Sturdy design with comfortable soft-touch back; Bright display; Wireless charging capability; NFC stickers make it easy to change settings
Performance suffers from lag; Running old Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS; Below-average battery life
The Spectrum 2 is a solid midrange Android phone with a bright HD screen and built-in wireless charging, but it could use a Jelly Bean performance boost.
Now that the Optimus G has picked up the mantle as LG's flagship Android phone, it makes sense that the Spectrum 2 for Verizon Wireless aims for the more affordable $99 sweet spot. What do you get for that price? More than you might think. We're talking a bright 4.7-inch HD IPS screen, a 1.5-GHz S4 Snapdragon processor and bundled NFC stickers for automatically switching settings with a tap. The Spectrum 2 also supports wireless charging, so you can just plop down an optional mat to get juice. Read on to find out if this sequel gets our juices flowing.
DesignGalaxy S III. Measuring 5.3 x 3.7 x 0.36 inches, the Spectrum 2 is shorter and narrower than Samsung's device (5.3 x 2.7 x 0.36 inches), but also thicker.
Otherwise, the Spectrum 2 is tall, dark and fairly handsome. Smoky gray chrome wraps around the sides and meet up with the sturdy Gorilla Glass display, and the top and bottom of the phone are matte black plastic. Bonus: you don't have to worry much about fingerprint smudges.
The back cover doesn't just protect the battery and other components; it houses the NFC chip and Qi wireless charging coil. Underneath, you'll find a microSD card slot above the battery, so you can add more storage without powering down the phone.
The Spectrum 2's screen registered a very bright 483 lux on our light meter. That's better than the Motorola Droid RAZR M (449 lux) and more than double the Galaxy S III (213 lux).
This display isn't perfect. Brighter images can appear washed-out, such as the default home screen, and black levels aren't as deep as on the RAZR M's AMOLED display, but overall, the Spectrum supplies a very good picture for the price.
Software and interface
The Spectrum 2 runs LG's Optimus 3 UI on top of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Sorry, no Google Now here or offline voice typing, both of which comes with the newer Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. LG's interface does have some nice perks, starting with four lock screen shortcuts you can customize. We dig the circle animation that enlarges as you swipe across the screen.
One of the more unique quick settings options is QuickMemo, which lets you write on top of screenshots with a finger and then share it via email, messaging or social networks. While convenient on paper, we missed the precision of pen input. There's also just not much room to write; we barely had room for the word "Wow." (Yes, in this case we're being sarcastic.)
Unlike the Optimus G, the Spectrum 2 doesn't support LG QSlide feature, which lets users play a video in the background while performing another task in the foreground. We didn't miss it.
You can also turn on the Shape writer keyboard, whose Swype-like functionality lets you trace a line between letters to form words. We wouldn't use this option, however. The line was thicker than we'd like, obscuring some letters. Worse, in this mode the auto-correct function became overaggressive. We literally couldn't type Laptopmag.com in the browser address window; instead, the keyboard entered laptops.com
To be fair, the phone lets us flip through home screens quickly and switched apps smoothly. We also enjoyed the fluid animations in the demo version of "Let's Golf 3." The Spectrum 2 just doesn't feel as buttery smooth as the Droid RAZR M, which benefits from a lighter skin on top of Android and the fact that it's now running the latest Android 4.1 OS.Droid RAZR M (4,495) and the Galaxy S III (4,731). Only the quad-core powered Droid DNA (7,011) and Galaxy Note II (6,275) outperformed the Spectrum 2.
On An3DBench, which gauges graphics performance, the Spectrum 2 notched 7,308, which again beats the category average (7,161), as well as the Galaxy S III (6,994). However, the Droid RAZR M scored a bit higher (7,335), as did the DNA (7,337) and Note II (7,742).
The LG Spectrum comes with 16GB of memory, which you can expand via the microSD Card slot.
4G and Web Browsing
Most websites loaded quickly. The full desktop versions of CNN.com, Yahoo.com and ESPN.com opened in 5.6, 8.8 and 12 seconds, respectively.
The browser itself mostly stays out of your way, with the exception of a tab along the bottom. Swiping this tab up reveals multiple options, including a zoom button that lets you zoom in by bringing the device closer to your face. However, this feature proved erratic, resulting in a screen that stuttered. You'll also find Back, Forward, New Tab and Bookmarks buttons in this menu. We prefer the cleaner Chrome browser.
Verizon loads the Spectrum 2 with a fair number of Amazon apps, including Amazon shopping, Amazon Kindle, Amazon MP3, Audible and IMDB. Shopping for shoes or clothing? There's also Zappos.com.
For its part, LG bundles the Spectrum 2 with its own Email app, which supports Exchange, but was sluggish. You'll also find Rich Note (which supports attachments and audio recordings) and Video Wiz for editing videos. It's a cinch to add styles and music to your recorded clips.
Third-party apps include Amex Serve, which you can use for paying back a friend, splitting the dinner bill or collecting money for a group event. Trial versions of games "Real Racing 2" and "Let's Golf 3" are also on board. Polaris Office lets you work with Office documents.
NFC and LG Tag
Camera and Camcorder
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In our testing, the Spectrum's camera produced a sharp and rich image of a red motorcycle on the streets of New York City. We could even make out the dimples on the leather seat when we zoomed in. Indoors under fluorescent light, images exhibited good color accuracy but looked fuzzier.
The camcorder captured smooth 1080p footage of downtown traffic, with fairly loud audio to boot. While the phone had a bit of trouble adjusting to the bright sky as we panned up, overall, we would gladly use this as our everyday shooter.
The 1.3-MP (720p) front-facing camera on the Spectrum 2 captured warm and natural-looking skin tones when we recorded ourselves, making it all too easy to pick out flecks of gray hair.
Battery Life and Wireless Charging
The good news is that you can refuel the Spectrum 2 easily with an optional wireless charging pad. Using Qi technology, this phone sips juice when you place it down on the pad, and the phone lets you know that it's working by flashing a message. (We're awaiting a final price on the pad.)
Phone and Call Quality
In this price range on Verizon Wireless, we prefer the Motorola Droid RAZR M. The same $99 gets you much swifter performance along with the latest Android Jelly Bean software. However, the Motorola has a smaller and lower-res screen. If you can afford to splurge -- or you can find it on sale -- the Samsung Galaxy S III offers a more polished interface and innovative sharing features in a slimmer and lighter body, albeit with a dimmer display. Overall, the Spectrum 2 is a very capable midrange Android phone, but you may want to wait for a Jelly Bean upgrade.
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.0|
|Networks||CDMA (800/1900 MHz); GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz); UMTS (900/1900/2100 MHz); LTE (700 MHz)|
|CPU||1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Krait|
|Memory Expansion Type||microSDHC|
|Display (main)||4.7 inches/1280 x 720 True HD AH-IPS)|
|Bluetooth Type||Bluetooth 4.0|
|Front Camera Resolution||1.3MP|
|Camera Resolution||8 MP|
|Audio formats supported||WMA|
|Audio formats supported||WAV|
|Audio formats supported||MP4|
|Audio formats supported||AAC+|
|Audio formats supported||AAC|
|Video formats supported||WMV|
|Video formats supported||MP4|
|Video formats supported||Divx|
|Video formats supported||3GP|
|Video formats supported||3G2|
|Talk / Standby Time||624 minutes/472.8 hours|
|Size||5.3 x 2.69 x 0.36 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)||0.85|
|SAR Rating (Body)||1.04|