The announcement of the LG G3 last week showed the entire world, that LG has decided to really up their game this year. With absolutely top notch specs, class leading hardware and new look software, there’s a big chance that LG could really be leading the field with the G3. So, with great pleasure, we took the opportunity to check out the LG G3 in person today at LG’s headquarters in Sydney.
As mentioned, the G3 contains class leading specs: a 5.5″ QHD (2560×1440) screen, 2.5GHz Krait 400 MSM8975AC Snapdragon 801 processor with Adreno 330 GPU, 2GB of RAM, 13MP rear camera with OIS and Laser Auto-focus and 16GB of storage but with a microSD card slot included to expand. LG has packed a removable 3,000mAh battery into the rear of the G3, which is accessed through the removable rear cover.
If you’re still with us, you probably want to know how the G3 looks, feels and works. Let’s jump in.
To start with the obvious – that screen is, in a word, stunning.
There’s nary a pixel to be seen whether you’re simply navigating the home-screen or running some QHD video content. It’s beautiful, it’s smooth and it has taken the quality of the screen that LG provided with the G2 and stepped it up a notch. It’s a revolutionary step, not just evolutionary, as some manufacturers have taken with their flagships this year.
The main concern with the QHD screen is with the power consumption which many people claim will drain the battery faster than I can be parted with money in the presence of Android merchandise. Fortunately, this isn’t the case.
LG has introduced software controls at an OS level which will claw back some of the power that is normally used by intelligently scaling back the G3’s display when not in use. From this, LG estimate that you should comfortably see the same sort of battery life as you got from the G2, and that was an impressive phone.
The LG G3 is one nice looking phone: it looks good from the front, with that QHD screen taking up around 74% of the front of the phone, leaving very little to mar your QHD window into your digital world. The brief flash of colour on the front is a nice change from a stark black bar at the bottom of a screen and the almost bezel-less design is thanks to LG again using rear mounted keys.
The keys are centred on the back of the phone, and have been re-engineered to make them easier to identify by touch – which they are – but the rear mounted keys are really a personal choice, one that could take you some time to get used to but once you are used to them, makes the phone a pleasure to use.
The rear of the phone is plastic – but don’t start to think that’s a bad thing. Where other manufacturers cheap out on the materials, LG has gone premium. The plastic is lovely, the rear cover (which includes Qi charging) has a brushed metal look to it and has a slight texture which makes the phone not only easy, but comfortable to grip, and the matte plastic has the advantage of not attracting fingerprints.
The comfortable grip is also aided by the curved design of the phone, it sits comfortably in the hand using the ‘floating arc’ design that LG have used in the design. It’s a little wider than phones like the Nexus 5 or the HTC One M8, but it’s still a comfortable phone to hold.
The camera. LG really brought a bazooka to a knife fight with the camera on the G3, a 13MP OIS+ sensor with a worlds first – the LG G3 is the first smart phone to implement a feature found mainly on higher end DSLR cameras: Laser Auto-Focus.
The G3 shoots a tiny laser to gauge depth of field and allow the phone to focus on any object in 0.267 seconds. The laser is barely noticeable when you stare into it – yes, my retinas are fine – and if you see it, it’s as a dim red light that flashes on quickly. To use the feature you simply point the phone where you want to take a photo and you’re offered various points on the screen to focus on, tap where you want the focus and the G3 focuses and takes the shot in one motion. That’s the theory, and what I found today is, that is what happens in practice – I was hard pressed to take a bad shot with the G3.
The G3 also includes Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), a glaring omission from the other two flagships currently on the market. While a brightly lit office is no place to try this out, experience with the OIS on the G2 leads me to believe that LG will NOT disappoint on this front. Indeed LG has included OIS+ on the G3, which offers 20% less blur than what was already considered a class leading camera when they launched the G2.
But, there’s also a nifty trick with the front-facing camera as well, it’s not laser auto-focus but it will help you make your ‘Selfies’ a little more stable. LG has included a gesture mode to initiate a countdown on the front facing camera, hold your hand up open and then clench your fist and a three second timer is initiated, before taking a shot. ‘Selfies’ galore.
The test as always will be to use this in the real world, but it has promise and I can’t wait to start trying to photograph my fast moving three year old to really test the capabilities of the laser auto-focus.
This year, the two largest flagship phones being released this year – the Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 – both come with the Snapdragon 801 processor, invariably clocked at 2.3-2.5GHz and paired with 2GB of RAM. Yes, there are exceptions from certain Chinese manufacturers, but they aren’t launching in Australia. The Galaxy S5, was unfortunately a little laggy here and there when I used it, most likely due to the Nature UX that Samsung include, while the HTC One M8 was a true speed demon. The LG G3 falls more on the HTC One M8 side of things, showing a truly smooth experience throughout the OS.
