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LG Xpression 2 (AT&T) review: This QWERTY is call strong, but a photo bomb

At just a buck on-contract, this QWERTY feature phone is good for chatterboxes. Shutterbugs, though, had best steer clear.

Lynn La Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones
Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.
Lynn La
8 min read

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).


LG Xpression 2 (AT&T)

The Good

AT&T's LG Xpression 2 has excellent call quality, a comfortable and responsive QWERTY keyboard, and a $1 on-contract pricetag.

The Bad

The Xpression 2 takes poor, blurry photos, its low-res screen can be unresponsive to the touch, and internal speeds are slow.

The Bottom Line

Price-conscious users will dig the LG Expression 2's competitively low price, but AT&T has other feature phone alternatives that are worth the extra dough.

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.

LG's Xpression 2 gets the blues (pictures)

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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.

Pretty in blue: the handset features a standout blue coat. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

The device's keyboard includes navigational buttons, an alt-function key, and several shortcut buttons that launch email, text, notepad and more. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Software features

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.

A few of the phone's software features include GPS, a calculator, and a calendar. Josh Miller/CNET

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.

Camera and video

The Xpression 2's 2-megapixel camera takes very poor images. Yes, it's true that you shouldn't expect much with a camera resolution so low, but you'd be surprised by how capable a camera like that can be, such as the one included in the Kyocera Verve, for example. But for this handset, though, the camera truly was a flop. Objects in the pictures were blurry with fuzzy edges. Even with ample lighting, I saw a lot of graininess and digital noise as well. Colors looked muted, and light sources were overexposed. For more on the phone's photo quality, check out the pictures below. And be sure to click each image to see them at their full resolution.

Video quality fared about on par with the camera. Though it wasn't impossible to see what was going on in my videos, recordings looked heavily blurred and pixelated. Frame rates were low as well, causing footage to look choppy. The camera lagged when it needed to readjust for lighting and exposure. Also, when I transferred my video files to my computer, all the audio was lost (despite being able to play them back on my phone) thus rendering my recordings mute.

In this outdoor picture, the foreground is blown out due to the sun, and the edges of many objects are blurry. Lynn La/CNET

Taken with ample indoor lighting from the windows, this picture still came off as muted and out of focus. Lynn La/CNET

Every object in our standard studio photo is out of focus, and there is a yellow-brownish hue overlaid on the white background. Lynn La/CNET

Editing and photo options are limited. You can take pictures in up to four sizes (ranging from 320x240 to 1,600x1,200-pixels), but you can only use the 2X digital zoom for the two VGA resolutions. There is also a brightness meter, five white-balance options, four color effects, a timer, a night mode, and continuous shooting.

With video you can choose two durations: 15 seconds for MMS or text videos, and "normal," which depends on how much available memory your Xpression 2 has. You can record in two sizes (176x144 or 320x240), and you'll have the same white balance, color effects, and brightness meter options as the camera. Users can also pause video while recording.

The gallery app does have some more editing options if you ever want to add some effects to your pictures after clicking the shutter. Actions like adding text, a frame, filters, or animated clip art are included. Rotation and flipping an image is also possible, as well as adjusting a photo's contrast, saturation, exposure, and hue.


I tested the quad-band (850/900/1800/1900) device at our San Francisco offices, and call quality was excellent. None of my calls dropped, I didn't hear any extraneous noise or static, and audio remained clear and continuous. I was especially impressed with volume levels, as max volume came off very loud and robust, but without distorting audio. My calling partner was easy to understand, and her voice sounded full and close by. The audio speaker was also clear, however at max volume, voices could sound tinny and harsh. Likewise, my calling partner told me I sounded great. She didn't hear any buzzing on her end either, and said my voice was clear and loud.


The handset doesn't have Wi-Fi capabilities, but it can run on AT&T's 3G network. Unfortunately, I was unable to measure data speeds as the review unit I received was unable to connect to the Internet (despite displaying a small 3G symbol on the upper-left corner of the screen). Whenever I opened the browser, a small error message would appear indicating that connection failed, and when I tried to send an email, the phone's display read: "Service temporarily unavailable. Please try again."

As for processing speeds, the Xpression 2 is slow. When I took photos, I had to hold the device still for a few seconds after tapping the shutter to prevent motion blur. In addition, the camera requires a few notable seconds to save a photo after each take. On average, it took 41 seconds for the device to restart itself and 1.51 seconds to launch the camera.

Anecdotal observation for the 900mAh battery has been adequate so far. The Xpression 2 survived a weekend on standby without being plugged in once, and it can easily power through a workday without a charge. Though it has a reported talk time of 3.4 hours and an estimated standby time of 16.25 days, the phone lasted an impressive 6.68 hours for talk time. According to FCC radiation measurements, the Verve has an SAR rating of 1.27W/kg.

The Xpression 2 showed solid call quality and strong volume levels. Josh Miller/CNET


Just like its predecessor, which was also a brightly-colored messaging phone with similar specs, the LG Xpression 2's main draw is undoubtedly its price. For $0.99 on-contract (or $169.99 without a carrier agreement), users looking for a feature handset can get talk, text, and a physical keyboard. In addition, the device has excellent call quality and a number of useful software tools. It's also data-enabled, though if you anticipate browsing the Web and sending emails a lot, it's best to go with a free on-contract smartphone.

Indeed, for just a dollar, the Xpression 2 will satisfy your basic mobile needs. And if all you need is to make calls and nothing more, its strong call quality will definitely win you over.

But the device does have its faults (like its terrible camera and poor screen), and AT&T has other solid alternatives worth looking into. Personally, I'd spend the extra money to splurge on the Pantech Vybe or the Renue , (these devices are priced at $29.99 and $39.99 on-contract, or $199.99 and $209.99 off-contract, respectively) because both phones have bigger 3.2-inch displays, 3-megapixel cameras, and physical keyboards, too. And if I were to absolutely choose one, I'd go with the Vybe since it's cheaper, takes especially clear pictures, and has a narrower form-factor.


LG Xpression 2 (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 6