Android Phones

LG Enlighten Review: Verizon’s newest mid-level device shines in its class

October 13, 2011 | by Ben Crawford

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The LG Enlighten from Verizon wasn’t supposed to “wow” me like the high-profile phones that have been released lately. However, the Englighten has a little charm that only small, perfectly-weighted and built devices can. Like the LG Optimus, the Enlighten stands out because it’s structured a little differently than other Android devices. It’s not stuck to the sleek black look of every other phone, but it’s no slack as it does have a distinguished brushed silver look. It doesn’t run on 4G or dual-cores, but with the latest Gingerbread build and a simple, user-friendly interface, the Enlighten is one of the best choices for mid-level consumers without high-tech needs.

Hardware

Compared to the adored Optimus, the LG Enlighten has a square 4.5″ body with a bit of thickness thanks to its full QWERTY slide-out keyboard. Around the device, there is a power button and headphone jack on top, and the volume rocker, USB-out, and a camera shutter button on the sides. Despite its small size, the Enlighten’s keyboard isn’t squished together. It also sports Back, Menu, and Search buttons which is very convenient (I wanted this on the Droid 3). The snap that the keyboard makes when opened is completely satisfying and well-built. I will say that the keyboard is almost a neccessity. Because of the Enlighten’s small stature, it is very difficult to tap the on-screen keys on the normal Android keyboard.

The back of the phone is rubberized so that means no scratches to worry about. The nicest physical attribute of the Enlighten, besides the keyboard, are the menu keys. I like physical buttons instead of capacitative, and the Enlighten’s buttons are flush with the device and have a very sophisticated look. The Menu and Search buttons are shiny black while the Home and Back buttons are the same brushed silver as the face of the device. It’s a classy touch, perfect for those that like physical keyboards and buttons.

Screen/Camera

The screen isn’t going to capture anyone’s attention as it has a diminiutive 3.2″ size and only a 320×480 resolution. However, I think the target audience (non-smartphone owners) will find it a suitable upgrade from a feature phone. I did find the overall color-scheme attractive. The black is a linear gradient with white at the top and coupled with the Gingerbread theme, the Enlighten makes it very easy to see the icons, clock, and battery.

Unsurprisingly, the camera is not very good, and this is how I know the Enlighten is targeted at feature phone upgraders – it is a mere 3.2 megapixels. The camera app is solid with convenient settings on-screen, but a camera without flash is a little on the short-sighted side. People ready to upgrade with a split decision between a feature phone or a smartphone will see the Enlighten as an upgrade in every category except the camera. Just putting a flash on the camera would have been a substantial addition, but LG chose to go light on picture-taking powers.

Software Performance

While LG’s overlay UI isn’t an abhorrence, its lockscreen is definitely lacking. It has no volume slider to control, and that is a must for Android phones. Everyone likes additional features and conveniences on their lockscreens, not less. After unlocking the phone, LG’s homescreens are the typical scrolling screens, and the bottom dock starts with the standard Phone, Contacts and Messaging shortcuts. These dock shortcuts are customizable which is convenient.

Similar to Motorola’s App Drawer, LG puts apps into groups like Communication, Tools, News, and Downloads. LG is genuinely trying to help the user with this setup, but I think it hinders finding apps as you have to know where LG thinks apps should go instead of having one long list of everything.

There is a small lag when scrolling through the homescreens, but, surprisingly, switching in and out of apps is remarkably lag-free. Opening an app is instantaneous, and I haven’t notice any decrease in efficiency in the time I’ve had the Enlighten. I am thoroughly impressed with the quickness of this device. It works effortlessly, without lag, and that makes this Android device one of the few that accomplishes that feat out of the box.

App Performance

Though the Enlighten doesn’t sport a dual-core processor or Verizon’s LTE network, it handles apps and tasks very well. It won’t blaze the Bionic or turn heads, but Angry Birds runs smoothly and Gmail pops open quickly. The screen, not so much the hardware, makes it a chore to play demanding games with on-screen controls though. With two thumbs on the screen, it is hard to see anything going on with the actual game.

Again, catering to the former feature phone crowd, the LG Enlighten has superb battery life – the absolute best I’ve experienced on Android. I averaged two days of use. With heavy usage, I got about a day and a half battery. With moderate usage, I got a solid two days unplugged.

Final Thoughts

For the mid-level consumer, this is a device that will astound them with what it can do in a similar shell as a feature phone. I like the target demographic, and I like the body and style of the LG Enlighten. It has the durability and feel of a feature phone with extra features that will entice some feature phone users to upgrade to the malleable Android OS.

While the Enlighten isn’t for techies or spec-gloaters, it is for people who don’t want the pressure of learning the touchscreen keyboard or don’t want to handle the bells and whistles of a Bionic. The keyboard is a good size, and with a physical button layout, upgrading users will already know this phone before they use it.

You can get the LG Enlighten for free at AmazonWireless or Wirefly or on Verizon for $80 on a new 2-year agreement or upgrade.