After all the leaks there wasn’t much new to learn about the LG G2 at its official unveiling on Wednesday in New York City. But it’s a gorgeous phone, and probably the best-sized big-screen smartphone I’ve placed my hands on.
LG spent quite some time emphasizing the thinness of the G2’s design, and with good reason — this phone feels strikingly slim when you hold it. The screen measures 5.2 inches diagonally, which can technically place it in the phablet realm. But at 2.79 inches across and just 0.35 inches thick, the G2 almost feels comparable to a 5 or 4.7-inch smartphone. Credit that to the incredibly thin bezel, which is nearly nonexistent at 0.1 inch.
But the most innovative design feature is also perhaps the simplest: control buttons on the back of the phone. LG claims that after doing thousands of hours of research, it found that most people tend to hold their phone with their fingers wrapped around the back, particularly with the index finger resting where the camera sensor is. So rather than placing buttons on the side of the phone, which is a much more accident-prone area, LG has placed the power and volume buttons on the back of the phone, right below the camera.
It took a minute or so to get used to it, but as I was playing around the phone, I found that my index finger did indeed naturally gravitate towards these buttons. They’re laid out vertically in portrait mode, with the power button in the middle, flanked by two volume buttons. The volume buttons are a little flat, but they’re clicky, which makes them feel responsive. The power control, meanwhile, is a standard silver button that sits in the middle of the action.
To fit these buttons on the back of the phone, LG had to reduce the size of the battery. But LG didn’t want to sacrifice battery power, so it used a tiered battery design to fit a 3,000mAh capacity battery into the G2.
The G2 features a 5.2-inch 1080p IPS display. That works out to 423 pixels per inch, which is roughly on par with the competition. But LG claims that subpixels are the real story here, and the G2 has more of those than most of the competition. Any way you want to look at it, this is a very sharp, bright display, and it looked beautiful in person.
The G2 is the first 13-megapixel camera phone to feature Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) without the need for a protruding lens. Using the camera felt quick and responsive, though I didn’t get a chance to closely analyze any of the images I shot with it. And that optical image stabilization really does seem to work. In a demo with the G2 set up next to two other camera phones, the G2 managed to keep the image steadiest as the phones were shaken to demonstrate the effect.
In testing the camera, I gave it a few shakes in between snapping photos. I still lost a couple of shots to motion blur, but it did a nice job of saving a bunch of photos I probably would’ve lost on some other camera phones.
According to LG, the G2 is the first phone on the market to feature 24 bit/192kHz Hi-Fi audio playback. LG claims that this can reproduce studio-like audio quality, superior to what you’d hear even from a CD. Of course, you’ll also need some lossless music files and a pretty killer pair of headphones if you really want to put this feature to the test. I’m not complaining, but I also didn’t get a chance to hear the magic.
Much like Motorola did with the Moto X, LG has focused on adding a lot of new features to the typical Android experience. The G2 is running Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean). LG has added lots of cool features on top of it, like Answer Me, which lets you automatically answer the phone by placing it up against your ear and saying “answer me.” Don’t worry, you won’t go deaf while doing this – the phone is programmed to automatically lower the ringtone as it senses itself being raised. I tried making a test call to one of the phones in the demo booth, and it did lower its ringer as soon as I picked it up, and it answered the call as soon as I spoke into the receiver.
Plug & Pop brings up a list of recommended options or related features to choose from when you plug in a pair of headphones or a USB cable. Text Link lets you quickly select information in text messages so you can place it in a memo, on a map, or search for it on the internet. And a built-in IR blaster allows you to use the G2’s Quick Remote feature to control a number of compatible multimedia devices like HDTVs.
My favorite feature is Slide Aside, which is multitasking at its finest. You can “slide” any open apps off the screen using a three-finger swipe. Another smart move is Guest Mode. This allows you to access the phone with a secondary unlock pattern, which brings you to an interface in which you have already preselected the apps that guests can access when they want to use your phone.
Specs, specs, specs
What would a flagship be without a healthy dose of over-the-top specs? The G2 is the first worldwide-launching smartphone to feature Qualcomm’s next-generation Snapdragon 800 processor. The phone is powered by a quad-core 2.26GHz chip and features 2GB of RAM, which should make for screaming-fast performance. Indeed, everything I tried to do on the phone felt silky smooth, from paging through home screens to loading up apps. I didn’t get a chance to run any benchmarks, but this should be one of the fastest phones available when it hits the market.
The G2 will come in both 16 or 32GB models, but unfortunately, there’s no microSD card slot, so what you see is what you get when it comes to local storage.
LG claims that the phone will be rolled out to 130 wireless carriers across the globe over the next eight weeks, starting in South Korea. North America and Europe will be up next. In the U.S., LG has confirmed that the phone will be available on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon, but availability dates and pricing have not yet been announced.