Review: LG Escape, good features for a great price
At a Glance
Inexpensive smartphones have come a long way. Consider the LG Escape, an Android-powered device sporting a 4.3-inch IPS display, a speedy dual-core processor and priced at a mere $50 (as of 11/8/2012) with a two-year contract from AT&T. Blazing fast 4G LTE and hearty battery make it an impressive contender in the budget phone market, and it could be a nice option if you aren’t keen on dropping upwards of $200 for higher-end wares.
The LG Escape weighs in at 4.5 ounces. It’s also fairly thin at 0.35-inches, fitting in my pocket easily. Despite the slim build, I thought the phone felt sturdy and solid, something other thin phones sometimes lack. The phone’s clean, minimalistic look is bolstered by a high-resolution, 960 by 540 pixel (256ppi) display. A 1.3-megapixel camera sits on the front of the device, accompanied by the phone's capacitive navigation buttons. The phone’s sides sport a grippy, ribbed texture. The smooth rear cover looks nice, but picks up fingerprints rather readily. You’ll find the volume rocker on the left side of the phone, while the power button lies on the right. The bottom of the phone offers up a microUSB port, while the headphone jack is on the top.
I was extremely impressed with the data speeds I got from the Escape on AT&T's 4G LTE network here in San Francisco. Apps downloaded in a flash, and streaming videos or browsing the Web on Google’s Chrome browser was a pleasant experience. Using Ookla's FCC-approved Speed Test app, I recorded average download speeds of 22.4mbps, with a peak speed clocked at an insane 28.7mbps. Upload speeds averaged out at 15mbps.
Navigating around the OS is smooth and snappy, care of the phone's 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 1GB of RAM. Apps like ESPN ScoreCenter and Pulse opened up quickly, and I didn't notice any delay or lag playing games like Temple Run, or switching between apps. After a full day of fairly heavy use testing out apps, streaming videos, and browsing the Web, there was still plenty of juice left for me to navigate my way home. I used the phone to make some calls in a few different neighborhoods in San Francisco, as well as across the bay in Berkeley, and I never ran into any issues with call quality.
LG claims that the Escape's 2150 mAh battery last for 8 hours of talk time and 312 hours on standby, and I was not left disappointed. The phone’s 4GB of internal storage doesn’t leave much room to work with, but a microSD slot is located behind the back cover for storage expandable to 32GB.
The Escape comes loaded with Android 4.0 and the Optimus UI 3.0, LG's revamped overlay for Ice Cream Sandwich. The overlay is similar to the one running on the LG Optimus G, and adds a number of nifty features. Voice Shutter lets you take pictures with voice commands, while Quick Memo (my personal favorite) lets you take screenshots and then quickly jot notes on them —it’s rather useful for annotating images. LG has been mum as to whether the Escape would be updated to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, but it would be safe to assume that if an upgrade is in line, it won't come until early 2013. Like a lot of other smartphones, the Escape ships with a sizable serving of bloatware, but fortunately most of the 10 or so AT&T apps can be removed. Exceptions include YP Mobile (a yellow pages app) and AT&T Navigator – you'll be stuck with those.
The Escape has the makings of a solid multimedia device, thanks to its sizable screen and speedy data connection. The phone's support for Near Field Communication (NFC) will also let you share your local media content with other NFC-equipped phones via Android Beam. The phone’s mono speaker sits on the rear, and it’s disappointing (as expected). While it can get fairly loud the sound is generally tinny and unimpressive. Music piped through headphones sounded fine, and I didn't hear any buzz in the background — something I've noticed on a few other smartphones.
The 5-megapixel rear camera wasn’t very impressive, and I thought the images I captured suffered from a loss of detail. It does, however, come with a number of useful add-ons courtesy of LG’s Optimus UI 3.0. In Time Catch mode, the camera begins to continuously capture images. It preserves a few images from the seconds before you pressed the shutter button, ensuring you don’t miss the right moment. It’s a nice concept, but I occasionally found that the preserved images were a tad out of focus. There’s also a panorama mode, though you’ll sacrifice photo quality and detail. Other features include geotagging, white balance and ISO adjustments, but there’s no LED flash—something to take note of if you want to use the phone’s camera in low-light conditions.
The Escape can capture 1080p HD video, but I thought videos looked dull, and lacked detail. The Escape comes with a few hit and miss video effects for superimposing your subject on different backgrounds that might give a few laughs, but are really just more novelty than anything else, and won't distract from the video quality that I felt was subpar.
The LG Escape’s biggest upside—its 4.3-inch IPS screen—stares you right in the face. What’s underneath, while not the latest and greatest hardware around, doesn’t disappoint either. While most of the Escape’s specs may not be spectacular, the reality is for $50 you're not going to get the quad-core processor or 8-megapixel camera found on high-end devices. What you do get is a relatively affordable phone, with a big screen, blazing fast 4G LTE and a so-so camera. If you’re in the market for a phone but are on a tight budget, the Escape's upsides far outweigh its shortcomings, making it worth a look.