While they may not be the biggest carrier or have the most coverage, there are plenty of things to like about MetroPCS, like their lack of long-term contracts and their low plan prices. Now we can add another item to that list: the LG Spirit 4G, a low-cost midrange phone that offers an awful lot for it's relatively modest price.
I found something very strange about the LG Spirit 4G: my opinion of the look of the device seemed to change very drastically depending on the angle I saw it from. From certain angles, you could easily confuse it for one of LG's high-end offerings, while from others it almost looked like a device that would ship running Froyo.
I am usually a fan of LG's design aesthetics, but this time that wasn't quite the case. The Spirit doesn't look terrible, but it doesn't generally have the same sleek look that many higher-end LG phones have. The silver plastic that sits at the top of the screen reminded me of an electric razor on more than one occasion, and I have a feeling that wasn't LG's intention.
Build quality is very impressive for such a device with such a low price point. The case is plastic, but very sturdy, which leaves you with a device that is a combination of light and relatively durable. Trying to twist the LG Spirit 4G leads to a bit of flex, but nowhere near as much as I've seen in similarly priced offerings from other manufacturers like Samsung.
The LG Spirit 4G is a comfortable phone to hold and use, and generally just has a good feel to it. One minor nitpick is that the power button always felt like it should have been about a centimeter lower, as the reach up to turn the phone on always felt a little unnatural.
Despite falling just short of HD, the LG Spirit 4G's display is fairly nice. Colors are vivid without being oversaturated, images are bright without being washed out, and icons and text are rendered clearly and sharply.
Part of this has to do with the size of the screen. A similar resolution on a 5-inch screen, as with the Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos, for example, is just plain ugly. On a 4.5-inch screen, it works just fine. Have we seen better displays? Sure. Is this screen good enough for everyday use? Definitely.
With the relatively low-res display combined with the dual-core Snapdragon chipset, I was expecting performance to be fairly decent, and was still impressed with how well the LG Spirit 4G performed. Running five successive AnTuTu and then averaging out the scores left me with a final score of 11783. Not exactly mind blowing, but still nothing to sneeze at.
Running Epic Citadel in benchmark mode was more impressive. When all was said and done the final average framerate was 59.0 FPS when set on “High Performance”. Considering the framerate is capped at 61 FPS, that isn't bad. Granted, this has as much to do with the small amount of pixels the LG Spirit 4G's hardware is pushing compared to high end phones as it does the device's raw power, but it's still noteworthy.
Luckily, the performance wasn't just confined to benchmarks and other tests. The same speed carried over to the games I tested as well as basic functions like launching apps, rapidly scrolling through homescreens and browsing the web.
As with many mid-range LG devices, the LG Spirit 4G runs Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. Sadly, there hasn't been any definitive information on whether the Spirit will be receiving an update to Jelly Bean, we can always hope.
LG has outfitted the Spirit 4G with its launcher, as is par for the course. While the default look is definitely on the gaudy side for my tastes, more of this has to do with MetroPCS and its design decisions than it does with LG. Change the wallpaper and move some widgets around, and it is definitely much easier to live with.
Alongside the standard Google apps you'll find a bunch of apps by both LG and MetroPCS, many of questionable usefulness. The file manager is useful, and Polaris Office may be useful to some, but it's hard to imagine most people getting a lot of use out of the bundled MetroPCS apps or LG SmartWorld.
The camera is where things start to go down hill a bit. It's not that the LG Spirit 4G's 5.0-megapixel rear-facing camera is awful, it just never seems to do anything especially interesting with a photo. The autofocus works well enough, but even trying hard to get a shot lined up in good light never led to anything other than an accurate-but-bland representation of the subject.
The 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera is more of the same, but with less pixels and higher chances of a blurry photo. The shooters in the LG Spirit 4G are definitely quite usable, they're just not going to be much use for avid photo buffs.
While it suffered from the same somewhat lackluster color, the 1080p video recording produced decent results. Motion was smooth and the video was generally crisp, though low-light performance was definitely hampered by the camera sensor. Audio quality, however, was surprisingly good.
The 2,150 mAh battery in the LG Spirit 4G might not seem particularly large, which makes sense because it isn't. Still, I've often found that Qualcomm Snapdragon chipsets do very well with low-capacity batteries, and that seems to be the case here.
LG claims 7 hours of talk time, which I always equate to moderate use, more or less. It seems that LG may have been on the conservative side with its estimate. After benchmarking, testing games and apps, watching videos and effectively trying to kill the battery by letting Epic Citadel run continuously, I still got over 7 hours of battery life. Using the phone like a normal person is likely to deliver more, though it's worth noting that 4G LTE is a notorious battery drainer, so results may vary based on where and how you spend most of your time.
Luckily, the battery is removable, so you can keep another battery on hand if necessary or replace the battery if you kill it.
There are better phones out there, and yes, there are better phones available on MetroPCS, but if you're looking for the best bang for your buck option available on the carrier, the LG Spirit 4G is definitely worth the $199 it is currently going for via their website. While the screen resolution and camera may not be at the top of the class, the performance and general sturdiness of the Spirit make it a serious contender in the mid-range market.
Have you had the chance to try out the LG Spirit 4G. What do you think of it? What are your pros and cons? We'd love to hear in the comments below.