LG needs something big, grand and impressive to take on the current smartphone incumbents… and it thinks it’s found just that in the insanely powerful LG G2.
It’s a phone that, once again, bears the most resemblance to the Samsung Galaxy S4, with a plastic chassis encasing a huge 5.2-inch screen… although once again it’s been pushed to the edges of the phone in a bid to make it all look a little bit more amazing.
The timing of the launch makes the LG G2 one of the early devices to run the all-new Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip (alongside the Sony Xperia Z Ultra), clocking the quad core processor at 2.26GHz and coupled with a hefty 2GB of RAM.
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It means nothing on paper, but in real life it makes the phone tick along rather nicely and allows LG to promise a 1.2 day battery life in normal use… outstripping the Moto X already.
That’s thanks to the 3000mAh battery that has been created to make the most of the space in the handset – as you can see it’s been given a little step to make sure that more minutes are poured into your hands and not being lobbed in as wasted space.
LG has recently been clinging on in the smartphone race, and there’s a feeling that a phone like this could be the make-or-break device if it’s to accelerate away from the chasing pack.
So with a spec list that includes a Full HD display, a 13MP camera with optical image stabilisation, a 3000mAh battery and a completely redesigned sound system that promises ‘proper’ Hi-Fi audio, there’s a lot to love from the spec-fiend’s point of view.
The design of the phone, even with a number of design enhancements to make it sleeker and slimmer, is surprisingly large for a flagship handset. It’s around the same thickness of the HTC One, but the plastic back can’t hold a candle to the aluminium casing that adorns the Taiwanese rival device.
The main design feature is the fact the volume and power button are now on the rear of the phone, directly below the camera. This a new idea from the South Korean brand and it’s at least innovative – however, in real testing it didn’t really feel like the keys were spaced far enough apart to warrant the design change.
However, the upside of such an option is the screen can be pushed closer to the edges of the chassis, with only 2.65mm separating the two. Combined with the sumptuously clear Full HD 5.2-inch display, LG has definitely taken the lead when it comes to getting the most out of what you can use in your hand.
Sadly, the headphone port has been moved to the bottom of the phone, which will annoy pretty much anyone. It’s also only got a 32GB internal memory… we say only as there’s no microSD card slot. Even when no phone in the world has these any more, and Google and Apple have won, we’ll still miss it as a feature.
The lack of buttonry extends to the home and menu keys, as these are all now digital options that appear at the bottom of the screen. At least LG has seen fit to alter these somewhat, giving the user total control over the elements that live there.
Actually, that’s another point for which LG should be applauded: its detail in the UI. Whether it’s being able to change the on screen buttons, alter the minutiae of the LED notification light or enhancing the Quick Remote infra red functionality to learn any other remote you’re thinking of replacing with a smartphone.
There’s also a smart cover that will be offered in seven different colours, and you’ll be able to flip through a number of small phone modes to control the music, clock and photos when on the go. It’s an odd cover in that it doesn’t shut properly, and flaps open a bit, but does enable the small phone mode instantly.
The audio on board the LG G2 is highly impressive – not out the mono speaker at the bottom of the phone, which is quite dull, but through the headphones LG is claiming that you’ll be able to get Hi-Fi levels of quality through a decent pair of buds or cans.
The South Korean brand actually had to rewrite part of the Android 4.2 OS to enable the improved audio, which is now 24-bit at 192KHz, which will give much more definition to any sound you want to hear.
The overall look and feel is rather intuitive once you get used to it. You can double tap on the screen to unlock the phone, and double tap in an unused part of the display (or the notifications bar) to relock it once more.
It’s actually a rather neat way of doing things, and within a few minutes it had become second nature to us. Similarly the notion of being able to use one unlocking pattern to open the phone and another for guest mode makes it much easier to give the phone to a child or show a friend how your new gadget works.
But that’s really where the intuition ends. We’ve been critical of LG’s UI in the past, and sadly it doesn’t look like much has changed. There’s just so much going on that it’s very difficult to pick out what’s happening at first pass.
For the advanced user, this is a compliment rather than a criticism, as you can pretty much do anything you want with this hyper-advanced smartphone. Want to change the font? Have little floating widgets that you can vary in transparency? Want to have a pervasive remote control in the notification bar? All possible if you want to spend some time digging through the settings menu.
But for the more casual user, the person on the street who doesn’t know much about one OS compared to another but simply wants the best phone that won’t see them horrendously outdated in a few months, then it’s a complicated mess.
The notifications bar has loads going on, which means that you’ll actually struggle to see the information you pull it down to use – for instance, get an email, Facebook and text message at once and it’s a total scroll fest.
The other new feature, which allows you to three finger swipe to the left to ‘save’ an app, and put it in a kind of stasis. You can do this with up to three at a time, and a three finger swipe to the right will open them back up.
It’s meant to rival Multi-Window on the Samsung Galaxy and Note range, but in reality it’s just as useful (as in not really) thanks to the gesture being quite hard and clunky even with the 5.2-inch display.
Other elements like text link, which can search through any words and connect it to the calendar, maps or internet are really nice, but are convoluted – we’re keen to see how the average user will take to such things.
Compare this to the HTC One or the iPhone 5 (even with iOS 7 on board) and there’s no contest – your less smartphone-savvy friend will go for one of these options every time.
LG so desperately needs a phone that allows it to capture the same kind of audience as Samsung and Apple, but with the G2 it’s just played it safe again.
That’s a hard thing to really criticise, as LG has once again done what it does best: make a smartphone with arguably the best specs in the world.
The screen is so stunning when watching Full HD content that it’s hard not to instantly fall in love – and the processor, RAM and general speed of the phone is top notch.
However, the design is middling, the implementation of Android 4.2 only so-so, and there’s nothing here that really will claim the headlines when it’s splashed across billboards and taxis around the world that people haven’t already seen before.
We really like the LG G2, but we can’t see it being the critical hit that the company wants (and really deserves, given the amount of effort that goes into pushing the envelope in terms of smartphone technology).
The unit we used was definitely a pre-production sample, such was the speed of certain apps, so when we publish our full LG G2 review, things might have got a little better.
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