The LG G2 was introduced in August with much fanfare at its New York City event, and the 5.2-inch flagship has its fair share of features to rave about. The LG G2 packs a lot of good things into a relatively slim form-factor, but it's still not perfect. As a precursor for the upcoming Google Nexus 5, however, it is nearly flawless, as the LG G2 turns all of the weaknesses of the Nexus 4 into strengths.
For those not interested in waiting for the newest iteration of Google’s stock Android pet project, the LG G2 is a fine device. The Full HD 1080p screen is truly breathtaking, and LG has fit more screen into the 5.45- by 2.79-inch G2 than any previous iteration from the Korean manufacturer. The LG G2 brings smartphones one step closer to an edge-to-edge display, and its width fits nicely, even into smaller hands.
The Bad: LG G2
When it comes to ergonomics, the LG G2 introduced the world to the Back Key, which is a unique placement for the power button and volume rocker. Gone are any side buttons, and LG says the Rear Key is more comfortable for hands of all sizes. After all, when holding a phone like the G2, your index finger naturally will linger at the back of the device, the company said at launch.
But the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies here. There's nothing wrong with side buttons -- the “natural” finger position when holding a smartphone is with fingers and thumb at the sides of the device. With the standard setup, a simple squeeze will turn on a screen or change the volume. The power button on the Rear Key lights up – with different colors. It is a neat trick -- if you're looking at the back of the phone while you turn it on, which would be an awkward position for the phone in the first place and is unlikely based on how the phone is setup.
The buttons on the Rear Key are hard to press, and hold the LG G2 back from being a real contender in the smartphone arena. They make volume adjustments from the pocket slightly more possible, but adjusting the LG G2’s volume from the pocket is still no easy task.
A long press on the Rear Key’s volume-down button launches the G2’s camera, even if the screen is locked. A long press on the volume-up button launches LG’s quick memo app, which we used much less than the camera shortcut. The long-press on the LG G2’s volume up button can also be customized to launch another app, and as Android fans, we are always fond of customization.
The Knock Knock gesture, where a double-tap wakes the screen, is essentially a workaround to the Rear Key. Since the power button is on the rear, how do you wake up the phone if it is lying flat on a surface? Two taps on the screen are supposed to do it, and much of the time, they do. Unfortunately, Knock Knock does not work on every attempt. I discovered that a lighter knock works better than a harder one, but even when applied with gentleness, the double-tap gesture fails to work every time.
The Good: LG G2
The LG G2 is quick to navigate thanks to the Snapdragon 800 processor, clocked at 2.26 GHz and 2 GB of RAM. LG’s user experience (UX) is also relatively easy to navigate. At the bottom of the screen, the LG G2 features a back button followed by home, and rather than offering the “recent window” button, has three lines that represent a right-click of sorts, bringing up a menu of offerings.
This is one of the many examples where LG’s UX falls flat. There are many, and the UX is complicated, so rather than list them all here, I will just say that most of the truly irritating features can be changed, as LG has included quite a few options and settings in the G2.
The camera on the LG G2 is great, and the optical image stabilization, or OIS, works well. The sound quality is excellent but not as good as the HTC One, and the inclusion of the Vienna Boys Choir is off-putting, to say the least. The Boys Choir-backed ringtones are charming, in kind of a creepy way, and do not add to the value of the phone.
The form-factor of the G2 is easier to handle than the sharper radius of angles found in Samsung’s Galaxy Note series, and reminiscent of the LG Nexus 4 from the front. In addition to the Rear Key, the rear of the phone has a glossy rear cover, which is a fingerprint magnet on both the regular and Verizon Wireless variant of the LG G2.
Wireless charging is an exclusive to the Verizon version of the LG G2, as is a metallic Rear Key. In addition to the silvery paint job, the Rear Key on Verizon’s G2 is completely flat. This is opposed to the standard Rear Key projects from the G2, and is surrounded by a plastic barrier to prevent accidental presses.
I can pretend to understand why Verizon gets wireless charging and other carriers do not (even though consumers will pay the same price). However, the redesigned Rear Key is truly a mystery to me. I have to say, the standard Rear Key is better than the Verizon variant. While still offering some resistance, the keys are easier to press than on the Verizon G2.
The Bottom Line: LG G2
All in all, I wanted to like the LG G2. I love my Nexus 4, and I had hoped that the G2 would be a phabletized precursor for the Nexus 5. If you look at it that way, the G2 is a success. The speakers are worlds better than the Nexus 4’s, as is the incredible screen. However, the Rear Key is an unnecessary feature that drags down the overall quality of the LG G2, almost as much as the awkward and ineffective UX. The battery life is great on the G2, and it better be, as the phone packs a 3,000 mAh battery that fattens up the form factor.
If you are in the market for a fantastic new smartphone from LG, I would suggest you at least wait and see until the Nexus 5 is introduced -- rumors are swirling Google will announce the next device along with Android 4.4 Kit Kat sometime around Oct. 14.
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Thomas Halleck is a tech reporter for the International Business Times, covering Google, wearables, product reviews and mobile news....