LG's new superphone gives you the most screen and battery you can hold in one hand – and potentially a big usability pitfall. I spent about half an hour with the LG G2, and I'm impressed by the screen and battery but very worried about its rear-mounted power button.
First, the good news. LG has managed to get an even bigger screen and battery into a case that feels no bigger or heavier than Samsung's popular Galaxy S4. The trick here was getting rid of all front buttons, and almost all of the bezel, to create a great 5.2in expanse of bright IPS LCD screen.
The screen is almost phablet-sized, yet the device itself still feels like a phone. Yes, it's a large phone, but that ship has sailed (if you want to see how big it is in comparison to other handsets, check out the below image with the G2 on the left, next to the Samsung Galaxy S4 in the middle, and the Galaxy Note).
The 1080p IPS LCD screen is bright and has well-balanced colours; it isn't like those super-oversaturated OLEDs you see around, which could be good or bad depending on what you think of oversaturation.
I couldn't really strain the new Snapdragon 800 processor during my hands-on, but I've tested it before and it benchmarks as the fastest mobile processor we've seen in a phone so far.
I'm curious to see if the G2 includes some of the Snapdragon 800 features that Qualcomm once demoed to me, such as an "always-on" listening mode which mimics the Moto X's Touchless Control function.
The other big advance here, so to speak, is that 3000mAh battery. It's the beefiest battery I've ever seen in a device this size. Now factor in the fact that Qualcomm says the Snapdragon 800 uses less power than the Snapdragon 600, and LG says that the new 5.2in display uses only as much power as a 4.7in screen does, and you may end up with very good battery life here.
All this comes in a plastic body, to be sure, but it's a tight and solid-feeling one. South Korea is the Land of Plastic Phones, make no mistake, and the body material still feels a bit flimsier than the polycarbonate Nokia and Motorola are using today. But by choosing a unibody design over a removable back, LG gains something on Samsung, and the phone doesn't feel like it's about to fall apart.
Button on the back
Now the bad news: The power button is on the back of the G2, under the camera lens, and to the untrained finger, the camera lens feels like a power button. Flying blind, reaching with my index finger around the back of the phone, I had genuine trouble figuring out which of four adjacent bumps (the camera, volume rocker and power button) was actually the power button, and so it was frustrating to turn the phone on and off.
This could be solved by muscle memory and familiarity, of course. It could also be solved by LG's "knock on" function, which is supposed to turn the phone on when you tap on the screen twice. But that didn't work reliably on the demo units I was trying.
I had better luck with the phone's quick-answer function, which answers ringing calls if you pick up the phone and put it to your ear. It worked when I put it to my ear, but it didn't auto-answer the phone before I put it to my ear (and it didn't auto-answer the phone when I picked it up and slipped it into a pocket).
The G2 is running Android 4.2.2, and yes, it's skinned. Get used to it. LG has some useful things to add, and a few things I think will fall flat. I really like LG's Qslide multitasking system, for instance, which lets you open apps in little floating windows over what you're doing. It now works with the browser, text messaging, and phone calling, among other apps. The G2 also lets you flick a full-screen app to the side, open another one, and resummon the old one with a flick; it's a quick-app-switching method that I like more than the usual Android carousel of thumbnails. And you can assign and reorganise the phone's quick settings bar to your heart's content.
I'm also interested in the G2's restricted "kiddie mode," although there are third-party apps which can give you the same locked-down experience for kids.
The one preload that concerns me is LG's voice command system. Right now there are three competent voice command systems: Siri, the Moto X's touchless control, and Windows Phone (on a good day.) LG's private-label, third-party voice commands strike me as a lot like Samsung's S Voice, which I've never gotten to behave well. We’ll just have to wait and see how this function fares.
Oh, one more thing – the test phone I looked at had a very weird 24.8GB of storage. If that's really a 32GB model, that's a lot of preloads, and it means that the 16GB model will only have 8.8GB free. For a phone without a memory card slot, that will be a problem – and that’s something to keep an eye on when this phone emerges.
The LG G2 is rolling out to 130 international carriers over the next eight weeks, but there’s no UK price or release date confirmed as yet.