A while back, I wrote about my very favorable initial impressions of the LG G3, the current flagship phone from the Korean manufacturer, when it was first unveiled. The phone is here now, and I’ve spent some time testing it, and it does not at all disappoint even my very high expectations. The LG G3 was previewed and is currently being marketed with the slogan “Simplicity is the new smart”, and that concept permeates the all aspects of the design of this phone.
Let’s start with the physical appearance of the phone itself. Though it’s branded as the successor to the much acclaimed G2 phone, the LG G3 may be so in name only. It really outdoes its older brother in every way, starting with the case.
The G2 had a glossy plastic back, which gave it a sort of cheap look. The G3 has graduated to a “metallic skin”, made of polycarbonate, with a brushed metal look, despite earlier rumors that it would in fact have a metal case.
LG has done well here. The brushed finish seems to avoid the issue of fingerprints showing as they would on a glossy case. And of course they’ve avoided the added weight and connectivity issues associated with metal cases. To my eye, it’s a mature, elegant design. It’s being produced in a spectrum of colors: Metallic Black, Silk White, Shine Gold, Moon Violet, and Burgundy Red.
We can’t really get too far into the discussion of this phone without mentioning its size. The LG G3 has a 5.5 inch screen, and may indeed be too large for some, especially those with smaller hands. But the phone’s body is designed well, and doesn’t feel at all clunky or bloated.
The form factor of the LG G3 has been christened the “Floating Arc” design. The back is arched and the body tapers to a very thin profile at its edges. A drawback of larger phones has been the difficulty of reaching around the back of the phone to handle buttons on both sides.
The folks at LG have designed this phone for one-handed use. To that end, they have again included the rear button previously seen on the G2, and eliminated all side buttons. Though it took some getting used to, after a couple of days I found the rocker and center button to become intuitive and comfortable.
The screen side has extremely small bezels at the top and bottom edges, and almost no bezel at the side edges, which allows the whopping screen to be housed in a phone which is actually no larger than most other current flagships. The rear camera is located right above the button apparatus, as are its flash and laser focus system. We’ll come back to the camera in a bit, as it certainly merits its own discussion.
At the bottom left corner of the back is a 1W “Boost amp” speaker, which does a tremendous job of rendering surprisingly full and bass-y audio. My review device was a Korean model, and sports a retractable antenna, used in Korea for picking up TV transmissions. I don’t believe there’s one on the American version.
Here’s where the superlatives start to roll in. The LG G3 quite simply has the best screen display I’ve seen on a mobile device. It boasts a Quad HD display, which really shines above the competition. The screen has a 2560 x 1440 resolution, and an incredible pixel density of 538 ppi, which is so outstanding that more than once, while field testing the phone, it attracted the attention of passersby.
Some have suggested that this density is more than the human eye can discern, and thus anything more than 300 ppi is unnecessary. But the print industry knows this to be untrue, the difference was clear to my eye, and we’ve established that there’s still more room to grow in terms of higher densities.
The camera is the next feature which is nothing short of phenomenal. At 13 MP, the resulting photos are sharp and impressive to everyone. It includes OIS+ (Optical Image Stabilizer Plus), which comes in handy in a variety of situations. Consistent with the theme of simplicity, the camera’s opening screen presents nothing but a back button and line of three dots which reveal more features, when you choose to use those.
Even that expansion only reveals a few more controls: a few standard modes and handful of settings. Some have complained that they’d like to see more detail and options in this area. I found the camera to consistently take high quality photos and left little if anything to be desired.
Laser Auto Focus is another new innovation in the LG G3. It shoots a laser at your target, measures the distance to the subject, and focuses swiftly. The technology used here was borrowed from one of LG’s home appliances, a robotic vacuum cleaner.
To speed up the experience even more, even the photo-taking process has been streamlined. You only need to tap on the section of the display on which you want to focus, and it simultaneously focuses and snaps the picture with one click. A small improvement in terms of time savings time, but it’s further evidence of the effort that LG has put into enhancing the user experience of this phone.
The front facing “selfie” camera (sigh…even LG themselves are marketing it that way) comes in at a respectable 2.1 MP, and has a widened lens angle, so you can fit more, or more “selves” into your pictures.
LG’s designers have really taken their simplicity theme to heart here, and have gone back to the drawing board to come up with a GUI which is strikingly different from what we’re seeing coming out of the other manufacturers. They’ve given the LG G3 a clean, minimalist interface, using “flat” graphics, with little ornamentation like gloss or shadow.
They’ve also eschewed “immature” primary colors, in favor of more “mature” tones. Each of the four major native apps is assigned its own color, for ease of navigation, though I don’t know whether anyone really has any difficulty finding their way to their email or phone apps.
The interface will periodically offer “smart notices”, tips for a variety of situations. While I’ve historically not been a fan of these, on the LG G3 they are relatively unobtrusive, and some are even relatively smart.
There are tips based on user behavior, for example, a suggestion to add a phone caller to your contacts, or a reminder of an unreturned call you dismissed earlier. There are status based tips, like a reminder to enter battery saving mode, or to clear out space by removing unused files and apps, and even weather based suggestions, like taking an umbrella on a rainy day.
These notices apparently evolve during the lifecycle of the phone: when it’s new, there are new user tips, help for apps as time goes on, and, ultimately, more LG product suggestions as the phone approaches the end of its days.
Hardware And Performance
As you would expect, the LG G3 has been loaded up with all the goodies befitting to a flagship phone. A 2.5 GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm SnapdragonTM 801 CPU powers this beast. 2 or 3 GB of DDR3 RAM are included, and the phone comes with either 16 GB or 32GB of storage.
The behemoth screen sucks plenty of power, but that’s covered well with its 3,000mAh (removable) battery. Some have complained about battery life being short, though I found it to be excellent. I didn’t run lots of high powered games on the phone, so I can’t say I’ve pushed it to its limit, but I tested it with a variety of apps, and used the camera, the battery would typically last through the day, and multiple days on standby. In fairness, I must add that my Korean phone was not compatible with any American networks, so I wasn’t using the phone for calling, which may have taxed its power supply further.
The LG G3 ran smoothly for me in all situations. Again, I would presume that there are heavy duty video-intensive games that would challenge its resources. But for my ordinary use and field tests, it never hiccupped or choked, and I never had an app crash.
Video And Audio
I can’t find enough praise for both the video and audio experiences on the LG G3. As mentioned earlier the Quad HD display is best of breed and provides stunning video playback, and lots of it, on a screen this size. The preloaded videos from LG show just how impressive of a job this device does.
As for audio playback, again LG has provided a simple, clean interface. Behind that interface is reworked code to accommodate super high quality audio files, which are recognized and designated in playlists as “hifi”. The aforementioned 1W speaker yields really impressive audio for a mobile device. Add some nice headphones or a speaker and you’ve got a truly high end sound system.
My Final Thoughts
What else can I say at this point? It’s clear that LG has put together not only a phone which is a hardware powerhouse, but also a well-designed, mature product in terms of physical structure and visual appeal. To this writer, they’ve raised the bar for rival manufacturers, and I’ll be eager to see what the other players respond with. But for now, I’m inclined to give the LG G3 my vote for the best smartphone to date.