Here's what you can get these days for just a dollar: A bad cup of coffee, two stamps, a bag of chips, or the LG Xpression 2 when you sign a new two-year contract with AT&T (without it, you'll spend $169.99).
Aimed at handset users looking for something simple, the compact feature device is equipped with a physical keyboard, and basic text and email needs. Best of all is its excellent call quality, a characteristic that's unfortunately a rare commodity with handsets these days.
But the Xpression 2's cheap price also means you'll make a lot of sacrifices: you'll be stuck with a poor camera and a grainy display that's sometimes sluggish to the touch. If you want a smoother experience, AT&T does carry other feature handsets for more money. Those phones will have faster internal speeds, a better camera, and bigger screens. But if you're on a $1 phone budget and making clear calls is your priority, the Xpression 2 definitely has you covered.
The compact Xpression 2 sports a pleasing, deep blue paint job and a plastic body that keeps the device lightweight. Measuring 4.24 inches tall, 2.13 inches wide, and 0.63-inch thick, the handset is small enough to be comfortably maneuverable with one hand, or to slip into front jeans pockets. But, due to its thickness and its keyboard, it will be a snug fit. Its textured battery door is decorated with subtle wave patterns that vaguely reminds me of wood paneling.
On the left edge are a volume rocker and a Micro-USB port for charging. The port can be sealed by a small attached door, which lays completely flush with the rest of the phone's surface. On top is a sleep/power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack, and to the right is a superconvenient shortcut key that launches the camera. All of these physical buttons are raised ever so slightly, which makes it easier to feel for them.
Turning the Xpression 2 over, you'll find the 2-megapixel camera (with no accompanying flash) and two slits for the audio speaker on the right. Using a small indentation on the bottom edge, you can pry off the back plate to access the 1,000mAh battery and the full-size SIM card slot. There's also a microSD card slot inside the left edge that can hold up to 32GB of expandable memory.
The device's 3-inch WQVGA display has a 240x400-pixel resolution. Though text and icons are still legible, images are very streaky and grainy, and texts have jagged, pixelated edges. The screen also isn't very sensitive or accurate. I found myself pressing down a bit harder on the display just to swipe through the homepage or tap on an application. Below the display are the send key, the clear and back/voice command key, and the end key. Long-press the send key and it'll automatically dial your last call. To launch voice commands, long-press the center command button.
Due to its petite size, the handset's four-row keyboard will strike some users with larger fingers as cramped. I myself didn't find the keys so confined, but mind you, I have small hands. The buttons bulge slightly off the phone's surface, which make them more comfortable and a bit easier to type with. However, I've typed on phone keyboards with even more bulbous keys that felt more enjoyable to message on.
The keyboard comes with four directional buttons, a secondary alt-function key, and shortcut buttons to launch the notepad, text, email, task menu, and the AT&T Web page. The keyboard can easily slide in and out underneath the Xpression 2, and I found the snapping mechanism to be solid. Even when I gently shook the two sliding parts, the keyboard felt sturdily attached.
When you first start up the device, you'll be greeted with three homepages. "Contacts" lets you add your favorite or commonly dialed numbers. "Widgets" enables users to drag and drop certain app functionalities directly to your homescreen. (These are digital and analog clocks, your photo gallery, a post-it note, an alarm, a calendar, music controls, and a message notification toolbar.) Because of the small screen real estate, overcrowding the widget page is easy, so don't over do it. Finally, "shortcuts" lets you add some of your favorite apps to the screen. On the bottom of the homescreen are four apps that perpetually stay on the dashboard. These are your dialer, contact book, text, and app drawer.
Tapping on the app drawer brings up four tabs that organize and categorize your apps. The first is labeled "phone," which has your dialer, address book, call log, text, email, and three AT&T apps. These carrier-branded apps include a GPS, myAT&T (which enables users to check their account balance and information), and a drive mode app that silences notifications and sends autoreplies to messages received when you're in a car.
The "multimedia" tab has your music and video players, the photo gallery, the camera, a Web browser, portals to purchase more music, games, and apps; and a voice recorder. After that is the "stuff" tab, which holds a notepad, an audio recorder, a calendar, a calculator, a clock with alarm functions, a file manager, and tools. Tools gives you further functionality like voice commands, a to-do list, a tip calculator, and a unit converter. Lastly, there is the "settings" tab, where you can adjust general phone, sound, connection, and call settings, adjust the look and brightness of the display, and turn on Bluetooth.
Additional features are 256MB of internal memory, 128MB of RAM, and Bluetooth 2.1.