If you're on a budget, you know the choices -- average, below average, crap. Phones come in two options: some high-end and some really bad or nonexistent features, or average all the way across. That's understandable. To keep the price down, corners have to be cut somewhere -- either a little across the board, or amputate certain parts completely.
At first glance, the LG Escape looks like a great deal. The high-definition display and 4G LTE are impressive for such a cheap phone. But it's the latter option: the drawbacks are plenty -- the lackluster design, awful camera and paltry memory.
It's not a well-rounded phone. It's a specialist. And if you value speed above all else, it may be the phone for you, but you can find similarly-priced devices with less of a headache.
What's the Phone?
At just under 0.4-inches, the Escape is as svelte as Gwyneth Paltrow after a cleanse. Designed after the Optimus G, it's made of plastic rather than glass to keep costs down. Still, it mimics the crystal-texture back for a simple yet elegant feel. It won't shatter, but it'll smudge, so prepare to wipe that glossy finish. Chrome accents around the battery cover add a bit pizzazz to the otherwise minimalist shell, but the matte line across the back clashes with the materials.
The bezel on the front is really the only thick part, and it takes up roughly half an inch on either side of the screen. So rather than the edge-to-edge display, you get a smaller-looking 4.3-inch screen. Still, it's one of the high points. The 960-by-540 resolution is remarkably sharp -- the clarity surprised me for such a bargain device. And at 256-pixels per inch, it's as crisp as you'll get for an entry-level device. Movies are decently detailed, and the viewing angle is wide, so don't worry about watching the game on a crowded subway -- you'll catch all the action at odd angles.
Really, my only gripe is the brightness -- it falls short of rival devices like the Motorola Atrix HD and LG Nitro HD. That's not usually a problem, unless you watch movies with especially dark cinematography, like Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight." I did and I missed Christian Bale's scowl looks in pivotal scenes. But otherwise, it's fine. For a better display, check out the G. It costs more, but it's worth it, in my opinion. If you're on a strict budget though, the Escape is basically the best parts of the G.
I was really disappointed by the 5-megapixel camera. It's almost laughably bad -- really, I almost laughed. I expected a lens similar to the rest of the features, but what I got was one of the worst cameras I'd ever seen. And that's not an understatement. Where to begin? First, I mistook the photos for a 2-megapixel -- the quality was seriously that low -- photos are awkwardly lit and poorly colored. Next, pictures look washed out in daylight. Third, there's no LED flash, so good luck in low-light. Basically, the only place for a decent shot is inside a well-lit room, but even then, light gets distributed unevenly, so a halo effect appears near objects near lights, while the darker corners get overshadowed. Oh, and if you take a photo of a friend, and they move just an inch, they'll turn into a nearly discernible flesh-colored mass. If you have a serious passion for blurry Bigfoot shots, this is your phone.
LG tries to save the day with a slew of editing options. But what good is a panorama shot and HDR mode if the originals are blurry messes? Crap in, crap out. Sure, you can use the "Say Cheese" feature, which quickly snaps a photo once everyone yells the phrase, but since you'd have to move your mouth, you'll end up with a bad picture regardless.
The Escape runs on ICS, which is fairly standard. I usually groan when I hear the word "skin" -- but LG's Sense overlay isn't that bad. As far as skins go, it's pretty easy to ignore, and a far cry from the soggy frou-frou interfaces that HTC and Samsung often use. There's still cartoon animations, which will make you wish for vanilla software, but neat features like "Quick Memo" come in handy. You can take screenshots and write notes and doodles on it -- it's kind of like Skitch for mobile. Oh, here's another plus: you know AT&T's bloatware? You can remove it. That means you'll only have to put up with AT&T's creepy family-stalking MyFamily app for a short time before you can banish it to the land of misfit apps.
You'll need to free up every megabyte you can, because the Escape only comes with 1.7-gigabytes of memory. That's right, 1.7-, not 17-. I misread it when I first saw it too. You can store a handful of albums, which I recommend because the sound quality is excellent -- and the camera is so bad. Fortunately, there's a microSD slot behind the back cover, and if you want to pay extra, you can add up to 64-gigabytes. I recommend you pick up a few gigabytes -- at the very least -- otherwise you'll be looking at your address book to delete friends you never call. Of course, if you don't shell out, you can also download a streaming app like Pandora or Spotify for Android and still enjoy the music.
The 1.2-gigahertz dual-core chip is plenty powerful and I found it as remarkably quick as the Galaxy S3, though there's less software weight to carry. You'll never have to wait to open apps or scroll between home screens.
AT&T's 4G is blistering fast, too. Even if you can't take good photos, you can view beautiful images on sites in record time. Moreover, you can leave the charger at home; the 2,150 mAh battery keeps you ready to go for nearly a full day, even with heavy use.
You'll Want It If...
You're on a budget and you care about a good screen and fast 4G. Really, the appeal is the cheap price, and some above average features. But limited storage means you'll pay a little for a microSD card to make use of music and movies.
It's Not My Thing -- What Else Ya Got?
For the added cost, though, I would recommend spending more upfront for a phone that comes with better memory from the get-go. You'll get a better camera as well. Still, take a look at the Pantech Flex and Marauder -- they have more memory and a better lenses. Otherwise, take a look at HTC's One VX.
Rather than mention the pros, I'll focus on the cons that I've noticed from my time with it. The phone isn't bad, but if you're like me, you want to get to the problems.
The battery life on this phone is below average. I recommend you have a charger handy at all times, because you'll get around eight hours. Sure, you can save juice by turning off Internet, lowering the brightness of the screen, etc., but it doesn't do you much good.
You'll have to handle it with kid gloves too. I've already scratched my display, and you'll have to be careful not to scratch yours. I suggest you buy a case to protect it. It doesn't take a beating.
Lastly, people tell me my voice sounds muffled on the other end. I'm not sure if it's poor reception or just bad sound quality, but it's something to be aware of.Was this review helpful to you?
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