LG G3 review: the phone every Android OEM should make

June 21, 2014
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Latest in their lineup of flagship Android handsets, the LG G3 is one beast of a handset. Packing a big screen into a surprisingly small frame, there are two attractions that everyone keeps chatting about: that screen and the battery life. After toying with the G3 for a few weeks, we’ve drawn our conclusions. Is this the Android phone to beat?

Hardware

We will note, straight away, that we are not testing the US build of the G3. That final US model will be largely (if at all) unchanged, save for the extendable antennae present on our South Korean model.

The G3 makes some interesting compromises. To get thin bezels, they placed the power key and volume rocker on the back. The plastic build of the phone feels anything but cheap, and it’s lightness is a stark contrast to the profile and appearance. We often equate heft to quality, and the LG G3 is both light and premium.

Having the power and volume on the back leaves the sides, top, and bottom relatively blank. There is a Micro USB port on the bottom, along with a headphone jack. A small microphone on the top and bottom of the phone are also there, but other than that — you get a thin, metallic strip breaking up the mostly white body.

The screen is — and there’s no other way to put it — striking. It’s surprisingly big for the device, taking up a bulk of the front. Small bezels sit on the top and bottom, and the bottom screen portion has a white area that compliments the color scheme on our phone. I thought I’d hate that. As it turns out, I love it.

Software

I’m that annoying Android purist who would rather have a Nexus than even blink at another device’s Android skin. “Motorola is the only one who got it right”, in my mind. I came very close to loathing the G Flex OS that LG slammed in there. I should, in theory, have a similar distaste here.

The problem is, I don’t. While I don’t like heavy Android skins — and LG still has a fairly hefty one — it works really well. It’s heavily customizable (you can even adjust the keyboard height), and navigation is easier this time around. LG has simplified the UI a bit, leaving less of a learning curve.

Multi windows is a neat feature, but I’m not sold. Seeing an app in half the screen it’s meant for is often less than pleasant. I wish LG had (or would, maybe) coerce Developers into designing apps made for the feature. In theory it’s awesome, in practice it’s just ugly.

The UI tweak went all the way to the base level, where round icons and a new color scheme brighten things up. The refreshed settings tray is endlessly simple to use, and makes sense for something that isn’t pure Android — finally. LG has lost the clutter, and for that I’m grateful. The revamped keyboard is also nice, letting you adjust the height as mentioned, and also use swipe-to-type.

Battery life

We’ve been over battery life pretty in-depth before, so we won’t keep harping on you about it. The bottom line is that it’s phenomenal. LG both throttles and over-clocks various features like the screen and CPU as needed. The G3 sips power when needed, but still keeps up. I routinely went days without charging, with normal use (messaging a lot, emails, a bit of web surfing, etc.). With such a massive, pixel-dense screen, LG could have been excused for having terrible battery life here — they don’t, though. The opposite is true, really.

Screen

The screen typically doesn’t warrant it’s own section, but wow — the LG G3 screen is phenomenal. LG packed in a 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 display, which has a mind-numbing 534 ppi. The human eye can’t even see pixels past 250-300 ppi, so if anything, this screen is pure overkill.

LG went for the jugular with the G3 screen, and other OEMs should take notice. Not only does the screen blow you completely away, LG’s battery prowess reduces strain on the driver so it’s not draining your battery all the time. A giant, vibrant, gorgeous screen that doesn’t affect battery life abnormally. Pure “wow”.

Camera

So much fervor over cameras in smartphones these days; would the G3 continue to blow us away? In normal, day-to-day photography, the G3 is just fine. The pics snapped were color accurate and clear. There have been some who lament the low-light performance, but we had no issue there. Aside form being a touch noisier, the G3 performed adequately in low light. The G3 has a nice front-facing cam, too, and uses whitespace on the screen to provide lighting -- a very useful trick if you're into selfies.

We can’t say the G3 is better than some others, though — notably the Galaxy S5. That phone has a fantastic camera, and the G3 comes close to besting it, but just doesn’t quite get the job done. It seems to have more to do with light sensitivity than anything else. The quick shutter also has some issues, currently. The two shots of the Androids below were both taken in the same lighting and environment. The first was when the G3 was given time to focus, and the second one of a series of pics snapped off quickly. We’ll look forward to testing the US model when it becomes available, hoping that some small tweaks are made to the G3 camera.

