LG G2 review: LG’s best Android phone yet, but not Android’s best phone

40 Comments

Credit: GigaOM

The LG G2 is a lesson in dichotomy. It is at once the fastest Android(s goog) phone I’ve ever tested, as well the most frustrating. It has an extremely comfortable shape for a big phone, but awkward button placement makes it difficult to use. It has a great camera, but terrible software. And while the G2 is LG’s best Android phone to date, it isn’t the best Android phone you can buy.

Design: One step forward, but buttons hold it back

Let’s just get this out of the way. The LG G2’s display measures 5.2 inches, which places it firmly within the 5-inch-and-over “phablet” category. That said, the G2 is probably the most comfortable phablet I’ve ever handled. Thanks to ultra-thin bezels the phone measures 5.45 by 2.79 by 0.35 inches and weighs 5.04 ounces. The 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S 4, by comparison, measures 5.38 by 2.75 by 0.31 inches and weighs 4.59 ounces. So you’re getting a slightly larger screen on the G2 with a barely perceptible difference in overall size.

LG G2 size comparison

Here’s the LG G2 (left) next to the Moto X (middle) and the iPhone 5

Many of the LG phones I’ve seen use great displays, and the G2 is no exception. Its 5.2-inch screen IPS LCD is a real beauty. It features 1920 by 1080 resolution, which works out to 424 pixels per inch. It gets incredibly bright, and everything from pictures to text is rendered in sharp, clear detail.

The build quality of the phone is nothing special. I’d put it on par with the Galaxy S 4. It’s made entirely of plastic, which feels slippery and grows sludgy with fingerprints after handling the phone for just a few moments. Unlike the Galaxy S 4, there’s no microSD card slot and the back of the phone isn’t removable. Luckily, battery life is fantastic. With the screen brightness set to automatic, I never had trouble getting through a full day of moderate use — with plenty of power to spare. Credit that to Qualcomm’s(s qcom) energy-saving Snapdragon 800 processor (more on that in a bit) as well as the phone’s whopping 3,000mAh battery.

Unfortunately, almost all of this good will was dispelled by a very curious design decision. LG has placed all of the physical buttons on the phone — a multifunction power button and two volume buttons – on the back, right below the camera sensor. When I first saw this I actually thought it seemed like a good idea. Your fingers do tend to rest there naturally, after all.

The problem lies in the implementation. There is virtually no separation between the keys, and I often found myself turning the screen off when all I wanted to do was turn the volume up a notch. And good luck finding only the Power button in order to wake the phone screen. I quickly took to just mashing my finger against all three buttons and hoping something would work.

LG G2 rear buttons

LG seems to have taken this issue into account, to an extent. You can double-tap the phone’s screen in order to wake it up, which helps. But this only works intermittently, and it doesn’t solve the problem of what to do when you’re already using the phone and need to push a button. Unless you have very tiny, very precise fingertips, it remains something of a crapshoot.

I should note that I tested both AT&T(s t) and Verizon(s vz) models of the phone. The Verizon model features slightly different rear buttons than the other carrier models, and are flatter and a bit more difficult to get a handle on. But even the AT&T model made for a frustrating experience.

Performance: The fastest phone I’ve tested

The G2 is the first phone to feature Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 800 processor. Using four cores clocked at 2.26GHz apiece, the G2 positively flies through anything you throw at it. Even navigating my way around the UI was impressive – I’ve never felt Android operate so smoothly.

LG G2 highlights and specs
5.2″ IPS LCD with 1920 x 1080 resolution (424 ppi)
2.26 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Adreno 330 GPU, 32 GB internal memory, 2 GB of RAM
13 megapixel rear camera (1080p video support at 60 fps), 2.1 megapixel front camera
Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean software
802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, BT 4.0 LE, GPS, NFC, gyroscope, accelerometer
5.45 x 2.79 x 0.35 inches and 5.04 ounces

Benchmark scores really drive this point home. I tested the G2 against a Moto X, which uses Motorola’s X8 chip (which is based on a 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 and a quad-core Adreno 320 GPU). The G2 scored 33359 in the AnTuTu benchmark, which tests overall system performance, including CPU, GPU and RAM. That was good enough to land the G2 at the top of the AnTuTu charts, with the Moto X coming in a few stops below, beneath the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S 4.

