We can hardly believe that almost a year has passed since the first U.S. LG Android phone, the LG Ally, hit our shores. LG has advanced considerably in the U.S. market since then, with the release of several great Android phones like the high-end T-Mobile G2X, the entry-level Optimus handsets for every major carrier, and the recently launched midrange LG Marquee.
Now LG has introduced a successor to the Ally with the LG Enlighten for Verizon Wireless. In the tradition of LG's entry-level offerings, the Enlighten is surprisingly feature-packed for its category--it ships with Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, 3G, Wi-Fi, along with 3G Mobile Hotspot capabilities for up to five devices. Seeing as the Enlighten is free with a two-year contract, that's not a bad deal at all if you're just looking for a basic Android phone.
The LG Enlighten looks more like the Optimus line of phones than the Ally. At 4.5 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.58 inch thick, the Enlighten has a blocky rectangular design that is softened slightly by curved sides and rounded corners, and is not nearly as curvaceous and angled as the Ally. The Enlighten is not as heavy at 5.54 ounces, but it'll still put a dent in your pocket. The phone has a soft-touch matte finish on the back that gives it a nice comfortable feel in the hand.
On the front of the Enlighten is a bright and colorful 3.2-inch HVGA display. We're a little disappointed that LG downgraded the resolution from 480x800 pixels to 320x480 pixels, but for an entry-level phone, we think it still does the job. It looks great under bright sunlight as well. The capacitive display is responsive enough, and you have the option of adding haptic feedback if you desire. You also get an accelerometer and a proximity sensor.
Interestingly, LG opted for its own custom interface instead of the standard Android user interface. The menu is divided into application categories--Communications, News & Search, Media, Tools, Applications, and Downloads--and the bottom row houses the phone dialer, the contacts list, the messaging menu, and Home/Menu shortcuts. You can also customize up to seven home screens. Android purists might not like it, but the user interface does serve to make Android a bit more palatable to smartphone newbies. You get the default Android virtual keyboard as well.
If you're not happy with the virtual keyboard, you can slide the phone open to reveal a physical QWERTY keyboard. As with the Ally, we really like the keyboard here. The four-row keyboard is roomy, with plenty of spacing in between each key. The keys are all raised above the surface as well, which results in a satisfying click when pressed. We like the large Space bar along with the physical navigation controls on the right, just in case you're tired of using the touch screen to scroll around.
Underneath the display are the usual Android shortcut keys for the Menu, Home, Back, and Search functions. The volume rocker and Micro-USB port is on the left spine, while the camera button is on the right. On the top is a screen lock/power key along with a 3.5mm headset jack. A 3.2-megapixel camera sits on the back.
We're very impressed that the LG Enlighten has Android 2.3.4, considering it's an entry-level phone. This gives it an improved user interface along with a better power management, downloads management, control over apps, and more. It even has Adobe Flash Player 10 in the browser, along with GPS, 3G with EV-DO Rev. A, and Wi-Fi. It has tethering and 3G Mobile Hotspot capabilities, too--you can share data with up to five Wi-Fi-enabled devices.
As with all Android phones, the Enlighten is compatible with Google's array of apps and services that include Gmail, Google Search with Voice, Maps with Navigation, Google Talk, Latitude, Places, and YouTube. If you decide not to use Gmail, you can use your own e-mail log-in information and enter in your POP3 or IMAP server addresses if you like. LG and Verizon have included a few of their own apps on here as well, and they include Backup Assistant, Guided Tours, My Verizon Mobile, and Polaris Viewer. The Verizon apps like Backup Assistant are not removable.