Conclusion

I told you we were ready to draw conclusions about the G3, so here it goes: The LG G3 is what an Android phone should be. Period.

Of all the flagship devices we’ve checked out over the years, this one is the first to actually leave us wanting for nothing. Smartly designed with an elegant software layer, the G3 is as close to perfect as any Android handset is. While we’d naturally make changes — as we would with any phone — the G3 wins on many more levels than those which we’re left considering changes we’d like to make.

The sound produced was nice, but a 1-watt speaker is a head scratcher. The build is nice, but it’s still plastic. The screen takes up almost all of the face, but it’s likely a touch too large for smaller hands to handle with ease.

Where LG really got me — and this is a significant point for any Android phone — was stripping down their Android skin. The LG G3 lets Android shine where it does, and improves in spaces LG deems necessary. Whether or not I agree with their changes is a different matter altogether. What I appreciate is that they had the respect for Android to realize they were suffocating it.

The real takeaway for me is that unlike some other top-tier OEMs (yes, I mean Samsung, get over it), LG had the bravery to scale their Android overlay back a touch. Simplifying their UI and navigation are significant moves that immediately yield big results. The LG G3 and the HTC One (M8) are the first devices a new Android user and seasoned fanboy would find favor with.

Is this one you should be waiting for, though? Absolutely. If you can afford a full-priced phone (disclaimer: we don’t know what the G3 will cost when it hits the US, but there’s no reason to think it will fall under the $650 average for smartphones), wait and give the G3 a strong look. If you can get past the


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  • Harlimus

    lg makes TERRIBLE hardware and software support is non-existant. ask a g2 owner. touchscreen issues and google play issues haven’t been fixed for over 6 months. how’s that for quality?

    i will never own an lg phone again

    • wekebu

      That’s an important point. Perhaps they will change? I once thought the same about Samsung, but they have come a long way and I now trust them.

      • Vince

        Change Already ! The Optimus G start to have KK, not the GS3 …

    • ShermCraig

      Honestly, I’ve never heard that about LG Hardware, and software support? What support could anyone (sans a complete noob or 85 year old grandmother) need? No offense intended – perhaps you could explain?

    • Vince

      ALL phone from 2014 and 2013 have or will have KK, and also recently the Optimus G ! So, what you have to talk about the soft ? See what LG does with the G3 man !

    • Matt

      I’m sorry did you say software support? If so why are you here?

    • districtjack

      Harlimus! You rooted your phone. LG has nothing to do with your problems with your G2. Everyone else seems to be very happy with their LG. They make great phones, but sometimes the owners make mistakes and ruin a beautiful device. My LG works great. Best phone I’ve ever owned. A friend that sold me on my LG also bought one for herself. After 6 months she got a different phone because she had all kinds of problems with it. Mine works fine and I have no complaints.

      When you start side loading crap and messing with your settings, you are responsible for what happens to your phone. This is why android removed App Ops, because people who did not know what they were doing removed so many permissions that they rendered their phone useless.

      If you “never buy an LG again”, you will probably be ranting about your new brand because you will root it again. Android has become so good of an operating system, rooting isn’t even worthwhile anymore. If you don’t like bloatware all you have to do is disable it in the app settings.

      • Shahrizal

        My G2 running good untill now without root..

    • Gabriel Moraes

      Hey! LG G2 owner here. Also, I’m the guy that convinced my fruit-loving brother and his wife to move to the green side, with the G2. And two of my friends, which weren’t much into phones.

      The only complaint so far regards to the GPS antenna, which sometimes isn’t properly seated, so it needs a quick fix, by removing the back cover (easier than you imagine) and placing a piece of paper underneath the connector. Done deal! 2 of the 5 LG G2′s experienced this.
      Oh, and slow shutter speed.. Moving subjects can be a pain! But that’s not really a issue, specially if you consider the HDR shots it’s able to.