LG G2 AnTuTu

Geekbench 3, which simulates real-world, processor-intensive tasks, scores single-core and multi-core performance separately. The G2 came out ahead again, scoring 888 for single-core performance and 2229 for multi-core, as opposed to 680 for single and 1246 for multi for the Moto X.

Finally, Sunspider, which tests JavaScript performance, turned in a score of 910.6 for the LG G2 and 1056.7 for the Moto X (in this instance a lower score is better).

No matter how you measure it, the LG G2 is among the fastest Android phones you can get right now. This is bound to change in the near future, as more and more flagship phones are launching with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 chip, but you can rest assured that this hardware should be able to supply you with all the power you need until your next upgrade cycle.

Software: Sometimes more is less

After such a glorious benchmarking experience, I was almost ready to forgive those dreadful controls on the back of the phone. Then I spent some exploring the G2’s software, and grew frustrated yet again.

First off, the G2 is positively loaded down with bloatware. On the Verizon model there are no less than 19 pieces of bloatware, none of which can be deleted. You can disable them from showing up in your app menu, but they’ll still remain dormant, taking up valuable storage space.

LG G2 notifcations bar

Between the settings and the QSlide apps, there’s not much room for notifications in the notifications bar.

The G2 runs Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), which places it on an even playing field with most new phones. But LG’s software customizations range from interesting to utterly superfluous. At first it felt like LG’s software overlay was created to mimic Samsung’s TouchWiz. And while I’m not a huge fan of TouchWiz, I can at least find some of Samsung’s myriad additional features worthwhile. But I’m just not seeing that here.

For starters, LG has opted to use a menu key at the bottom of the screen in place of the traditional multitasking button. This isn’t an egregious offense, but I find I use it far less than I would use the multitasking button. Worse is the notifications bar, which is filled nearly halfway with quick settings and QSlide apps. This means that when you have multiple notifications to check, you often have to scroll down because you’ve lost so much real estate at the top of the screen.

As for those QSlide apps — they just aren’t necessary. LG allows you to open up to two additional apps on top of your home screen. But there’s definitely not enough space to use more than one at once, and even with just one app running it blocks off a significant portion of the screen behind it. You’re better off just running a full-size version. The G2 might have a big screen, but if you want to do this sort of multiwindow multitasking, get a tablet.

Qslide apps

There’s not enough space to use LG’s QSlide apps

Another feature called Slide Aside allows you to keep three apps open at the same time by using three fingers to slide them to the side. This offers no marked advantage over traditional multitasking, and getting the phone to recognize that I was using three fingers only worked about a quarter of the times I tried it.

And make sure to steer clear of LG’s Voice Mate assistant, which pales in comparison to Google Now. I also encountered a lot of little bugs while using the phone. The screen inexplicably shut off on a number of occasions, and the phone crashed twice while I was running Riptide GP 2.

The good news is that you don’t need to use many of these features if you don’t want to. But I wish LG had spent a little less time thinking about what it could add to the software and a little more time thinking twice about moving those physical buttons.

Sharp shooter

This camera is a bright point. If you take a lot of photographs with your phone, you’ll be pleased to carry the LG G2 in your pocket. It features a 13-megapixel sensor that takes some of the better camera phone images I’ve seen lately, right on par with the Galaxy S 4 and the iPhone 5(s aapl). Images look crisp and detailed, and the camera manages to capture vibrant colors in average lighting.

LG G2 test photo

The camera has a tendency to overexpose outdoor shots with a lot of bright light, but image quality is still solid. Additionally, LG claims this is the first camera phone to feature Optical Image Stabilization without the need for a protruding lens. Whatever the case, OIS does seem to work really well here, saving shots from motion blur when I was using an intentionally shaky hand.

The video camera is also capable of capturing 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second, thanks to the Snapdragon 800 processor. The 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera is fine, but nothing to write home about.

