Over the last year, we have seen Samsung dominating the Android market with their Galaxy line-up. Just about every other cell phone manufacturer has been sitting back, taking notes, and developing what they think will the “next big thing”. Motorola has since pushed out their flagship, the Moto X, and now we have LG’s flagship, the G2.
LG has done a lot to this device to resemble the key characteristics of a “great phone”. It has a large HD screen, 13MP camera, and a ton of software features that rival those on the Galaxy S4. Actually, in a lot of ways, this phone feels like an S4 with LG branding, not counting the rear-mounted volume/power buttons.
We have seen countless types of materials wrapped around phones. Apple and HTC tend to use higher quality aluminum, while Samsung and LG use plastic. Unfortunately that’s the case with the G2, plastic. Not that the phone feels bad in the hand, I just think it could feel better. With that said, the trade off for a plastic body usually means you usually get a removable battery. However, LG has decided to nix the removable battery as well as the expandable storage, oh joy.
When you pick up the phone, plastic or not, it does feel very solid. There is a nice heft to the device and it fits well in my hand. It is by no means a small phone, but it doesn’t quite hit that “Galaxy Note” territory.
Luckily, most of my gripes with the phone end there. LG placed a beautiful display on this phone, It is a 5.2 inch IPS panel with a full HD resolution. In short, it looks really good. The screen colors are most definitely not washed out, and the overall contrast is nice. What’s really interesting about this screen is that it fills up the entire front of the phone. There is almost no bezel.
Probably the most notable feature on the G2 are the buttons, which you can find on the back of the phone. A month ago when I first picked up the device I didn’t really know how I felt about the buttons. After using the phone day-to-day I am still a little unsure. It’s not that I am unsure if I like the buttons, I’m just not sure if they really make a difference. It was relatively easy to get use to the buttons and the positioning does help since the phone is pretty big. But I don’t think rear-mounted buttons are a feature we “need”.
While the positioning of the buttons weren’t my favorite, I did enjoy the shortcuts they provided. When you press and hold on the volume up key, you would immediately open up the Quick Memo app. And long-pressing the volume down would launch the camera. As basic of a feature that is, I would really like to see more phones having that ability.
To the power the 5.2” screen, LG has filled the G2 with the best specs possible. The snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, and Adreno 330 graphics. Pairing all of that together, and you get a phone that wrecks benchmarks and just flies in everyday use. To keep everything going you get a non-removable 3000mAh battery which is perfect. Looking back just 2 years ago, if your Android device even made it a full day of light use, you were lucky. With the G2, I ended a day of heavy use (full brightness, email, web, and video) with 40-50% of battery left.
It’s clear that device manufacturers want to have their own custom UIs over Android. LG is no exception, with a very “playful” skin that introduces bouncing animations and vibrant colors. Coming from a stock Android user, it was a nice breath of air using a device that wasn’t 100% holo.
However, the overall skin did begin to clash with some of Android’s design language. There were some major inconsistencies with the UI – different sized icons, alternating fonts, and graphics that seemed to blend into one another.
LG did manage to maintain one of my favorite features of Android 4.X, software buttons – even if their skinned to LG’s liking. The selection of preloaded apps on this phone was rather vast. Quick memo, cell broadcast, FM Radio, LG Backup, Video Editor, File Manager, and Quick Translator to name a few. They all seemed pretty useful depending on my situation and each application was beautifully designed.
Of course, there were some applications that seemed more prevalent than others. Quick Memo for example, made multiple appearances throughout the entire device. There were three ways to access LG’s memo application, long pressing the volume up key, tapping the notification icon, or directly opening the application from the app drawer.
It reminds me of S Memo, a lot. But Quick Memo was less confusing and had more features that I actually wanted to use. Notes were organized by date and you could choose to save notes within the app or to the gallery.
Not only does the G2 offer LG branded apps, there are also a few internal software tweaks to help the device. “Knock On” is one of those tweaks. It’s essentially a new way to turn on the display of the phone. Double tap the display when the screen is off and the phone springs to life. Again its the simple features like this that really attract me to the phone.
Guest Mode was another feature that really made the phone shine. After enabling it in the settings, you can unlock your phone just for a guest. When in guest mode, all your photos, apps, and personal data are hidden and you’re left with a blank device with a few pre-chosen applications. Its great if you have kids or if you just don’t want anyone going through your phone.
One of my favorite features on any phone is the camera, it’s become such a vital aspect on a smartphone. For me, it’s replaced a point and shoot and I heavily rely on my phones camera. That being said, a good camera is very important to me.
The G2 has one of the better cameras on the market. Images look sharp, colorful, and at 13MP you can crop and print if you wanted to. I took a ton of photos with this phone, some durring amazing lighting conditions and some in a parking lot at midnight – either way, the photos looked great.
The camera software was again very reminiscent of the Galaxy S4 – which is a good thing. You have tons of manual controls, different shot modes, and even photosphere made an appearance on this device. The interface was clean and easy to use, although there were a few times that I accidentally tapped a setting and had to scrambled to change it back.
Video quality was also nice, with full HD recording at both 30 and 60 FPS. LG has managed to work in optical image stabilization to smooth out a shaky hand. Clearly reading about the camera quality won’t do it any justice, feel free to check out the sample photos/videos.
On paper the G2 is just about the “perfect phone”, and in actual use, it’s not far off. The software inconsistencies can be annoying, but they are totally manageable. However, the display is truly top notch, no matter what UI you’re looking at. It’s always nicer to see a removable battery, but the phone does feel very solid and the battery life is spectacular.
Having the buttons located on the back was an interesting feature, though it feels like LG was just looking for any way to make the phone stand out. Once we have cases for the G2 I feel like the bulging buttons on the back are going to become very cumbersome. Overall, the LG G2 is a very solid, well built phone with great battery life and a stellar camera. It has all the pieces to make the phone a hit – it’s just whether LG can properly market the G2 so it actually sells.