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Mon, Oct 28, 2013 3:00 AM

LG G2 Review - Part 2

In this second part, I will look at the software, performance and battery life.

 

Software

The G2 runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean with the LG UI overlay on top of the stock Android OS. The LG UI overlay changes the look and feel of the interface from stock Android and has largely the similar feel as the UI used in the LG Optimus G/Pro. The LG UI has added a whole plethora of features on top of standard Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean functionality, adding some nice features though many border on gimmicky. This has made the UI a little fussy and cluttered. Most users would not have issues with this and would even like it, but having used stock Android on my primary phone for the last 10 months, it was a little more fiddley and fussy than I would have liked.


There are so many features to talk about and I will try to cover as many as I can.

 

The phone comes by default with the usual 3 onscreen navigation buttons (back, home and menu). The back button is standard while the home button doubles up as the task switcher on long press and the menu button offers various settings when pressed in the home screen mode. Took me a little getting used to as I am used to having the 3rd/menu button as the task switcher.

 

LG has allowed for the customization of the onscreen navigation buttons. You can choose a theme colour (White, White Gradation, Black, Black Gradation), the transparency of the bar, the order of the buttons and adding an extra button for launching the notification panel or QuickMemo.

G2 Navigation button customisation

 

QuickMemo is an app that allows you to annotate on the screen and save the screen shot or make handwritten notes or drawings with your finger. A secondary use for it is to take screenshots without have to press any physical buttons. You can’t make any type any notes using the keyboard, for that, you need to open the memo pad app. The strange thing it is that the annotated screens and drawings you save is saved into the memo pad. LG could have done more and integrate the two programs.

 

The phone comes installed with two different themes (Basic and Marshmallow) and you can have up to five screens that can be populated with widgets and app shortcuts. You can choose various animation effects when you swipe from one home screen to another (Basic, Breeze, Accordion, Panorama, Carousel, Layer, Domino) and when you lock the phone (Fade out, Black hole, Retro TV). You can also choose the pattern effect to unlock your phone (Basic, Dewdrop, Buttons).

 

The phone has quite a few gesture features that make use of the motion sensor, which you can select, that help with ease of use. Like double tapping the screen to turn the phone on and off (KnockON), answering the call by bringing the phone to your ear, fade out ring tone that fades the ringtone out when you pick the phone from a flat surface, flip the phone to silence incoming calls, flip phone to snooze or turn off alarm, flip phone to pause video and moving icons from one screen to another by holding the icon and tilting the phone left or right to the desired screen and letting go when you are at the screen you want the icon to be at.

 

I absolutely love the KnockON feature, makes the phone so convenient to use without having to press a physical button, so much so, there have been times I have tried to turn on my iPhone and Nexus 4 by double tapping the screen. It generally works well, though there have been times that the phone didn’t register the taps the first time, when trying to unlock the phone.

G2 Gesture

 

LG has added features to keep the screen and videos on when you are looking at it. Smart Screen keeps the screen on when the phone detects the user's eyes looking at it, and Smart Video automatically pausing videos when you look away. I didn’t use it much, but I guess it’s a feature that is good to have to compete with the offerings from Samsung.

G2 Smart Screen Smart Vid

 

There is also a multitasking feature called Slide Aside that allows multitasking by moving between apps via a three-finger swipe gesture. This is similar to the iPad's four finger app switch gesture but limited to three apps and that is where the similarities end. The feature is unituitive, cumbersome and difficult to use. You need to save the apps into a stack by swiping from right to left with 3 fingers, before you can start using them in the Slide Aside function. Swiping with 3 fingers from left to right does nothing. The saved app disappears from the stack when you swipe from right to left on the home screen, this can be frustrating using the app for the first few times. After saving the 3 apps you want, the apps are listed in the notification bar under “Slide Aside” and tapping on notification brings up the three apps together stacked one above the other, in front of the home screen. You can then select the app you want. Having selected the app, it disappears from the saved stack. This does not help multitasking in any way and has made the whole process more cumbersome. The Android app switcher is much faster and better.

 

LG has skinned the notification tray to include a quick toggle bar to control various settings such as sound, data, NFC, Quick remote, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Hotspot among others. On top of this, the default setting includes QSlide Apps and Quick Remote. These 3 items take up the entire screen and you cannot see any other notifications without scrolling up. This is a classic case of having too much of a good thing. I had to hide QSlide Apps and Quick Remote to get any useful space to view other notifications.

G2 Notification

 

QSlide Apps allows users can run two predefined apps simultaneously. The apps in QSlide Apps include phone, messaging, a web browser, memo pad, email client, file manager, Voice Mate, calendar, calculator and video player. Once an app is called up, there's a slider that allows you to adjust the transparency of the app, to help you focus on one. This app is useful and has good is some potential in this, but calling up the 
The phone has a Guest mode which allows you to create a guest mode with pre-selected apps for when your family or friends want to use or try out your phone, but you don't want to share personal data or apps. This is quite useful as you can also use it as a child mode, granting your child access to select apps. You will need to use pattern lock for this feature. The Guest mode is launched by drawing a separate pattern that you have assigned for it.

