How does LG keep making such great devices with such bad software? I don't understand. Thankfully, the LG G2 is a device you can tweak to your heart's content. At least you'll want to anyway.
What Is It?
The G2 boasts a blazing 2.26GHz, quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor — the first major handset to do so — and 2GB of RAM to power its 5.2-inch 1080×1920 IPS display. The G2 will support lightning-fast dual-band LTE in Australia, and has a specially moulded, extra-large-but-still-mightly-slim 3000mAh battery under the hood to try and maximise battery life even under all that strain.
You don't have to look too deeply into the LG G2 to realise why Google continues to work with these guys to make their Nexus phones. This thing is weaponised from a hardware perspective.
The G2 blew our benchmarks out of the water, achieving an insane score of 2265: almost as powerful as the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy Note III.
Speaking of the Note III, LG has a few Note-like features in this device that work really well. The Q-Slide app system is back, which lets you float apps over the current window you're using for better multi-tasking. Plus, QMemo or Quick Memo is back too, which means you can doodle over the screen to your heart's content. You've also got access to Miracast screen mirroring on the device so you can throw your screen straight over to your Miracast-compatible TV. All these features are neatly tucked away in LG's slightly cluttered-looking notification drawer.
The cleverness is very evident in the design here. That reverse power-button is one of the fresher ideas we've seen in smartphone design in the last year or so.
Basically, the phone only has three physical buttons: an up/down volume rocker and a power button. These three buttons are arranged vertically on the rear of the handset at the top. That sounds weird, but it's actually a good idea. The back and menu buttons are all soft keys at the bottom of the touchscreen, but those can be customised to be anything you like. That even means the ability to swap the back and menu buttons if you’re a reformed Samsung user.
For example, pick up your phone right now and just hold it. You likely have three fingers on one side, the thumb bracing the other as the index finger steadies the handset from the rear. By moving the camera higher on the handset, the button has been placed pretty much exactly where your index finger naturally lives, giving you both added functionality and the ability to further steady the handset thanks to the grooves provided by the button. It really is a clever idea.
The rear-mounted button also has knock-on effects to the design of the handset. It’s one of the reasons why the bezel is so goddamn thin, for example. Thanks in part to some fancy cabling under the touchscreen and the button being mounted on the back rather than the side, the bezel is able to be super thin, allowing LG to pack more screen real estate into the device. This phone really redefines edge-to-edge screen. The bezel is so tiny and thin, giving you maximum screen for your smartphone dollar. This is how all smartphone screens should look: bright, beautiful and mostly bezel-free.
Speaking of packing stuff in, LG hasn’t wasted any space under the hood of the new G2 either. Much like the Moto X we love so much, the G2 also has what’s being called a “stepped battery”. That means LG has jammed battery right up to the curved edges of the rear case to squeeze an extra 400mAh of battery into the phone. And believe it or not, that means your battery lasts a lot longer than you think it would. We got a solid two days of battery power with heavy usage. Nice!
The camera is a 13-megapixel shooter complete with Optical Image Stabilisation and a 9-point auto-focus system which cleverly decides what’s closest in the frame to focus on and it's absolutely fantastic.
Having intelligent auto-focus in a phone camera is a big step towards taking better photos, and it also means that you won't spend precious seconds telling your phone where the subjects are meant to be. The only problem we found with it is that the auto-focus system takes ages to figure out what it's meant to be looking at in low-light, but other than that it's a great addition.
Photos in low-light are beautifully crisp thanks to a large sensor and the Optical Image Stabiliser in the G2, while photos taken in full lighting scenarios are quit crisp, but suffer a little from glare. Take a look.
Click to enlarge…
So from a hardware perspective, the LG G2 is almost the perfect phone: fast, furious and long-lasting. It all goes wrong, however, when you start to talk about the software.
This phone raises an interesting question, and it's one that spells the difference between Android and the rest of the mobile market. The reason you'd likely want to change a lot of things on the G2 is because it could all be better. The launcher could be better, the keyboard could be better, the themes and the sounds and the so on and so on could be much better.
The question the G2 raises is: should a phone like this be perfect out of the box, or should you have to work at it? Should a manufacturer create something fantastic first-go, or should you be given the option to define what fantastic is for yourself?
I guess that's the joy of Android: you make your own experience. A manufacturer with a more locked-down operating system like iOS or Windows Phone, that responsibility to create something near-perfect is there, because you or I can't change much once we pull it out of the box.
The bottom line? The G2 is kind of like every other phone we've tried from LG recently: great hardware, poor software. All brawn, no brains.
The Worst Part
This. Default. Notification Tone.
Seriously, turn this off as soon as you get it.
Should You Buy It?
If you want the smartphone equivalent of a jet-engine in your pocket, get the G2. It's powerful, sleek and curiously designed. You shouldn't buy this phone, however, if you don't like to tweak a phone's software to make it worthwhile owning. If you can't be bothered installing a new launcher, changing up the keyboard or even just dumping a new ROM onto this thing, it's not for you.