LG’s most recent flagship smartphone was the G3 which was a significant upgrade to the G2 that also managed to provide users with a very handy set of tools and mobile functionality. But an upgrade doesn’t necessarily imply that it’s a better phone than its competition or preceding edition and that’s a query we aim to clear up with this review. So let’s get started, even if we’re a few months late:-
Let’s talk design
The G3 is as slick as they come. The slender 8.9mm thin form weighs in at just 149g and makes for easy portability. Of course smaller hands than mine will find it quite a reach (two hands required) to the upper-most corners of the 5.5-inch True HD IPS + LCD display. What really makes the QHD (1440 x 2560 pixel) display really pop is the super slim bezel. LG seems to prefer the lack of physical ‘Home’ button which works wonders for utilization of the real estate available in front. It gives the display a much larger look. Although it’s protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, I did notice some very (very) minor scratches on my device, of course that’s with wear and tear over the course of about 3 months. But a quick fix is a tempered glass screen protector and that seriously makes quite a difference.
I find that a 3.5mm earphone jack placed at the bottom of a device makes more sense than when placed at the top. An IR sensor is located at the top with LG’s now signature volume/power button placement located at the rear of the handset. The positioning of these keys is just right when you’re holding the device, but not when placed on a table or cradled. You’ll have to reach around to power off the screen or manage the volume. Of course there are fixes here too and you can always use the on-screen options.
An IR laser sensor and Dual LED flash are positioned on either side of the 13 megapixel camera lens just above the control keys. Another great feature is the removable rear panel that reveals the 3000 mAh battery (underpowered all things considered, but thankfully easily removable), Micro SIM and memory card slots. The removable panel allows you to use the included (with some editions) Circle Cover case that has a similar rear panel complete with NFC and Wireless Charging attributes.
There’s no denying it, the LG G3 is a great looking handset with one flaw… the rear panel is a little slippery and could have had a better grip. The apparent Polycarbonate panel is a little too slick and can pose a slight problem when handling. Another quick fix – buy a rubberized cover to prevent it from slipping even at the risk of tacking on a little bulk to the device.
Hardware and Connectivity
In the hardware department the G3 is top-of-the-line, complete with quad-core Snapdragon 801 SOC clocked at 2.5 GHz, an Adreno 330 GPU and 3GB of RAM with the 32GB edition. Here’s a quick look at some Benchmark Scores –
While AnTuTu scores were extremely disappointing, 3D Mark and Vellamo proved to be more uplifting. However, the LG G3, according to any of these tests, may not be the very best device on the shelf at the moment, but it’s one of the better options nonetheless.
The G3 supports USB OTG (host) via the micro USB (2.0) port at the bottom. Of course the cables, other than the standard USB charging cable, are not included. It’s got all kinds connectivity which includes 3G/LTE, Infra Red (remote), NFC with wireless charging capabilities, Bluetooth v4.0 with A2DP and apt-X support, GPS with A-GPS and GLONASS for Google Maps or any other third party mapping software and dual band Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n/ac) with support for Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA and hotspot creation to share your internet connection. Sensors of all kinds have also been utilized for various purposes from mapping (compass) to gaming (Accelerometer) and gesture based activities (gyro, proximity). Have I missed anything? Other than the lack of its ability to physically teleport you someplace?
Software, User Experience
Although I bought the handset running Android 4.4 (KitKat) it was updated to Lollipop (5.0) a bit later. However, the initial update had a few bugs that gave me some trouble with regards to overall stability and running of multiple apps. A secondary system update from LG managed to iron out some of the wrinkles and it was back to smooth sailing with that tiny hint of lag as the G3 seems to be noted for and a few other bugs that Google still needs to get fixed. That’s a bit of a shame; considering its spec-sheet, I expected superfluous functioning and although there’s really not much to complain about, from a reviewer’s perspective, it’s visible… if you go looking for it. However, compared to some of the other models out there, it’s pretty damn great!
I’m not a big fan of the LGHome UI (user interface) even if it is quite sophisticated and not as cluttered as Touchwiz. I prefer using launchers like Nova. Each launcher brings its own set of tools and functions and after trying a couple (just for kicks) I realized they all work really well on the G3 with, like I said, infinitesimal hints of lag.
I especially like the Dual Window feature (not unlike Samsung’s) that allows you to simultaneously access two windows on the same screen. For instance, if your email or message app has an embedded link, a browser window can open and occupy half of the screen allowing you still read the message and check the website simultaneously. You’ll also able to adjust the size of each window and or close either. The large display works well for this.
Apps like LG’s QuickMemo+ can prove to be quite useful when taking quick notes right onto whatever screen you’re on or capturing a screenshot, making a note on it and sharing it with people. LG’s Quick Settings Bar looks much better on Lollipop and is easier and more refined than Google’s default offering. It allows you to choose from pre-selected (but relevant) apps to place here and also arrange them according to your usage.
Although some might term it as “Bloatware”, some of LG’s preloaded set of apps can prove to be quite useful. However, you have the option of removing these apps without the need to root your handset and even reinstall them via LG’s App Update section (Settings>General>About Phone>Update Center). A Smart Cleaning app, also in the Settings menus, helps you get rid of temporary files, junk in your Downloads folder and even apps that you don’t use.
LG also has a built in Fitness app, LG Health, that can be assigned to a space on the desktop (if using the LGHome UI). It monitors a variety of activities including steps and more. Other pre-loaded apps include McAfee Security and Quick Remote for controlling anything that uses an IR remote and LG’s own version of Google Now i.e. Voice Mate. It’s not as sophisticated as Siri and quite slow.
