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LG G3 Review


Review by Andrew Kameka on Monday June 30, 2014.

lg g3 · android reviews · smartphone reviews · lg news · android news · smartphone news · andrew kameka

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LG G3 Dual Window and multitasking
LG G3 Dual Window and multitasking

Software and Apps

The Achilles Heel has finally been healed - mostly. My biggest complaint about every LG phone since the Optimus G has been that the software needlessly adds things, clumsily copies Samsung, and looks childish. The LG G3 UX addresses those complaints. Starting with the appearance, LG has followed the trend of embracing flat design, though it hasn't fully dived in yet. The icons still have some almost three-dimensional elements to them, though they are far more attractive than the gaudy appearance of the past.

Elements of other apps have removed the bevels and shadows to showcase a flat and focused design that makes navigation much easier. The Music app is a shining example of this because of its large thumbnails for album covers, quick tabs for browsing options, and ability to move around the app with the hidden menu on the left. LG makes similar changes to the Gallery, Email, and Internet apps that do away with most of the clutter. The trimming stopped short in some areas, particularly the crowded multitasking screen. Part of me loves having larger thumbnails showing screenshots of running apps, but the rest of me hates how crowded it looks. The 3x4 grid is actually more confusing than the way Samsung tackles multitasking. I also noticed that the motion to swipe up to load Google Now is not as fluid.

LG G3 lock screen and Music app
LG G3 lock screen and Music app

LG has some welcome additions that are familiar from previous phones, including those not made by LG. QSlide is a mini app view that creates floating windows for common tasks for video, Internet, phone, messaging, and so on. There's also a new Dual Window mode that splits the screens into two re-sizable windows for multitasking. Also present is Q Memo+, the note taking application that can add notes dealing with text, drawings, audio recordings, videos, photos, locations, or annotations that mix multiple formats. Those Notes can then be enhanced with reminders that users will devote their attention to at a later date.

LG G3 Q Memo and Copy Tray
LG G3 Q Memo and Copy Tray

A bunch of minor touches add up to major improvements. The keyboard is now faster, better looking, and can be resized. I'm someone who types very fast but hates having the keyboard take up too much space on the camera, so I enjoy seeing the drag-down option to take up less space but still quickly input text. I'm also a big fan of the Clip Tray, which stores everything someone copies and makes them available at a later time. Being able to stack copy+paste items and store them in the clipboard is fantastic. I'm also pleased to see that back buttons can be set to route shortcuts to different apps when the phone is powered off, so I can jump directly to the camera just by holding down on the volume down button.

LG G3 home screen and app drawer
LG G3 home screen and app drawer

LG employs a security measure called Knock Code that unlocks the display just by tapping a registered pattern on the front screen. Tens of thousands of different combinations exist, but it can sometimes be tough to remember exactly what is your pattern and unlock it. After a number of failed attempts, I reverted to the numeric password. Once a password for the phone has been set, you can also choose to make some information private. Case in point, the Gallery will protect content unless the code is entered. The G3 also comes with an astonishing amount of preloaded apps on the Korean model, and I'm sure the US variants will come with a smaller but still healthy serving size of the same bloatware. However, in comparison to previous LG phones, the amount of excessive additions in software is down. This is a focused and more sensible version of LG's user experience, and I must admit, it's one of the most enjoyable.

LG G3 camera with Laser focus
LG G3 camera with Laser focus

Camera

Focus is central to the G3 in more ways than one. Next to the 13-megapixel camera is a sensor built for laser-guided focus. The G3 as a result finds its subject in a snap. Combined with OIS+ for improved stabilization, LG has created one of the most consistent cameras on the market. I've managed to take a couple of blurry photos because of shakiness, but I've mostly succeeded in turning in great looking photos whenever I had access to adequate light. Low light photos were less stunning, which is a letdown because one would think that LG had managed build on the solid camera found in the G2. The G3's software tricks to increase exposure and sharpness in low light backfire in some cases.

It certainly doesn't help that Night Mode, and nearly every other mode or manual control users have previously had, has been yanked from the camera software. The Camera app UI is now extremely focused, allowing only for tapping to identify the subject and taking a photo. Users can toggle HDR or Manual focus to get close-ups, but options are otherwise very limited. Taking photos with the G3 requires placing complete faith in the auto settings doing their job, and as nice as many photos look, that's not always the case.

Data and Communication

I tested the LG G3 with an AT&T SIM card slotted into an unlocked Korean smartphone. I'll reserve judgment about network performance because the US variants should be optimized to work locally, though I didn't have many problems with data speeds. The 4G LTE tests were consistent with other phones in my possession, though finding an LTE signal was a little tougher. An encouraging sign is that all calls were audible and the back speaker, which is average for music and video because of its rear placement, is clearly discernible for voice calls with speakerphone. Network performance should improve when the phone launches on the major carriers in the U.S.

LG G3 3000 mAh battery
LG G3 3000 mAh battery

Battery Life

LG increased the screen size and screen resolution but didn't bump up the battery capacity. Instead of relying on sheer muscle to keep the battery going, the company turned to efficiencies gained from a new processor and display technology. LG claims the G3 is more efficient at using power, so it's not too bad that the same 3,000 mAh battery from last year continues. Gaming or setting the brightness to its highest 100 percent capacity will quickly drain power, but the phone should hold up before dying late in the afternoon (we'll get a better picture of performance when US models are released). Though I'm content with the performance of battery life, I gladly would have traded in the Quad HD display for a less resource-intensive 1080p HD resolution that would have surely added some extra time to the phone. (Note: Qi Wireless charging is included in the battery, but it will not work in the U.S. models.)

LG G3 outer rim
LG G3 outer rim

Conclusion

Second fiddle is no longer LG's position. The years spent as an also-ran copycat mostly ended with the G2, and the continuation of those benefits into producing the G3 have confirmed that the company is capable of producing great works. The G3 is a wholesale upgrade in every important area - other than battery life, which we'll be able to rate properly later - and is surely in elite company when it comes to choosing phones. It's a little more than some will manage yet exactly what many others want. The Quad HD display isn't what will make anyone purchase this phone. The greatly improved software, inflexible but reliant camera, and enhanced exterior make the LG G3 the best Android smartphone LG has made ever made. Whether that's enough to sway someone from a Galaxy S5 or One M8 is harder to say because the One M8 has a better body and the S5 has a better battery. The G3 makes up for those shortcomings by being close enough in both areas and turning in a great camera and unique form factor. This is not a phone in anyone's shadow, so LG can finally take its place in the light.

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About the author

Andrew Kameka
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.

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