The LG G3 is the best Android handset LG’s ever made. At the asking price, it’s a steal, and a solid contender for best smartphone of 2014.
Being last to market has its advantages and disadvantages. That’s precisely the position that LG finds itself in with the LG G3. It’s the last major Android manufacturer to release its 2014 hero smartphone. That gives you the luxury — somewhat — to see what your opponents are offering, but at the same time, a smartphone isn’t a casual purchase, so you’re also giving up significant mind space and market share over as well. As such, the LG G3 needed to be something rather special.
It most certainly is.
I’m no stranger to the LG G3, as I flew to Singapore back in May to attend its launch.
Full disclaimer: I flew to Singapore as a guest of LG, although I almost didn’t make it.
As such I’ve been keen to see how the final product shaped up.
Nothing’s changed in the hardware since my first hands-on, which is to be expected. The LG G3 is, as you’d expect, the followup to the LG G2. The LG G3 runs on a 2.5Ghz Quad-Core processor running on Android 4.4.2 with 2GB of RAM.
It’s also a really good looking phone, and that’s not something that LG has always managed. It doesn’t quite have the raw metal appeal of the HTC One M8 because it’s a plastic phone, albeit one with a faux metal finish. I’d still rate its feel in the hand above that of the Samsung’s competing (and similarly plastic) Galaxy S5, however.
The display screen is the standout sales feature, as it’s a 5.5″ Quad-HD panel cramming in 538 pixels per inch along the way. With the right applications, this is a really good looking screen.
Mind you, as has been the case with high definition displays across many platforms, the LG G3 also has a few issues. Specifically, not every Android application is built with such a high resolution in mind, and that can lead to some odd screen display issues.
One notable one that I’ve hit is with the Android port of Raiden Legacy, where the onscreen buttons are rendered at frankly ludicrous size. Is that a fault of the app not scaling properly? To an extent, yes, but until the LG G3 becomes more mainstream it’s realistic to expect a few resolution issues along the way. I’ve also hit a few issues with incompatible apps, which is often the case for new Android hardware. For now, my Jawbone UP 24 sits gathering dust, because the Jawbone UP app isn’t LG G3-friendly just yet. Such is the way with Android app fragmentation.
The LG G3 sticks to LG’s determination to make people use a rear-mounted power and volume button array. Sorry, LG, but I’m still not a fan of this arrangement, partly because it means you’ve nearly always got your fingers running over the camera lens, but mostly because it doesn’t really change the way you use the LG G3 most of the time. Buy the LG G3 and you’ll just have to learn to live with it.
The LG G3’s integrated 13MP camera uses a laser focusing system. It’s the current fashion to claim the world’s fastest autofocus on a smartphone, but after a week’s solid testing with the G3 I’m happy to say that LG might have cracked it. The G3’s camera performance is leaps and bounds ahead of anything that LG’s produced previously, with solid (for a smartphone) low light performance to boot.
There is an issue here, though, and it’s one that you’ll find throughout the LG G3. The hardware is very good indeed and highly competitive, but LG’s own software is, at best, pretty mediocre. It’s thankfully taken a very lightweight approach to software integration, so you’re looking at a nearly-stock Android experience, but whenever I’ve used one of the included apps I’ve been struck by either how poor the UI looks or how clumsily it’s been implemented.
As an example, the LG G3 uses a tap-to-unlock feature dubbed “Knock Codes”. This allows you to set up a four to eight knock pattern on the display screen to access your phone. A cute idea, but as I found through many phone calls, there’s no differentiation between your fingers and your ears, which has meant that after many calls I’ve found the LG G3 complaining because I’ve tried to knock code unlock it too many times with the side of my head.
The camera app is quite simplistic compared to the kinds of offerings on competing smartphones. You may like simplicity, to be fair, and again, this is Android, so there’s a wealth of alternate options open to you.
The LG G3 also has an optional Quick Circle Case. This is a full body case with a circular cutout at the front. Like the Dot Case for the HTC One M8, this allows you quick access to vital information and a few key applications. It works, and comes with a silly but shiny glow effect each time you power the screen up, but it’s not a particularly great case. Specifically, the folio needs to be flipped open to fully use the phone — as you’d expect — but after only a week’s testing, my review unit has developed a distinct outwards fold, so it doesn’t sit flat on the G3 unless pushed down into place firmly. It’s strictly in gimmick territory in any case, but then unless the G3 really takes hold in the market it seems unlikely we’ll see too many competing cases.
All that being said, the LG G3 is really solid performer. I’m no fan of raw benchmark scores, especially given that so many Android manufacturers have been known to game them, but the LG G3 remained responsive with any test I threw at it. The 3000mAh battery is solid for an easy day’s use unless you’re particularly brutal with it. Because LG’s been so light on the software side, it’s easy to get it running the way you want an Android device to run, which means it’s a good match for heavy Android tweakers without leaving those who want a more guided approach behind.
The LG G3 is available across all carriers. Telstra’s plans start at $70/month (minimum $1680 over 24 months), Optus’ plans start at $53/month (minimum $1272 over 24 months) and Vodafone’s deals start at $68/month (minimum $1632 over 24 months).
The LG G3 is easily the best phone LG’s ever made. It’s also a really serious attack on what you need to “be” a premium phone, in the exact same way that Google’s Nexus tablets redefined what could be done in the tablet space. It’s an excellent bit of hardware at a competitive price, and one that any Android smartphone buyer should give serious consideration to.