A month ago if someone asked me to suggest an LG smartphone I’d divert them to something from Samsung or HTC. LG as a smartphone brand has mostly been in the periphery with some decent offerings but nothing outstanding. And somehow this is the same brand that Google has partnered with to launch its Nexus smartphones. LG is expecting the G2 to change that perspective about the brand, touting an edge-to-edge, almost bezel-less display, a brilliant 5.2-inch 1080p display and the latest Snapdragon 800 chipset from Qualcomm. But will that be enough considering it will end up competing with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3 and Sony’s Xperia Z1?
The G2’s calling card is its unusually placed volume rocker and power buttons that are placed on the rear of the phone rather on one of the edges. LG says the design will improve the user experience as the buttons have been placed at the spot where a user’s index finger would rest while holding the phone. The logic is sound but the button placement is a nuisance rather than improving the user experience. My index finger repeatedly hit the camera lens above the keys while searching for the volume or power buttons. Thankfully LG has incorporated a feature that wakes up the display by tapping twice on it and one can also turn off the display by repeating the action. I found it to be more intuitive and have become so used to it that I found myself doing it on my iPhone 5 and waiting for the display to light up.
With my rant about the awkwardly placed buttons out of the way, let’s come to all the great stuff LG has achieved with the G2. First and foremost, the display. I am amazed at the pace with which display technology has evolved in the past year or two and LG has taken it to the next level on the G2 that has the thinnest bezel I have ever seen on a smartphone. Not only does it give the edge-to-edge feel but also accommodates a larger 5.2-inch display in a footprint that would normally house a 5-inch display. The G2 is marginally bigger than the HTC One but has half-an-inch larger (diagonally) display.
The G2 has a unibody design with a non-removable back and no microSD card slot. However, unlike the HTC One, the G2 is made entirely of plastic and does not feel as premium but doesn’t feel cheap either. The glossy patterned back panel has a tendency to get smudged and I found myself constantly wiping it clean. Ditto for the display.
For those following me on BGR India and across social networks probably already know that I use an iPhone as my primary smartphone and about the certain trust issues I have with how smartphone vendors are not optimizing the power management with Android’s always running in the background architecture. There wasn’t a single Android smartphone that would fit into my trouser pockets comfortably and also last a day of heavy usage. The G2 changes that!
A lot of it has to do with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chipset that is the most powerful processor and GPU combination we have at the moment and it complements that by sipping battery than chugging it. It has significantly lesser battery drain in standby mode as well – during the three weeks that I have been using it, there have been instances when the G2 had less than 10 percent of battery when I went to sleep and it was still alive in the morning. LG too deserves some praise as its engineers and designers utilized even the dead space under the rear panel by using a “step” battery rather than the regular simple rectangular block batteries that are commonly used.
Then there is the 5.2-inch 1080p IPS display with a pixel density of 424PPI. It is crisp, bright and is legible even under harsh sunlight. LG has managed to nail the ambient light sensor too, which does not fluctuate wildly like most of the other smartphones including the Galaxy Note 3. Yes, the blacks don’t look deep as Samsung’s Super AMOLED displays and look like a deep shade of grey instead but that’s something I can live with.
The G2 has a 13-megapixel camera on the rear that is versatile enough to shoot photos under most lighting conditions. Nope, it ain’t the Lumia 1020 quality that has become the benchmark for camera phones. The G2 too has optical image stabilization that generally works well. On comparing photos clicked from the G2 and the Galaxy Note 3, I found the G2’s shots to lack sharpness but the Galaxy Note 3 had extreme artificial sharpening that resulted in loss of details. Non finicky users (like yours truly) wouldn’t mind either as those as they become apparent only when the photos are blowed up on a bigger display. In my books, the G2’s camera is at par for the course when it comes to a well-rounded flagship smartphone.
I am not a big fan of skinning Android just for the heck of it in the garb of differentiation. Having said that, we have seen with the Google editions of the HTC One and Galaxy S4 how some elements added on top of Android can enhance the performance of certain elements like the camera. With the Nexus 5 reportedly based on the G2, I wasn’t surprised to find LG skinning the heck on top of Android. But what I didn’t expect was the extent to which anyone would go and LG has gone much farther than Samsung’s Touchwiz UI.
After using the G2 for an hour I just wanted to gouge my eyes out. The icons look amateurish and something one would probably find on a Fisher Price toy phone. I still don’t understand why the SMS background is always a blue sky? What’s the purpose? LG too has implemented almost every feature from Touchwiz including smart pause and other features that I have never seen anyone use or want to use. And then it goes beyond that to include options where users can decide in which order the Android menu buttons appear on the display and whether they want a three button layout or an additional fourth button as well. The result of all this customization is that on a 32GB phone one gets roughly 24.8GB of available space and it is under 11GB on the 16GB variant. With no microSD card slot, I think it is borderline lunacy to add features that most users won’t even know exist in the phone and even if they do, they don’t want them anyway.
But things are not as grim as they sound and I’m glad I didn’t go with my instincts and still have my pair of eyes snuck perfectly in their sockets. LG might have gone overboard with the customization options but there are a lot of features that I have got hooked on and want on every smartphone I use. There is a neat guest mode where users can decide what apps or functions are accessible. It comes with its own pattern lock and ensures that if you have to share your phone with anyone, you have control over what the other person can or cannot access. It has been executed perfectly and is a feature I have always longed for a while now.
My favorite feature, however, is again something that made me wonder why didn’t anyone think of it yet. Whenever a new text message arrives, it opens as a tiny pop up window over whatever you are doing on the phone. You can dismiss it or respond to the text message directly from there and resume your activity. You don’t have to go to the message inbox, deal with the message, get out and open whatever app you were in before the message came.
Then there are these tiny applets that can be summoned from the notification centre and these too open in a small window. Opening the calculator, doing a quick calculation and resuming whatever I was doing was a huge advantage. You can open the dialler, videos, browser, calendar and many more applets this way.
LG has done a good job with these productivity improvement add-ons but these get masked by gimmicky features like the one where you can “zoom in” on a person while shooting a video to capture their audio. I believe LG needs to prioritize crucial features that make a difference over features that are there purely for marketing copy purposes.
The G2 has been a bag full of surprises. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 does its job perfectly whether I talk about the power management, core performance and network reception. The 3,000mAh battery regularly lasted me for an entire work day with about two hours of calls, roughly three to four hours of online activity. I had two email accounts, two Twitter accounts and a Facebook account all set to push. The camera will do the job for most users.
The G2 is one of the most well-rounded devices I have come across after a long time. Based on almost three weeks of using the G2 as my primary smartphone and almost a fortnight with the Galaxy Note 3 before that, there is not even an iota of doubt in my mind that high-end Android smartphones have finally reached the point where the iPhone starts looking massively behind the curve.
The G2 marries a handy form factor with stupendous performance at a very attractive price point. The 32GB variant is available for approximately Rs 40,000 at a time when competing products are priced significantly higher. The LG G2 will easily be on the top of my recommendation list when anyone asks me about buying a high-end Android smartphone.