There are a lot of smartphones on the market now. this. To add to the confusion, many companies are actually parading out a number of top-drawer phones: assume Samsung’s Galaxy S and Samsung Galaxy Note series, or the Sony Xperia Z and Sony Xperia Z Ultra from Sony. Even LG, whose new LG G2 flagship I am poring over this time round, has each the LG G and LG G Pro to tempt consumers. It is getting increasingly tough to launch a smartphone with some standout feature, one thing extra than just bigger screens and faster processors.
For the LG G2, LG’s determined to make a major change to the phone’s bodily layout — in a bullet-point abstract, it has buttons on the back. Three, actually. LG reckons that as the size of phones has elevated, at this level, the viability of buttons around the edges is now questionable. The new LG G model lands between last year’s LG Optimus G and the LG Optimus G Pro size-wise, breaking through the 5-inch display screen barrier with a vibrant 5.2-inch, 1080p IPS display screen. The rest of the characteristic set will appear familiar to anybody who is read a flagship Android phone review within the last 12 months. Optical picture stabilization, remote control blaster, a combined bag of proprietary software features and Android 4.2.2. There is additionally some new stuff, together with 24-bit / 192kHz audio recording and playback, and it may well be the first Snapdragon 800-powered smartphone to reach Unites States stores — that is Qualcomm’s most potent phone processor yet. However with IFA simply finished and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 now official, is a button transplant going to be sufficient? Actually, that is a red herring, as a result of there is really a far better reason to purchase the G2 — and it is none of the above.
LG has not broken the mold with the LG G2. It does not stop me from whimsically trying again to the HTC One or the Apple iPhone — high-water marks in smartphone design — but it is no eyesore both. From the front, it is like a conceptual sketch of a smartphone made actual. What is impressive, although, is how if you change the LG G2 on, that front surface simply comes to life. LG has squeezed a 5.2-inch display screen into a phone with the identical footprint as 5-inch devices just like the Samsung Galaxy S 4. How? With 0.1-inch-thick bezels, made possible by a brand new display touch-sensor using two connectors. Even above and below the display screen, there is only 0.4 inch of space earlier than the phone edges. The lower part has a logo and nothing else (Android buttons are of the on-screen variety); above you will find the loudspeaker, light sensor and front-facing, 2.1 MP camera. There is additionally a satisfying curve to the Gorilla Glass 2 front, much like what you will find on the Goolge Nexus 4 & recent Lumias. It provides a pinch of class to what’s (at least from the front) an otherwise standard-looking handset.
It is when you flip the phone over that we start to see a bit extra flair. Apart from the rear-button trio, there is a shiny patterned finish to this black model, and whereas the pattern helps disguise it just a little, it loved my fingerprints; completing our typical melee of glamor photographs with the LG G2 bordered on an exercise in futility. I would advise carrying around a fabric if you are averse to smears.
The lack of a detachable battery cover goes to aggravate power customers seeking to swap out batteries and SD cards, however the payback is within the strong build quality — and also the truth that you get extra space for the battery. If I prodded the again with a little bit of force, I may see the plastic flex a little, but not sufficient to detract from the otherwise sturdy design.
The volume buttons on both side of the first power nub are covered in a matte, nearly gritty finish, which implies they stand out from the phone’s shiny background and likewise offer a little bit extra grip. The power button is surrounded by an LED outline, but it is not able to the same fancy light show seen on the Optimus G Pro’s power switch. Nope, these tricks are found within the front-facing LED notification light, and you may choose whether that front-facing one will inform you of calendar occasions, alarms, missed emails, calls or just tell you when the phone’s charging. The rear LED will flash for alarms and incoming calls only.
There are not any other buttons on the device, which is a little daunting at first. If you have ever moved from a Google device to an Apple iPhone, or just switched to a different brand within Android, you may realize it takes some time for you to get used to the new button arrangement. With the LG G2, double that. Then add a day. I had to recalibrate how I held the phone, to make sure my index finger was in the right place — which means a few inches higher than I normally do. An enormous deal? No, but it certainly felt slightly more precarious in the hand than usual. LG has made some efforts to reduce the problem: two taps to the screen will wake the LG G2 up, lessening your need to reach for the power button on the back.
As I continued to use the G2, nevertheless, I turned extra at ease with the button placement. The raised portion that homes the power button was probably the most susceptible to bumps, but it did not result in any long-term scratches. In fact, I preferred to leave the phone facedown on surfaces and let the Gorilla Glass 2 do its job protecting the G2’s beautiful display.
