Digging further into the device, there’s the definite feeling that LG decided to cut the right corners in the right places. For instance, the forward-facing camera common on more expensive phones has been skipped, since even on those phones it’s generally terrible quality and would be unusable here. Likewise the back camera is scaled down to 3 megapixels.
A little extra internal memory would have been nice; theoretically it has 4 GB of internal memory but out of the box, there’s just barely over 1 GB of free space. We strongly recommend ignoring any non-essential updates to the built-in apps. Unfortunately, some of the standard apps can’t be deleted, but the Lucky can be rooted for those that want that level of control. Fortunately, the device features a microSD card slot for expansion. Although it’s only guaranteed up to 32 GB, there’s no reason that it couldn’t handle even larger 64 and 128 GB cards, which would make it a very capable and inexpensive mobile music device even for the largest collections. By default, the device comes with a 4 GB card already installed giving you some room to load content right out of the box.
The wireless options are well chosen too. The phone portion is 3G only, so data speeds will be in the neighborhood of 1 megabit. That’s far from the 15 megs of a 4G connection, but more than capable. Also, considering relatively low data caps, you probably don’t want to be burning through YouTube anyway. This smartphone works best on Wi-Fi, but when you do need to look something up on the go, it’s not an exercise in frustration. In fact, the screen resolution limits web browsing much more than the 3G speed, but use of mobile sites and browsers like Opera help that a lot.
It supports Bluetooth 4.0 and it includes GPS, which you likely wouldn’t see in a budget tablet that costs more than this. Having GPS available means that with a larger memory card and good navigation app the Lucky would also be well suited to be an “always in the car” media and navigation device. And that it can use “family locator” type apps to let parents keep in touch with their kids, or kids to find their way around. Not to mention it being a good “expendable” navigation device for hikers, being only out $10 if it should happen to get smashed or dropped at the bottom of a river.
In short, the specs on the Lucky are very respectable considering the value. It’s not a video device, but music definitely, and it can serve users well as an on-the-go mobile smartphone.
Although it’s branded as Tracfone (a reseller that operates on all of the major US carriers-) the Lucky runs on the Verizon Wireless network. This is good news all around, since this means far better coverage than the more numerous Sprint- and T-Mobile-based Tracfone devices. Again, it’s limited to Verizon’s 3G network, with speeds around 1 megabit, but that network is as widespread and robust as any other. This phone won’t be beat when it comes to finding a signal.
Cost is the other half of the equation. Although Tracfone had a poor reputation for pricing, its smartphone options are excellent. The Lucky features “triple minutes,” meaning that when adding a standard pay-as-you-go card, you get three times that value in minutes, text messages, and data. For instance, a $20 card which is rated for 60 “minutes” will actually give you 180 minutes of talk time, 180 text messages, and 180 MB of data. After 90 days any unused service credits expire unless you add another card; if you do, you can roll over unused service credits. So if you’ve got 50 MB left when you add another card, that 50 MB sticks around in addition to whatever new data you purchase.
There are also smartphone-specific cards which offer different balances. For instance, a $35 card provides 500 minutes, 1000 text messages, and 400 MB of data, as well as an additional 90 days of service. There are also data-only cards, offering anywhere from 300 megabytes for $10, to 4 GB for $50. (Unlike minute-only cards, combination and data-only cards don’t triple.)
You really do pay only for your actual usage, and this puts the absolute minimum cost of keeping the device active at around $7 per month. That would be pretty sparse usage, but as a backup or kids phone, tinker toy, or sticking around Wi-Fi most of the day, it could work. And usage cost scales smoothly, so you don’t face big bills if you end up finding you want to use it more and more. Only when you start hitting larger data usage, like 1 GB of data per month and more, does it start to cost close to the $45 smartphone plans offered by competitors. Here, a user with 200 phone minutes, 500 texts, and 1 GB of data per month would run a monthly cost of around $35. This is very doable for average users, should they stick to Wi-Fi were available and primarily use messaging apps instead of text messaging, saving data for navigation apps where Wi-Fi isn’t an option.
The major downside of the Lucky here is that it’s tied to one carrier only. There is no switching to another carrier as you can with unlocked devices. But again, ditching the Lucky means you’d only be out $10 for the device.