      None of them have touchscreen issues (that’s actually a bragging point), nor Google Play issues. By the way, I’ve never heard of “Google Play issues”, I think that’s not even LG Problem tbh.

      My G2 works with a ported G3 ROM, my friend runs a G-Flex ROM and the other three runs stock android, one still in 4.2.2 and the other two in 4.4.2.
      No problemo, and we’re all excited to see what’s G3 going to bring us!

  • wekebu

    Nate, can you explain better to me what you mean by, “The sound produced was nice, but a 1-watt speaker is a head scratcher.”

    • Robert Cross

      Maybe the author was expecting something louder? Doesn’t bother me unduly as long as I can hear the darn thing ringing. If I’m listening to music then it’s earphones/headphones time.

  • Ana

    What brightness did you use to get those battery results?? Thanks.

    • Robert Cross

      As I’ve got a G3 on pre-order I’d be very interested in this. Especially as the negative comments about battery life everywhere else have got me thinking that if the screen’s good enough then just turning down the brightness might be enough to move battery life from “acceptable” to “good”.

      • Ana

        The majority of the reviews I’ve read have actually stated the opposite and said that the battery life is pretty good, you know :) The only one that hasn’t is cnet’s.

      • Robert Cross

        Thanks, had a read of a few more reviews (with updates) and standby times were praised, being better than the S5. If you’re able to bump the brightness down then this seems to pay dividends. Overall though, it’s not the power sipper that the G2 reputedly was.

      • Michael McHale

        My battery was great on G2 until kit kat update

  • Wolf0491

    Wish it had water resistant feature. I’m so used to that can’t buy phone without now haha. I’m just blatantly putting my phone near water and texting in shower haha.

  • bob

    antennae? How many does it have?

    • Robert Cross

      The antenna referred to in the article is – because this is a Korean model – for their digital TV broadcasts. Check out some of the other reviews if you don’t believe me.

  • bob

    “The human eye can’t even see pixels past 250-300 ppi”

    This is completely untrue.

    • http://fandroidspin.com/ Larinx

      Proof?

      • Pedro

        LOL proof ? i can see each individual pixel in my galaxy s4 display and its 441 ppi

      • Joseph

        Some people have above average or better then 20/20 vision for instance most people with tv’s set at 120Hz it all looks the same as 60Hz but for me it looks like everything is moving to fast but most people won’t even notice it till I mention that on a tv or another example is the HRF in theaters I can’t watch it cause it makes the movie look like a tv with Hz turned up on it.

      • Michael McHale

        Wow …run on much?

      • Rawlf

        I have the same exact issue. I’m constantly pointing it out to others. Luckily I haven’t experienced HRF in theaters yet.

      • http://fandroidspin.com/ Larinx

        Lol….riiite…ladies and gentlemen, scientists have shown the limitations of the human eye, but Pedro has disproved them all.

    • jack

      Like you, I love them high-res display. I do. But you have to put the phone very close to your face and squint to see pixels

  • SoWhy

    I agree, I read both very good and very bad things about the battery. Since the device isn’t released in the US yet, maybe the experiences are skewed because they are using models made for South Korea. I’d await reviews that actually review the device you can buy

  • Robert Cross

    There’s a lot of reviews of the G3 out there – and the summary of them that I’ve read is basically that the G3′s battery life is “ok” at best, and usually followed by the comment that if they hadn’t shackled the G3 with a unnecessarily high-res screen then the G3 would have been amongst the long-runners.

    Check Alex Dobie’s review on Android Central – he’s using a European-spec G3 and claims that the G3′s battery life is “comparable with what we’re seeing from the HTC One M8, another phone with enviable longevity”.

    • squiddy20

      Too bad good ‘ole Richy got banned from commenting there due to his over the top fanboyism of Samsung.

  • squiddy20

    Yes, because it’s completely impossible for different people/reviewers to have different opinions on the same topic. It’s called an opinion for a reason. Imagine that.