Networks and call quality

As mentioned earlier, I tested the LG G2 on both AT&T and Verizon’s networks in New York City. While I was able to pull in faster data speeds on the AT&T model, the Verizon phone was better at maintaining a consistent signal, which is something I’ve found characteristic of these networks here regardless of device.

The LG G2 is offered from all four major U.S. carriers, and pricing start at $199.99 with a two-year contract for a 32GB model. T-Mobile(s tmus) doesn’t subsidize the cost of its phones, so the phone costs $99.99 down plus an additional $21 for 24 months.

On both AT&T and Verizon, the LG G2 is an average voice phone. Calls sounded loud and relatively clear in the phone’s earpiece, but calls made with the phone were slightly fuzzy.

LG G2

Conclusion

The LG G2 is a very good phone. It’s arguably the best phone LG has released to date. And yet it’s a hard phone to recommend.

If not for all the needless software modifications and the frustrating button placement, the LG G2 would be one of the best Android phones available. At it stands, you get a far more polished experience with phones like the HTC One and the Galaxy S 4. Not only that, but the HTC One can often be found for less money, and features a much higher quality build than the LG G2. There’s also the Moto X. It’s a little less powerful than the HTC One and the Galaxy S 4, but it offers other unique, helpful options like Active Display and Touchless Control.

If you’re looking for sheer processing power, there’s also the Sony Xperia Z1 and the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 3. I haven’t tested either of those phones yet, but they both use the same Snapdragon 800 processor as the LG G2. And the Galaxy Note 3 features a whopping 3GB of memory. Better yet, both phones keep their physical controls on the side, right where they belong.

40 Comments

Nehemoth

I don’t believe the reviewer has a problem, I just got this phone too and could agreed more with him. I will leave my Samsung Note 2 and switch to the LG G2, I prefer 20 times the N2. The G2 screen is just amazing but to small for my phablet taste, also the G2 Android implementation sucks in so many level that I can even describe it. Maybe to a new android user won’t mind and to a geeky user neither [just installed Hobo Launcher HD] but for a user which’s switching from another smartphone could be awful. I hate it so much that I miss the also awful [but much less now] touchwiz.

I was hoping for a better experience.

LG G2 is awesome!

I have now used my LG G2 for over a month and the knock on and off works fine. I haven’t had it fail a single time. Hold the phone in your hand, trust me on this. Also, I love the buttons on the back. They are perfect and I only need to use one hand. Honestly though, I never use them. It is so easy to double tap to open the phone, so why use buttons. I would never switch back to a phone that didn’t have the knock on feature. :)

Steve Crowder

I was put off buying this phone because of the bad comments about the ui. I bought it anyway for the screen size/ battery life combo which is essential for me and both have turned out just perfect. The ui is nice too, don’t believe the knockers! My previous phone was a nexus 4 running kit Kat and with this phone some features are better, some worse. The reviewer hasn’t properly explored the options as the qslide apps disappear if qslide is switched off leaving a decent amount of notification space. If you want to use qslide at any point it’s easily available. Also the multi tasking feature of stock android is available by long holding the home button – hardly a big deal! The dialler is just gorgeous and overall I prefer the look and feel to kitkat and definitely to touchwiz – my previous previous phone was a note 3. I had to get rid of the keyboard though, the google one is essential!

Cindy Kepler

I got this phone mostly due to the buttons being moved, I find it refreshing, especially since I use a universal car mount that always seemed to be pressing buttons…I love it, just a week in and I can find the buttons quickly and easily. I am disappointed with the knock knock, it is a hit or miss item and can be frustrating, so I just use the rear button now. Love, love, love the phone and the “bloatware” as well…easy to find on the drop screen and a screen shot is incredibly easy task with 100% accuracy (no dreaded wait when the buttons are not pressed exactly simultaneously on other phones) select quick note, save…easy peasy.

Dq

I couldn’t disagree more with your review. i have owned “industry leading” phones by Samsung, HTC, and Motorolo. This G2 is a pleasure to own. From battery life to the rear buttons. I actually found myself looking for the rear button on my s4 after only one week of using the G2. Also the knock on feature only works if you tap the middle of the screen. Once i realized that my success rate hovers around 100%.

