LG's new flagship Android phone, the G3, has been a poorly kept secret. Not only was a lot of information known ahead of its official debut, but screen shots of the actual device also popped up well in advance.
However, it remained to be seen how all its impressive features would fit together, and how the device would feel as a whole. Yesterday, LG finally took the wraps off the G3 and fleshed out the remaining details.
At a San Francisco live-stream of the London event, I was able to get some hands-on time with the new device and see the features in action. The point the company kept hammering home was that it is giving users high-end technology without the complexity. Each feature was mentioned in the context of simplicity and ease of use. While some features are not as simple as advertised, the effort is certainly there.
The highest-resolution screen in the U.S.
One of the headline features is the G3's super-high-resolution screen. With 2560 x 1440 lines of resolution and 538 pixels per inch, the display is absolutely stunning. It will be the first 2k, or QuadHD, display in the United States when the device launches sometime this summer. Having such a densely packed screen on a mobile device means images pop and animation is extremely fluid.
The demo videos on the 5.5-inch screen were flawless. Shooting your own video clips probably won't look quite as nice in anything less than ideal lighting conditions, but the potential is there with a camera capable of capturing QuadHD content.
LG appeared very proud of the screen, partly because it supposedly won't drain the battery. The company listed several reasons for this, including adaptive frame rate, adaptive clocking, and adaptive timing control — but all consumers have to remember is that having a beautiful screen shouldn't limit the amount of time you can use the phone.
You won't miss a moment with the camera
The laser autofocus is capable of quickly focusing on an object in 0.276 milliseconds — faster than the blink of an eye. Also, instead of tapping on the screen to focus and again for the shutter, the two tasks are combined, which should help in capturing action shots.
The phone's camera is 13 megapixels, but LG acknowledged that just increasing the megapixel count doesn't result in better photos. The company did improve the optical image stabilization, however, which will hopefully help prevent blurry photos.
Testing out the camera, the speed was apparent. But in a dimly lit conference room, the photos still left something to be desired. The high-resolution screen will go a long way towards making any photos come alive, but there's also the chance that such a display will make poor photos look that much worse.
The software and design are both familiar and disorienting
LG specifically highlighted the G3's "flat" aesthetic, which essentially means that LG is following Apple and Microsoft when it comes to design, giving the G3 a familiar feel. Circles are used throughout in icons and other elements, and the circle theme shows up again in the QuickCircle case, which has a custom-sized notification window for performing a few tasks without opening the case. The folio style case is similar to ones sported by both Samsung and HTC.
Digging deeper into the software, the phone also boasts a Smart Notice feature, which pops up alerts and tips before a user asks for it. On paper it sounds like a copy of Google Now, but LG representatives said Smart Notice is meant to compliment Google Now, rather than try to replace it.
The feature can prompt users to add or remove contacts based on frequency of use. It can also recommend the removal of files or apps that haven't been used in a while, as a way to free up space or improve performance.
In a bid to make the phone more tailored to individual users, the G3's keyboard is adjustable in height. Also, you can change cursor position by long pressing the spacebar and sliding left or right, which is supposed to free users from having to move their fingers back and forth between cursor selection and typing.
(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
In practice, the keyboard worked well, but such a fundamental change to typing may take some time to adapt to. The company is also trying to improve the predictive element of typing by compensating for individual users and learning how each person types.
KnockCode is G3's version of a four-digit passcode or thumbprint, another example of LG simplifying security through software. When the screen is turned off, it is invisibly divided into four squares. Users can then make unlock patterns based on the number of taps and the location of those taps on the screen. Completing the pattern skips the lock screen and goes straight to the home screen.
In another security feature, LG added content protection so you can share the device without letting other users have access to your photos or videos — even if the device is connected to a computer.
The G3 will also be equipped with what the company calls a kill switch. Users will be able to remote wipe and remote lock, and even permanently disable the device from being reactivated by someone else in the future. This is similar to Apple's sim lock, in which iPhones get tied to a user name to keep thieves from re-using stolen devices.
How does the device actually feel?
The G3 is advertised as grip-able, and it is. But at 5.5 inches, it does border on being too big. LG's six-inch phone the G Flex is a great example of a phone that is too large, but the G3 manages to avoid being unapproachable. The metal-backed phone wasn't heavy, but it didn't disappear in my palm either. It felt solid, without any unnecessary heft.
With the actual U.S. launch still a few months away, the G3 units on display were early overseas models — they even had tiny antennas for TV, which is an important feature outside of the United States. Still, even without trying the U.S. version, I can say the G3 is an immensely capable and beautiful device. Samsung and HTC still have great top-tier phones, but with the introduction of the G3, consumers now have another choice to seriously consider.
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