Korean electronics giants Samsung and LG compete in just about every area in which they operate. In the smartphone space, though, Samsung's Android-powered lineup remains top dog. Not only is it the world's top handset manufacturer, but it's Galaxy range, headed by the Galaxy S5, also represents the most familiar face of Android in the eyes of consumers. LG has had a comparatively shaky start in the smartphone world, but in past week it's finally brought its most compelling handset yet, the LG G3, to the U.S. market.
With eye-catching specs like a 5.5-inch "quad HD" display and an impressive optically-stabilized camera, the LG G3 represents one of the more credible challengers to the incumbent Samsung. But the GS5 itself is Samsung's strongest flagship yet — the manufacturer's first proper water-resistant flagship, with a built-in heart rate monitor and biometric security to boot. We've had both devices in our hands for some time now, so it's time to put them head to head and see how they compare.
Look and feel
Two plastic phones, but vastly different designs.
These two are both traditional plastic smartphones with removable back panels, and chassis dominated by their large displays. But despite the use of similar materials, there are plenty of areas of contrast. The G3 sports a rounded exterior with extremely thin bezels and a "metallic" textured back — read: plastic with a fancy coating — while the GS5 has a more squared-off design with reflective accents. There's a size difference, of course, given the gulf in the two devices' display dimensions, but the larger LG handset really isn't a whole lot bigger in real terms than Samsung's offering. That's mainly down to the G3's narrower bezels, which allow for a greater proportion of the front face to be taken up by the 5.5-inch display.
The in-hand feel is vastly different too. The G3 is the slicker of the two, thanks to the unique texture of its back panel — glossy, but somehow not slimy or fingerprint-laden — while the Galaxy S5 has a matte plastic coating. (Go with the black GS5 and you'll get a soft-touch battery door; the other colors get a more traditional textured plastic finish.) With its smaller size, flatter back panel and grippier rear, the GS5 is perhaps the easier phone to one-hand, but the G3 is remarkably hand-friendly for a 5.5-inch phone.
The G3 also wins points for its novel rear-mounted buttons, putting the power key and volume rocker within reach of your index finger at all times. That said, the GS5's more traditional side-mounted buttons do the job just fine. Around the back, the GS5's 16-megapixel camera module protrudes slightly through the back panel, while the G3's 13-megapixel shooter sits flush with the battery door.
When it comes to the main buttons used to operate the phone, LG opts for the increasingly popular on-screen controls, while Samsung's sticking with its big clicky home button, flanked by capacitive back and task-switching keys. Generally speaking, we prefer the consistency of LG's approach, but we've had no trouble adapting to Samsung's button layout, and there's something to be said for being able to quickly wake the phone with a single press of the home key.
Aesthetically, it's mostly a matter of personal taste. Neither phone will blow you away with premium materials like the HTC One M8 or Sony Xperia Z2. Instead, it's a question of whether you prefer the softer back and more squarish proportions of the Samsung device, or LG's curved, shiny derriere.