 

There is a voice assistant (like Siri and S-voice) on the G2 called Voice Mate. I did not use it much as I am not a fan of voice assistants.

 

The phone also has software features included to enable single-handed operation. You can set the phone's default keyboard and dial keypad to be displayed towards the right or left sides. This is pretty useful even though the phone isn’t excessively wide.

 

LG has included a whole lot of additional apps for backup, file manager, dictionary, memo pad, a notebook app, Polaris Office Viewer 5, Quick Translator, a task manager, a video editor, some LG service related apps, LG SmartWorld(LG's own app store) and Life Square, an app that collects your social media posts, call logs, messages, photos and videos. Throw in some StarHub apps and all UI customisations, this is where the additional 2+ GB is taken up compared to stock Android.

 

There is also Miracast which allows wireless screen mirroring to compatible devices, and also a Quick Remote app that allows the phone to act as a universal remote to control audio, video and home appliances using the phone’s infrared blaster. I didn’t use either of these functions, so I cannot comment on it’s effectiveness.

 

Besides these features,you can access short cuts holding the physical buttons on the G2. Hold the power button and there will be options to power off, restart or turn on airplane mode, as well as change the sound mode (speaker on, vibrate, silent). Hold volume-down button and the camera app will be launched. Hold volume-up button and the QuickMemo app will be launched.

 

Performance

The G2 is powered by a 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor with 2GB RAM, and an Adreno 330 graphics chip. This is top of the line hardware at the current moment. The review unit had 16GB of built-in storage, of which 10.62GB is available to the user. This is much less than the 12.92GB user available space from the 16GB Nexus 4. As discussed above, the additional space is used by all UI customisations and included apps. The phone doesn't have expandable storage, so the 16GB model is pretty limiting. There is also a 32GB variant available and, I feel, that is the capacity to get for decent storage.

 

The phone is blazing fast. It opens apps quickly and navigation is fast and crisp and there is no lag flicking around the desktop and app drawers. Though when you rotate the phone when it is at the home screen, there is a ½ second where the apps disappear and come back on again arranged in the changed orientation.

 

As with all Android devices, all major video formats can be played, either through the native video player or a 3rd party video player. The phone plays full-HD videos without a hitch.

 

The speaker on phone is great! The sound quality is goof even at high volume levels. The sound doesn't get muffled when the phone lies on its back as the speaker are now on the bottom edge as opposed to the back, where many Android phones traditionally had the speaker located.

 

There is FM radio functionality built into the phone, but you need to plug in the ear phones as the antenna in order to use the FM radio. I generally prefer to use internet radio.

 

Call quality is good, no dropped calls. The phone and Wi-Fi reception signals on the phone are very good, consistently getting stronger signals than other phones, even in low signal areas.

 

The G2 also has NFC capabilities, and you can transfer and receive files through Android Beam, which combines Bluetooth and NFC for sharing data. Once again, I didn't use NFC and so can't comment on it's performance.

 

Battery Life

The 3000mAh battery consistently provides fantastic battery life! It comfortably lasts a day and a half, more often than not, pushing close to 2 days. My daily phone usage consists of about 5 minutes of phone calls, e-mails with push notifications, taking a few pictures, 2 hours of surfing the internet, reading Flipboard, Twitter and Facebook and heavy usage of WhatsApp (easily 300 to 500 messages a day). I am typically on 3G data about ½ the time and Wi-Fi the other ½ of the time. The phone's screen brightness is set at the 50% level. There is a Battery Saver mode that turns off certain features (Wi-Fi, Auto-sync, haptic feedback etc.) to extend battery life.

 

Conclusion

The G2 is currently one of the best Android phones available and I can see myself using one for the next year. The phone’s huge, brilliant screen packed in a sleek, compact design, coupled with excellent performance and battery life makes it a winner. While there are some good software features, by and large, they are generally gimmicky and need refinement.

 

Likes
i. Huge, super sharp display with great colour reproduction
ii. Overall size of phone
iii. KnockON - double tap the screen to turn on and put the phone to sleep
iv. Excellent camera
v. Excellent performance and superb battery life

 

Dislikes
i. No memory expansion slot
ii. Gimmicky software features in the LG UI

 

Specifications

Here are the specifications of the review unit I received:
Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean OS
5.2 inch IPS display (1080x1920), 424 ppi
2.26GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU
Adreno 330 GPU
2GB RAM
16GB internal storage (10.62GB available)
13MP rear camera AF with LED Flash
2MP front camera
Video recording at up to 1080p @60fps
24bit/192kHz audio
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 LE
NFC
Infrared
A-GPS
HSDPA, 42 Mbps
HSUPA, 21 Mbps
4G LTE
Micro-SIM

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