LG has forever been known as that "other Android manufacturer", relegated to fourth place behind Samsung, HTC, and Motorola in consumers' minds. With its recent lineup arriving on US shores, though, the Korean manufacturer is hoping the tides will turn. Not only is it lying in wait with its beastly Optimus G to steal the spotlight from competing flagships, LG is also venturing into niche territory, including the increasingly popular "phablet" market.
The Intuition is both a phone and a tablet, a wild-looking device unlike anything Android has ever run on. But does it succeed at striking a balance between functionality and versatility? In no uncertain terms, creating a device that succeeds on two different levels is a daunting task. And while LG has made a valiant effort, consumers are going to walk away either smitten with the Intuition's originality or disgusted with its impracticality.
The Intuition has a radical design, and LG makes no apologies for stepping outside of the box with this one. The Intuition's display is impressive, and performance is snappy and powerful. Call quality is as good as we've come to expect on Big Red.
Those who hate the Intuition's design will outnumber those who love it. Unfortunately, this hybrid device fails as a tablet as well as phone-- it's too small and boxy for multimedia viewing, and too big and sharp for messaging and phone calls. Forget using this device with one hand, it's absolutely impossible.
Inside this review
The one-take walkthrough
The LG Intuition is like no other device before it, a product with truly unique and polarizing design. You won't open the papers to any legal woes for LG caused by this one -- the Intuition's boxy shape, sharp corners, and 4:3 aspect ratio are hard to mistake for anything else on the market today. But that's not necessarily a good thing. One of the reasons phone makers have stuck to widescreen designs is that it lends itself to a multitude of uses. The Intutition's design, however, limits itself to only a handful of truly useful functions, the rest being left out to awkward screen layouts and less-than-intuitive end results.
But more on that functionality later. For now, let's look at the actual nuts and bolts behind the Inuitition. On top of the device you've got a power key, a dedicated Quick Memo key, and a microUSB charger hidden behind a slide-away door. The volume rocker is located on the left side of the phone, while the right side houses a SIM card door. The Intution's rear is occupied by an 8MP camera, single LED flash, and speaker slots. It's also coated with an grip-friendly finish that's almost reminiscent of the vinyl seats in your mid-1990's car. The Intuition does not support microSD expansion.
Don't go looking for a slot for your handy-dandy Rubberdium stylus that ships with every Intuition. For one reason or another, LG decided not to include an on-device holster, a fatal error in my ever-so-humble opinion. I rarely used the bundled pen, not because I didn't want to, but because there was nowhere for me to put it. The last thing I want is something else taking up room in my pocket, even if it is as small as the pen. Instead, I was inclined to leave the stylus in the box during day-to-day use.
The front of the Intution is where things get exciting. The 5-inch IPS display packs a resolution of 1024 x 768, a non-standard number that can be attributed to the device's boxy 4:3 aspect ratio. Underneath the display you've got a row of four capacitive buttons: Back, Home, Multitask, and Menu, which we would have loved to see dropped now that Ice Cream Sandwich is in tow. The display delivers with vibrant color, good viewing angles, and the sharp image quality we've come to expect from LG. Direct sunlight is definitely a challenge, though, and this isn't the company's latest technology, so you're not going to be as blown away as you are with the flagship Optimus G. Nevertheless, the Intuition's screen looks really nice.
But a decent display is only beneficial if its form factor allows it to be put to good use. The screen lends itself well to reading text, and as LG has pointed out time and time again, the 4:3 aspect ratio is ideally suited to magazine and book reading. However other things, like email, web browsing, and phone calls, suffer on the device's boxy display. Multimedia viewing is let down by with letterboxed videos and precious real-estate lost to an overbearing bezel. Sure, everything looks sharp and vibrant, but these tasks weren't intended for squarish displays -- 4:3 aspect ratios were abandoned by TV and monitor manufacturers years ago. You'll find yourself jockeying for a comfortable position when trying to send a two-sentence SMS, and you'll find that most apps, including services like Facebook and Twitter that you use regularly, render in odd ways on this screen. Developers can tweak their apps to take full advantage of what the Intuition's display offers, but for most app designers, the number of units LG pushes won't justify the extra work.
Inside the Inutition, LG has managed to cram a 2,080 mAh non-removable battery without adding much bulk to the device, which measures just 0.33 inches thick. This battery lasts longer than expected, and even under heavy usage it got me through a 14-hour day without the panic of reaching an outlet. I did keep the display at half brightness most of the time, as cranking it all the way up dramatically reduced battery life.
