A full two months after the announcement of the Sony Xperia Z2, Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8), LG finally took the wraps off their G3 flagship yesterday. And I must say, after handling it and testing it out, it certainly impressed all of us.
If you were to ask me to sum the G3 up in one sentence, I would say that it is simply product differentiation done right. You see this in all its features which are useful and not gimmicky and when they start to feel gimmicky, they are never costly in terms of sacrificing other features. Read on to find out more.
First off, we compare the G3’s specs to the other three released flagships this year.
|LG G3||Sony Xperia Z2||Samsung Galaxy S5||HTC One (M8)|
|Display||5.5” 2K (1440p) IPS LCD display||5.2” 1080p IPS LCD display||5.1″ 1080p Super AMOLED display||5” 1080p SLCD3 display|
|Camera||13 MP, 1/3 inch sensor, OIS+||20.7 MP, 1/2.3 inch sensor||16 MP, 1/2.5 inch sensor||4 MP UltraPixel, 1/3 inch sensor|
|Video Recording||2160p/4K||2160p/4K||2160p/4K||1080p/Full HD|
|Processor||2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801||2.3 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801||2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801||2.5 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801|
|RAM||2/3 GB||3 GB||2 GB||2 GB|
|Storage||16/32 GB (respective to RAM) , micro-SD slot||16 GB, micro-SD slot||32 GB, micro-SD slot||16/32 GB, micro-SD slot|
|Battery||3000 mAh||3200 mAh||2800 mAh||2600 mAh|
|Other||KNOCKcode, Laser Autofocus, Rear volume and power buttons||IP68 rating, S-Force Surround Sound||IP67 rating, Heart rate sensor, fingerprint sensor||Duo Camera, BoomSound|
Now, I’ll try to adumbrate as best as I can the manifold features touted in the G3. There really are a lot, as LG has improved the screen, camera, speakers, processor, keyboard, UI, battery, and its KnockON feature has been extended, and there is now a new Google Now-esque feature.
The G3 is still completely plastic. Don’t let that put you off the G3 though, it feels quite nearly metal in the hand. It looks stunning as well, with the largest display to body ratio at 77%. The brushed metal look, while not nearly on par with the HTC One M8, is miles ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S5. It also gives a unique alternative to the M8 and Sony Xperia Z2‘s looks.
Holding it, the increased thickness gives you the false impression of the solid, metal feel that the M8 has. This is no doubt helped by the rather heavy weight of 149 g. Tap the body though, and the facade falls, but not as badly as the Note 3’s faux-leather does.
In short, the G3 is a solid and head-turning smartphone, and it does all this with a size just slightly larger than the Z2 while having a 5.5 inch display. Speaking of which…
Quad HD Display
The LG G3 has a Quad HD (1440p) display which packs almost as many pixels as the 13 inch Retina MacBook Pro 13 into a 5.5 inch screen, giving it a really, really dense pixel density of a whopping 538 ppi. In comparison, the HTC One M7 has a pixel density of 468 ppi and many reviewers could find no flaws in its clarity.
It’s an IPS LCD panel, and LG really makes amazing IPS displays, and we were not disappointed by it when we looked at it. The pictures were so sharp, we could make out windows all the way in the background of pictures of cityscapes. It has to be seen to be believed, frankly, so do check it out when it begins retailing (28 June). Besides that, the colours were vibrant and realistic.
The only problem with this is that the technology is really ahead of its time, as there is little content that can take advantage of the G3’s amazing resolution.
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem, really, as content has to be created to suit the current technology, so there will be a lag in availability of Quad HD (or even 4K) content. It is to be expected, and as more and more devices go beyond 1080p, expect also that more and more content is created for the next generation of displays.
Besides that, it really is a superb display, surpassing every other flagship-level smartphone out there, and adoption of such high resolution, over-1080p displays is rising, so content should be available soon.
Another thing to note is that 5.5 inches did not seem too big. It handled really well despite its enormous screen size that straddled the line between phablet and phone, which was due largely to the fact that it has ridiculously thin bezels.
A concern one might have about the G3’s high resolution is that the battery would drain more easily. These fears are not unfounded. When the industry moved to 1080p displays in smartphones, it took a toll on battery life.
LG is attempting to mitigate this issue and allay consumers’ concerns by including a 3000mAh removable battery and by using advanced optimisation technologies which adapt to the content displayed on the screen, to maximise the efficiency of the battery.
It’s all conjecture at this point whether this will work out well, so we will have to wait for reviews of the battery life to get out first before passing judgement on this one.
