The original LG Lucid was behind the curve when it launched on Verizon Wireless last year. It had the 4G LTE connectivity that Verizon made requisite for all Android smartphones, but it was running the outdated Android 2.3 Gingerbread at a time when users were clamoring for the months-old Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Lucid 2 arrives just over a year later and is thankfully closer to what's expected of a modern smartphone. The device has 4G LTE, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, plenty of software additions courtesy of LG, and a favorable price for someone looking for a new Android smartphone (free with a two-year contract). Is it favorable enough? The LG Lucid 2 is a pleasing upgrade to last year's model, but it has to stand up against this year's competition. You may be surprised to learn how tall the Lucid can stand.

Hardware and design

The LG Lucid 2 is absent of much flair. The phone follows the trend of plain black rectangular shapes, though small slips of silver on the right and left sides of the device help break up the monotony. The hardware buttons along the bottom of the phone - Back, Home, Multitasking, and Menu - are faintly visible when not used but light up when touched. The selective visibility helps not distract the user, but the same cannot be said for the top of the phone with Verizon and LG logos just in case someone might dare forget who produced the phone.

Made of plastic, the LG Lucid 2 is light and easily portable. At 122 x 63.75 x 9.9mm (4.82 x 2.51 x 0.39in) and 129g (4.55oz), it's a little thicker than most latest phones but it's also much shorter. The plastic material along the battery door has a rough feel as if someone is scratching vinyl -- you can actually replicate the sounds of a DJ by quickly rubbing fingers along the back of the phone. Despite the unfortunate material choice, the phone's small stature and curved back nestles gently in the palm, making the Lucid 2 comfortable to hold.

Screen quality

LG's latest Lucid has a slightly larger screen that measures 4.3-inches. The qHD resolution won't dazzle anyone, but it is manageable and does a decent enough job displaying colors and brightness at appropriate levels. The lack of an HD resolution makes the display noticeably inferior when held next to other devices, but the IPS display is respectable when viewed on its own. Text is clearly legible and video can be watched without much issue. At this size and resolution, the Lucid 2 screen is acceptable.

Performance and key specs

As a midrange phone, the Lucid 2 has familiar specs that can keep pace with any other smartphone in its class. Sadly, there are times when it can't keep pace with you. A combination of 1GB of RAM and a 1.2 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor should make the LG Lucid 2 handle most activities with relative ease.

The phone is fast in specific apps, but it's not very nimble in navigation. The home screen often takes up to three seconds to display shortcuts, leaving users to stare at a wallpaper before content finally appears. Switching between the app drawer and multitasking button is fast, but pausing occurs far too often to be ignored.

The Lucid 2 has only 8GB of internal storage and a microSD slot supporting up to 64GB of additional storage. Other noteworthy specifications include Bluetooth 4.0 and the capability of supporting Qi Wireless Charging. The replacement door necessary to enable wireless charging unfortunately adds extra bulk to the Lucid 2, but the convenience of recharging by putting down the phone and walking away without having to fidget for any cables may be worth the increased thickness for some people.

Software and user interface

LG has been accused of too-closely following Samsung's lead in its Android design choices, and the visual similarities between previous versions of Touchwiz and Optimus UI will not surprise anyone. However, those similarities are rare and reflect some positive changes that LG has made.

Built on top of Android 4.1.2, Optimus UI includes clever software changes like a customizable list of setting switches in the notification drawer. QuickMemo is another handy feature that allows users to take a screenshot of any page, write notes on top of the image, and then share it with others.

The interface seen in other apps is simpler and free of fluff. The Calendar app has a nice split view that can show a close-up of a day, week, or Agenda mode, and favors lighter colors that actually work well with the theme of white, blue, and gray found throughout the phone's interface.

Should the standard UI prove too daunting, there's also a "Starter Mode" that first time smartphone buyers can use in order to simplify some activities. Starter Mode is not as visually appealing, but it provides extra guidance for adjusting brightness and font size, setting up quick contact widgets, and adding favorite apps to the home screen. All of this can be achieved in the Standard view, but Starter Mode offers more hand-holding.

Apps

Verizon made a deal with Amazon to have Amazon's mobile apps appear on all Android smartphones, so the LG Lucid 2 comes with a healthy serving of preloaded software. These apps can be hidden but not deleted, so users will have to deal with Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Amazon MP3, Amazon Appstore, Audible, and Zappos on their device. The same goes for My Verizon, VZ Navigator, VZ Security, and Verizon Tones.

The default software from LG offers a little more value. Video Wiz combines photos and videos in montages, similar to what we've seen recently from BlackBerry and HTC. SmartShare simplifies the shared streaming of media over devices on the same Wi-Fi, and FileShare supports wireless media transfer. Rich Note is an enhanced note taking app that sports text, photos, audio, or written notes, which can also include information related to location or a date and time that they were created.

Chrome for Android is the default browser on the LG Lucid 2. The browser supports bookmark, search, history, and tab synchronization between the phone and desktop versions of Chrome, so that offers one noticeable advantage. It is reasonably fast, but anyone displeased with Chrome can find alternatives in Google Play.

Communication & Data

Verizon has invested heavily to build and promote its 4G LTE network, and that has been greatly beneficial to most of the U.S. The Lucid 2 did a great job of latching on to an LTE signal during my recent trips to New York City. It fared as good or better than my Verizon iPhone 5 in terms of data speeds and signal strength. It also performed well as a phone; every call that I placed featured clear audio on both ends of the conversation.

Camera

A 5MP camera sits at the back of the LG Lucid 2, and a 1.3MP front-facing camera enables self-portraits or video calling. Both cameras are average and deliver photos that reflect the limitations of midrange devices.

One drawback to the rear camera is that it has an incredibly difficult time balancing exposure and brightness. Even when using the included HDR mode, photos were routinely washed-out. Users will typically need to manually change between scene modes, white balance, and ISO settings in order to improve the odds of snapping a quality image.

Battery

Any time a phone ships with a 2,460 mAh battery there are good odds that battery life will be good. Those odds can decrease somewhat if the processor is inefficient or a large display pulls down more power.

The Lucid 2 has a large capacity battery, a reasonably-clocked 1.2 GHz processor, and a 4.3-inch screen, so it has plenty of power to spare. In my week with the phone, I never needed to reach for the charger during the day. I went a day and a half with light to moderate usage, and managed to use the phone repeatedly from 8 AM to 10 PM during more active periods. Despite several emails, tweets, photos, videos, and phone calls, the Lucid 2 showed that it has great staying power.

Closing Thoughts

Sequels are rarely better than the original when it comes to movies, but they are almost always better on the technology side of things. No one should be surprised that the LG Lucid 2 is a noticeable step up from its predecessor, but what might catch some people off guard is that it's also a step up from many mid-range devices currently on the market.

The Lucid 2 doesn't wow in many areas. It does excel at battery life, call quality, and data strength. Its screen is better than most devices in its class, and that makes the phone good in the areas that matter most. Hiccups in navigational performance are a drag in the overall experience of the Lucid 2, but they don't overshadow an otherwise strong midrange option.

Someone who plans to take a great deal of photos or do heavy lifting might want to pay for a more powerful phone, but the Lucid 2 can hold its own under the weight of normal activities. Considering that it's free when signing a two-year agreement, the LG Lucid 2 offers one of the best values available on Verizon Wireless.

80

Pros: Excellent battery life and voice quality. Really good value and overall package for the price (free on contract). Better than most mid-range offerings on the market. Decent quality display.

Cons: Performance is not stellar. Aesthetics leave a little something to be desired.