Android Central

It has been quite a year for LG, which despite its top spot among dumbphone sales has had a bit of a difficult time making it big in the Android world. Faced with stiff competition from fellow Korean handset maker Samsung, as well as HTC and Motorola, LG has struggled to create a brand for itself-- despite solid hardware, it has consistently failed to catch the attention of those who decide which Android devices sell and which ones flop-- the consumer. 

Then came the Optimus G and, subsequently the Nexus 4, both of which helped LG get back in the game. The Nexus 4 is widely considered to be the best Nexus to date, and the Optimus G has been called one of the best smartphones of 2012, besting even the Galaxy S 3 and the One X.

Not all of LG's releases this year have been as stellar, though, and unfortunately for Verizon customers, two of LG's misses have landed on Big Red's network. The LG Intuition was too "groundbreaking" for its own good with its awkward 4:3 display, and the Spectrum 2, despite its best efforts, manages to feel like an outdated afterthought and a slap in the face to Verizon loyalists who have had to watch LG's comeback from the sidelines. 

Read on for our full review.

The Good

The Spectrum 2 is a nice upgrade from the original Spectrum, thanks to its gorgeous display and zippy performance. Other goodies like wireless charging and stellar battery life sweeten the deal.

The Bad

The Spectrum 2 looks positively 2011 with a bulky design and a thick waistline. LG's UI still can't compete with the competition, and thanks to LG's poor track record, it's a safe bet that Jelly Bean is a long way's away.

Conclusion

The Spectrum 2 offers respectable specs, decent performance, and a lovely display. Its bulky design, though, makes it feel like yesterday's leftovers, especially when you consider what competitors like HTC and Samsung are doing with their entry- and mid-level devices. For $100, you could do a lot better, especially with the Droid RAZR M, which offers better performance, a better Android experience, and Jelly Bean out of the box-- with Verizon's holiday lineup so robust this year, you can afford to be shallow.

Inside this review

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LG Spectrum 2 hardware

LG Spectrum 2

The Spectrum 2 is Verizon Wireless’ ugly duckling this holiday season, a device that’s wearing jeans among a black-tie crowd. With competition like the Droid DNA, the new RAZR HDs and RAZR M, and Samsung’s Galaxy lineup, the Spectrum 2 feels like a bit of an afterthought, and would certainly be the last one picked for the kickball game. The hardware here feels downright last-generation, lacking the eye-popping thinness and style that we’re beginning to see on even entry-level devices. At .36 inches thick and weighing in at 5.22 ounces, the Spectrum 2 is noticeably heftier than much of the rest of Verizon’s similarly-spec'd lineup, even if it doesn’t translate on paper.

LG Spectrum 2

This illusion is due in large part to what I call the Spectrum 2’s “dual layer” appearance. The rectangular slab, accented by LG’s now-signature curved chrome trim and sharp corners, is actually a rather attractive design. The rear battery cover, however, ruins the Spectrum 2’s chances in a beauty contest—the black plastic door adds significant thickness to the phone, blends poorly into the rest of the design. If you didn’t know any better, you might mistake the door for an extended battery, due to how out of place it looks in practice. I described the Spectrum 2 as a low-end, hump back Optimus G to a friend, and it might just be the best way I can describe LG’s choices here. The single saving grace of this battery door, however, is its inductive charging and NFC capabilities, though I’ve seen other companies integrate this technology in a more attractive package.

LG Spectrum 2. LG Spectrum 2.

LG Spectrum 2. LG Spectrum 2.

Underneath that door lies the phone’s microSD and SIM slots, along with a 2,150 mAh rated for 10 hours of talk time. Real world usage was impressive—I easily breezed through a full day (7 a.m.- 11 p.m.) of moderate usage without the need for an outlet. You’ll easily make it through your workday even with extreme hands-glued-to-phone usage, and with light usage you’ll easily make it to 24 hours. When it gets to the point of needing a charge, throw your Spectrum 2 on any Qi-enabled pad and you’ll be back to 100% in just around an hour and a half. Some might call capacitive charging a gimmick, but it has yet to lose its luster for me.

Looking at the Spectrum 2 head-on, you’ll see a relatively attractive device flaunting a 4.7-inch IPS display with full 720p resolution. It strikes a perfect balance between size and portability, and it looks absolutely magnificent. It’s cut from the same cloth as the Optimus G and the Nexus 4’s display, and looks just as bright, vivid, and colorful as its higher-priced siblings. Viewing angles, thanks to the IPS technology, are great here, though direct sunlight viewing leaves just a bit to be desired. I’d rank this device up there with the Droid RAZR HD, though it fails to match the saturation and sheer sharpness of the Galaxy S 3 and the Droid DNA respectively. I personally tend to think that LG’s displays are almost too bright, and at times appear washed out, but I realize this is a strictly personal opinion and therefore can’t place blame on anything but my own tastes.

