The original LG Lucid was behind the curve when it was introduced on Verizon Wireless last year. It had the 4G LTE connectivity that Verizon had required of all Android smartphones, but it ran the outdated Android 2.3 Gingerbread at a time when users were craving the months-long Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Lucid 2 comes a little over a year later and is thankfully closer to the expectations of a modern smartphone. The device has 4G LTE, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, numerous software additions from LG and a low price for someone looking for a new Android smartphone (free with a two-year contract). Is it cheap enough? The LG Lucid 2 is a pleasing upgrade from last year's model, but it has to hold its own against this year's competition. You will be surprised to learn how big the Lucid can be.
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Hardware and design
The LG Lucid 2 lacks a lot of flair. The phone follows the trend of simple black rectangular shapes, although small silver stripes on the right and left sides of the device help to break up the monotony. The hardware buttons on the bottom of the phone – Back, Home, Multitasking, and Menu – are faintly visible when not in use, but light up when touched. The selective visibility doesn't distract the user, but the same doesn't apply to the top of the phone with Verizon and LG logos just in case someone dares to forget who made the phone.
The plastic LG Lucid 2 is light and easy to transport. At 122 x 63.75 x 9.9 mm (4.82 x 2.51 x 0.39 in) and 129 g (4.55 ounce), it's a bit thicker than most of the latest phones, but also a lot shorter. The plastic material along the battery compartment feels rough, like someone is scratching vinyl. You can actually reproduce the sounds of a DJ by quickly rubbing your fingers across the back of the phone. Despite the unfortunate choice of material, the small stature and curved back of the phone nestles gently in the palm of the hand, making the Lucid 2 comfortable to hold.
LG's latest Lucid has a slightly larger screen that measures 4.3 inches. The qHD resolution won't dazzle anyone, but it is manageable and does enough work to display colors and brightness at reasonable levels. The lack of HD resolution makes the display significantly worse when held next to other devices, but the IPS display is respectable when viewed alone. The text is easy to read and the video can be viewed without any major problems. At this size and resolution, the Lucid 2 screen is acceptable.
Performance and Key Specifications
As a midrange phone, the Lucid 2 has well-known specifications that can compete with any other smartphone in its class. Unfortunately, there are times when it just can't keep up with you. A combination of 1GB of RAM and a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor should allow the LG Lucid 2 to do most activities with relative ease.
The phone is fast in certain apps, but not very nimble in navigation. It often takes up to three seconds for the home screen to display shortcuts, allowing users to stare at a background image before finally showing the content. Switching between the app drawer and the multitasking button is quick, but pauses occur far too often to be ignored.
The Lucid 2 only has 8 GB of internal storage and a microSD slot that supports up to 64 GB of additional storage. Other notable specs include Bluetooth 4.0 and the ability to support Qi wireless charging. The spare door required to activate wireless charging unfortunately adds bulk to the Lucid 2, but the convenience of charging by putting the phone down and walking away without looking for cables may be worth the increased thickness for some.
Software and user interface
LG has been accused of following Samsung too closely in its Android design decisions, and the visual similarities between previous versions of Touchwiz and Optimus UI will come as no surprise. However, these similarities are rare and reflect some positive changes LG has made.
Optimus UI is based on Android 4.1.2 and includes clever software changes like a customizable list of setting switches in the notification bar. QuickMemo is another handy feature that allows users to take a screenshot of any page, write notes over the picture, and then share them with others.
The interface of other apps is simpler and lint-free. The calendar app has a nice split view that can show a close-up of a day, week, or agenda mode, and prefers lighter colors that actually work well with the white, blue, and gray theme across the phone's UI .
Should the standard user interface prove too daunting, there is also a "starter mode" that first-time smartphone buyers can use to simplify some activities. The starter mode is not that visually appealing, but it does provide additional guidance on adjusting brightness and font size, setting up widgets for quick contacts, and adding favorite apps to the home screen. All of this can be achieved in the standard view, but the starter mode offers more hand posture.
Verizon has signed a contract with Amazon to display Amazon's mobile apps on all Android smartphones. Therefore, the LG Lucid 2 has a healthy portion of preinstalled software. These apps can be hidden, but not deleted, so users have to work with Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Amazon MP3, Amazon Appstore, Audible, and Zappos on their device. The same goes for My Verizon, VZ Navigator, VZ Security and Verizon Tones.
LG's standard software offers a little more value. Video Wiz combines photos and videos into montages, similar to what we saw recently from BlackBerry and HTC. SmartShare makes it easy to share media streaming across devices on the same WiFi network, and FileShare supports wireless media transfer. Rich Note is an advanced note-taking app that contains text, photos, audio, or written notes, which can also include information about the location or the date and time it was created.
Chrome for Android is the default browser on the LG Lucid 2. The browser supports syncing of bookmarks, search, history and tabs between the phone and desktop versions of Chrome, so there's a noticeable benefit. It's pretty quick, but anyone unhappy with Chrome can find alternatives on Google Play.
Communication & data
Verizon has invested heavily in building and promoting its 4G LTE network. This has been of great benefit to most of the United States. The Lucid 2 did an excellent job of leveraging an LTE signal during my recent trips to New York City. It did as or better than my Verizon iPhone 5 in terms of data speed and signal strength. It also worked well as a phone; Every call I made showed clear audio on both ends of the conversation.
A 5-megapixel camera is on the back of the LG Lucid 2, and a 1.3-megapixel front camera enables self-portraits or video calls. Both cameras are average and provide photos that reflect the limitations of mid-range devices.
A disadvantage of the rear camera is that it's incredibly difficult to balance exposure and brightness. Even when using the included HDR mode, photos were routinely washed out. Users typically have to manually switch between scene modes, white balance, and ISO settings to improve the chances of a high quality picture being captured.
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Any time a phone comes with a 2460 mAh battery, there is a good chance that the battery life is good. These chances can decrease somewhat if the processor is inefficient or a large display is consuming more power.
The Lucid 2 has a large capacity battery, a reasonably clocked 1.2 GHz processor, and a 4.3 inch screen, so there is plenty of power available. In my week on the phone, I never had to reach for the charger during the day. I walked a day and a half of light to moderate use and managed to use the phone repeatedly from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. during more active periods. Despite multiple emails, tweets, photos, videos, and phone calls, the Lucid 2 has shown that it has excellent endurance.
Sequels are rarely better than the original when it comes to movies, but they are almost always better on the technology side. No one should be surprised that the LG Lucid 2 is a significant step up from its predecessor, but what might surprise some people is that it is also an step up from many of the mid-range devices currently on the market.
The Lucid 2 does not inspire in many areas. It is characterized by battery life, call quality and data strength. The screen is better than most devices in its class, and that makes the phone important in the areas that matter most. Hiccups in navigation performance negatively impact the overall experience of the Lucid 2, but it doesn't overshadow an otherwise strong mid-range option.
Someone planning on taking lots of photos or heavy lifting may want to pay for a more powerful phone, but the Lucid 2 can hold its own under the weight of normal activity. Because the LG Lucid 2 comes free with a two-year contract signing, it offers one of the best values Verizon Wireless has.
Advantages: Excellent battery life and voice quality. Really good value and total package for the price (free on contract). Better than most mid-range offerings on the market. Decent quality display.
Disadvantage: Performance is not great. The aesthetics leave a lot to be desired.