LG G2 is the newest entrant in the overcrowded smartphone market of India. It is undoubtedly among the best of the lot and can easily take on -- and in some cases even beat -- today's most popular handsets, such as Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and Apple iPhone 5.
Available at a starting price of approximately Rs 40,000 in the market, this phone also has the design and specs that measure up to justify the price tag.
Besides, the three (Back, Home and App Switcher/Options) on-screen keys for navigation, LG G2 has three small, well-designed hardware keys at the back (right below the camera lens). This makes the unit "more ergonomically optimized", claims LG. But the prospective buyers must know if this is a novel innovation, or just a designer quirk that would affect the routine usage.
New design, almost the same experience
It is quite easy to confuse LG G2 with Samsung Galaxy S4, considering the two have similar curved edges, plastic body and shimmering pattern on the back. However, G2 is a little bigger, heavier and thicker in comparison, has a slightly larger display (at 5.2-inch vs S4's 5-inch) and features three on-screen keys (instead of the hardware keys on S4). The phone is easy to hold and doesn't seem too big in the hand.
Almost the entire front panel comprises the gorgeous-looking screen. Text, videos and images are a joy to view on this phone and colours turn out bright and vibrant. However, in some games, the on-screen keys did not disappear automatically (as they do in most apps).
Its biggest strength, according to LG, is the design. The hardware keys on the back, according to LG, are most easy to use whether the phone is held in the right hand, or the left one. This may be true, but we didn't really feel the difference, since most smartphones have keys designed such that they can be accessed easily. So it may not matter to users.
The keys - Volume Rocker and Power/Lock keys - are easy to press and did not pose any challenges in most day-to-day operations. Long pressing the volume down key when the phone is asleep opens the camera app. Doing the same with volume up key opens the QuickMemo app. However, we would have liked the power key to be a bit bigger in size, as we found ourselves increasing or decreasing the volume while trying to turn off the screen.
And this was not the only issue. When the phone lay flat on a surface like a table, we had to pick it up and press the key each time; a rather tedious exercise for no reason, in our opinion. Of course, we had the option of double tapping the screen to turn off the display, but this requires one to exit whatever app is being used and head to the home screen.
Many a times, the app was performing a task and we did not want to exit it, creating an unnecessary nuisance of picking up the device and pressing the rear facing key. This should be addressed by LG.
The double tap function - which we have seen in phones by other manufacturers as well - did not work all the time for us. In the three days that we have spent with the phone so far, this function (named Knock Knock by LG) worked around 70-80% of the time. Not too bad, but certainly something that can get looked into. This figure was worse for non-techies in the office, who kept double tapping on G2's screen in vain in order to wake it up.
Software: Just a little better
Running on Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), G2 comes with a much cleaner software than the LG Optimus G Pro, which was launched just a couple of months ago in India. LG has done away with the rather immature-looking themes (though Marshmallow remains). The basic theme is quite simple, and the effects when you move from one home screen to another, or unlock the phone, look good.
LG has experimented a bit by introducing its own version of multitasking in G2. While running an app, you swipe on the screen from right to left using three fingers to keep it running and accessible from home screens as well as any app. You can save up to three apps like this. It is a decent feature, but I did not find myself using it too often, sticking instead to the default task switcher of Android.
Overall, the LG G2's user interface (which is - incidentally - very, very similar to Samsung's TouchWiz UI) seems to be lighter and works without any glitches. There are a few optimizations that help users operate the big phone with one hand more easily; such features have been seen in some other big-screen smartphones launched previously, like Samsung Galaxy Note 3, LG Optimus G Pro and Huawei Ascend Mate.
One problem with G2's software is the keyboard. The default keyboard designed by LG is nearly impossible to work with. The keys are too small and spaced too close, such that typos were too frequent. It would be better to download a more popular keyboard from Google Play Store.
Camera: Good, but not great
The camera performance of Optimus G2 is very good, though we find it to be not much different from what the Samsung Galaxy S4 in terms of overall performance. Colours are natural and details are excellent in the photos. Even when you zoom in, details are not lost, making the pictures good enough to crop certain parts without losing too much. However, the flash does not seem to be powerful enough. Thus, the low-light photos are decent, but not anything to rave about.
The optical image stabilization is a handy feature, though it is now available in most top-end smartphones. This feature allows you to capture smooth videos even when your hand is a bit shaky. You can also zoom into a particular area in the video frame to record audio better. These are very nifty features and truly add value to your home movies.
Power and performance
The LG G2 is powered by the Snapdragon 800 chipset, which is being adopted by most top-end smartphone makers. So far, Sony Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z Ultra are the only two other handsets launched in India that are powered by this chip.
In benchmark tests, LG G2 beat the competition by a large margin, making it one of the most powerful smartphones in the country today. It is certainly more powerful than rivals like Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.
Not just benchmarks, but real-world performance of the phone is great as well on processing front. Multitasking on G2 is a breeze and all apps open very fast, leaving no doubt about its computing capabilities. All the games we played, even the ones heavy on graphics, ran smoothly.
Battery life of the phone is great as well. It ran approximately 16 hours on a single charge, with the built-in battery saver mode coming into effect at the 30% mark. Its 3,000mAh battery gave a great performance considering 3G was turned on most of the time and we browsed the internet and played videos for several hours.
In the end, if you wish to spend your money on some other device, we would suggest HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. Both smartphones are great, but have slightly slower processors. HTC One is also a little dated.
Sony Xperia Z1 comes closest to G2 in terms of computing power, but personally we don't feel that Sony's display technologies match what the competition offers today. Even as an overall package, our vote is for LG G2 ahead of Sony's device.
Overall, LG G2 is a great smartphone that you will appreciate more once you have spent some time with it. There are a few software issues, but none so big that they will affect everyday usage. Display, battery life and camera are its three biggest strengths and while LG feels the rear-placed buttons make the user experience better, there were times we felt that keys on the side were still better. If it ain't broke, don't fix it...