LG has just officially announced their new flagship for 2014, the LG G3, successor to last year’s impressive LG G2. I spent a little time with the device earlier today and have to say while it may not blow your socks off on first glance, there's a lot of solid work that's been put in to improve on an already successful recipe from the G2. Read on for a breakdown of what’s new with LG’s new crown prince.
Design and manufacture
As usual, the LG G3 has been leaked in full press renders for a while now, and there are no surprises on the design front in the flesh either. LG has stuck fairly closely to the styling of the G2 but tightened the screws a bit, tidying up the rear-key button assembly on the back, squeezing even more screen into a chassis with tiny bezels and making everything a lot more symmetrical and streamlined. Despite having a 5.5-inch screen, the G3 is only marginally larger than both the Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8), and is about the same size as the Xperia Z2.
The addition of a brushed metal-look polycarbonate plastic on the back, dubbed by LG ''metallic skin,'' adds a touch of class where the G2 sported shiny polycarbonate that was a bit of a fingerprint magnet. The LG G3 also comes with Qi wireless charging, which comes in the stock back cover in some markets or can be added on after-market with either the LG Quick View cover or a third-party offering in others. The rear of the device features the now-familiar rear-key set up of power button and volume rocker, along with a dual-LED flash, laser auto-focus (more on this later) and 13 MP camera with OIS+. The speaker is now mounted on the back of the device where the speaker previously sat on the bottom edge of the G2.
On the front of the G3, it’s business as usual for LG: acres of screen surrounded by the tiniest bezel imaginable. The G2 was impressive enough, but LG has somehow managed to improve on the screen to body ratio even more in the G3, up to 76.4%. The bottom bezel, in the same color as the rear of the device displays an LG logo and the top bezel, in black, has the ear piece in the same color as the main device, kind of like the Nexus 5’s accent. The edges of the device are quite thin, curving around to a rounded back plate, which is removable and houses a replaceable 3,000 mAh battery and microSD card expansion slot. Through various adaptive technologies related to frame rate, CPU clock speed and LCD driver timing, LG claim the QHD display has the same power and CPU/GPU demands as Full HD.
The LG G3 comes with a 5.5-inch QHD IPS LCD with a display resolution of 2,560x1,440 pixels, putting it in the same league as the Oppo Find 7. That’s a pixel density of 538 pixels per inch, a decision LG made to get the G3's screen on par with art magazines, not a specs race for the sake of it. The ideal being to duplicate the analogue world of 270 lines in hi-res print material, requiring 540 pixels per inch on-screen. It is incredibly sharp, and has a great lifelike tendency, without going to oversaturation. LG has also opted for ''mature, sophisticated'' colors and avoided vividness in their UI coloring on purpose.
Software and interface
The LG G3 ships with the latest and greatest Android 4.4.2 with LG’s redesigned Optimus UI. The new interface is flatter and cleaner than previous versions and I have to say it’s a major improvement. Icons tend to stick with the round or square format, which can be odd, especially for the camera icon, but the settings menu and app drawer are clean and clutter-free. LG’s apps have been given a makeover as well, and are crisp and cleanly laid out with a nice minimal Holo-meets-iOS feel. Major apps get their own color-coded look as well. The menu button has finally disappeared and been replaced by the standard recent apps button and there's a new, adaptive smart keyboard, that can be resized to suit your needs and also adapts its recognition area to where you frequently mistype letters.
LG has included a lot of familiar software features with the G3 as well, and KnockOn has reappeared alongside Knock Code, which allows you to pattern unlock direct to your home screen, whereas Knock On goes to clock and notifications. There's some other new features, like Smart Bulletin, which will provide beginner tips in the early days of your G3 usage, suggestions in the mid-term (like to uninstall unused apps, tips for unused features) and later-life reminders, like upgrade promos and accessories. Smart Notice is basically an LG version of Google Now, providing you with information ''before you knew you needed it'', like call-back reminders for missed calls, add new contact suggestions for unknown numbers, recommendations to cleanup temporary internet files or your download folder and more related to health activity and weather forecasts. We'll have a more detailed feature breakdown for you soon.