Is a 5.2-inch IPS display screen with 1080p resolution the limit of what we will call a smartphone earlier than classifying it as one other smart-device bridge between tablets and phones? At the moment, sure. At simply less than 5.5 inches tall, it is a tight call. You would suppose smaller hands would likely fare better with a 5-inch display screen, however the LG G2’s shaved dimensions mean it is actually not a lot different than the Sony Xperia Z (5.47 inches), the GS4 (5.38 inches) or even its predecessor, the LG Optimus G, which measures 5.2 inches. All told, it is definitely a notch beneath the likes of the LG G Pro or Samsung Galaxy Note II.
LG’s IPS smartphone displays are a few of the greatest in the business. Shiny and rich, with nice viewing angles, I have got no gripes with them — alongside HTC’s Super LCD 3, this is the extent I want to see in all future smartphones. This 1080p, 5.2-inch model was suitably vibrant in harsh daylight, although the auto brightness setting did not seem to work at all on this model — one thing I am chalking up to this being an early construct. Alongside the IPS display screen, LG has added in Graphic RAM, which provides a memory cache of the screen when static, which means when the display is not changing, the CPU and GPU do not have to communicate, permitting the processor to chill down and saving on battery burn. LG reckons it can decrease the display’s energy use by up to 26 %. We will see how that fares within the battery test section.
Stepping up to complement the richer visuals, LG’s included 24-bit music support — for recording and listening — on both FLAC and WAV files. Now, you may need to be utilizing those types of files to start with, but the LG G2 is the first to support audio at a stage above CDs, and for that it must be lauded. However, it is not the earth-shaking feature LG likely desires it to be.
It makes sense for LG to pair a high-pixel-count camera sensor (13 MP, no less) and optical image stabilization, as the duo ought to make for crisper shots with much less blur and noise. Extra pixels imply that your shots must also grab extra detail. It seems to be the identical setup we tested on the LG Optimus G Pro, (BSI 13 MP sensor, f/2.4 aperture lens, 9-point autofocus and LED flash), although LG has gone additional with the manual settings you are capable of tweak; there is now a manual focus slider to maximise those macro shots, alongside tap-to-focus & face-tracking.
An honorable mention goes to the G2’s HDR mode, which (possibly thanks to that high-end Snapdragon 800) appears both extra capable and sooner to respond than different smartphones we have tested it on. There’s much less ghosting (one picture’s edges not overlapping correctly) and better detail than maybe you are used to seeing on smartphone HDR shots. We are sure that the optical picture stabilization can take some of the credit here. You can even lock exposure and focus — simply touch and maintain the shutter button, then release your finger from shutter button to capture the shot. It is a decent substitute for a correct dual-detent camera button, and a pleasant touch.
The other modes are a combined bag. Useful ones include “Shoot and Clear” mode, which removes shifting objects out of your photos, as well as familiar ones like panorama mode, burst shot and clever auto. Then there are the unfortunately redundant modes, like VR panorama, which is simply as temperamental here as any on different smartphone that tries its luck with Photo Sphere, and Twin Camera.
The sample videos had been largely crisp, however I had some issues with autofocus. While the optical image stabilization stopped any jumpiness inherent with recording on a smartphone, the LG G2 kept attempting to refocus, even when the topic was not transferring around. It left us with the sample video you may see above, where the smartphone keeps readjusting its focus, including moments of blur to the clip. Provided that LG’s provided us an early sample, we will be testing this once more retail units can be found. On the plus side, you may lock focus on something (like someone’s face) while capturing video by tapping on it in the viewfinder. There is additionally a new camera software program function for video, Audio Zoom, which uses 3 built-in stereo mics to amplify sounds in a specific path. Sadly, you need to digitally zoom in, that means any improvements in audio quality come at the cost of visual performance. One final lovely feature: 1080p 60 fps video capture — nice for slow-motion playback of action-packed videos.
It would not be an Android phone from a Korean manufacturer with out some software on the aspect, right? To begin, Google’s Android 4.2.2 brings along Project Butter and Google Now smoothness for the trip, but LG’s added its personal twist, in part to help with these rear-facing buttons.
Everything you noticed on the Optimus G Pro is right here on the G2, just like the dual-camera modes to record video from both the front and back , and (more importantly) the QSlide floating mini apps, permitting you to window off some of the core apps (calendar, internet and, er, calculator).
Unfortunately, as we noted within the G Pro review, there is still a severe lack of non-stock apps. We would have liked to have seen extra support for video apps (Netflix, BBC iPlayer), however that is possible a problem of popularity. LG must be a bigger deal earlier than it could get the sort of support Samsung enjoys for its split-screen multitasking options. On the bright side, it is nice to see that LG’s keeping the IR blaster in its smartphones — I am hoping the trend continues and rids us of remotes without end.
