LG tries something different with the G2, but with the just-announced Nexus 5, the reasons to put up with its difference pretty much evaporate.
LG G2: On the plus side
LG’s G2 does a lot right. For a start, it’s quite a technical powerhouse, with a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 5.2″ 1080×1920 pixel 423ppi display, 2GB of RAM and 3,000mAh battery.
On paper, that’s a compelling little combination that should put it in the same space as devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. For those who live and breathe benchmark specifications, the LG G2 managed a score of 876 (single core)/2347 (multi-core).
It’s also innovative, and that’s something that everyone (apparently) wants out of a smartphone. There’s little things, like the ability to knock on the screen to switch it on or off, but the most striking point of difference with the G2 versus any other smartphone you can buy is that the volume and power switches aren’t on the side of the phone. They’re not on the top or bottom either.
Instead, LG’s put them squarely on the back of the phone, with the idea being that despite it being a relatively large phone, it’s still possible to use it with a single hand. For the most part, this works quite well, although the learning curve is quite steep.
It’s 4G LTE capable (and for that matter, both FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE capable) , and even despite the battery sucking abilities of high speed broadband, the battery life is solid, with an easy day’s operation possible from a single battery charge.
LG’s optional QuickWindow case works well for giving you a snapshot of the phone without fully opening it up. Even the camera — a traditionally weaker spot for LG smartphones — offers solid quality.
LG G2: On the minus side
Not everything is perfect, however. LG’s Android skin is clunky in places, and while you could replace it with a launcher of your choice fairly easily what with it being Android, it’s also not on par with the launchers offered by LG’s competitors, or for that matter plain Android itself.
The positioning of the buttons on the back is an interesting idea, but it does display how innovation without practical use isn’t always desirable. It’s a fine talking point and it does mostly work, but it’s never astonishingly comfortable, and every single time I used it, I was reminded that it was in this unusual place, rather than thinking that this unusual place was unusually useful or practical.
For those who like taking screenshots, it’s a pain point, because it’s quite hard to hold the volume and power buttons at the same time; while you can use other methods such as screen swipes, they don’t always work across all applications.
That’s not the biggest problem with the G2, however. The biggest problem with the G2 is one entirely of LG’s making… or at least its manufacture.
LG’s the OEM that’s building the nearly-identical (from a specifications viewpoint) Google Nexus 5. The Nexus 5 has (again, at least on the page) the same hardware advantages as the LG G2, without the unusual power button arrangement, and it’s cheaper.
LG G2: Pricing
The LG G2 has an RRP of $649 for a 16GB variant and $699 for the 32GB version. Harvey Norman are (at the time of writing) selling it for $597 with a cashback offer. A variety of other stores are offering the LG G2 according to LG, although finding details online as yet is proving difficult.
Optus has it as an exclusive on a variety of 24 month plans, starting at $55/month. At the time of writing Optus didn’t have a page up for the LG G2, which is due to go on sale on November 4th, but that should equate to 450 minutes of calls and 500MB of data and a minimum two year cost of $1320.
On the direct import side, Kogan currently has the 16GB model at $539 while Mobicity sell it for $579.
LG G2: Fat Duck verdict
There’s nothing wrong with taking risks with smartphone design, but a risk is still a risk. The LG G2’s underlying hardware is very solid, but the oddly placed power/volume buttons are a better talking point than a purchasing factor in my view.
The complicating factor that you could get much the same hardware as the G2 in the Nexus 5 for nearly half the price means that LG’s pretty much the architect of the G2’s relatively rapid obsolescence. Buy one, and you’ll get a very good phone — but you could spend less to get the same thing.