Far from the wonders of high end iPhones and Android phones lies a middle ground that often goes untouched in the mainstream tech world. While many people (perhaps a bulk of smartphone sales these days) happens in the mid-range market, it is the bells and whistles on the flagship devices that always garner the most coverage. Of course, being the tech obsessed people that we are, can you blame us? That said, is LG’s Lucid enough of heavy hitter to justify praise at it’s more agreeable price point?
Hardware & Design
LG hasn’t designed the best looking (or most original) phones in recent memory. The Lucid, however, is a mild departure on both fronts. For starters, the design is mostly LG. Also, it’s a bit odd. While it isn’t “bad”, it’s not an iPhone 4/4S or Lumia 800/900 in terms of physical beauty.
On either side of the phone you’ll find a metallic-like band starting at the top of the phone and running down to the bottom, getting thinner and width the closer to the bottom it gets. The back of the phone features a hard plastic cover that is stylized with subtle red shades spread across a carbon fiber-esque design. Overall it looks nice enough. The plastic design, however, makes it a bit more slippery than we think is necessary. The carbon fiber-esque plastic is also a fingerprint magnet. Two knocks.
On the left side of the Lucid you’ll find a micro-USB port for charging/syncing and a volume +/- rocker while the right side houses a simple power button on the top edge.
Internally, the Lucid is packed with a speedy 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, and (alright, this is external) a 4″ 480 x 800 IPS “Nova” LCD.
Packing Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread is a huge con in our book. Really, do you want to sign away two years of your life on a device that probably won’t see an Android 4.0 ICS update? We can’t think of any reason why this phone shouldn’t have ICS, mid-range focus aside; it has a fast dual-core processor, a gig of RAM and high enough resolution that ICS should be a cake walk.
Gingerbread on the Lucid is like any other recent LG device (Spectrum) in that LG has gone to town on skinning and changing around virtually every menu, checkbox and .png to “differentiate” from the competition. On most fronts, LG’s attempts to “differentiate” by simply looking different succeeded. Differentiating by being better or more functional, however, is not happening here. For starters, the app launcher is probably one of our least favorites. The way LG organizes things makes it incredible cumbersome to navigate through and find an app. The alternate list view isn’t really any better than the categorical view as it is far too small in what it actively shows at a time (1 icon per line).
While the overall color choices, icon layout/organization and design of LG’s Android skin leaves a lot to be desired, we have to hand it to LG (and Verizon) for not loading down the Lucid with too much bloatware. While there are you typical 3rd party apps like Netflix getting an annoying plug and VZW’s own branded apps making an appearance, it’s better than what we’ve seen on other VZW/LG phones.
Camera & Display
The 5-megapixel camera on the Lucid doesn’t really have a laundry list of fancy symbols, names and clever marketing catch phrases to woo over the customer. It is rated at 5 megapixels. And that’s it. Pictures from the Lucid were decent enough on a 2009 scale, though compared to any number of higher-end offerings in the last 2 years leaves us desiring a bit more. Colors, white balance and focus are all slightly off one way or another. Still, for $79 it is about what we’d expect.
While the camera isn’t a high point, we’d pleased to see that the display on the Lucid, despite it’s lower 480 x 800 resolution, is actually pretty decent. The colors on the “Nova” branded IPS display popped and colors were more or less saturated to pleasing levels. There were only some instances where colors look washed out (such as higher background light situations). For $79, you’re getting a pretty good display in great need of a good UI and camera to make use of it.
Performance: Apps, Network & Battery Life
Even though the Lucid is a mid-range phone with a “slower” 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, Gingerbread is pretty easy to run these days. (It is well over 1.5 years old now, so it better run smooth.) There has been plenty of time to optimize for it. The 1 GB of RAM tucked within the Lucid almost certainly helps too.
As far as network performance, we’re sad to announce the seemingly limitless speeds we were seeing early on before the network was flooded with an army of LTE phones are no more. While we’re still able to get an occasional burst around town of 10-15 Mbps down, the day-to-day speeds in most locations hovers around 2-6 Mbps — far from the 20-30 Mbps we were seeing pretty frequently. We’ll point out that it is within Verizon’s rated 5-12 Mbps marketing claim for their LTE network. But considering that the HSPA+ network we usually use in the same region gets 3-4 routinely on a just as heavily utilized network makes us feel a lot less happy about “next-gen” LTE.
Finally, battery life on the Lucid is both good and bad. On one hand, actively using the device throughout the day sees respectable runtime from the 1,700 mAh battery — roughly in the 10-12 hour range. Though, things can quickly go south if you’re constantly refreshing your twitter feed and have five different email accounts pushing email, not to mention a host of other socially/location away apps humming along in the background. Standby time, however, isn’t so hot. Longer stretches of idle usage during the day or those special moments at night when recharging our own batteries, we often saw the Lucid lose 20% or more simply sitting in our pocket/table unused. Whatever the phone is doing in the background needs to stop.
At $79.99 it’s hard to knock some of the flaws of the Lucid too hard. It is after all a mid-range device and not your typical $300 flagship device. Still, the odd standby battery drain and stodgy reluctance to stick with Android 2.3.x Gingerbread are two “features” that are a hard pill to swallow regardless of how cheap it is.
The one saving grace in our book is the rather potent hardware; 1.2 GHz of dual-core power and a full gig of RAM are definitely powerful enough for most any app on the market. Toss in the rather good looking IPS display and you’ve got a pretty awesome way to spend $79.
The only question is whether or not the entry-level price is really worth two years of your life. To us, we’re not entirely sure it’s your best purchase, especially when the factor of time is considered. Add to it you’re pretty much guaranteed to be stuck at an already ~1.5-year old version of Android. How bad will it be in 2 years? Still, for those on a budget the price point is hard to overlook.