One of the best options on any carrier comes to Sprint and continues to impress
LG pretty undeniably has a hit on its hands with the G3 in a way that it never could have imagined with the G2 and original Optimus G. The LG G3 is mentioned in the same breath as the Galaxy S5, HTC One and any other phone you can think of — and thankfully, this time around the U.S. carriers haven't done a whole lot to change that when the device hit their networks.
Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint all carry the LG G3 at this point, and to the delight of us all the phone is nearly identical on each. There are subtle differences, of course, and that's why we see value in taking a look at devices from each carrier to compare and contrast. The LG G3 on Sprint is, well, an LG G3 running on the Sprint network — and that's a good thing. Read along and see the fine differences between this and other models.
For those who have an eye for the finer (or uglier, I suppose) things in life, you'll be pleased to know that Sprint has locked down the exclusivity on the "shine gold" color of the LG G3 here in the states. Thankfully the gold isn't as over-the-top and pretentious as you may think, either. If you catch it in the right light it'll look very gold, but in most cases it just looks like a slightly off-silver color. The band of faux metal plastic around the perimeter of the phone is indeed silver, as are the speaker and earpiece, giving it a bit of contrast.
If you're not so into the flashy color option, you can also choose to go with "metallic black" on Sprint as well... but what fun is that? There's no white option like you'll find on AT&T and Verizon, though.
Beyond the color, this phone is physically identical to those found on other carriers. Sprint hasn't even gone so far as to put its logo anywhere on the phone. On the inside, this is the same version of the phone elsewhere — Snapdragon 801 processor at 2.5GHz, 32GB of storage, 3GB of RAM. It does lack wireless charging of any sort, though — you'll have to figure out how to get a third-party back with Qi charging for this one.
The LG G3 naturally supports Sprint's Spark LTE service, which provides theoretically faster speeds in markets which the appropriate switches have been flipped to enable it. I'm happy to report that Sprint has dramatically expanded its LTE footprint (coming online officially a handful of weeks ago) in the greater Seattle area since I last had a Sprint phone in for review. Places that used to be primarily 3G are now covered in LTE.
LTE speeds from Sprint are best comparable to HSPA+ speeds I get from both T-Mobile and AT&T here in Seattle, with both download and upload speeds between 5 and 10mbps. I'd very rarely see 15mbps on the download side, but never higher than 10mbps on upload. When I was in less-populated areas I could see downloads near the 20mbps mark in some cases, though the real speed increases are seen in markets with Band 41 available — a requirement for good Sprint LTE speeds — like Tacoma (south of Seattle) where I could get north of 40mbps.
Sadly, I still drop down to 3G far more often than I'd like, particularly because the speed delta between 3G and LTE on Sprint is so dramatic. You'll go from the healthy 10mbps download speeds to less than 1mbps, and with ping times in the triple digits. It's just too slow to do things we like to do on modern phones like stream music, download apps, use mobile hotspot, etc. And until Sprint has dramatically expanded its LTE network so that you rarely see that spinning 3G indicator in the status bar, I really won't be happy with this network. And sadly at the rate it's going, that may take a very, very long time.
And while we're talking about network indicators, I'm going to take a moment to remind Sprint how completely incomprehensibly terrible its 3G and LTE status bar icons are. I don't need a gigantic 3G icon in the status bar, nor do I need a spinning circle around that 3G icon when transferring data on your slow-as-molasses EVDO network — and I especially don't need a twirling ninja star icon on my phone when I'm connected to LTE. Stop it, Sprint.
That inconsistent network performance also seemed to hit my battery life as well. Days where I spent a large amount of time on 3G saw my battery hit the cellar before I was ready to sleep, while days where I often had strong LTE left me with roughly 25 percent at the end of the day. That's simply a function of having to keep the phone awake and connected for longer periods to transfer the same amount of data, as well as keeping the screen on waiting for tasks to finish — but the end result is worse battery life on 3G. Nothing new, but it also isn't any less frustrating when you know what's causing it.
Sprint includes Wifi Calling on the LG G3, which will be familiar to anyone who has used a branded T-Mobile phone in the past few years but will be something new if you're coming from Verizon or AT&T. Sprint's implementation is pretty simple. It requires you to connect to a Wifi network, turn the setting on, then verify that you want to call over that network. You'll also have to provide an address for where that network is located for 911 emergency call purposes.
Once you've turned on Wifi Calling for a given network, you'll automatically make calls on that network when you're connected. Calls on Wifi are good, as you'd expect, assuming your phone has a good connection to a Wifi network with acceptable speeds.
When at home, Wifi Calling is basically protection against having low quality voice calls in situations where you have bad signal strength but instead have a Wifi connection, but going forward Sprint will also enable Wifi calling for use outside of the states. That's a pretty huge feature for those traveling abroad who don't want to bother with using another VOIP service.
Software and Sprint bloat
Sprint has decided to pre-install a considerable amount of apps and cruft on the phone, but luckily for everyone a majority of it is actually completely uninstallable. Sprint installs the following applications on its G3:
- Eureka Offers
- Lookout Security
- Lumen Toolbar
- Nascar Mobile 2014
- NBA Game Time
- Sprint Family Wall
- Sprint ID
- Sprint Money Express
- Sprint Music Plus
- Sprint TV & Movies
- Sprint Worldwide
- Sprint Zone
- ThinkFree Viewer
That's 22 apps by our count, not counting useful tools like Wifi Calling and Sprint Voicemail. It's really unacceptable to deal with that many apps, but only slightly more palatable when you consider that 16 of those 22 can be uninstalled completely. You can disable three (Lookout, Box and Lumen Toolbar) of the last six, but three are left (Sprint Zone, SprintID and ThinkFree Viewer) for you to look at whether you want them or not.
Beyond the bloat, everything is just fine here — the one exception being that Sprint doesn't let you modify what sliders are available in the notification shade. You can't remove the default volume slider, nor can you add a brightness slider.
Performance seems to be on par with other LG G3s based on what we here at AC have found in our time with units from various carriers and regions, though I found a notable improvement in performance with moving the phone over to the ART runtime from Dalvik. Unlike some other people I haven't had any crashes, reboots or app stability issues, either. I still notice that the G3 just isn't as fast as something like the HTC One M8, but that's going to be the case no matter your carrier choice.
The great thing I have to report here is that if your carrier of choice is Sprint, you won't have to consider leaving for another carrier to get a better experience on the LG G3. What you're getting here is just what you'd get from those other guys, with the exception of a couple of very minor software differences. Of course you'll only have the option of gold or black colors, but for many people that's not going to be an issue.
You're also likely to get the same pile of bloat and terrible spinning LTE status bar icon from any other modern phone on Sprint, so there's really nothing big to note there, either.
That all being said, there's really no value proposition here that should have people running toward the Sprint LG G3 over another carrier's. You need to choose the network that offers the right plans that you want and performance where you live, then choose the phone. You shouldn't go to Sprint just to get the gold LG G3, but if Sprint is your carrier it's probably one of the best phones available for you today.