Yesterday, the hyped-less-than-the-moto-X flagship LG G2 was announced alongside its more budget oriented cousins, the Optimus F6 and Optimus F3. Obviously, the lionshare of the coverage is going to the G2, and many are wondering how this handset compares. Its a powerhouse that will sell decently at first, but ultimately I think it will be a forgettable handset.
Hah! Take that Samsung!
Most of the internet is comparing this to the Galaxy S4, and for good reason. From its cheaper plasticky body to its beefy spec sheet, to the S-View-like QuickWindow optional covers, LG is clearly targeting Samsung’s typical M.O.
Where the G2 really suceeds against Samsung is in performance. It features a 2.3 Ghz Snapdragon 800 quad core processor with an Adreno 320 GPU. To those not as technically inclined, the previous performance beast, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a slightly less powerful 1.9Ghz Snapdragon 600. Will 400 Mhz matter on Android? Absolutely not. However, a quick look at Qualcomm’s comparison shows that there are a few extra additions: a built in cell radio (normally means better battery life), USB 3.0 support for faster transfer speeds when you plug it into a computer, a GPU that supports 4K content, and a dedicated ISP which should make picture taking and editing a bit more speedy. Round those specs up with 2GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of storage, and a rather gigantic 5.2″ 1080p but unfortunately IPS LCD (read: not of the AMOLED variety) screen, a 13 MP camera with optical image stabilization, and a 2.1 MP front camera, and you’ve got a pretty decent one-up to the Galaxy S4.
But the fact remains that Galaxy S4 is not a slouch. No one really complains about performance. While its nice to see hardware improvements, a bump from Snapdragon 600 to 800 is not a feature that will sell phones except to benchmarkers. In order to try to differentiate themselves a bit more, LG skinned Android and threw in a few software tweaks.
Wierd Software Stuff
With the G2, LG is following the typical Android OEM path of skinning the base Android and trying to differentiate themselves with various
pointless bloatware software features. Interestingly, Motorola seems to be more unique by offering a completely unskinned version of Android, but unless the Moto X becomes a runaway hit, this won’t change. So out of the box, it’ll come with the already old and skinned Android 4.2.2. Thankfully the skinning is fairly minimal, compared to the heavy modification that HTC did with Sense 4, but still comes with a full compliment of LG specific software.
When the device is plugged in via USB or the headphone jack, a software pop up shows you apps you can use with that. I can guarantee you that this will be more annoying than useful. I normally have my music player up before I plug in my headphones. Those who don’t will have to scroll through their music players until they find the right one, instead of tapping once on the homescreen like normal people. And what if it doesn’t recognize the right app? Not to mention: every time you plug in your phone to charge? Really?
Perhaps a homeage to their recent purchase of WebOS, LG threw in a quick close gesture. Swipe three fingers from the edge if the screen and you’ll essentially force-close the app. Kinda cool, but only because it saves you one tap.
Tap the display twice and wake the phone. Not exactly new as the Moto X already has it and Lumia phones are getting it too, but its nice to see this feature becoming more standard. Considering LG’s track record with software, though, I’m curious to see how well it’ll work (and how often it’ll go off in your pocket).
Bring your phone to your ear and it’ll answer it for you. Also kinda cool, but it saves you a single tap. LG’s really looking out for your fingertips.
Supposedly, this thing has an IR reader that can “learn” from IR remotes and control many types of devices like home theater systems, TVs, DVRs, and Blue-Ray players. Theoretically, anything with a remote will work. Honestly, this is a pretty cool feature, except that I’m sure you’ll have to create and load profiles for each device. It might work well, but its more likely that it’ll be more work to open get your phone ready than to just grab your remote.
Hide any apps you want from your friends so when they steal your phone, they can’t out your homosexual desires on Facebook. All joking aside, this is a fantastic feature for people who frequently forget their phone somewhere, or let friends use their phone, or especially parents that let their kids play with their phones. This is an example of an OEM moving slightly ahead of Google since Google hasn’t built in multiple user accounts into the phone version of Android yet. Restricted user accounts just became available in Android 4.3, but only for tablets.
