It's been several years since LG released a Windows Phone device (we reviewed the LG Optimus 7 , for example, back in 2010). But with its Lancet handset for Verizon Wireless, the company has made a return to Microsoft's mobile operating system.
Equipped with a 4.5-inch display, 8-megapixel camera, and quad-core processor, the phone is reliable and affordable at $20 with a contract and $120 without. If you're a Windows Phone user on a budget or a curious buyer who wants to get started on Microsoft's platform, it's a good device to consider.
However, with adoption rates and user numbers consistently behind that of Apple and Google, and a smaller app store compared to both, the future of Microsoft's mobile ventures stands on shaky ground. (Earlier this May, for example the company announced it is rebranding Windows Phone to Windows 10 Mobile , which will launch at the end of this month.) And many manufacturers, including LG, haven't deeply invested in the OS. In fact, most Windows phones belong under Nokia's Lumia series, which Microsoft fully absorbed.
As such, the Lancet faces tough competition from this family of Windows veterans, specifically the Lumia 735, which is a formidable alternative in both specs and price.
Small and compact, the Lancet is comfortable to hold and easy to maneuver with one hand. Its build quality is solid and dense, without feeling too heavy. Because the top and bottom edges of the device arc outward and the battery door is matte plastic, the handset looks like a thicker, more pocket-friendly Google Nexus 5 .
On the left edge is a thin volume rocker, while up top houses a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right is a sleep/power button and on the bottom is the Micro-USB port for charging. Located on the back is the main camera with its flash to the right. To the bottom is a small grille for the audio speaker. Using the Micro-USB as an opening, you can pry off the back plate and access the battery (with the SIM card underneath) and the microSD card slot on the right.
The phone's screen is responsive to the touch and has a wide viewing angle. Outdoors, the display is easy to view with maximum brightness. For the most part, text and icons are clear and easy to read, but given the display's low resolution, you don't have to look too closely to see pixelation and aliasing around edges. This doesn't render photos unviewable or videos unwatchable, however, but know that if you want a razor-sharp display, you should look elsewhere.
The Lancet runs Microsoft's mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8.1.1 . Commonly used apps (that you can also choose) appear as animated live tiles in varying sizes, and populate the home screen in three columns. A swipe to the left lets you view all your remaining apps and tools. At the bottom of the display are three hotkeys for back, home and search. Long-pressing the back key calls up recent apps, which you can swipe away to quit.
The device also has the digital voice and search assistant Cortana , which can schedule appointments, look up businesses, identify music and more. It can also set up reminders for you in relation to your contacts, like bidding someone happy birthday the next time they call. Cortana also has a notebook where it keeps tabs on your favorite places, interests and quiet hours for when to leave you alone. Click here to see how it stacks up against other voice-activated assistants, like Apple's Siri and Google Now.
As a Microsoft handset, the phone has deep integration with Microsoft ventures like Skype , Xbox , Office and Outlook. There's also a digital wallet; Bing Vision, which scans QR codes and translates text; the note-taking app OneNote; OneDrive cloud storage; the Internet Explorer Web browser; Bing Maps for navigation; and several lifestyle apps from MSN (such as health and fitness, sports news, stocks, travel, and food and drink).
Verizon threw in some of its own apps, too. An exclusive deal with NFL Mobile adds NFL game-streaming for those whose service plan supports it. There's VZ Navigator, voicemail and My Verizon Mobile so you can check your carrier and data plan. Two signature LG features are KnockOn, which enables you to wake up the display with two taps; and QuickMemo, an app that lets you jot down doodles and notes.
You'll get third-party apps as well, including another navigator (this time by a company called Here), Facebook and Slacker Radio. Finally, additional apps can be downloaded at the Microsoft store portal, while games, TVs, and movies can be bought through via Xbox games and video.
It's important to note, however, that while the Windows Phone platform has garnered a respectable number of loyal and passionate users, its app development falls behind that of Apple iOS and Google Android. Yes, the Windows app store is steadily growing day by day, and in August 2014, Microsoft announced it hit 300,000 apps. But in comparison both the Apple App Store and Google Play store have over 1 million apps each. If Windows Phone already has all the apps you need and are going to need, you won't lose any sleep about these numbers. But for those considering a switch, it's worth keeping in mind.
Photo quality for the Lancet was commendable, given than this is a budget device with only an 8-megapixel shooter. For the most part, objects were sharp and in-focus, though photos did begin to blur outside the central focus point near the outer edges. Colors were true-to-life and in well-lit environments, lighting looked even and appropriately exposed. The camera also operated quickly, with little to no lag between my moving of the handset and the feedback I saw on the viewfinder.