LG Spectrum 2

Underneath that beautiful display, LG has chosen to slap on four (yes, four) capacitive buttons, aglow with a blue hue that comes oh-so-close to ruining the display all together. Some may find this touch endearing, yet others, including myself, will find it to be an absolutely dreadful addition.

Under the hood, the Spectrum 2 has gathered the internals from the Optimus G’s cutting room floor, and matches the Droid RAZR M, its closest competitor, nearly punch for punch. It’s got a 1.5 GHz Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 processor, paired with a gig of DDR2 RAM, 16 GBs of internal storage, and a microSD slot capable of holding up to 32 GBs. Around back, you’ve got an 8MP shooter, while up front boasts a more modest 1.3 MP camera. As you'll read in a bit, the Spectrum 2 manages to produce impressive performance even without top-of-the-line specs.

LG Spectrum 2

Software

Android Central

The Spectrum 2 ships with Ice Cream Sandwich buried under LG’s bulky and obtrusive UI-- The experience here is nearly identical to both the Optimus G and the Intuition, complete with overwrought screen transitions, cartoon-like icons, and LG’s Quick Memo, Tag+, and SmartShare apps.  I’ve never been a huge fan of LG’s UI, and when faced with the choice between it, HTC’s Sense, and Samsung’s TouchWiz, it will never come out on top.

Thankfully, the Spectrum 2’s performance doesn’t suffer from it. In fact, this is one of the better-performing devices I’ve used lately, ranking right up there with the RAZR M and RAZR HD. The extra gig of RAM in the Droid DNA, the S3, and the Note 2 do bring those devices into a higher tier, but for at least $100 less than those devices, the Spectrum 2 impresses. The UI, as obtrusive as it may be, is absolutely lag and stutter free, with zippy transitions and speedy here-to-there action. I did find a bit of hesitation while browing the web, though switching to Chrome remedied the problem. To be earnest, you won’t find much to complain about here, as I’ve yet to find a processor-heavy task to slow the Spectrum 2 down.

 

In news called surprising by no one, Verizon has managed to stuff its usual list of misfit apps on the Spectrum 2, including Amazon’s shopping, Kindle, and MP3 apps, Amex Serve, Audible, Let’s Golf 3, NFL Mobile, Real Racing 2, V Cast Tones, Verizon Video, VZ Navigator, and Zappos. If you’re still shocked by this, I suggest opting for LG’s bloat-free Nexus 4 and moving on.

The LG Spectrum 2 cameras

LG Spectrum 2

Right off the bat, I had low expectations for the Spectrum 2's camera-- simply put, LG's optics just aren't up to the standards of Samsung's and HTC's. And with the bar set low, I wasn't terribly put off by what the Spectrum 2 produced, though I was far from impressed. 

Photo quality here is similar to other LG devices, though falls just short of what the Optimus G is able to produce. I'd liken photos from the Spectrum 2 to what we've recently seen from Motorola's RAZRs-- decent white balance and color reproduction, but an overall lack of sharpness and, at times, a "washed out" feel. There's a certain vibrancy missing here, and photos are recognizable for being from a smartphone camera. In a few words or less, photos are missing a "wow" we've become used to.

Performance wise, the Spectrum 2's eight megapixel camera is admirable: after a minor delay in launching, the camera focuses with speed and snaps with little to no shutter lag. LG has included some goodies to add to the camera's functionality, including a "Time Catch" shot mode which takes the best out of a group of rapid-shot photos, and the surprisingly useful "Cheese Shutter", which snaps your shot at the sound of the "cheese". 

The front-facer has a few added bonuses as well, including a "Cheese Shutter" of its own, as well as "Beauty Shot", which LG says will even skin tone and add an overall improvement in self-portraits. I didn't notice too much of an improvement, but I also don't take many self portraits. Regardless, it's a nice added touch.

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The bottom line

LG Spectrum 2

As with every review I’ve written in the past few months, I find myself a bit harsher than usual, thanks to Verizon’s absolutely stellar lineup this holiday season. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—this is by far the most robust portfolio I’ve seen Verizon offer in my past 15 years of being a customer.

As great as this is for customers, it’s equally as dooming for LG. Among any other lineup of competitors, the Spectrum 2 might just appear to be a decent mid-level choice, but when faced with such stiff competition, LG’s device really pales in comparison. For $50 less, you can snag a Droid RAZR M, which I consider to be one of the best devices on the market today. It’s faster, more attractive, and now ships with Jelly Bean out of the box. You’ll sacrifice some screen size, but it’ll be worth every tenth of an inch. . And if you’re able to squeeze another $100 out of your budget, you’re opening yourself up to some of the best Android devices ever made, like the Galaxy S 3, the Droid RAZR HD, and the Droid DNA.

