It’s raining smartphones- high-end smartphones. The choices that potential buyers have this holiday season is staggering and LG wants to make sure their flagship product, the LG G2 is seen and heard loudly in this very crowded space.
I received the LG G2 at my office a few days back inside a fairly no-frills package. Along with the device, I found the essentials such as USB cable, a 1.8A charging plug for quicker charging, a headset and a quick start guide in English and Arabic. A SIM eject tool is also included.
Design & Construction
At a glance, the LG G2 looks somewhat similar to the Samsung Galaxy S4 but look at it again and you realize the extremely clean design.Measuring 138.5 x 70.9 x 8.9mm, LG has got the size of the G2 just right. You would think that a phone with a 5.2” screen would be massive but the G2 is very easily usable with one hand. To keep the size manageable LG has removed all buttons from the front and sides of the device and shrunk the bezel to 2.65mm giving the G2 a beautiful minimal look. The right side has the SIM tray that ejects but even that is concealed really well.
Flip the device over and you see what LG has done. Right below the camera which is placed towards the top center, you see Up/Down keys that increase or decrease the volume levels and between them is a power/lock button with an LED around it. According to LG’s research, they found that most people have their index finger resting on the back of the phone at the spot where these keys are located making them very accessible. I agree with LG as far as placement of buttons is concerned. While holding the G2, or any other phone, I mostly find my index finger placed very close to where the volume buttons are located on the G2 allowing me to easily change volume levels during calls. These keys also have secondary functions. When the screen is locked, you can hold the down key to get to the camera and take snaps while the Top key takes you to the notes application.
Although it took me a couple of days to get used to this new button layout, I found it working fairly well. Where it does becomes cumbersome is when you’re listening to music with your device sitting on the table and want to change volume. You either have to pick up the LG G2 or keep it face down to have access to these buttons easily. I also found the back cover a fingerprint magnet with smudges showing up almost immediately. A less glossy finish would help with this.
Specs & Performance
LG made sure that the G2 does not skimp out on specifications. Like the Sony Xperia Z1 that we reviewed some time back as well as the recently released Samsung Galaxy Note 3, the LG G2 is based on the Snapdragon 800 quad core processor that runs at 2.23GHz and is paired with 2GB RAM. The amount of storage on the G2 is only 16GB and without a microSD slot, that feels low for a high-end device. LG has released a 32GB version but not in the Middle East- at least not yet.
Here is a comparison of the LG G2 against the Sony Xperia Z1 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3
[gdpc_compare type=”phone” products=”2123,2866,3437″]
Screen & Sound
The LG G2 features a 5.2” edge-to-edge display with a full-HD resolution. LG has used an IPS panel which I generally prefer of AMOLED and it looks stunning. It’s possibly one of the best displays I’ve seen on a mobile phone. Viewing angles are excellent and so is outdoor visibility under the bright Dubai sun, although you might have to crank the brightness to over 80%.
The G2 has a KnockON feature which is somewhat similar to the Nokia Lumia that allows you to double-tap the screen for it to come alive or go to sleep. Unlike Nokia, you don’t have a clock showing when the device is sleeping though.During the first day or two, this this feature was a hit or miss for me but after that, you will discover the right timing to make it work most all the time. I found KnockON to be of great use and got used to it to the point that, without realizing, I started doing this on my other devices.
The LG G2 is also the first Android phone that features a 24bit, 192kHz Hi-Fi sound playback. The higher bits and Hertz reproduce more detail and articulate sound quality that is close to the original sound, however, you will need a quality headset of a good pair of speakers to appreciate this. The built-in speakers on the G2 are located at the bottom of the device along with the USB port and 3.5mm jack. While they are loud, they are about average as far as quality and richness of sound is concerned.
Interface & Apps
At first look, the UI that LG has adopted for the G2 seems a very much like TouchWiz from Samsung. But given the fact that you can apply themes and customize a lot of tweaks and enhancements- you end with a phone that can look and act very differently than stock. Many of the features present on the G2 are actually usable rather than just being present to fill up a feature list. For example, KnockON becomes second-nature after a few days of use. Certain notifications light up the screen from standby to show you what you have received instead of just blinking the light. With text notification in particular, you can reply directly from the pop-up notification. LG has also allowed use of five columns of icons instead of the traditional four found on most Android phones while the dock can store up to seven icons. Other features include answering the phone automatically by simply picking it up and placing it to your ear- one that I found extremely useful is the clip tray that stores text you’ve copied to the clipboard and allows you to quickly paste is across.
While there is plenty to love about the LG G2’s interface and features, there are some areas where LG needs to improve upon. I found the general UI to be a bit too familiar to the Samsung TouchWiz. LG needs to create an identity of it’s own much like Samsung has done with TouchWiz or HTC with SenseUI that are vastly different. A possible approach might be partnering with one of the new Android launcher developers such as Smart Launcher or Buzz Launcher. And although the G2 has a fairly decent set of features that are functional, there are some purely gimmicky such as Slide Aside that lets you access three of your commonly used apps through a three finger swipe which is not very practical and often causes unintentional taps in your apps when you’re trying to activate it.
In order to qualify for a high-end device, a phone has to feature a good camera. LG equips the G2 with a 13MP camera long with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) that helps against shaky hands. The camera has a 9 point auto-focus that, in my tests, takes a bit of a time to lock on. I also noticed that the G2 prefers to take pictures without firing the flash even when flash is set to auto and light levels are a bit on the lower side. Thus, quick snaps generally resulted in a slightly blurry image but if you take your time with the camera, you can get some pretty impressive results. On the video side, the G2 is capable of shooting full HD at 60fps. The OIS helps take more stable videos than some of the other phone cameras I have tested recently. Here are some samples from the G2 camera.
The LG G2 is equipped with a 3000mAh battery which is not necessarily the highest capacity battery we’ve seen but considering the size of the G2, it is quite impressive. LG has cleverly utilized a step-design that minimizes the dead space found in batteries. This allows them to use a smaller sized battery without sacrificing the capacity.
Graphic RAM or GRAM is another tweak that LG has done to maximize battery life on the G2. GRAM decreases the smartphone’s energy consumption by up to 26% on a still frame, and increases the usage time for the device by approximately 10%. Finally LG also supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 technology that lets you charge your phone up to 75% faster than conventional technology.
With all of these technologies in place, expect the battery on the LG G2 to last for quite a while. Not once did the LG G2 run out of juice during my week long testing. The closest I came was getting it down to 7% and that was on a day when I used the GPS to guide me from Dubai to Sharjah Airport and back.
The LG G2 surprised me in a good way. I was expected a good phone but the G2 has everything it takes to be a GREAT phone. There are a few rough edges that LG needs to work on such as the non-expandable 16GB capacity, the very shiny back cover that attracts fingerprints or the UI that could do with a bit of refinement. But overall, there is so much to love about the G2 that all these things become secondary. In short, LG has created a beautiful device that is very much on the same level (and sometimes better) than Samsung or Sony’s best efforts. The biggest task ahead of LG is to make sure that the end user believes in their brand and with the right support and product updates, the G2 can excel LG into that.