Bigger, higher resolution, simpler to use. That’s how we described LG’s latest flagship, the G3, when we finally got our hands on it last week. The headline feature is, without a doubt, that Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) screen. I’ve been gazing at it intensely since the review unit landed in my hand. But, the G3’s not just a one-trick pony; there’s a lot going on under that “metallic skin.”
With the LG G3, we saw a brand release a phone ahead of time in order to grab a foothold in an industry that could be spiralling away from its grasp.
It’s an odd thing to say considering we’re talking about a manufacturer that launched one of the critically acclaimed phones of 2013, with the LG G2 impressing far more than most expected.
But that was last year, and LG realised that with Samsung, Sony and HTC all bringing out far superior models it couldn’t wait until later in the year to catch up, so it’s tried to race to the front of the pack with a previously-unseen step forward in screen technology.
It’s also going to be one of the first that’s going to launch with Android 5.0 Lollipop which will be launching before 2015, which shows LG is really pushing hard on this flagship.
If you need more evidence that this is a phone that LG has accelerated to launch, check out the changes it’s made: removable battery, microSD slot, metallic frame and new, mature interface; in short, everything that was wrong with last year’s model in the eyes of many.
So with that in mind, is the LG G3 the perfect smartphone?
LG, as I’ve mentioned, was keen to tout a number of features of the new design that make the LG G3 a real upgrade over the G2. One of the big elements, and something that was seen a number of times in the leaks leading up to the launch was the metallic skin that now adorns the new phone.
Considering the all-plastic unibody of the G2 was one of the main issues I had with a phone that was pretty close to 5 stars, the leaks showing a shiny metal body to the G3 got me pretty excited. We’re all friends here – I’m OK admitting that to you.
But then when the phone was displayed for the first time, it was a plastic shell painted to look like a brushed metal case. LG was almost apologetic about this, saying it wanted to deliver a metal phone that felt as premium as possible, but the mechanics simply didn’t allow for it.
The result is somewhere between the two, as LG has created a special film that takes away the plastic feel somewhat while still looking the part in a world where consumers are crying out for a high-end design.
And to look at it on a table or on the shop shelf, it’s a great-looking phone. And LG has done something else that I was crying out for: made the backplate removable, allowing you to swap the battery and add in a microSD card.
I’m not convinced that the world needs to be able to remove a battery in a phone, but I always think a microSD card is a good option to have. Despite internal storage being a better thing in terms of phone function, the LG G3 comes in only 16GB and 32GB options and most will buy the former, which doesn’t give a huge amount of room for all the larger apps on offer these days.
Anyway, the fact that the battery is removable might be a big win for some, but it comes at the cost of feel in the hand, as the LG G3 doesn’t feel as nicely packaged as the G2, which is the design sacrifice necessary when you add in a backplate like the one here.
The result is that despite being made of a more refined material, the LG G3 actually feels cheaper in the hand than the G2. Not by much, but enough for me to long for this metallic plastic to be used on the older version.
And then there’s the issue of the screen. Not the actual display itself, which I’ve already said is excellent – but the size of it.
The term ‘smartphone’ is constantly evolving; where once we thought anything over 4 inches in terms of display size was enormous, it’s now tiny. So we’re now seeing phones with a 5-inch screen as a normal option at the high end, and I get the feeling that’s the limit of what’s acceptable.
Actually, perhaps that’s a little harsh, as the LG G3’s screen size isn’t overly cumbersome, thanks in part to packing really thin bezels around the side, which means a large amount of the front of the phone is dominated by the display.
But 5.5-inches is just too large to be considered a smartphone – we’re definitely at the bottom end of phablet territory here. This means it’s not as fluid to navigate around the screen with one hand, and combined with the more angular corners it’s not a great experience when using the G3 day after day.
I do like the rear buttons though. The principle gets burned into your muscle memory much faster than you’d expect, to the point where I keep tapping the camera on other handsets I review to turn off the screen.
And LG’s upgrades here, making the power button more rounded and the volume keys ridged, means it’s even easier to operate without looking. If you’re thinking this is something that’s a reason not to buy the phone, then disregard it – it’s actually a really neat feature and one that I’m surprised hasn’t been copied yet.
In summary, LG has both improved the design of its flagship phone and taken a couple of steps backwards. The G3 certainly looks more premium, and offers the removable battery and microSD slot some people believe they simply cannot live without.
But in making the backplate a separate piece, the tight packaging has been negated, and as such I found holding it less pleasant than I did with the G2.
If you’re going to make a phone look metallic, then it has to have the same pleasant weight seen on the excellent HTC One M8 or iPhone 6 Plus, where this is more like the Samsung Galaxy S5 in feel, albeit with a coat of paint and no weirdly dimpled back.
True, the new design is much less drawn to fingerprints than the predecessor, but that doesn’t change the fact that those who don’t want a phablet will see the G3 as a touch too large.