The past couple of months have seen a dizzying array of “hero” smartphones hit the Australian marketplace. They’re all around the same kinds of price points outright or on contract, so which one should you pick? This week: LG’s Optimus G, a smartphone for 2013… that came out in 2012?
Smartphones of 2013: Blackberry Z10
Smartphones of 2013: Sony Xperia Z
I’ll get this out of the way early; LG released the Optimus G in plenty of overseas markets in 2012, but in Australia, we had to wait until 2013 for it to manage its official stage bow. That presents problems for anyone interested in being on the cutting edge, especially given that LG itself has outed the superior Optimus G Pro (although that doesn’t have an official Australian release window to speak of).
On the plus side
The Optimus G is, more or less the Nexus 4 on growth hormones. The same simple and stylish design — in many ways the G and the Xperia Z share a lot of the same clean design ideas — married with a better camera and 4G compatibility to boot. Folks loved the Nexus 4 a lot in Australia — it was pretty much always sold out, at least through official outlets, at least while it was hot and new — and the G is a mostly gentle progression of that particular model.
The 13 megapixel camera delivers solid shots in most of the situations where consumers are likely to take photos. It’s not quite the best of the pack, but it certainly keeps pace with the pack. Likewise, the included 2,100mAh battery does a good job even under a solid 4G workload. Performance is decent, with a Geekbench 2 score on Australian firmware of 2227. In other words, it hits the notes that a decent smartphone of 2013 should hit — and in 2012 this was very special stuff indeed.
On the minus side
There are few minor niggly points that detract from the Optimus G experience. The 1280×768 IPS screen is bright, but it’s not as high resolution as some of the premium contenders that have emerged since the Optimus G first emerged. The camera is OK… but not great, and smartphone cameras are starting to edge towards great. I could go on, but the real issue is, once again, that it’s not 2012 any more. It’s 2013, and there are newer smartphones boasting slightly better feature sets. That doesn’t make the Optimus G a bad phone; it just means that in the pack of premium phones, it’s trailing behind more powerful contenders such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. If you’ve already got an Optimus G, you’ve got a solid smartphone that should do you quite decent duty.
Pricing is the Optimus G’s one particular sweet spot, if you’re looking for an outright phone. It’s the best smartphone LG’s released in Australia, but its age means that it’s just a little bit cheaper than other contenders in the field. Telstra still lists the Optimus G, but at the time of writing I couldn’t find any way from Telstra’s web site for it to actually buy one, although at launch it was available on a $60 plan. But if you want it outright, direct importers will sell you one quite cheaply in relation to its premium status. Specifically, Kogan lists it currently at $419, while Mobicity has it at $489 — although if you do want cutting edge, they’ll also sell you the Optimus G Pro for $769
If the Optimus G still sat in the absolute premium price space, there’s no way I’d recommend it. It’s not a bad phone, but it’s simply not as fresh as it used to be, and that’s exactly what premium pricing should buy you. Smartphones drop in value quite quickly, however, and if you were looking for a near-premium experience without the price tag, the Optimus G would be a solid buy.