I actually love q slide. You can make the qslide window transparent. That is a huge help when making calculations or comparing things.

Everyday with this phone i find some new feature I enjoy. In short this is the phone for me.

Your review makes the phone sound like a waste. If i had listened to a review like yours i would have missed out on a great phone.

dsherer

It amazes me when a review comes along (biased or not) that people want to chime in with their personal opinions (same as the review). To say that the SGS 4, or the HTC One, or the LG G2, or the Nexus 5 is the best phone on the market is ridiculous. It is like saying that Ford makes the best cars or Chevrolet makes the best cars. it all comes down to personal use and satisfaction. I have had the HTC G1 when it first came out. Best Android phone on the market, at that time (of course it was the only Android phone on the market until HTC came out wit thier Android phone). I have Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant (TMO), the SGS II (TMO), SGS III (TMO), MyTouch, and now the LG G2. Over all I have been happy with the phone as they were useful as phones with benifits. In comparison I don’t think that the LG G2, that I have, has a good color representation comparing it to my SGS III using the same photo, as my LG G2 has a blueish tint to it.

Yes every US carrier has bloatware, but that is what makes the phone unique to it’s carrier, the only way to avoid it is to buy a Nexus phone or root and custom ROM your phone. I perosnaly like some of the bloatware as I find some of the TMO software useful for account tracking. Every phone will have some sort of performance issue to someone, again performance is a matter of expectation and perception but lets not forget even on a stock phone there are tweaks you can do to increase performace like turning off unneeded running software. With the LG G2 if you don’t like the Qslide apps in the notification area you can turn it off and regain the resources it use and free up space for your notifications to be seen.

Of course all of this is just my opinion.

dsherer

There is nothing you can do to extend it. The G2 comess as a 16GB or 32GB all you can do is get the 32GB

Bhagster

I went from the S3 to S4 and now the LG G2 which is in my opinion the best phone hands down so far. Way better battery life and much faster which is noticeable and the button placement I think is awesome which I didn’t really like at first but with the knock wake up screen feature and after a few days u do get used to it and actually notice the difference in comfort and ease. Hands down the best phone out there at this moment. My gf has iPhone 5s. I have had every phone from HTC, Motorola, Samsung and the LG G2 is the best so far!

Derek Arguello

Htc one is by far superior and you can’t even tell. The difference from a600 snap draggon to an 800 snap draggon htc one by far only flaw on the htc one is the camera could be better otherwise it’s the best android ever due to build quality and intelligent up non touchwiz meets disaster central over the top confusion and the ugliest ui ever LG ui sucks

lol

Lol… buttons on the back are totally awesome. Finally something innovative coming on the market. This IS the best phone on currently on the market :)

Software is crap, but that’s another depratment.

Joh

This is the best phone on the market today. Nothing comes close and i’ve tired the others. This article seems to be motivated to away you away from the lg g2. Believe me, this is everything in a phone and more. Amazing. Makes the others look like antiques pertaining to technology.

Jackie Au

I just got the LGG2 and its great. Honestly the reviewer is really just nitpicking. The buttons on the back arnt even close to a deal breaker and i think its unique and ive alreadyy gotten the hang of it after 2 days.if you like it then buy it don’t take this guys word for it.if i had time i would have a rebuttal for all his complaints and bitchibitchiness but i won’t Anyway i love everything about it,so see for yourself!

joe

Hi Alex Colon,

You are not that fair to the bright design of this phone. In fact there is a separation between the keys on the back. it is the power button. When you reach the power button, which is easy to tell by its shape and smoothness, then it is effortless to tell where the volume up and volume down lie! You don\t need to think, just like eating!!

And if your finger happens to be bigger than king size, you can resort to the very workable double knock . If all turn out to be hopeless, just buy a smart case from, for example,
http://tridea.co.kr/html_12/product/product_04/01.html The phone will shut down when you close the flip , or vice verse.

Then you will regret writing this review.

