We're live in New York where LG has formally unveiled its highly-anticipated G2 flagship, which is set to hit 130 countries and the four major US carriers within the next eight weeks. LG knows just how fierce the smartphone market is, and it seems to have pulled out all the stops — this is undoubtedly the Korean company's most impressive smartphone yet. More than just a sequel to the Optimus G, the G2 marks a shift for LG — as it ditches the Optimus moniker for its flagship line, LG is keen to rebrand itself as a major competitor to the current market shapers.
The G2 is a step forward for LG in terms of both hardware quality and software. Not only is this the most well-designed smartphone to ever come out of LG's labs, it also feels like the company has finally gotten its UX right. With its latest product, it seems LG is no longer playing catch up in this important area.
Right off the bat, let's talk about that crazy-nice display. It measures up to a full 5.2 inches while maintaining the traditional 5-inch footprint, thanks to the super-slim bezel. It's nearly one millimeter thinner on the sides and three millimeters thinner up top than its main competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S4. That translates to a 75.9% effective display area, the largest on the market today. And thanks to its true full HD resolution and 400-nit brightness, we're seeing a display that can give just about every one of its competitors a run for their money.
Despite the humongous screen, the G2 manages to maintain a rather slim and sleek profile, assisted by LG's decision to move the power button and volume rocker to the back of the device. It's a radical move, but one that LG explained rather logically. With a device of this size, you'll have an easier time reaching the back than you would reaching the side. Think about it: where does your finger naturally lie when holding a 5-inch or larger smartphone? And its location lends itself to some cool added functionality — it doubles as an LED notification, but it also acts as a quick launch for your camera (hold volume down) and LG's Memo app (hold volume up.) Pretty useful indeed.
Because of that unique addition, this is a unibody design with a non-removable 3,000 mAh battery. Yes, it's huge, and that's thanks in large part to its "step" design – think of a plateau rather than the traditional brick form of most batteries. This lends itself to a thinner design, but also to a larger capacity. LG says you'll get 30% more juice out of its battery than you would from other 5-inch displays — in real terms, LG says we're looking at a full 1.2 days of usage without a charge. (We'll have to wait see just how well that holds up.)
Another thing you'll notice on the rear is the 13-megapixel super-slim camera. It's made of fingerprint-resistant sapphire glass, nearly three times stronger than traditional tempered glass, and boasts an OIS module, anti-shake technology, and audio zoom. LG says that it worked hard on improving the camera quality on its smartphones, and we're anxious to see how real-world results stack up to the claims.
Lastly on the hardware side, LG has thrown itself into the middle of the audio war that HTC started with its BoomSound tech. LG's answer is the first "hi-fi smartphone," capable of playing 24 bit x 192 Khz, a huge improvement over the 16 bit x 44.1 capabilities of just about every other smartphone, CD, and MP3 player on the market today. You'll hear every movement of the musician, LG promises, which could end up being a huge draw for the audiophile smartphone buyer.
On the software side, this is very much the LG UX that we first met on the Optimus G, with a few added goodies, my favorite of which is the new Knock Knock feature. Tap the screen twice to turn it on, twice again to turn it off. It's useful, yes, but almost a necessity thanks to the rear placement of the power button. Thankfully it seems to work pretty well.
The G2 features Guest Mode, which sets up different unlock patterns for different user profiles, and Answer Me, which answers your phone automatically when you pick it up and bring it to your ear. There's also Text Link, which gives you quick access to the calendar, maps, and browser depending on the context of the text. And LG has taken some traditional software features and given them a makeover. Capture Plus improves catching screenshots by capturing everything on your browser page or email rather than just what's cropped to fit within the screen. What's more, Smart Remote can now learn the IR codes from your collection of remotes simply by pointing the IR blasters at each other.
Then there's multitasking, which LG has improved with Slide Aside: within any app, up to three apps at a time, slide three fingers to the left to save it. Then, slide three fingers to the right to bring up those three apps, which are still running without interruption. These features are cool additions to LG's arsenal, and they prove that the company recognizes that hardware only tells a small part of the story for most consumers.
LG has also introduced a few new accessories to accompany the G2, including the Quick Window Case, the latest iteration of the technology LG says it pioneered, despite evidence to the contrary. It'll condense your screen into a small "all in one" square, giving you access to your music, weather, clock, and even calls. It'll be available in eight colors and will cost less than $50. There's also the QuadBeat earphones, designed specifically to take advantage of the G2's hi-fi capabilities. It'll ship with the device in some markets, but not in the US, where it'll cost $20- $30 separately.
The G2 is going to be as polarizing as any other LG device before it. It's not the "Android device for all" that the Moto X is, nor is it the market-flooding device that the Galaxy S4 has grown to be. Instead, it's an LG device through and through, and it packs enough technical features and other goodies to appeal to the nerd in all of us.
We're dying to spend some more quality time with the G2. Until then, we'll count the days to its arrival on all four major US carriers in the coming months.
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