The G3 now has a 13MP OIS+ (Optical Image Stabiliser Plus) camera with a Laser Auto Focus that can, according to LG, focus within 273 milliseconds. It works by measuring the distance between the subject and the camera using a laser beam.
This means that the time taken to capture a picture is much shorter than with conventional smartphone cameras, and we could see from our hands-on testing that it really does work. The OIS+ feature is also really good, and videos are quite smooth.
Combined together, these make the G3 a really powerful camera. Perhaps it does not have the most megapixels on the market, but the added features of the camera make the loss in megapixels worth it, in my opinion, because pictures taken are much more likely to be blur-free.
It can also shoot video in UltraHD (4K) resolution, which is certainly impressive and will look good on that marvellous screen.
There’s also “Magic Focus”. Basically, LG made it possible to refocus their pictures like what was offered by HTC in its HTC One M8. Oh, and without the addition of another camera, while performing the function extremely well anyway.
While the Magic Focus feature itself is rather gimmicky, and I highly doubt many will continue to use it after its novelty has diminished and worn out, at least LG included it without compromising on the G3’s hardware features.
The camera still sports an OIS sensor, and even improves upon the previous design, instead of completely removing the OIS feature for the sake of product differentiation (looking at you, HTC).
LG also upgraded the speakers in the G3, and they actually are pretty good. Even in the din of over 50 people crowded into a small space, the sound could be heard quite audibly. It remains to be seen, of course, whether it can match up to Sony’s and HTC’s stereo speakers, but it is nice to see that smartphone makers are increasingly improving those things that have been terrible for years.
The UI has been revamped, and I must say, it looks fantastic.
Basically, all the icons have been revamped to look flat, but with shadows that accentuate the colours of the icons. Everything looks fresh, clean and simplified, so unlike the notoriously ugly, skeuomorphic design (brushed metal being the most notable example that comes to mind) LG’s devices used to sport like a refulgent, overused and outdated coat of paint. The colour scheme is much more muted now, and utilises cooler colours, which in my opinion is very nice.
The redesign extends throughout the phone, from the Notification Centre to all the apps, and I think it looks even better than stock Android. I used to say that HTC had the nicest design of all Android OEM skins, but the new LG UI has displaced its place.
LG claims that its keyboard, with adaptive technology, learns as you type for faster input with less mistakes. In its press release, it says that “Smart Keyboard reduces input errors by up to 75 percent by tracking and analyzing typing habits and intuitively “knowing” what word the user intended to type.
The height of the keyboard can also be adjusted to better fit the user’s hands and position of the thumbs. Individual keys can also be customized with frequently used symbols for even faster input.
We tested this out, and felt that while improved (and much better designed than previously), it just is not as good as the other Android keyboards out there, such as Google Keyboard or Swiftkey.
I do appreciate LG’s attempt to improve their abysmal keyboard, and can see that this will definitely benefit those who do not know how to install a different keyboard on their phones, but it just cannot compete against the heavyweight keyboard companies.
However, when considering buying the LG G3, the keyboard should not even factor in your decision – third parties have got you well covered.
In its press release, LG explains quite clearly the function of their Smart Notice feature.
Like a personal assistant, Smart Notice provides suggestions and recommendations based on user behaviour, phone usage patterns and location to offer user information when it’s needed the most. Smart Notice can remind you of a call you declined earlier and ask if you would like to call that person back. If you have a large number of unused files or apps on the G3 taking up valuable space, Smart Notice will ask if you would like to delete or uninstall them. But what sets Smart Notice apart from other personal assistants is its natural language capabilities. For example, in- stead of just displaying today’s temperature and weather forecast, Smart Notice will make a recommendation such as, “You may want to take an umbrella today since it will rain this evening.”
From the demos showcased in videos, I can say that it sounds useful; the most important pieces of information are placed right there on the homescreen, with actions associated to that information, unlike Google Now, which mostly just serves up information that can only be accessed by swiping to the Google Now screen.
Other than that, I really cannot say how well it works or whether it will actually be useful, as it would require some proper testing and daily usage to test for that. Rest assured, if we can get our hands on a review unit, we will test for this.
LG now offers a suite of security features in the LG G3, detailed as follows:
Knock Code enables users to unlock their device with a pattern of taps. Merging security and convenience, users can create a personalized code that can be entered anywhere on the screen.
With the G3, users have the option of being able to use KnockON to wake the screen to check the time as well as enter the home screen directly via Knock Code.
Knock Code sounds rather gimmicky at first, but it really is not, as I have noticed. Without even needing to wake the screen, one can tap the code out and unlock the phone.