Considering the internals that the battery is powering, it's longevity is even more impressive. The Intuition comes packed with a 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S3 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage. Despite the last-generation SoC, the Intuition performs admirably, thanks no doubt to Ice Cream Sandwich's performance improvements and LG's newly revamped, less-bloated UI. Apps loaded with ease and 1080p video chugged along effortlessly. There was, however, the occasional hiccup in the UI, but for the most part the experience is as smooth as can be. I think the potential is really exciting when you factor in Jelly Bean, but I wouldn't get my hopes up just yet, as LG is notorious for taking their sweet time with software updates.
LG has stressed that the Intuition is a hybrid device, and as such it includes some subtle touches that blur the line between smartphone and tablet. First and foremost is the Quick Memo functionality, enabled with the touch of the dedicated button on top of the device. Press it and you'll have instant access to a memo pad, similar to the Galaxy line's S-Note. There, you'll have access to pens, markers, pencils and highlighters of all different shapes and sizes, as well as the ability to bypass the memo pad all together and write directly on the screen. When finished, you can choose to save your notes in either your Gallery or the included "Notebook", which saves all of your doodles according to date and time.
Unfortunately, LG's Quick Memo is less functional than Samsung's S-Memo, and lacks some bells and whistles, most notably handwriting recognition. LG's Rubberdium is also considerably less precise than Samsung's S-Pen, which is one of the reasons LG doesn't make nearly as big a deal out of its stylus as Samsung does.
Similarly, the included Richnote app doesn't live up to its name, acting much like a simple, bare bones note taker. Put the Rubberdium away, here; this is strictly for typing. However, you are able to attach things like your current location, photos, and audio to these notes, as well as alarm reminders that will bring up the note when they go off.
Other preloaded apps by LG include the company's signature SmartShare, which allows you to seamlessly transfer and view files between DLNA-enabled devices. There's also a handy File Manager (it's not as feature-rich as Astro but I'm glad it comes preloaded) and Task Manager to enable prime utilization of your Intuition's memory. Last but not least, LG included Tag+, which acts almost identical to Samsung's TecTiles-- program your Intuition to act a certain way when it comes in contact with an NFC tag. LG includes a few tags with the Intuition, but NFC Tag+ should work with just about any NFC-enabled sticker or tag.
And of course, as a Verizon-branded device, the Intuition includes Big Red's signature bloatware, including the Amazon suite (save for the App Store), Color, IMDb, My Verizon, NFL Mobile, Real Racing 2, Shark Dash, Viewdini, VZ Navigator, and Zappos.
The Intuition's 8MP camera is perhaps one of the most evolved elements of LG's UI-- with features like Cheese Shot (say "cheese" and the camera will snap a photo), and a dedicated Panorama mode, this isn't the camera that plagued early LG phones. There isn't much to play with along the lines of color effects here, but with the options you have, decent looking photos are within the realm of possibility. The Intuition won't blow you away with photo quality, but the results are fairly sharp, accurate in color, and more than sufficient for most instances in which you'd use the camera.
Image quality may be decent, but you'll be waiting a while to enjoy your shots. It takes a good second or two to load up, and focusing is an entire process. It's one of the slowest cameras I've used in recent memory, and despite adequate results, what's the point if you're going to miss your shot anyway?
The Intuition's camcorder shoots in 1080p, but it too suffers from slow and inconsistent focusing. Again, the results here are sufficient. The 1 MP front-facer is also decidedly average, but that's something we've come to expect from most shooters of this kind.
I'm hesitant to write off the Intuition like many of my colleagues did so quickly. There's no doubt that it's a polarizing device, but just because its outside of the status quo doesn't make it ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I don't see myself ever using the Intuition as my main phone, as its size and shape make one-handed use virtually impossible. But there are aspects here that I quite like, such as the gorgeous display, LG's revamped UI, and the solid performance.
I do think LG fell off the proverbial tightrope between tablet and phone here, though. The Intuition would have been much better off if the company had gone about designing the phone in a more decisive way. Instead, what we've got here is a phone that's entirely too large, and a tablet that's entirely too small. I can see where LG wanted the best of both worlds, but Samsung did it better with the Galaxy Note. (Not to mention Verizon's almost certain to get the Galaxy Note 2 in the next couple of months)
If you're craving a phone that is unlike any other on the market today, and you're just sick of the same old designs with increasingly juiced-up specs as the only differentiator, you might want to take a look at the Intuition. However, if you can recall ever using your phone with one hand (think your morning coffee, or hailing a cab), even if only a handful of times in your life, then the Intuition must be avoided. And if you're looking for a tablet that's ideal for reading and multimedia, the Intuition stumbles with the latter, and you'd be better off with a 7-inch tablet to compliment your phone. Take a walk down to your local Verizon store and try this one out -- even if you don't pick one up, you're going to need to see this device for yourself.