First impressions of a new flagship, the LG Optimus G Pro for AT&T

Last week, AT&T (s t) announced it is exclusively selling the LG Optimus G Pro for $199 with contract. The phone can be pre-ordered now and is expected to be available on May 10. I received an early review unit and have spent just a little time so far using the phone. A few things already stand out to me: LG is mimicking Samsung’s large phone approach — both with hardware and software — and those looking for a flagship phone will have to add the Optimus G Pro to their list of potential candidates.

I’ll have a full review forthcoming — I never review a phone without at least five days use for testing battery life and other reasons — but for now, here are my first impressions, in no particular order, followed a some images of the phone.

  • When I first removed the phone from the box, I thought I was sent the wrong phone. It appears nearly identical to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, although LG’s new handset is roughly a quarter-inch narrower in width. And that small width shaving makes a big difference — for the better — when holding this phone.
  • Like the Note 2, the Optimus G Pro is all plastic and has a removable back cover. In all seriousness: If I didn’t see the LG branding on the top of the device, I would have sworn it was Samsung made.
  • The 5.5-inch 1080p display is excellent, easily rivaling those on the Galaxy S 4 and HTC One, both of which also have 1920 x 1080 resolution screens. There’s nary a pixel to be seen.
  • LG’s software is much improved over earlier efforts. Although this phone doesn’t run stock Android,(s GOOG) LG’s skin is very minimal compared to similar phones. The home screens have a nice 3D effect: When swiping through them, everything on the display rotates around the left axis of the screen as if the icons and widgets were rotating around a flagpole.
  • Short of LG’s Tag+ NFC software and an IR remote control app, there are no other LG-specific apps. The same can’t be said of AT&T(s T): I count at least nine bits of software from the carrier.
  • Similar to the Galaxy S 4, the Optimus G Pro has settings split up by four tabs. It’s not a confusing layout, but clearly the high-end Android phones are gaining more features that could add complexity. There are no hover gestures, but you can pause video by turning the phone over.
  • A quad-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 with 2 GB of memory powers the phone and for some reason it appears to perform a smidge better than the HTC One and Galaxy S 4 in my limited usage so far. I suspect the lack of a complex skin atop Android may be the reason, however, it’s too early to determine a performance winner.
  • I don’t mind a physical home button on Android phones although some do. The one on the Optimus G Pro isn’t my favorite though. I find it too small; it’s wide enough, but very thin. It does, however, have a nice LED ring around it with different colors for notifications and such. I also personally don’t like the placement of the two capacitive buttons: Back is on the left side of the Home button, while Menu is to the right. This may not bother others.
  • The phone comes with 32 GB of internal memory at this price; cheaper than the 32 GB Galaxy S 4. And you can expand it, unlike the HTC One, although some won’t have to. However, the total space available is 23.3 GB, which surprises me; I would have expected around 26 GB or so. Carrier bloatware, perhaps?
  • Like many new phones, the Optimus G Pro ships with Android 4.1.2. There is a bit of multitasking capability as some apps and widgets have a transparency slider. Use this and the app is see through so you can interact with other apps. Slide it back for the original app to regain focus.
  • Although there isn’t a stylus, the phone has a dedicated note-taking app called QuickMemo, which is available from the drop-down notifications shade. I almost wish there was a stylus because I don’t see many folks taking notes here with their fingers.
  • I haven’t taken many photos with the 13 megapixel rear camera yet. I did notice that there are only a few camera modes: Normal, HDR, Panorama, VR Panorama, Burst Shot and Beauty Shot. Perhaps that’s a good thing so consumers won’t get overwhelmed by a wider range of image modes.
  • It’s too early to determine battery life on a single charge. However, with a 3140 mAh battery, I’d be disappointed (and somewhat surprised) if this phone doesn’t easily last a full day for all but a very select number of power users.