    • Robert Cross

      I know what you’re getting at, but even with “opinion” in the mix you’d surely expect some kind of general agreement. Maybe that’s me just being naive – isn’t there some kind of standard usage-based benchmark? Given the range of opinions I just decided that the worst – “it’s okay, but other flagships are better” – was good enough that I can probably live with whatever it actually is. Plus I don’t live in the sunny USA so I’ll probably be able to gain a couple of minutes by winding the brightness down and I’m sure that LG will try to get more life by firmware tweaks.

  • http://fandroidspin.com/ Larinx

    Thanks Robert. I hope you can appreciate that anecdotes from people on random websites who claim they can see pixels (like Pedro) doesn’t trump science and scientific fact.

    Me: “Do you have proof?”
    Pedro: “yes, I can see pixels”

    Sadly for Pedro, it doesn’t work like that. The two articles you posted disagree with each other and doesn’t list any scientific source for their conclusions.

    • Robert Cross

      I’m not convinced they do disagree – sure they don’t give a definitive figure, but unless my Google-fu is really off it’s damned difficult TO get that definitive figure. So in the absence of any Lancet, Journal of the AAO type scientific evidence, then perception is all you have to go on. Thing is that there are a LOT of folks who claim to be able to see 1080p pixels, and the evidence to the contrary isn’t there either.

      At best (unless you’re going to turn up with a Lancet article) it’s in that “unproven” category for either side of the argument. Me, I’m more pragmatic – is it a nice screen to look at or not? Overwhelming “evidence” from the reviews are that … yes, this is pleasant experience, although the S5′s AMOLED does outpoint it in movie viewing.

      As a prospective owner of a G3, what really “bunches my shorts” is that a lot of non-journalists don’t seem to be able to see past that super duper high res screen. From all accounts the G3′s got a pretty fine “user experience” and that matters a heck of a lot more than some screen numbers. Although those ARE nice for smackdown ammunition if your iPhoner starts to get onery about THEIR “Retina” display.

      • http://fandroidspin.com/ Larinx

        I have no doubt that the g3 screen will be amazing to look at and amazing to see and will probably look better than the iPhone’s screen. But that perception is not solely because of pixel density. There are many reasons why a screen would look better than another. To simply say ppi is the reason is misinformed

      • Robert Cross

        1. Accordingly to every comparative review I’ve seen the G3 beats the iPhone. Heck, the S3′s screen can match the 5S’;
        2. I’ve never claimed anything about the res of the G3′s screen other than it is high res and probably a good viewing experience (down to common sense, can’t see a headline phone having a poor image);
        3. Pixel density isn’t the only factor in screen quality – agreed, but I’ve never claimed that that a 300+ ppi automatically means a good screen. That’s as dumb as claiming that my 8mpix smartphone beats my old 3.2mpix Canon digital for picture quality (it doesn’t).
        Any luck on finding the scientific evidence for 300ppi being the practical view limit? (which was the original comment that started this discussion)

  • Guest

    Best indication might be the salesfigures in the first week for LG G3: 100000 in only 5 days in South Korea, 3 times as much as Samsung Galaxy S5.

  • tunanjing

    Does LG updates their phones regularly?

    • Michael McHale

      No

  • Michael McHale

    Thing of beauty …every other flagship i have been reading about coming out soon like Moto X + will have a tough time keeping up with …the kit kat update on my G2 ruined it though. .so here is my replacement

    • tunanjing

      Why would you wnt to buy another LG if your G2 update experience was ruined?

      • Michael McHale

        Its not the phone ..kit kat update jacked up Samsung ..the 4.4.3 update jacked up Nexus 5 ..had alot of bugs ..one phone was released with kit kat another got it immediately ..the Moto X ..this phone is a beast

      • http://www.latestmob.com/ SANDESH

        LG has launched it’s flagship smartphone the all new LG G3 D855 which is a blend of impressive high-tech features

  • Doug

    I just bought the LG G3 in HK. Unfortunately the first battery that I used with it was shockingly bad, it drained very quickly, charged fully then watched it drain quickly again, fortunately it comes with a spare and after changing over this battery seems much better and as this review would suggest. Looks like I have one dud battery out of two. Apart from that this is a very good upgrade to my SGS4.

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  • roc thomas

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  • evenfell

    Got a G3 this week, awesome phone, So far by far the best phone I have had