I use an iPhone 5s, and I find that despite the convenience of the thumbprint sensor, having to actually wake the phone before it can read my thumbprint is slightly annoying and slow.
While Knock Code is not as secure as TouchID, it does have 80000 different combinations, and its convenience is nonpareil. LG justifies this move by referencing studies that few people use passcodes on their phones, and that Knock Code might lower the barrier to using a passcode on one’s device and lead to more security for the user.
This remains to be seen, but it does seem useful and is certainly much better than the easily-hacked and insecure signature unlock feature of the Note 3 (write your signature to unlock the phone).
- Kill Switch
Kill Switch gives G3 owners the ability to disable their phones remotely in the event of theft. The Kill Switch also allows content on the G3 to be wiped so personal information won’t be compromised. Kill Switch also includes antivirus scanning and remote wipe and lock, among other essential features.
I could not try out Kill Switch, for obvious reasons, but this is something that many other security apps have provided for a while, such as Lookout. Still, something built into the phone natively is definitely better than paying extra for the service.
- QuickCircle Case
The QuickCircle Case allows easy access to frequently used functions such as calling, text messaging, music and the camera all from the QuickCircle window without opening the cover. In addition to the QuickCircle Case, LG will offer Slim Guard Cases and premium Slim Hard Cases to protect the G3.
We’ve tested out the QuickCircle Case, and are impressed by it. While not as cool as the HTC One M8’s Dot View, it is even more useful. Controlling music without unlocking the phone or even opening the cover? Yes. Taking a quick picture just like that? Sign me up. Replying to text messages and calling from the lockscreen? Definitely a winning feature.
The other cases also feel good in the hand, and are quite impressive. However, they are likely to cost much, which is to be expected; all device manufacturers’ official cases are expensive, which is pretty much a rule (which, however, Xiaomi is breaking).
- LG Tone Infinim (HBS-900)
Developed in collaboration with Harman/Kardon, the Bluetooth stereo headset delivers premium audio quality sound in a stylish design. Built with retractable wire management technology and jog buttons for effortless search, the Tone Infinim also features Name Alert to verbally notify you who is calling before you answer.
We could not test out the G3-specific features, but the headset does sound pretty good, and feels really nice. We will update you on information about how well it works with the G3 as we learn more about it.
- Wireless Charger
Being compact and foldable, LG’s Wireless Charger is optimized for easy portability, and it’s compatible with Qi’s wireless power charging technology.
- LG G Watch
Well, it’s not been announced yet, but we do know that it will be running Android Wear and that it will work well with the G3. It was actually mentioned as an accessory to the G3, but it was not showcased nor put up on display. But it is coming.
That’s All Great, But When Can I Get One?
The LG G3 will be available for pre-order in Singaporeat selected telcos from June 14 to June 21, at a retailing price of S$868 for the 2 GB RAM/16 GB storage model and S$928 for the 3 GB RAM/ 32 GB storage model. The pre-order package consists of the Quick Circle and the new Wireless Charger (WCD-100) worth S$98 and S$68 respectively.
It will be available at authorised retailers from June 28 onwards, and there will be three colours available: Metallic Black, Silk White, and Shine Gold, with Moon Violet and Burgundy Red being available at a later date.
Assuming the G3’s battery does not suffer too much from powering the gorgeous display, and its features all work as planned, it is, in my opinion, the best Android smartphone out there now, rivalled only by the Z2.
Sadly, the LG G3 did not have waterproofing features, which is a feature of the Xperia Z2 that I like very much. Due to the lack of waterproofing or a large sensor size, I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly.
I advise those torn between the Z2 and G3 to evaluate how much they need some of the features offered in either, and think of which of the features they will actually use instead of which features are cool.
Besides that, I really like the fact that LG tried its best to differentiate itself by adding useful features that are not gimmicky and actually add value to the phone, unlike, say, a thumbprint sensor on the back of a phone, or two cameras for one relatively useless feature (which is also rather gimmicky and easily emulated by software tweaks). The “bloat” that LG adds are actually good additions to an otherwise robust and mature operating system.
I would like to end off with an analogy. Nobody uses, remembers, or even cares for the Air Gesture feature, among many others, in the S4, even though many bought it due to its novelty and cool factor.
But I am sure that almost everybody who got an iPhone 5s is using TouchID. The improvements in the LG G3, while multifarious and extensive, do lack the coolness factor that features like AirView are not short of, but they are useful, and that is what matters.
Move over Samsung, the new Korean star is here.