LG has moved forward with their skin this year, and it’s in part due to LG’s work optimising the OS, that the phone is as smooth as it is. Previous G series phones have shown that LG can optimise the absolute guts out of a phone and the G3 continues this tradition proudly. The new transitions in the skin are crisp and flow nicely with no stutter or lag throughout, apps open nearly instantly and the phone seems to beg you to throw more at it.
Skin and Software
LG phones run the LG UI, it’s a fact, but it’s been evolving over the last couple of years to the point where if you accept that a brand name phone will have a skin, then it’s a skin done quite well. There’s a consistent feel throughout the OS, LG has made the whole design flatter, they’ve thought about their colour palette when theming the phone and it looks pretty darned nice. It’s not stock Android, but it works well and for the mass market, which is the source of most sales of Smartphones, it’s actually not too far off the design sensibilities which Google is implementing with Android.
This being an LG phone you will find the old favourites – QuickMemo, QSlide Apps, Guest mode, they’re all there. What they’ve done this year is focus on three main areas – the Keyboard, Security and something they call Smart Notice.
The Keyboard has been a failure for almost every OEM who has attempted to replace the Google Keyboard with their own, there’s just very few if any examples of a good one, but LG may have done it here – users can customise the height and various keys that appear, and there’s seemingly pretty decent word suggestions when you type. Suggestions appear to the left and right side of the screen above the keyboard ready for you to pick your choice at will. It’s actually not too bad and the old standby “The Quick Brown Fox..” elicited the correct suggestions as soon as I started typing. It remains to be seen how long it’ll last, but that’s what full reviews are for.
The Smart Notice side of things is an interesting one, with LG attempting to introduce a personal assistant to your phone, one that keeps an eye on the weather and your phone itself. Smart Notice will do things like monitor your phone usage, reminding you to call someone back if you declined their call earlier or add an unknown number to contacts. It will also monitor your phones storage, advising you if you have files you haven’t accessed for a while, which could be deleted to free up space. There’s also weather alerts using AccuWeather, it’s not the Bureau of Meteorology, but it’s decent and seemed to match up with what both Google Now and Pocket Weather were telling me. Smart Notice is an interesting idea and I really look forward to using it over an extended period.
Security has also been looked at with the G3, there’s encryption of your data through Content Lock which will lock files on your internal storage as well as your SD card. Knock Code which allows you to set a tap pattern as your lock screen instead of a sometimes readable trace pattern or PIN code. You can even put In Case of Emergency contact information on your lock screen, so people can return your phone to you if it goes walkabout.
There is the standard Android Device Manager software to use for remote wipe, lock and locate, but LG mentioned that they had their own service during the launch. At this stage though, exactly how or whether this LG way will be implemented on the Australian version of the LG G3 is still being discussed, but your phone will be relatively safe with the encryption and knock code pattern anyway.
I’ve been a little hard on LG in the past, they’ve been lacking in the accessory department previously, but with each new G Series phone, they’ve upped their game and with the G3, you’re not going to be left wanting. There’s cases, Qi Chargers, Bluetooth headsets and – though the guys at LG wouldn’t be drawn on it, no matter how hard we tried – a smart watch all coming.
At launch LG will be offering a range of cases, from simple shells which flip over the back of the G3 to offer a bit more protection, to flip covers, which are called QuickCircle covers. The QuickCircle covers will come with two options: The first QuickCircle case simply clips over your existing back, adding a little bit of thickness to the phone as well as a flip cover, the second replaces the back of your phone (don’t worry, it has the Qi charging coils on it) and adds the flip cover with QuickCircle.
The covers are expected to be ready at launch, for the basic shell you will be looking around $20RRP, the larger QuickCircle case, minus Qi chargin will set you back $39RRP and the replacement rear cover including Qi charging will cost between $50-$60.
But wait there’s more, with Qi charging built into the phone, you’ll need a Qi charger and LG will be offering a neat portable charger which sits the phone up so you can see that lovely QHD screen while it charges. The Qi charger will set you back $69 when it launches.
Last but not least is the LG Tone Infinim, a Bluetooth stereo headset developed in partnership with Harman/Kardon. The Infinim is a very premium product featuring retractable wired earbuds, jog controls and is set to land here in Australia in August/September, LG are still looking at the price but we’ll know more soon as launch approaches.
We spent an hour with the LG G3 this afternoon and what I managed to do was fall in love. It’s that initial contact that makes you think more and more about the next time you see it. The display is without question Gorgeous. The camera is Excitingly fast. The phone is buttery smooth. The software is interesting enough to get me to want to check it out more and the design just feels great.
LG are looking at bringing the Silk White and Gold versions of the G3 to Australia, but at the moment the Metallic Black version is the only choice scheduled to launch on the 4th of August. Unfortunately, it’s a lock that we won’t be seeing the Violet or Burgundy Red options on our shores anytime soon.
LG has promised review units prior to the launch, and for me, that time can’t come soon enough. After only an hour with it, I look forward to spending a decent period putting it through its paces when it arrives. If you’ve been waiting to see what LG has to offer with the G3, I don’t think you’re going to be disappointed.