One clever addition to LG’s newest interpretation of Android 4.2 is the ability to decide on which on-screen soft-keys you need, with a number of permutations of home, menu, back, multitask, search, and a shortcut key to the G2’s note-taking function out there. Swipe round on the Android home display sufficient and you will arrive at a tutorial for a few of the phone’s newer features. (Don’t fret, you’ll be able to turn this off once you’re educated.) Up Ist is guest mode, which lets you lock down the device so it is kid-friendly or at the least protected in opposition to pranks and / or company espionage. The mode may be switched on via the settings menu, the place you’ll be able to define a specific lock sample for visitor users. You may specify which apps they’ll access, however Google programs will nonetheless suppose the guests are utilizing your account, so it is worth bearing in mind — it should still maintain onto your internet cookies and passwords.
One other multitasking function alongside the QSlide apps is Slide Aside, which can keep 3 apps running concurrently on the aspect (you house them there via a three-finger swipe). I am not exactly sure how a lot time this saves me over holding the home button (and seeing all of the presently running applications), or from simply loading applications again from the home display. After making an attempt it out once, I never went again to it. It is the new Dual Camera.
Performance and battery life
The G2 houses 2GB of RAM, Qualcomm’s 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and 16 GB 32GB of non-expandable storage. In brief, it is a beast. It uses the improved Adreno 330 graphics processor, that means slicker current games and (hopefully) richer titles in the future, if Android continues to push the gaming envelope. The Snapdragon 600 did not exactly crawl along, so it is tougher to rave about how smooth every thing runs, or how fast apps seem or the phone reboots. Be assured that is all true, and once I fired up the GPU-straining likes of GTA3, I was amazed how rapidly it loaded proper into the game. The benchmark numbers again up my experience — and then some:
|LG G2||SONY XPERIA Z ULTRA||OPTIMUS G|
|SunSpider 1.0 (ms)||880||431||1,283|
|GLBenchmark T-Rex 2.7 HD Offscreen (fps)||20||23||N/A|
|SunSpider: lower scores are better|
The LG G2 more than doubles the scores we saw on last 12 months’s Optimus G. Which is nice, but like lots of Android phones since 2012, it interprets into diminishing returns in real-world use. The new LG flagship does not feel twice as fast, but that is the swiftest Android phone we have seen yet, even despite all the extras LG’s connected to the stock Android software. The G2 is LTE-ready, and it is coming to all the major US carriers, so your requisite bands are covered. Nonetheless, I could not put these to the check — so we will replace when we can. On a 3G SIM, however, my HSPA+ data rates were round 2.2 Mbps down, and 400 Kbps up — just about standard across the networks. Voice calls were additionally clear, with a trio of mics helping to cancel out undesirable noise.
Perhaps this can be a sign that we are finally crossing into a world of smart smartphone batteries.
When it came to battery life, I had excessive hopes and through the first few days of testing, these hopes have been fulfilled. Now, a 3,000mAh battery may not sound like lots (especially with a high-end processor and large 1080p display screen ticking along). It is smaller than each the Samsung Galaxy Note II (3,100mAh) and the Droid Maxx (3,500mAh). But, rejoice, because these flagship specs can go along with top-class battery life. Under heavy use, I was simply capable of cross over the 20-hour mark, with common use of GPS, WiFi and voice calls, all with the display screen on at the least half-brightness. Less holistically, HD video rundown, I managed an excellent (well, tortuous if you are in the course of reviewing) 16 hours of playback on a single charge. Alongside the Moto X, perhaps it is a sign that we are finally crossing right into a world of sensible smartphone batteries.
The G2 took what I loved from the tablet-smartphone category, and crammed it into an everyday smartphone. A big one, granted, however not an unnecessarily huge one. LG’s smartphone screens are among the many best, and its latest phone continues to lead its peers. This time round, however, it is got the battery to do it justice. I had no aversion to watching more video, taking more pictures or just doing more with the G2 because I knew that the phone would go the space even with very heavy use. Extremely, too, the gadget is not even being marketed for its battery savings a lot as its top-notch specs. Here, then, you may lastly have the very best of both. If you are sick of phones that would not last until sunset — I am looking at you, Nexus 4 — that is the answer.
The brand new button positions aren’t a gimmick, however they take some getting used to and indeed, many potential users would possibly never come around. After a week of utilizing the LG G2, I am utterly bought on the double-tap to unlock. There was no want to reach around for the power switch; I simply had to be able to reach the display screen to check emails or the time. There are some new duds in LG’s new software coffers (Slide Aside will be left aside), and the OS feels denser and more complicated than a vanilla Android build, but there are nonetheless a few gems to ensure LG’s skin is value utilizing. With that battery life, Google and LG may oblige us with a Play version, or perhaps we will see specs crammed into the next Nexus — we definitely liked the worth tag the last time that occurred. The miraculous endurance of the LG G2 paired with a high-level display screen and processor, make it one of the tempting smartphones I have seen in the last 6 months.