Joe

Pete

Very bad review. One suggestion to the reviewer: “take off your mittens and you will feel the buttons very easily”

john

I have owned many or all of the best phones. This is one of the best yet. Totally biased review. Who do you work for?

citiboi

I have been using the LG G2 for two weeks now and I absolutely love its battery stamina. It can easily last one whole day (7 am to 11 pm) of moderate use with 30-40% battery left.

And the buttons… it takes getting used to but now, I really like it. No more fiddling with tiny buttons on the bezel and when answering a call, your index finger just rests naturally where the buttons are. Yes, relearning where the buttons are may take a little time but it is well worth it.

It is a very fast phone despite LG’s customized UI. Whatever you do not need, just don’t use it. Bloatware is the carrier’s fault, not LG’s.

Aro

Which phone has the best voice call quality? (preferably HD equivalent of voice call)

That would probably my most important criterion. I often hold important business calls (like many others, I am sure) and it is frustrating to have to guess what the other guys says or to have to repeat.

bcjordan

I’m amazed with how much hate this phone has received. I have the Note II currently, about to switch to the G2 after a LG vender let me take a company demo phone home with me for a week. I have had a lot of phones, android based phones and iPhones. The Galaxy Note II was / is a great phone for the most part, but in my week of using the G2 I found myself hating the Note II. The LG G2 has an AMAZING screen, outperforms all the devices on the market (including the Galaxy Note III in benchmark testing) and offers superb battery life in comparison to it’s competition. The rear mounted buttons do require adjusting you finger’s muscle memory from reach to the sides of the device to perform volume and power functions, but this is hardly something to demonize the phone over. I found I fumbled around quite less when using the G2 over my Note II, mostly because of how I held them while using them. Being able to take photos using the volume down button was great for all the pictures my wife likes to take of the two of us.

I sit here and look back on the week I spent with this phone and then compare my experience with all the negative bashing I have read ad viewed online, and realized it’s almost like watching Apple and Android extremists battle it out. The LG G2 is an amazing, capable phone that offers a great experience to it’s operator. Obviously it can’t copy Samsung’s multiwindow, so why this is continually brought up I haven’t really figured out yet. Maybe people want Samsung to sue LG? The LG UI is no worse than Samsung’s Touchwiz, it’s just their take on the android platform. Now for what has probably bothered me MOST about the LG G2 reviews I’ve been reading lately. Bloatware. This is not LG’s fault. AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, ALL of them are guilty of loading up their phones with garbage. Why people have decided to smear the G2 for this over every other phone released by the major providers in the US is beyond me.

While the Galaxy Note 3 is a nice phablet and similarly spec’d save for an extra 1gig of ram, it’s quite unwieldy of a device. My Note II is hard to manipulate, and for me I decided I preferred the happy medium that the G2 has to offer. I’d have to say I would rank the G2 and Note 3 about even depending on your purpose for owning a mobile device. If you want a great phone that does it all except take up too much room in your pocket, then buy a Note 3. If you want a phone that does it all and is more manageable, buy the G2. I give the G2 an edge for screen quality, and an edge to the Note 3 for memory expand ability. Personal preference will come into play, but does the G2 deserve the negative press and outright bashing it’s gotten? Not in the slightest.

Dr. Gerry Bedore

Agreed! The G2 provides an amazing experience and is at the top of my list in terms of quality and function. The G2 is leading the way in what the next generation of smartphones will do. I highly recommend the phone for anyone that enjoys a powerful, easy to handle, and customizable smartphone. Cheers!

Dr. Gerry Bedore

My boss just got the Note III. I had the Note II. When I asked my boss how he liked the Note III his response way, Sweet!!!! :-) We live in a fantastic time..

cad head

You can change the bottom bottoms to include “multitasking” button, it’s part of the bloat ware you don’t like.

Nice review, to biased.

Jan

This is by far the best phone i have ever used, i used quite a few ( also the sony z1).
The button placement takes a few days getting used to and the ui is not great (but certainly not worse than samsungs) but the advantages are much more significant.
A fantastic camera, fantastic battery and very, very fast, big and beautiful screen etc.etc. I just feel you didn’t do it justice, this phone is truly amazing in my opinion. How long did you use it for writing this article ? I think that in time people are gonna have to admit that this is THE phone of the moment.

sps

I’m considering getting the G2, but the Verizon scaled-down miniscule flat buttons are definitely a drawback for me.

