Late summer is a time for fun, sun, and new smartphone launches. Today was Korean electronics giant LG’s turn. Accompanied by the Vienna Boys Choir, they launched the new G2 flagship Android phone at the Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. So, what is LG’s new phone and how does it compare to the competition? Let’s find out.
The heart of the G2 is Qualcomm’s latest and greatest, the Snapdragon 800 system on a chip. While based on the ARM v7 instruction set, Qualcomm designs their own chips instead of using reference designs. The 800 features a quad core Krait 400 CPU at 2.26ghz per core and their Ardeno 330 CPU. When this phone is upgraded to the latest version of Android Jelly Bean 4.3 (stock it runs 4.2.2), it’ll be fully compatible with OpenGL ES 3.0 for the latest games. This should be the fastest ARM-compatible CPU out there. It also has advanced power management features.
What makes the Snapdragon 800 soar above the competition is the next generation IO. You get Bluetooth 4.0,.802.11AC Wi-Fi, USB 3.0 support, and multi-mode LTE support including FFD, TDD, and next generation LTE Advanced. It also supports carrier aggregation for faster speeds.
Size Does Matter
Just when you thought the line between phone and phablet couldn’t get any more blurry, along comes the G2 packing a 5.2” screen. That is only a tenth of an inch smaller than the first Samsung Galaxy Note’s 5.3” screen and 3/10ths smaller than the 5.5” screen on the Note II and Optimus G Pro. The previous generation Optimus G had a 4.7” display. This is not an insignificant jump in screen size. It has a 1920×1080 full HD display with a PPI of 423. This puts it in a similar class to the Galaxy S 4. The display uses IPS technology instead of AMOLED like Samsung, so I would expect a better color quality and viewing angles.
So this thing should be huge right? Not necessarily. It’s ever so slightly larger than the GS4. It does this by bezels that are unbelievably small. Bigger screen basically the same space. The bezels are achieved by new dual routing touch screen technology and an almost total lack of physical buttons. We’ll talk about that next.
A Phone Built Around You
The Android navigation buttons are gone on the G2 and the top power button and the top volume buttons are nowhere to be seen. Where are they? The physical navigation buttons have been replaced by screen ones. A couple phones in the past have done this to mixed results. The volume and power buttons have been relocated to an unexpected place: on the back, right below the camera flash. Beyond the part where relocations lead to smaller bezels, LG thinks the location makes them more natural to control the phone. They may have a very valid point. Testing with my own phone, my index finger could naturally hit that location on the back of the phone. The volume rocker on the other hand required me to reposition my hand on the phone. Long pressing the volume button can also launch a QuickMemo mode and the camera. Power controls of the phone can also be accessed by tapping the glass twice in a scheme called KnockOn.
The UI also has some intuitive control options. Most are similar to what the GS 4 offers, but there are some nice additions. Answer Me answers the call when placed to one’s ear. Samsung has had this for a while. “Plug and pop” gives you access to programs most used when you phone is connected to earphones or USB. There’s an IR blaster called QuickRemote; once again not the first to have this. The crown jewel of the feature set in my my mind is the guest mode. It keeps your friends and kids out of your stuff if you lend them your phone. Why this isn’t OS level on all operating systems is beyond me.
The Camera, Sound, and Battery
Camera quality is a big deal these days as your smartphone has effectively replaced point and shoots. The G2 looks to have a great one on the back. The sensor is 13.1 megapixels for detailed and large photos. The lens is sapphire crystal instead of glass or plastic. Like Nokia’s flagship Lumia line, it also has optical image stabilization. This should keep it steady and give you better pictures in the dark (F-stop rating was not available). It also gives you high quality 24-bit, 192khz sound. Though in a small device like this, will that really matter than just a marketing ploy? The battery is a giant 3000mAh monster with a unique stepped arrangement to get the most power in the space available.
Pricing and Availability
The Optimus G2 will be available with 130 carriers worldwide over the next 8 weeks including the top 4 US carriers. Exact availability and pricing – your guess is as good as mine. That will be up to the carrier.
With the fastest mobile CPU and what might be the best screen out there, LG looks to have brought its A-game. That being said, they also had very competitive phones feature wise in the Optimus G and G Pro and didn’t get consumers to bite. Keep an eye on it when it reaches the US later this year.