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LG G2 Review: When the best isn't the best


Review by Andrew Kameka on Friday September 27, 2013.

lg g2 · android reviews · smartphone reviews · lg news · android news · smartphone news · andrew kameka

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LG G2 adjustable virtual buttons
LG G2 adjustable virtual buttons

Software and Apps

LG is a firm believer in the pocket-knife philosophy of software design. It doesn't matter if a feature is necessary, pertinent, or elegant. What matters is that it's possible and somebody might like it. Don't ask questions about why something is present; just have it there and be thankful for the day that you eventually discover a use for it. Swiss Army knives seem like overkill until you need to open a bottle and cut something on the same day. LG believes the same logic applies to software.

The Android 4.2-based software on the G2 illustrates that LG wants to be the pocket knife software peddler. Any and everything that could be seen as beneficial is included, even if it might be a detriment to the experience. The notification center serves as Exhibit A. The pull-down menu is great for quickly toggling between common settings and even getting to the Q-Slide mini-apps that support layered multitasking. However, they take-up half of the phone's screen, something I complained about on the Optimus G Pro. LG wised up and made QSlide optional to give users extra space, but it added a new Settings icon to control ringers and sound. That icon is inexplicably identical to, and also larger than, the icon just below it to get to the actual Settings page. In its attempt to make things easier and provide shortcuts for everything, LG made its software unnecessarily more difficult.

One-upping Samsung seems to be a requirement of every LG release, and the company ironically bests Samsung only when it's not trying. The feature replication is nothing to write home about and can sometimes seem like its grasping at straws; however, the user interface is better. Though LG's Optimus UI has the ugliest icons seen on Android, users can change them, and the rest of the UI looks less ugly. The advantage comes in specific apps like the Calendar, which looks great and has a sliding scale to quick view a month calendar and events or agenda at the same time. The Music app has useful audio effects and a built-in equalizer, and the various multimedia apps can be synchronized with a cloud account to provide access to more content.

The G2 has a ton of other software changes approaching overkill but are at least executed in a more sensible manner. Life Square is a feature that groups social media posts, calendar events, photos and videos, notes, messages, and call logs in one place. It serves as a central log for all interactions with everyone you know. Vu Talk is like BBM for the LG crowd. Once two Vu Talk users are connected, they can share drawings and notes or a live view of what's on a screen. There are also two ways to unlock the screen: press the power button on the back of the device or double-tap and swipe in any direction on the front display to get where you need. It seems annoying to have so many ways to accomplish such mundane things, but LG deserves credit for finding ways to meet user preference rather than trying to force someone to interact with his or her phone only in the way that the manufacturer prefers.

Flexibility may also be why LG is so gung-ho on incorporating gestures into its software. Well, either flexibility or a desire to one-up everything Samsung does. The G2 is full of me-too gestures that match what Samsung has done or tries to accomplish it in a different way. Users can flip a phone to pause a video, raise it to an ear to answer incoming calls, or use Voice Mate to issue voice commands. Voice Mate is better than S Voice but not as good as Google Now. It also serves as a good reminder that hardware is only as good as its software. Though many tried to point out that the Snapdragon 800 processor supports always-on listening as a feature of voice commands and search, that capability is meaningless because LG opted not to support it.

Email
Email

Camera

LG's camera software is not the easiest to grasp, but its results are praiseworthy. The 13-megapixel rear camera with LED flash takes good photos. The camera has OIS designed to improve stabilization, but it's mainly worthwhile for stabilizing the photo taker rather than the subject. The OIS doesn't capture a moving passerby better than any other phone, but it does well at minimizing shaking or a a restless child. Outdoor shots are beautiful and lowlight images are merely good with minimal issues of overbearing flash.

The camera interface is better on the AT&T model than Verizon because it makes switching through different camera modes much easier. Both have gimmicky software that you will never use or care about, and even more controls than you will know what to do with at any given moment. Thankfully, the good outweighs the bad. The camera is lightning fast except when taking HDR photos and it focuses faster than most smartphones.

LG G2 Verizon
LG G2 Verizon

Communication & Data

The LG G2 is available for every network, so rating call and data quality varies. I tested the phone on both AT&T and Verizon and unsurprisingly found the Verizon model to be superior. Call quality was excellent on both phones as I never had any issues with static or sketchy sound. When comparing data on both devices, Verizon was incredibly fast and reliable throughout my travails of the New York City metropolitan area. I cannot be as excited about AT&T but it delivered performance identical to the string of devices I've reviewed in recent months.

LG G2 with Wireless Charging (Verizon only)
LG G2 with Wireless Charging (Verizon only)

Battery

Android's critics often point to poor battery life to belittle the top Android phones, but the G2's strong performance extends to battery life. The efficient Snapdragon 800 and 3,000 mAh battery regularly delivered 15 hours of above average use blending phone calls, maps, podcasts, and browsing. Cranking the brightness up to 100 percent still lead to more than 11 hours of usage. Unless you drain the battery by spending several consistent hours of watching video, it will be difficult to have the battery drain prior to making it home. Verizon buyers will get the added bonus of being able to use wireless charging to replenish the battery once they arrive home.

Conclusion

Since the release of the LG Optimus G, I've been excited about LG products but never quite felt the company hit the right mark. I've been turned off by LG's terrible graphical choices and felt like it was blatantly trying to copy things from Samsung simply because Samsung had it. Those habits remain in the LG G2. Icons are as ugly as ever and dual camera recording remains the dumbest trend I've seen all year. The software and undesirable skin hold the G2 back from becoming what should easily be the best Android smartphone of the year. The G2 has excellent battery life, a good camera, a gorgeous display, and a unique control system that I think anyone should love. However, the over-the-top software decisions make it hard to see below the surface.

LG G2 speaker and bottom (Verizon)
LG G2 speaker and bottom (Verizon)

The feature overload may be a virtue to some, but it makes the phone feel cluttered and nonsensical because no one could possibly remember or desire having so many features. I think the LG G2 is a really good phone with some annoying flaws that could be fixed by putting in work to replace a few apps. A different launcher, some replacement apps, and learning to deal with some annoying notifications might make those flaws forgettable. Someone willing to undertake those extra steps will happily find a beast of a device in need of taming.

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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.

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