Review by Andrew Kameka on Friday October 25, 2013.
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The LG G2 and Apple iPhone 5S are different in every way imaginable. The 5S favors a compact aluminum body that's flat and feels wonderful to hold, though somewhat light. It has a power button at top and volume buttons to the side to complete a meticulous, minimal design. The G2 on the other hand turns tradition on its head. The flanks of the phone are obstruction-free because LG places all of the important buttons on the device on the back. It's a very unique style of operation and quickly becomes adaptable because fingers feel naturally comfortable there. The glossy plastic finish of the shape is not something to rave about at all, but most will be able to tolerate the slippery texture.
The difference in size translates to a big positive in the LG G2's favor. The 5.2-inch IPS 1080p HD display look gorgeous, bright, and has some color-tuning to make the G2 have the benefits of saturated colors without the negative effects of darkness of off-color tinting. The iPhone 5S on the other hand has a 4-inch retina display that's also bright, beautiful, and without flaws when it comes to the quality of the display or the number of pixels shown. Where the G2 gains the edge is obvious in its size. For watching videos or playing games, that extra inch of display area goes a long way, making it clear that with things mostly being equal in quality, the size advantage makes the G2 more appealing.
Things are less clear-cut when it comes to software. The LG G2 runs an LG-optimized version of Android 4.2 while the iPhone 5S runs Apple's latest and not exactly flawless iOS 7. The G2 is packed with demo-friendly but not always practical features. For instance, QSlide lets users run mini-apps that float above other activity, allowing for a kind of multitasking without flipping back and forth between apps. Someone needing to check a calendar to see if an upcoming event conflicts with previous commitments can do that more easily on a G2. The frequency of such a feature is probably low, but it's beneficial in a pitch.
iOS 7 lacks the dual-app display system but it has shortcuts to more commonly accessible features like toggling settings, launching apps, controlling brightness, and seeing notifications, just like the G2. The difference is that iOS splits them into two separate sections so they look more refined than the cluttered approach taken by LG. Neither system is perfect.
iOS 7 also has a simpler approach compared to LG's take on Android, which has more bells and whistles than most users would care to have. There aren't multiple ways to do one thing, just one way to accomplish something. This works in some ways, like having a fast and reliable browser with similar features, but it fails in the way that it locks users into that browser and doesn't give them choice. The keyboard is very fast and does a good job of auto-correction, and I'd much rather have that the ugly and less effective keyboard on the G2. But the G2, by virtue of running Android, gives me the option of downloading the standard Android keyboard or paying money to get a superior option like SwiftKey.
The 5S also includes a number of utility apps for notes and reminders, but the G2's cup runneth over with such apps. There are multiple apps for notes and memos, and within each is a subset of options that allow for the creation of more diverse notes that can include text, video, photos, and audio recordings. It can occasionally be frustrating to have to manage those many options, but it can be beneficial to have them depending on needs. The 5S on the other hand will try to focus users into niche apps that handle specific tasks.
LG's Voice Mate uses voice recognition to turn on settings, auto-dial, and search for answers online. It's not what I would describe as desirable, which is a nice way of saying it's not good. But, you can use Google Now for auto-dialing, launching some apps, and searching the web. The iPhone 5S counters with Siri. Siri can also launch apps and auto dial, but it can also turn on features like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi using voice. You can also use Google for iOS to supplement some of the Google Now features, though not the notifications.
Both phones have software designed to enhance and edit photos. They offer similar options and can introduce ready-made filters, crop and rotate, and provide other automatic enhancements. The iOS 7 gallery is superior in this regard, and there are far more and better third-party options for photo enhancements on the 5S than are for the G2.
The LG G2 has a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization that helps reduce blur. The Apple iPhone 5S has an 8-megapixel camera with 1.5-micron pixels that capture more light and do well when in poorly-lit areas. The G2 has an LED flash and the 5S has a dual-tone LED flash that aims to have more balance when taking a photo. When you compare the photos taken with each device, you'll notice that both are above average cameras.
On the software side of things, the G2 offers more options and has an Intelligent Auto mode that does a fairly good job taking photos. The iPhone 5S has only standard modes, its own version of Intelligent Auto that is equally as accurate, and an HDR mode that is faster than the HDR photos taken with a G2.
G2 on top, iPhone below
G2 on top, iPhone below
G2 on top, iPhone below
The total packages of the iPhone 5S and LG G2 can only be separated by priority: does someone want a phone with a clearly defined purpose that does a good job in most cases, or would that person like the option of having a supercharged set of tools that are not as polished, but are more plentiful? That sums up the G2 in a nutshell. It's so full of options that you can even use a built-in IR blaster to control a television and cable box. The G2 is the clear choice for the power user, who wants his or her phone to be everything in a box.
The Apple iPhone 5S is the choice for the quote-unquote average consumer who cares more about being able to navigate a phone without roadblocks, an ugly interface, or extra work to make things usable. The simplicity of the iPhone 5S, and the expansion possible thanks to its world-class App Store, makes this a device that outshines LG in some software areas. LG's Android UI is more troublesome and not as good by default, but it has more upside for improvement and adapting to someone's needs. With a beautiful screen and a longer battery, the G2 is a more capable device than the iPhone 5S.
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.