LG wants to shed its image as a supplier of dinky pre-paid handsets, and decided to build the Optimus G: a phone it has dubbed the "superphone". Naff buzzwords aside, is the Optimus G any good?
What Is It?
In short? A power plant disguised as a smartphone.
Underneath a 4.7-inch (1280x768) True HD IPS screen with 318 ppi lurks the beastly quad-core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 4G-support and a 2100mAh battery.
Other goodies include NFC, Miracast support and a few other features that make this phone just plain nifty all round.
The Optimus G is a great looking smartphone straight off the bat. It's sleek glass contoured in silver, finished in black and accented with a pattern reminiscent of the handset's Google counterpart, the Nexus 4.
For the uninitiated, it's worth remembering that Google chose this phone as the device it wanted to represent the latest generation of Android by making it into a Nexus device. The only real changes between the two is the slightly faster processor on the Optimus G, and the inclusion of 4G connectivity, which is excellent.
The 1280x720 screen is beautiful to use — but can be a tad pixelated at times, so rare that you'll barely even notice — and I don't know how LG has done it, but it has managed to make a 4.7-inch device feel a lot smaller in the hand than it actually is.
That's not a bad thing: you still get a huge amount of screen real estate for your content on the Optimus G, but somehow it just doesn't feel as cumbersome as something like a Galaxy S III or an Xperia Z in your hand. Perhaps 4.7-inches is the new 3.5?
LG calls the Optimus G a "superphone". That's a stupid name, but I can see how they got there. This phone is almost as fast as a speeding bullet, with a Geekbench result of 2244. That's faster than a Nexus 4 and a Samsung Galaxy Note II, but not enough to dethrone the weaponised Nexus 10 tablet from Samsung. Performance improvements and nifty tweaks are what make the Optimus G really impressive, however, as opposed to the straight-line speed of the thing.
The processor, for example, comes from Qualcomm. It's the Snapdragon S4 Pro, and it's a processor that fires up each of its cores individually as required to save battery and increase efficiency. Furthermore, the 4G capabilities have been moved straight onto the chip itself so it's less of a battery hoarder when you're browsing.
The battery itself is also geared for longevity. It uses the same technology that Holden does in its electric flagship, the Volt, to improve how many times the thing can be cycled (charged and discharged). Where normal batteries are tuned for 500 battery cycles, the Optimus G is geared for 800, meaning you'll get more life out of your battery for longer.
All this means that you get an incredible amount of time out of your battery. We got around a day and a half to two days of use with the Optimus G before we were scrambling for our chargers. That puts devices like the iPhone 5, the BlackBerry Z10 and even the HTC One to shame.
The Optimus G also comes with an excellent 13-megapixel camera. That's great news for pixel-peepers, because Australia had been slated to get the 8-megapixel model.
The camera produces vivid colours and has a nice wide lens compared to say the iPhone 5. It does have a tendency to overexpose images in Auto mode, however. That can be fixed in settings, but it's not great if you want a quick shot.
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LG Optimus G
LG has also put in a few apps that you can use in a multi-window fashion. Notes, calculator and other apps can float above the window or app you're currently using so that you can multi-task a bit better.
There's also a nifty feature called QMemo — short for Quick Memo — which lets you doodle on your screen and annotate screenshots. Basically it's LG's version of the Galaxy Note. Shameless, but functional nevertheless.
In the end, however, the best endorsement for the Optimus G is the one from Google. The search giant doesn't choose just any phone to be a Nexus model. It has to be special and powerful. The Optimus G is both.
LG have worked really hard to make its Android skin something that people will like, and it's certainly better than anything we've seen before, but it's still a pain at the end of the day.
LG have made it really tough to truly customise anything. Sure you can put your own photo on some folders, but actually doing anything meaningful is a bit tougher than it should be. The whole user interface design is pretty naff, really.
The camera is great when you're viewing the images you have captured on the smartphone, but blowing them up reveals that it's just another smartphone camera after all. It's all a bit too pixellated, a bit too out of focus and just a bit too rubbish to use as a camera replacement.
The speaker on the Optimus G is loud, but it's also pretty tinny, too.
Should You Buy It?
It's brilliant, beautiful and wonderfully functional, but you shouldn't buy this phone. No way.
Make no mistake: the LG Optimus G is a brilliant, brilliant smartphone. It's the best that the South Korean manufacturer has ever made and it makes up for all those abominable pre-paid atrocities, stretching back to the LG Chocolate slider. All that considered, you still shouldn't buy this phone.
I'm not going to say that LG doesn't really care about the Australian market, but you could certainly forgive someone for thinking that when you look at the pattern of behaviour exhibited by the manufacturer recently.
The Optimus G — the carrier's new "superphone" — hits the Korean market in August of 2012. In November, Australian journalists finally get a look in as the device hits shelves in the US. Local release dates are pushed from early Q1 2013 into early Q2 2013, and finally in April 2013, the device hits Australian shelves. That's almost eight months spent waiting for a device to hit shelves. Most product lifecycles aren't even as long as that.
In the meantime, devices like the Sony Xperia Z and the HTC One have been released that are more than worthy of your hard earned dollar. We're even staring down the barrel of Samsung Galaxy S4 release later on this month, and LG have even announced the successor to the Optimus G at home, rendering this whole phone obsolete before it even hits shelves.
When we saw the phone back in November, LG blamed the carriers for the issue. To quote myself (which is awful but whatever):
LG says that to get this device with 4G, Android 4.2 and the customisable UI through three networks-worth of testing will take four months. Count ‘em: four. Handsets live and die in four months, carriers. This needs to be faster.
The point still stands: this is way too slow, and I genuinely don't understand why the Optimus G hit shelves after device like the Xperia Z and the HTC One, which underwent the same carrier testing process.
If you're desperate for an Optimus G, save yourself some cash and get the Nexus 4 instead. It has less bloatware, it's more customisable, half the price and better looking.