For people who complain that a review expresses the author’s opinions: that’s what a review is SUPPOSED to do–be grounded in fact, but filtered through the author’s opinions. That’s what a review IS. If the author’s opinions don’t agree with your opinions, don’t act outraged that the author is misusing the review format.

Question for G2 owners: is the G2’s battery life really significantly better than the HTC One’s?

Phonegeek

I am CONSTANTLY on my phone. I just went from my S3 to the G2 and I LOVE it! The battery is AMAZING. I was having trouble with my S3 battery draining really fast and it was getting really annoying. This phone lasts me the whole day and some with constant use, especially since I just got it and keep playing on it to figure it out, I do have Verizon and the buttons were a smidge annoying however, the phone case I got covers the buttons and makes it protrude forward with a good amount of space in between to tell the difference. So I have 0 complains about this phone!

jnyfive

Best part on T-Mobile is the phone should be ready for LTE-A when they flip the switch. Loving the phone so far.

DavidH

I hate buttons on the side, the volume constantly changes on my HTC when grabbing the phone, many times the ringer gets inadvertenly turned off. I think LG has a good idea, plus double tapping to turn it on worked great when I used it.

Probably all Android phones have some bugs and quirks, I’ve had 2 HTC phones, and they are full of bugs and quirks, so much so I would hesitate to ever buy an HTC again, plus they have miserable battery life.

Pancho Pantera

An awesome cellphone. Maybe the guy who typed this blog has big fingers and can’t handle the buttons in the back. Bright idea from LG. Now I’m undecided, I was going to switch my Galaxy S3 for the HTC One. Anyways,

There’s an app named WP notifications. Very good app.

Matt Abrams

Yep, reviewer seems ignorant. Hate it when reviewers are incapable of writing unbiased articles. I can’t get enough of this design. I think that the phone is an absolute game changer! Love the button placement, and that it makes room for such a large beautiful screen while maintaining s4 size. I absolutely love the software as well. It’s by far the best way to use android. Love the customizations, colors used, q slide, awesome keyboard etc. Not gimmicky like touchwiz , just bunch of really useful features (except Slide aside but you can disable it). I

spinedoc

I just got this phone, it’s pretty awesome. The buttons on the AT&T model are very easy to feel and use, I would assume the reviewer has diabetic neuropathy or some other such disorder where he cannot feel his fingers. Although I see the Verizon model has much flatter buttons. For me the buttons on the back are a non issue specifically because of the knock knock feature. You tap the screen twice and it powers on, tap it twice on the taskbar or an empty area and it powers off again, VERY nifty and this should be stock on all smartphones. On such a large phone always reaching for the power button one handed would be incredibly annoying, and dangerous as I’d probably end up dropping the phone all the time. No, the rear button placement is a good thing IMO, I’m pretty happy with it as I never really used them that much anyway.

The screen is insanely nice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a screen so easy to read in direct sunlight. Another reason they placed the buttons on the back was to allow more bezel, and it just looks beautiful holding that slab of pretty much all screen.

LG’s software is decent, it’s no as obnoxious as the reviewer makes it out to be. Still, using Nova Launcher on it helps out quite a bit. I think someone needs to introduce launchers to the reviewer.

Overall I love it. I was initially getting the Note 3, but it’s just too huge. The G2 is the only phone I’ve used that has a phablet sized screen, but actually feels like a regular smartphone in hand.

Alex Colon

I also tested the AT&T model and it has just as much (though obviously some of it is AT&T-related as opposed to Verizon).

Tony

Can you explain more why the buttons were so frustrating on the AT&T when the power button is more pronounced and so helps differentiate between the volume controls?

I am aware of the Verizon version being banjaxed by the wireless charging being built in, but want to know why it was such a problem when the buttons were easier to distinguish on the AT&T version.

Alex Colon

The AT&T buttons are definitely EASIER to locate and press, but even after a week of testing the phone I had to think about which button I needed to use and feel around for it. It’s distracting.

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