The LG G3, like the G2 before it, has a 13 MP main camera, but this time gets an improvement to OIS+, which improves the G3’s image stability capabilities. The other major addition to the G3 is the presence of a laser auto-focus module on the back, borrowed from a vaccuum cleaning robot of all things, which allows for super-fast auto-focus in low-light settings: 0.276 seconds, making it the fastest auto-focus available. The laser auto-focus is solely used for auto-focusing, there are no depth measurements like the HTC One (M8)'s Duo Camera and it is anabled as soon as the camera app is launched, so it allows for immediate focus. The main camera also gets a dual-LED flash for better flash photography. The camera app now has a default ‘’Clean View’’ mode where all on-screen buttons are missing and can be brought back with the tap of an on-screen overflow menu button.
The front-camera has been renamed the selfie camera, a 2.1 MP shooter with a better aperture (f2.0) for low-light ''selfie situations'' like in a bar. You can also set up a self-timer by having the selfie camera recognize your open hand, then when you clench your fist a three-second timer starts before taking the picture, avoiding the necessity for awkward one-handed selfies. There's even a fake flash trick, where the display viewfinder shrinks and is surrounded by pinkish-white, to provide sufficient glow to illuminate the subject.
|System||Android 4.4.2 KitKat, Optimus UI|
|Display||5.5-inch IPS, QHD (2,560 x 1,440 pixels, 538 ppi)|
|Processor||Quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 2.5 GHz|
|RAM||2 GB (16 GB model) and 3 GB (with 32 GB model)|
|Internal storage||16/32 GB (+ microSD up to 128 GB)|
|Battery||3,000 mAh (removable), Qi charging|
|Camera||13 MP, OIS+ with Laser-Autofocus (back), 2.1 MP (front), 4K video|
|Connectivity||GSM/HSDPA/LTE, WLAN 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, USB 2.0|
|Dimensions||146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm|
Hardware and special features
Perhaps the most surprising thing about the LG G3 is the fact that it runs a quad-core Snapdragon 801 CPU clocked at 2.5 GHz and not the Snapdragon 805 that many had expected to power the 2K display. Add to this the presence of 2 GB of RAM on the 16 GB version and the lack of increase in battery capacity and camera resolution and many are saying this is just a repackaged G2 (which also shared these last three specs). Nevertheless, LG has made some key enhancements: beefing up the clock speed and adding improvements like OIS+ and the laser focus module, along with a removable battery with Qi charging and microSD card expansion up to a confirmed 128 GB. The base model comes with 16 GB of internal storage and 2 GB of RAM, and there is another 32 GB model that ships with 3 GB of RAM. There's also an IR blaster on top and a 1 Watt speaker with 1.5 Watt amp, featuring 24-bit hi-fi studio-quality audio.
While these improvements might not make up for the disappointed spec-sheet-freak’s expectations, they do add up to a pretty rock-solid flagship that is at the very least in the same league as the current batch by Samsung, Sony and HTC and in many ways it outclasses them. With the Snapdragon 805 set to appear in the very near future though, LG’s decision to push for an advanced release of the G3 seems an interesting one, although they claim the QHD optimizations they've made make the power and CPU/GPU demands of the QHD dsplay equivalent to Full HD. However, considering the presence of low-cost, high-speced Chinese devices like the Oppo Find 7 and OnePlus One, LG now has competition from a different corner.
LG may not have blown anyone’s mind with the G3, but they have produced a better G2, along the same lines as the way the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 were marginally better S4’s and Z1’s. The G2 was, admittedly, quite advanced for its time, and it perhaps set the bar a little too high for the G3 to beat with flying colors. Still, the mixture of better camera performance, the best processor available, an interface overhaul, removable battery, microSD card expansion, Qi charging and that incredible QHD display make the LG G3 a fantastic smartphone by anyone's standards.
The LG G3 is unofficially priced at 549-599 Euro for the 16 GB model and will be available this week, at the start of June in certain markets like Korea and in other international markets on July 1st (no US launch date was given).
What are your thoughts on the LG G3? Has LG brought enough to beat the rest of the 2014 crop?