Aside from the standard Gesture functions that are built-in, LG also included, with one of their latest updates, the T Action feature that uses ‘flick-of-the-wrist’ gestures to accomplish tasks. These include answering a call just by placing the phone to your ear, flipping the phone over to ‘Snooze’ the alarm, flicking your wrist from a text screen to call the sender and more. Granted Samsung still manages to do a little better, but after using both, I can honestly say, LG has come a long way and it’s about time.
There’s quite a bit of customization that the G3 allows for via the Settings menus and that enhances the overall user experience to quite an extent. At the end of the day, it’s not just the way a handset is built or what its specifications are that determine how good it is, it’s the experience the company software can provide to make the handset more user friendly; that plays a very important role.
Using specially designed, quick access covers, LG has gone with a Circular mini display just to deviate from the norm. LG’s QuickCircle system gives you all kinds of information from access to specific apps, caller ID, message summaries and very cool watch faces. It’s handy, but a tad gimmicky. The whole concept of this quick access menu system makes no sense as it utilizes a case that was designed to protect the display, only now it still has a part that’s made vulnerable to possible damage. So instead of scuff marks that could appear all across your display, they’re now limited to a small portion, which I think is worse. The quick fix solution is – get a screen guard!
What’s quite strange is LG’s caller ID system which only showcases ID photos for contacts in a rather small, round space in the center of the screen. There’s no way to increase the image size. It’s been especially designed to fit perfectly into the circular cut out of the QuickCircle Case, but really doesn’t look too good without it.
Then there’s LG’s latest addition to handset security – the Knock Screen. Essentially it’s like a secret code that unlocks your device. It’s quite unique and secure. Instead of drawing a symbol or typing in a code, you simply tap on an invisible grid on the lock screen and the correct sequence will unlock the device. If left deactivated, double tapping on the screen can be used to wake up the handset.
Having a Dolby Mobile Sound Engine on board can be a big deal for those who frequent the music player on a smartphone. Although I found mild distortion at peak volume via the bundled earphones, a better quality set made a remarkable difference. Having said that however, it in no way fully diminishes LG’s earphones; but with the kind of quality and volume the G3 was built to dish out, perhaps LG underestimated they’re capabilities.
From preset EQ settings to a seven band graphic option that you can tweak to your personal preference, the G3’s music player is quite well equipped. It also comes with a Sleep timer, YouTube access to watch music videos of songs you’re listening to and my personal favorite, Folder access, which negates the need to create a playlist if you’ve already categorized music into folders. You can also quickly stream media to a corresponding device with the ‘Nearby Device’ option. Finding fault with the built-in system was really hard.
The video player worked just as well and comes pre-loaded with plenty of codecs for supported playback. Volume and brightness can be controlled by sliding up or down on the display on the right or left (respectively). Sliding horizontally will move the video forward or backward and Live View thumbnails on the track bar will allow you to go to a specific part of the video quite easily.
The G3 D855 edition also comes with a built-in FM radio that also has a recording feature in case you want to save your favorite track while it’s playing.
The 13 Megapixel Shooter
Unlike the LG’s of old, the new age editions in the G series have heavily toned down the features available with the camera. So for hardcore mobile photo buffs, you’re better off with a third part option. The few features that are available however, do help make a few adjustments but I think there’s plenty of room for improvement. Needless to say, I do not think the camera is the phone’s biggest asset.
Modes include Auto, Magic focus that lets you adjust the focus between the fore ground and background subjects, Panorama (not multi directional) and a Dual Photo mode that activates the front facing camera as well, so you can get into the picture… without actually being in the main frame. HDR Auto Off and On options are also available but unlike the Nexus 5’s, there seems to barely be any difference between the setting being on or off. The voice activated shutter release isn’t the friendliest with accents and that can be a little frustrating.
One of the bigger flaws (at least with my unit) was the speed. The G3’s camera doesn’t quite work very well with moving objects and the Burst mode tends to be a little gritty. It also seems to take at least 2 seconds before the image is actually available for preview and it’s only within the confines of the gallery which needs to be accessed via the button near the shutter release. There’s no setting for an onscreen preview after capture. Swiping anywhere on the screen will auto activate the front camera that also features a ‘Beauty’ setting in case you’re self conscious. What the camera could have also used is light sensitivity settings, like the iPhone’s, when using touch-to-focus. The laser focus works well but isn’t altogether very much faster than any of the other high-end devices I’ve used.
The bottom line is, Google’s default Android camera (available in the app store) has better features including Photo Sphere, multi direction panorama options, manual exposure control and even touch sensitive light fixes. Thanks to the superfast processor on the G3, it works so much better than the Nexus 5 could handle. My advice – stick to the Google Android Camera.
But judging the camera, purely for its sensor, and not the app, it’s pretty darn great!
Sticking to the 3000 mAh battery when the screen size and resolution have been increased was a bad move on LG’s part. The gorgeous QHD display is a massive battery hog and will be your prime source of speedy battery consumption. Although decently managed on the whole, a higher capacity battery would have been truly a blessing for the G3. At best, you’ll get about nine hours of standard usage which would include 3G being active for the entire stretch, a few calls, emails, messages, a little bit of gaming and a even a few selfies. It’s not bad, but could have been great! The ‘Power Saver’ function does help a little towards very end of the day’s cycle.
The Bottom Line
All said and done, the LG G3 is a monster of a phone, one I enjoy using immensely! It has its flaws but there are easy work around options and fixes that could be employed. The display is fantastic, the music player is superb, overall functioning is smooth, it’s well designed for most part and the camera, as is, is really good too. With an average battery life that’s nonetheless at par with industry standards and rivals, the LG G3 makes for a great smartphone and one that’s quite worth of its price tag of Rs. 37,500.