To be fully honest, the main thing characteristic holding the Spectrum 2 back from being truly impressive is its bulky, outdated design. Despite its ample battery life, zippy performance, and wireless charging capability, the Spectrum 2 simply uglier than what $100 can purchase today. With 2013 at the door,  the next wave of thin and light, neither of which are attributes of the Spectrum 2, are about to make its entrance.  And that's really too bad, as LG has made some of the year’s best hardware with the Optimus G and the Nexus 4. Unfortunately, though, Verizon must settle for its scraps.

If you’re hell bent on a super-large display, the Spectrum 2 offers a beautiful one; if you’re willing to shave a few tenths of an inch off, grab a Droid RAZR M and never look back. Other manufacturers have upped their games when it comes to entry and mid-level devices; it’s time for LG to do the same.

 
There are 11 comments

quarlow says:

If you are doing capacitive buttons I think 4 is the way to go. I still find the menu key more useful than multi task. But if I had a dedicated key that might change. The black bar on the One X is really annoying, when I tried to train myself to use multi task.

Plus when there is no touch point directly under the space key I end up accidentally home less often. This is why I like the physical button Samsung has been doing.

Kudos to LG for being the first to try the most logical button layout for ICS+ with hardware buttons. It's a shame it wasn't on a device that will get used.

Its too square/hard lines for me, if they softened the corners, it would look much better.

Do you WANT them to be sued by Apple?

zero157h7 says:

I can't stand the 4 keys for on screen. It looks far too unbalanced and wrecks the aesthetic for me.

As opposed to the extra black bar you get across the bottom to accommodate the menu button on apps that require one on phones that have eliminated it? Google may want to ditch the menu button but clearly app developers aren't onboard with that yet and until they are the hardware button is still needed.

Ice cream sandwich? Really?

BigCTM says:

Thin and light is overrated. It just makes the phone harder to handle and easier to drop and shatter the screen. I like it when a phone has some bulk to make it easier to carry.

Having said that, this phone has surprised me. I have owned lots of Android phones and this one might be my favorite yet. I NEVER thought I would say this about an LG phone. To put it in perspective, I have owned the Galaxy Nexus, S3, Rezound, Razr and Razr M.

It has a great HD IPS screen, runs super fast, is lightweight, has a removable battery and a micro sd slot.

The one area where this phone really shines is reception. The Galaxy Nexus literally could not pick up a signal at my house, the S3 was not much better and the Motorolas had a solid 3G signal but barely picked up a 4G signal. This phone has been on a 4G signal over 90% of the time. Calls are crystal clear too. Not sure why the LG has a stronger signal at my house than any of the other phones but it does.

It comes with some delivered themes. The Thor one is especially cool.

In my mind, LG has come a long way since even last year. If you want a great HD screen and excellent reception, this phone is a great option, much better than the Razr M in my book.

rcraw0629 says:

I received my LG Spectrum 2 last week. This reviewer is wrong. This phone is thin and light. Battery life is good. compared with the LG Optimus T I used to use. Video is excellent, I watch twit.tv on ustream.tv

derry davis says:

What is that phone running in the first image to make it look like a different version of the Verizon ICS? I just picked up the phone last week and my lock screen looks much different. I have Android system version 4.0.4. on this phone. TIA.

Davidk2 says:

I just received the LG Spectrum 2 as well, this is the worst review I have ever read. Not because the phone is bad, but from the lack of knowledge displayed by the reviewer.

I was a Motorola Diehard for years and have probably owned every one of them going back to the Motorola Droid X. I am running Jellybean 4.1.2 and you said it wouldn't happen. By the way it came stock, no update needed. Also don't you know curves are out again, square is good, this is one of the best performing smartphones I have used.

Great phone, great price, great services, screams on 4G LTE. I am a huge Google Fan but they need to produce better phones to handle there OS. Very happy with my LG Spectrum 2. Does everything the G3 can do but cost a lot less. I used to think expensive was better, but after developing multiple Apps, and coding for both the iphones, and Android I can safely recommend the Spectrum 2 for those seeking the latest and greatest.

xXxGeek says:

I purchased the spectrum 2 VS930 last year and enjoyed it so much that I put together every thing that I experienced and researched about this unrecognized awesome phone in one place for every one to enjoy... Click on the link below!

http://rootzwiki.com/topic/36242-spectrum-2-forum/#entry1051105

Thanks, xXxGeek