So the G2 has its power button and volume rocker on the back. Wat? No that’s on a typo. These normally side-mounted buttons are on the back. According to LG, its more ergonomic. The first look reports I’ve seen report that the buttons are in a more natural position considering the design of the phone, but since I haven’t fondled one yet, I’ll have to take their word on it. Upon looking at that back though, at least it doesn’t seem too unnatural.
To finish up the feature set, the G2 will have a screen that can light up a small window in the top-center portion of the display (see below).
Check out those cases. Is it me or is this a blatant rip off of Samsung’s already gimmicky S-View cases. These are optional cases for the G2 that you will have to buy, and they are called QuickWindow. Despite the fact that lighting up a small amount of an LCD screen would take much more power and battery life than an AMOLED, I still don’t get why this feature exists. I don’t need to turn my phone into an iPod Nano. It’s already better than an iPod Nano. I guess the advantage is that if you are going to cover your screen with foldy polyurethane, like an iPad Smart Cover for phones (theres a reason Apple doesn’t make these), it would be nice to interact with the phone while in the case. But if it’s interactible, it doesn’t protect the screen. So…let part of the screen be exposed? The whole idea behind this gimmick makes no sense to me and I’m not entirely convinced that in the age of Gorilla glass, Invisishields, and OtterBox’s, that there is really a reason to cover my phone’s screen with an obnoxious piece of foldy polyurethane. So S-View and QuickWindow create a solution to a problem with a product that doesn’t need to exist.
If It’s Not Cheap, It Won’t Sell
In my mind, LG’s G2 has a few slight edges over it’s clearest competitor, the Galaxy S4. It’s software customizations are at least mostly useful, it’s more powerful, it has the same gimmicky case design, and it has a bigger screen. However, the trade-offs are that it has an even cheaper looking plasticky case, an LCD screen which will burn through your battery when you’re using your ridiculous QuickWindow, and it’s also running Android 4.2.2 with no clear signs towards 4.3 in sight. Oh, and it’s LG. Despite how much brand name doesn’t matter in practicality, it does matter on the sales floor and in the show room. In order to LG to stand against Samsung, it needs to have a device that is clearly and definitively better than the Galaxy S4, and I can’t honestly say that the G2 is that device.
But, this is LG we’re talking about. Despite all the benefits of the Moto X, Motorola will be hampered by price and the fact that it’s one killer benefit (customizable design) is exclusive to AT&T. HTC’s beautiful phones are hampered by a slow movement to multiple U.S. carriers and a heavy software overlay. LG will be launching the G2 on all four U.S. carriers. That’s pretty big. No matter how good your phone is, if people can’t get it on their carrier, they won’t be buying it.
But of course, the one major factor in this equation is price. LG is in a peculiar situation with this phone. Apple will certainly be releasing an Phone 5S in a few months, the Moto X will be releasing before this phone does, and in addition, Samsung is sure to announce a Galaxy S5 in about 6 months or so. This puts the G2′s launch at the most precarious and damaging position that it could possibly be at. I believe that their only saving grace will be price, which of course was not announced. T-Mobile did say it will be a “no money down” phone, but that doesn’t tell us much. If LG were to release this phone at $150 or even $99 on contract, I think it would have a chance. However, it would have had a better chance if it were to be released 2-3 months after the Galaxy S4, because it would have taken some sales away from the rapidly selling and heavily discounted Galaxy S3. But unfortuntately, releasing this phone at the end of the year, even if it is cheap, will mean that it only has a few months of being able to compete against Samsung before the Galaxy S5 completely blows it away (or the Galaxy S4 is price-dropped to blow it away), and it will also be taking hits from the Moto X and iPhone 5S. But then again, this is just more evidence to show that competing as an OEM in the Android ecosystem is as perilous as ever.
I have no doubt this phone will sell a few units due to it’s powerful nature, but I don’t think it will have anywhere near the impact that LG hopes it will. In this case, I don’t mind. The LG G2 is a disappointing attempt to clone Samsung’s success, and I feel that true innovation should be praised. But of course, in this ideal world, the HTC One and Moto X would be at the top of the Android tier.