May 28 2014, 1:56am CDT | by Forbes
I just left LG’s launch event in New York City, where I had the chance to get some hands-on time with the company’s just-announced, flagship G3 smartphone. For the past few months, the vast majority of chatter in the smartphone space has pertained to the Samsung Galaxy S 5 and HTC One M8—arguably the two best Android-based smartphones currently on the market. LG has been aggressively ramping its efforts, however, as evidenced by last year’s popular G2 and, of course, the excellent Nexus 5, which was built for Google by LG.
With the new G3 though, LG has clearly kicked things up a few notches. Before I give my initial impressions of the device, let’s get some specifications out of the way. The LG G3 features the powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core SoC, clocked at up to 2.5GHz. 16GB versions of the phone will be outfitted with 2GB of RAM, while the higher-end 32GB variant will have 3GB. The G3 also features a relatively large 3000mAh user-removable battery, support for LTE, NFC, Bluetooth, and 802.11ac+ wireless connectivity, it’s got a micro-SD card slot for storage expansion (which can support cards up to 128GB), and it runs Android Kit Kat v4.4.2 right out of the box. The phone’s dimensions are 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm, it weighs in at 149g, and LG will have a range of accessories available at launch including a svelte wireless-charging stand and a “QuickCircle” folio case, which give users the ability to access a number of features (like the camera) through a circular cut-out, while the cover is closed.
The specifications above read much like the Galaxy S 5 and HTC One M8, which feature the same SoC and similar RAM and OS configurations. Where the LG G3 stands out is in regard to its screen, camera, industrial design, and Android customizations. The LG G3 will be one of, if not, the first smartphone available in the U.S. with a quad-HD screen. The 5.5” display used on the G3 has a native resolution of 2560×1440, which equates to an impressive pixel density of 538ppi. Better yet, the IPS display features a true RGB sub-pixel arrangement, for better sharpness and color reproduction. In the time I got to experience the G3’s display, I came away impressed. On screen imagery was very sharp, viewing angles were good, and colors seems accurate. It was tough to judge brightness in the all-white, brightly-lit indoor venue, but rest assured the screen looked great.
The LG G3’s camera is also somewhat special. The rear-facing 13MP shooter features optical image stabilization, dual-LED flashes, and a super-fast laser-autofocus system. LG claims the G3’s camera can autofocus in .279 seconds, and while I can’t definitively say that’s true, I can say the G3’s camera is incredibly fast for a smartphone. And image quality seemed excellent. I could only take test shots in the indoor venue where the launch event took place, but my initial impressions of the camera were positive. I should also point out that the G3 has a 2.1MP front facing camera as well.
LG has also done some interesting things with the G3’s design, both in terms of the hardware and software. Though the device has a relatively large screen, the bezels on either side are quite small—the phone can be used with one hand if you’ve got somewhat large paws. The curved back and complete lack of any side-mounted buttons also make the G3 perfectly pocketable. It won’t cause a noticeable bulge in your pocket and you can grab it without fear of accidentally pressing any buttons. The one major drawback to the design is that the volume rocker and power button are on the rear and will take some getting used to if you’ve used competing devices for any length of time. With no buttons on the sides—or the front for that matter—the LG G3 has clean, simple lines throughout. It’s a good looking phone, no doubt.
The simplicity of the external design carries over into the phone’s software too. LG has done away with any 3D animations, shadows, or extraneous graphics, instead opting for a flat, 2D look throughout. Users will also have the ability to customize the keyboard’s size by simply dragging a slider, and many of LG’s proprietary apps are color-coded, to easily discern what’s running at a glance. Whether you like that sort of thing is a matter of personal preference, but I thought the GUI looked great.
According to LG, the new G3 will be made available in the U.S. later this summer (in Metallic Black, Silk White, Shine Gold, Moon Violet, and Burgundy Red) on T-Mobile, Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile specialty stores will also carry the device. It’ll be some time before I can do a proper review with retail-ready product, but if first impressions mean anything, LG’s got a winner on their hands with the new G3.
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