Video quality was also satisfactory. Nearby audio picked up well, and both moving and still objects looked clear and focused. The camera quickly adjusted for different lighting and exposures when moved around, and colors were accurately represented. For more information on camera quality, click the photos below to view them at their full resolution.
Editing and tools are quite minimal in the phone's default camera app (you can only turn on the flash and change photo sizes and resolutions). Fortunately, the LG Camera lens has a few more options, such as grid lines, a timer and a voice-activated shutter. On the rear camera, you can shoot four photo sizes (from 2,048x1,536 to 3,264x2,448-pixel resolution), and on the front there's one size option (640x480). For additional editing tools you can head to the photo gallery, which lets you crop, rotate and auto-fix pictures for quick editing.
I tested the Lancet in our San Francisco offices on Verizon's network (which uses CDMA technology) and call quality was passable but not great. Though my call remained continuously connected and I didn't pick up any extraneous noises or buzzing, my calling partner sounded muffled and staticky. Conversations carried out through audio speaker sounded as stifled, too, and volume range could have been louder. On the other line, my partner told me that my audio clipped in and out during the beginning of one of our calls, but that it had ceased quickly afterward.
4G LTE speeds on Verizon's network were inconsistent and at times slow, which is pretty unusual from what we've seen on Big Red. While download and upload rates from Ookla's speedtest app averaged out to 5.79Mbps and 7.74Mbps, respectively, the range of these scores was pretty wide. For instance, the fastest download and upload scores were 12.88Mbps and 10.87Mbps, and the slowest was oddly 0.81Mbps and 0.28Mbps.
In addition to the diagnostic tests above, I carried out a few common scenarios to measure the Lancet's real-world speed skills. Loading the CNET mobile site took 10 seconds, while the desktop site took 12, and it took about 2 minutes and 55 seconds to download the 47MB game Temple Run 2 (though once it only took 50 seconds). Another example of the device's inconsistency was when it downloaded the 496MB movie "Gravity" in HD. At its fastest, it took 15 minutes and 2 seconds, but at its longest, it took over an hour to only download reach 50 percent download. As always, it's important to consider that data speeds depend on a lot of things, including your location and time of day. What I observed during my time with the handset may vary from your own experience.
|Average 4G LTE download rate||5.79Mbps|
|Average 4G LTE upload rate||7.74Mbps|
|Average CNET mobile site load||10 seconds|
|Average CNET desktop site load||12 seconds|
|Average Temple Run 2 app download (47MB)||2 minutes and 55 seconds|
|Average Gravity movie download (496MB)||16 minutes and 49 seconds|
|Best restart time||30 seconds|
|Best camera boot time||1.96 seconds|
|Best AnTuTu score||14,204|
The phone's processor provides satisfactory internal speeds that'll carry out basic tasks and needs in a timely manner. Launching apps, returning to the homescreen, and calling up the keyboard were all executed swiftly. It takes about 30 seconds to shut down and restart the device and about 1.96 seconds to launch the camera. The Lancet clocked a score of 14,204 on the AnTuTu benchmark test. While that's respectable, it's definitely lower than the higher-end HTC One M8 for Windows Phone , which scored 27,408.
The battery has an estimated talk time of 18.5 hours and a standby time of 17.5 days. During our own battery test for continuous talk time, the handset lasted a whopping 19 hours, which is very impressive. Continuous video playback, however, was not as spectacular, though still decent, lasting 9 hours and 43 minutes. After being completely drained, it took about 2.5 hours to fully charge with its stock charger.
According to FCC radiation measurements, the phone has a SAR rating of 1.15W/kg.
As a starter Windows device, the LG Lancet is a respectable option for cost-conscious Verizon customers. Its $20 (on-contract)/$120 (off) price tag is especially affordable compared with the premium HTC One M8 for Windows Phone , which costs fives times as much because of its high-caliber hardware and luxurious design.
In some ways, it also seems more attractive than Verizon's other budget Windows handset, the Lumia 735 , due to its lower price and finer image quality.
Ultimately, however, the 735 remains the smarter choice. Considering what improvements you get in hardware and specs, the price delta isn't too egregious (the 735 costs $30 with a carrier agreement and $192 without). The Lumia also has a sharper 720p display, serves up twice as much built-in storage with 16GB of internal storage and has a higher capacity battery that's capable of wireless charging. Plus, its wide-angle 5-megapixel front-facing camera may appease those who might be underwhelmed with the 735's camera hardware.
When it comes to value, the LG Lancet may be a good deal, but the Lumia 735 is an even better one.