It’s not easy to stand out in a sea of five inch plus smartphones, all with glass fronts and plastic backs. LG Mobile faded from the smartphone scene for a few years, but now LG is back, and has followed up from the blockbuster G2 of 2013 with the new G3. LG’s mission is to show the mobile world how to do high technology, simply. Steven Ambrose finds out if LG’s new catchphrase “Simple is the new smart” is all true, or all hyperbole.
LG have truly innovated with their new G3 device. Two key challenges were met, and overcome, in pretty much class leading style. The first challenge is to get a 5.5” screen into a phone body that would still be fairly easy to handle. The second trick was to create something that no one else had. LG, in response, have come to market with the finest highest resolution screen, on any smartphone to date.
The moment you switch on the LG G3 the quality and sharpness of the class leading screen is apparent. The LG G3 has four times the resolution of a HD screen, which is now standard in many flagship and some midrange phones. LG went further than pure resolution, the screen itself has special technology which results in a purity of colour and overall sharpness that has to be seen to be believed. Only in absolute brightness does it give anything away to other LCD and AMOLED screens.
Simply put this is by far the best screen I have seen on a mobile device to date, and makes using the phone an absolute pleasure. The sharpness, colour accuracy, and responsiveness, is class leading. The other key element is that this amazing 5.5” screen dominates the entire from of the G3 with very little surrounding bezel. This makes the G3 only marginally bigger than a 5” phone, and as a result it is easy and comfortable to hold.
Overall construction quality is first rate. The removable back is plastic but with a high quality metallic feel that stands up well to minor scuffing and damage. The benefit of plastic is weight and the G3, despite is size, is light and well balanced in hand. The profile of the G3 is curved, which both hides the overall thickness, and makes the phone very comfortable to hold.
The removable back reveals a removable battery, which for those that travel, or use their devices really heavily, means a replacement battery can be carried around and popped in when needed. The battery itself is a massive 3000 MaH device and gave a full day of use for the most part.
The controls are still on the rear, just like the G2 and this takes a little time to learn, but once you have they fall easily to hand, or finger, and prove to be rather smart, especially for a device of this size. A software feature called Knock Code also makes activating the phone as simple as tapping the screen, which obviated the need to push buttons all the time.
The LG G3 has some of the latest tech on the inside, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 with an Adreno 330 Graphics subsystem, matches most of its competition. All the memory you may want with 2Gig main memory and 16 gig storage, with the option of up to 128 Gig via SD card. The LG G3 has one smaller trick up its sleeve. Radio connectivity is the most comprehensive on high end smartphones, with more bands including LTE on Telkom Mobile.
One last standout hardware feature is a unique system of laser focus for the camera, which is still a 13 MP sensor with a more advanced Optical image stabiliser than the G2. Most cameras struggle to autofocus in difficult or low light situations, and the net result is blurry pictures. The LG has a laser system that offers instant focus in almost every situation along with the OIS system which reduces hand shake and blur. The pictures I was able to take with the LG G3 are some of the best yet on a smartphone that I have used. The Nokia 1020 is higher resolution and ultimately is far superior as a camera. The Samsung and Sony have higher resolution sensors and can under perfect conditions give higher resolution pictures. In everyday situations where speed and focus are key, the LG G3 reigns supreme. Fast tapping on the screen focuses and takes the picture in one go.
The LG G3 runs on the Android 4.4 platform and utilises a proprietary software overlay from LG. The latest version of the software on the G3 is far superior to that on the G2. The overall look is flatter and simpler and it stays fairly close to vanilla android in most instances. The good part is that it is simple to use and most features such as smart notice can be disabled for a very standard Android experience.
The overall maturity of LG’s design is very clear in the way Android behaves on the G3. It is stable, useful and fairly intuitive. Android has is quirks and for the first time user can offer far too many choices and options. Users can however customise the user experience considerably more than on iOS and Windows phone. The various LG apps are well executed and offer good integration with the operating system and within themselves, something many manufactures get wrong. Smart notice is clever and only minimally intrusive, sometimes dispensing not so clever advice like “it’s going to be hot tomorrow with chances of rain, so don’t forget the umbrella”.
Another useful piece of software is Knock Code for unlocking the phone. Tapping a pattern on the front screen to unlock the phone is intuitive and fast, I much prefer it to number or pattern codes and even fingerprint scanners, as it is faster and much more predictable.
A clever keyboard with predictions and the ability to resize keys is far better than most standard keyboards. I still feel that Swiftkey, which is now free, is the best Android keyboard right now. The camera utility is also very slick and easy to use with two modes, in the first, a tap on the screen focuses and takes a picture, fast and easy. If you want more control, a standard interface is offered with enough controls to keep most amateur photographers happy. The LG G3 also has a two tone flash which improves skin tone, and walking the phone from sleep, and taking a picture is very fast and easy.
The LG G3 ticks more boxes than almost any phone currently available. At the top end of devices there is no clear best phone. The HTC One M8 has the most premium build, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has the most features, and the Sony Xperia Z2 has one of the best cameras and is waterproof to boot. The choice is personal to a large extent and a choice of features and qualities that speak the most to you must often be made.
The Key to the LG G3 which may make it the first choice for many prospective buyers is that is it simply simple. The screen is beyond anything else, the camera is a delight to use and pictures are uniformly good. The G3 is stable, responsive, well build, and overall easy to use. The sum is far more than its parts, it’s a hard device to give up after some extended use.
The flaws of the LG G3 are few and relatively minor. The overall build quality is not iPhone 5 or HTC One M8 quality, it is not waterproof, and the battery life is good but not class leading.
Overall though LG have another blockbuster of a phone on their hands. The G3 looks good, feels good and achieves what LG have claimed in “Simple is the new smart“. The LG G3 is smart, and using it is actually simple. Living with the LG G3 has been a pleasure, predictable, stable, mature, and powerful. The best part is that it will retail for around 25% less than its competition.
The LG G3 will be available from 7 August 2014 at around R8500-00 for the 16 Gig version in Grey, Gold, and White.