As a budget-friendly smartphone, the LG Enlighten doesn't promise to blow you away with its performance, but that doesn't mean you're willing to accept sub-par performance. A phone has to be usable, right? Even the low-grade ones. So, is it worth it to save the $30, $40, or even $100 on a budget smartphone, or is this phone not even worth the savings? That's always the question we try to answer when we see mid-range smartphones for a good price.
After testing out the Enlighten, I'm mildly pleased with its performance. At its current price of $80, I'm not sure it's worth it to not just spend the extra twenty bucks and go for something like the Motorola Droid X2 or the Pantech Breakout with 4G speeds. However, prices can change at any point. You just want to know if this is one mid-range device you should jump on or pass up. That's what I'm here for.
Design & Features
As with most low-end or mid-range smartphones, the Enlighten features a 3.2-inch display. I'm not sure why 3.2-inches has become the standard for these phones, but if it seems small, don't hold it against the Enlighten. Like I said, most other phones in this category feature the same display. With a resolution of 320x480, expect a lot of rough edges around text, pictures, and graphics. The touchscreen itself uses capacitive technology and was very responsive and smooth. I had no problems with it.
With a 3.2-inch display, you can imagine that the Enlighten is a pretty small device. Aside from the physical keyboard which adds some chunkiness, the phone is very handheld. It measures 4.5-inches tall, 2.3-inches wide, and .58-inches thick and weighs 5.54 ounces. It's made entirely out of plastic and has an uninspired design. The back of the phone has a soft-touch feel and the phone as a whole has curved and smooth corners.
The Enlighten does have a dedicated camera key which I always appreciate. This key is on the right side of the phone. On the left side, you'll find the microUSB port as well as the volume rocker buttons. The top of the phone contains the 3.5mm headphone jack and the Power/Screen Lock button. There is a microSD memory card slot underneath the battery cover. The phone ships with a 2GB card and supports up to 32GB to supplement its 150MB of user-available internal storage.
Usability & Performance
The Enlighten ships with Android 2.3, a big plus for this device. Comparing it to other mid-range and low-end devices that ship with version 2.2 gives the Enlighten a huge advantage. The jump from 2.2 to 2.3 brought several improvements to Android. On top of Android, the operating system, LG has layered it with a custom User Interface. I'm not a huge fan of LG's custom UI, but you may feel differently when you see it. The homescreen features a dock with four shortcuts, three of which are customizable. (The fourth spot is reserved as a shortcut to the app drawer.) LG has also included a custom digital clock widget and a messaging widget. Once you open the app drawer, you'll notice some other changes. All of your apps are organized into categories and are in alphabetical order within those categories. The categories can be renamed and customized. I don't particularly like the category idea. It tends to hinder me more than it helps. Beyond that, LG has added toggle buttons in the notification menu for Sound Profile, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Airplane mode. The messaging interface is slightly different but the Enlighten still uses Google's virtual keyboard. LG has also modified the way you add items to your homescreen. The new system is simple and effective.
As I mentioned in the above paragraph, the Enlighten comes with Google's custom Android virtual keyboard. Google redesigned the virtual keyboard for Android 2.3, another advantage of having the latest version of the OS. However, most of the time, you'll be using the Enlighten's physical keyboard. By number, there are more pros to the keyboard than there are cons. The keys are spaced well, have a nice grip to them, and the action on each key when you press it is great. There is a dedicated number row as well as dedicated keys for the standard Android navigation shortcuts - Menu, Back, and Search. These are all great things and make the keyboard decent. However, the cons are simply too frustrating to ignore. Having a dedicated number row means that the Spacebar is squeezed in a row of letters. This new layout can take some time to get used to. The Spacebar itself was a problem. Despite being a triple-wide key, there is only one pressure point in the center, basically defeating the purpose of having such a large key. Instead of having the luxury of pressing anywhere on the key, you now have to be precise with your typing. These are only two faults, but they are glaring faults that really turned me off from the Enlighten.
The Enlighten uses an 800 MHz Qualcomm processor. Overall performance was good with minimal lag here and there. Transitions were smooth and most tasks could be completed with little delay. Web browsing did suffer. I found it was best to have all pug-ins turned off, otherwise scrolling, zooming, and panning was just too laggy and choppy. Once I did that, web browsing was decent with this little smartphone. The Enlighten uses Verizon's EV-DO Revision A network for 3G data and my average speeds while testing it in the Dallas area were around 1.7 Mbps. Those are good speeds and on par with what I've experienced will testing out other Verizon 3G smartphones.
The Enlighten's 3.2-megapixel camera produced pictures that were so bad, it's almost not even worth talking about. The camera does have an autofocus, but the lens quality is so terrible that pictures were blurry and lacked detail. When capturing an object from far away, pictures weren't completely awful, but close-up shots suffered greatly. I didn't expect much from a camera of this caliber and the Enlighten's certainly wasn't an overachiever. The Enlighten does capture VGA video, but audio and video quality were equally as poor as still-picture quality.
Battery life is something that can vary greatly from person to person depending on usage habits. Starting with the Enlighten's 1500 mAh battery at a full charge, I was able to make through a full day while keeping on notifications, background updates, using Twitter, and running general tests on the processor, network, and web browser.
So, here we are, back to our original question. We all want or need to save money wherever we can. Some choose to buy a less expensive phone in an effort to keep a few extra dollars. In the case of the LG Enlighten, is it worth it to do this? Typically, I say 'yes', mostly because there are some mid-range devices that will exceed your expectations for what an inexpensive smartphone can do.
The Enlighten is a decent mid-range device. I've tested devices in this category that retailed for the same price or cheaper that had better web browsing performance and a better keyboard. Based on that, I would recommend looking into something else. From experience, I know that there are better options.
What's Good: Decent processor performance; good 3G speeds; latest version of Android.
What's Bad: Bad keyboard design; terrible camera performance; I'm personally not a fan of LG's custom UI.
The Verdict: If something about the Enlighten strikes your fancy, then you should be sufficiently satisfied with it. Still there are better options for the price and in this category.