy, albeit price-appropriate, build quality to create a device that's easy on the eyes and comfortable in the hand. The deep black bezel lends a sense of sophistication to the Lucid 2, as does the silver grills slashed down the sides. The removable battery door is made of a textured plastic that feels both sturdy and grip-friendly, though prying it off tends to be an exercise in patience. Once removed, you'll find the Lucid 2's power supply,a microSIM slot, and an SD card holster capable of handling up to 64GBs.
Where I was really impressed with the Lucid 2 was its size—at 4.82 x 2.51 inches housing a 4.3-inch display, LG has finally created a solid Android device that can be comfortably used with one hand. There's no awkward reaching here, no accidental dropping thanks to fondling and mishandling; just a beautiful smartphone that acts, looks, and feels like a smartphone.
Those who are shy about "downgrading" to a smaller screen size are in for a pleasant surprise—today's 4.3-inch displays are leaps and bounds better than they were a year ago, thanks to the ever-shrinking bezel. And with a surprisingly-gorgeous 540 x 960 qHD resolution and 256ppi, the Lucid 2 isn't going to make you yearn for more real estate. Thanks to LG's IPS technology, colors are accurate, viewing angles are superb, and saturation is both vibrant and balanced—this isn't the best screen money can buy, but it doesn't have to be. It's simply gorgeous, and does a beautiful job for its size and resolution. I do wish direct sunlight viewing would have been better, but this is a snag that even $300 smartphones are still having a hard time avoiding.
The Lucid 2 is just as fun under the hood, packing a 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 Plus processor paired with a full gig of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage. Yes, that's right—the Lucid 2 has the same brainpower as the RAZR HD and HTC One X that you paid $200 for last year. In terms of real-world performance, the Lucid 2 performs just as admirably as yesterday's flagships: navigation is swift and stutter-free, 2D and 3D graphics are rich with texture and clarity, and multitasking is effortless. The specs may no longer be the cream of the crop, but that doesn't mean they perform any less impressively as they did yesterday.
To power all that horsepower, the Lucid 2 ships with a standard 2,460 mAH li-ion battery, which gratefully doesn't add much girth to the device's slim .39-inch waistline. It performed remarkably well, too: I sailed through my entire day without a sweat with light-to-moderate usage. With the screen at 100%, background data at full-blast, and the majority of emails received and replied from the device, I was looking for a charger by around 8 p.m., having used the Lucid 2 since around 7 a.m. I didn't set up a continuous loop of 1080p video (which the Lucid 2 plays without a hitch) to prove my findings because, quite frankly, I find that to be stupid, but for 90% of users, the Lucid 2's battery is ample.
For those who will push the Lucid 2 to the limit, the device does support inductive charging through a separately-sold backplate and charging pad. Neither are available at Verizon stores just yet, but don't get your hopes up: the backplate adds considerable girth to the phone, so much so that it feels almost obtrusive when compared to the standard battery door. On top of that, charging the device from empty to full on LG's pad takes hours longer than using a standard USB cable. While some may find fun in the novelty of wireless charging, most will recognize it for a fad not quite ready for primetime.
The Lucid 2 ships with Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Take that in for a minute—a mid-range device that ships with Jelly Bean out of the box. What a beautiful world we live in. It's nice to see OEMs taking Android updates more seriously, especially LG, who had previously been known for its slow adoption rate. Layered underneath LG's Optimus UI, Jelly Bean performs admirably here, despite the at-times overly-animated topcoat. I've never been a huge fan of the Optimus UI, namely due to its less-than-sophisticated look and feel, though I'll happily admit that it's growing on me and seems less and less obtrusive with every revision.
LG's built-in goodies are here, including its impressive video editor, its file share service, and its signature Quickmemo, the on-screen note taking answer to Samsung's S-Memo. While it isn't as fun to use without a stylus, it's just as effective and useful here, and we're thrilled that LG has made a conscious effort to share the wealth with even the rookies in its lineup.
On an interesting note, I did have to wonder whether the Lucid 2 made it out of the kitchen without Verizon noticing, as it's lacking a lot of Big Red's dreaded bloatware. Amazon's suite is here, as is VZ Navigator and Security, but overall, a lot of bloatware didn't make it onto the Lucid 2.
Despite how far entry-level and mid-range smartphones have come in the past year, the divide between these products and flagship devices is nowhere more noticeable than in their cameras. And that's understandable—yesterday's flagships, whose specs are finally making their way down the ladder, still suffered from less-than-stellar optics. Unfortunately, this is the all-too-true case with LG's hardware, which has notoriously suffered from poor camera quality.
This fact rings true on the Lucid 2, though keeping the phone's price tag in mind takes some of the sting away from its disappointing camera. It is by no means incapable; in ideal conditions, photos are saturated, color-accurate, and noise-free, and the 720p videos are relatively steady and crisp. It's the less-than-ideal conditions that are a hurdle for the Lucid 2's 5MP shooter—low-light situations and moving subjects consistently cause flawed photo and video.
It is worth noting that LG has done a phenomenal job with the camera's interface and overall performance—shutter lag is absent and focusing as quick and seamless. The Lucid 2i also packs some of LG's innovative features included on the likes of the Optimus G and Verizon's Intuition, like the company's now-signature "Cheese Shot" voice-activated shutter, though don't expect to find the filters, editing software, and other high-end goodies that HTC and Samsung has spoiled us with.
Call me crazy, but I can say with complete and utter honesty that I find the Lucid 2 to be more exciting than the Galaxy S 4 and HTC One combined. For $200-$300 on contract, the sky is the limit—the real challenge is bringing an admirable, fun-and-easy to use device to market with an affordable pricetag. LG has done just that. I've been screaming at the top of my lungs all year that 2013 marks a major milestone in the history of Android, and the Lucid 2 reiterates my feelings. We've finally gotten to a point where entry and mid-range devices combine performance and design in a way previously reserved for flagships, and that is really, truly exciting.
The Lucid 2 is hard not to recommend—it's got lightning-fast performance thanks to its super-powered processor and up-to-date software, a stylish design, a stunning display, and a bionic battery. It's a no-brainer for those who loved the OG Lucid thanks to the improved display and software—this is a worthy upgrade. And for those unable or unwilling to drop money on a new smartphone, you can rest assured that you can sign another upgrade and not worry about having an obsolete brick in a year.
You can buy a better display, or a more beefed-up processor, or even a more eye-catching design, but all of those things require your hard earned money. The Lucid 2 does not. For a fully-subsidized device, the Lucid 2 stuns, and should be on your shortlist no matter what your budget may be.