The LG Enlighten is neither light nor elegant, but it shines as a budget phone bursting with a commendable array of features. For an entry-level smartphone, it's a good pick if you want a keyboard and aren't too focused on camera quality.
The Enlighten does a lot of things well, yet it's not obvious from looking at it -- the body is a little boxy and unimpressive, although its matte back makes it easy to grip and nicer-looking than an all-glossy frame. It's 4.3-inches long and 2.3-inches wide, a fairly average size, and it weighs 5.5 ounces, giving it a substantial but not cumbersome build.
Sadly, even though it's an average size, the 3.2-inch screen is smaller than usual, and LG gave it a paltry 320-by-480 pixel resolution -- which is less than the Ally, LG's previous budget phone. Despite the mediocre specs, the display is fine for basic tasks, and it's bright and responsive. As long as you know the resolution is low, it's not glaringly bad, and you can use haptic feedback if you want a more tactile experience with the touch.
If you'd prefer to avoid the touch screen as much as possible, the Enlighten is equipped with a physical four-row keyboard, and it's one of the best sliders available for entry-level smartphones. The keys are spaced evenly, so your fingers won't feel crowded, and they're raised, which makes it easy to type with accuracy. And if you really don't like touch screens, LG includes navigation buttons near the bottom.
But unfortunately, the 3.2-megapixel camera is less impressive. It comes with a large choice of editing software, but no flash -- so you can't take pictures in the dark. But there are a lot of different options to spruce up your photos -- from six scene settings to three image quality settings, along with standard tweaking options for ISO, lighting, color, contrast and more. The amount of filters is excellent. But it doesn't matter, because the lens takes irredeemably grainy shots, and they're almost garbage when lighting is low. The video is the same way: grainy bordering on useless, depending on the light quality.
As long as you're not hung up on getting a top-of-the-line camera -- in which case, you should steer clear of budget smartphones altogether -- the Enlighten is an appealing low-end phone, partially because you get an up-to-date Android experience. It ships with Android 2.3.4, so you're getting the same software as much more expensive phones. LG left it almost entirely vanilla, so apps work great and you're not subjected to some of the silly trimmings of manufacturer overlays. You get the standard free navigation system, customizable home screens, Web browser and access to a boatload of apps. Verizon took the liberty of adding some bloatware, but it's not too extensive. And the 800-megahertz processor keeps the phone running smoothly, so coupled with Gingerbread, this is a responsive phone.
And it will keep working for a while without charging, since the 1,540 mAh battery stays juiced for long stretches of time. It won't last as long if you utilize the ability to tether and work as a 3G mobile hotspot, but it is robust overall.
The Enlighten doesn't have a great camera or screen, but considering it's free with a contract through Verizon, it's a fine budget phone. If you're looking for higher quality, you'll have to get comfortable paying for more. ♦
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