LG G2 $699
23rd Jul 2014 | 16:03
The G2 is still a top performer, and now it's cheaper
The LG G2 is a beastly smartphone and it was LG's answer to 2013's Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. It's a large, yet not unwieldy, smartphone brimming with specs that would make the most discerning geeks drool.
LG has been a distant cry from where Samsung and HTC have found themselves in terms of popularity and smartphone ownership, although with the Nexus 4, Nexus 5, and G2 under its belt the Korean firm has got itself back on the smartphone map.
While it's now been succeeded by the LG G3 and its stunning QHD display, the G2 is still available and at a cracking price making it a really great option if you're on a bit more of a budget.
In fact, with a SIM-free price of around £300 it's more than £150 cheaper than the 2014 flagship brigade, and while it may not sport Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 801 chip it still has the strong 800 version, a full HD display and Android 4.4.2 KitKat.
If you don't fancy parting with £300 up front you can now pick the LG G2 for free on contracts starting at £21.99 per month.
With the G2, it seemed that LG took a lot of cues from its Korean counterpart and built what many called a Galaxy S4 clone. It's large, made of lots of plastic, shaped similarly and is jam-packed with more features than a single person can handle.
During its New York City presentation, I was a little baffled at what LG decided to highlight as the G2's key features. The first and most evident is the placement of the power button and volume control keys.
LG went to great lengths to explain how it was listening to customers and observing their usage patterns. Somehow it all led to the awkward placement of those buttons, along with a few other things the phone can do.
Diving right into what powers the LG G2 and makes it purr, you'll first notice a 5.2-inch 1920 x 1080 display, which gives us a 424ppi density and means it still keeps pace with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2.
The chipset inside is a 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 and as far as processing power, it seems that the G2 is in no short supply.
It comes in 16GB and 32GB variants, with 2GB RAM backing up that meaty processor, while connectivity includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, an IR blaster on the top of the G2 and 4G LTE.
The camera on back is a 13MP shooter with a small LED flash. Like other high-end Android smartphones, it has a few tricks up its sleeves, too, but we'll get into that in our camera section.
LG also made a big deal out of the battery in this thing, which is a 3000mAh Li-Po (Lithium Polymer) battery - that's larger than the HTC One M8 (2600mAh) and Galaxy S5 (2800mAh), while the G3 sports the same size power pack as its predecessor.
Despite being a 5.2-inch display device, the LG G2 is very manageable in the hand. It still takes a reach to get your thumb diagonally across the screen, but it's not so huge that it becomes cumbersome.
While it has the same size screen at 2014's Xperia Z2, the G2 is smaller in terms of height and width measuring in at 128.5 x 70.9mm. That also makes its smaller than the Galaxy S5 and One M8 which boast 5.1-inch and 5-inch displays respectively.
To undiscerning eyes, it can be quite hard to tell the difference between the G2 and the Galaxy S4. One can argue that there is only so much you can do with the modern-day smartphone form factor, but then again HTC and Sony have very distinct designs.
The edges of the device are clean, free of volume controls and a power button. The bottom edge of the phone has a 3.5mm headset jack, micro-USB port and a speaker and microphone.
The G2's backside is the business end of the phone. LG decided to put the volume buttons and power button just underneath the camera module.
LG says its the reason the volume and power keys were placed on the back is because that's where your finger naturally wants to rest when you're talking on your phone, which I generally found to be true.
It can become awkward feeling around for the buttons, as In order to get enough pressure onto the power button, you have to hold the G2 a little awkwardly and make sure you get the correct leverage.
But the South Korean brand has made a huge effort to mitigate this, with elements like double knocking on the screen to open it up (which removes the need to press the power button) and most apps have an onscreen volume control to play with.
Plus over time I noticed myself becoming increasingly okay with the placement of the keys - to the point when I switched phones and found that I was pressing the camera lens to turn the phone on.
Aside from the power/volume buttons and the camera module on the backside, there isn't a whole lot more going on back there.
The metal-looking LG logo towards the bottom of the device however turns out to be just a few stickers, which over time have started to fall off.
The plastic rear chassis also gets beaten up pretty easily, and if you're not careful your G2 will pick up various dents and markings. I recommend purchasing a case to prolong its life and keep it looking smart.
Up front you won't find any physical buttons at all. The back, home and menu buttons are all soft keys on the display, and will respond with haptic feedback unless you disable it.
Overall, the design of the LG G2 is nice, with the exception of the placement of the power and volume buttons. And although I'm not particularly fond of an all-plastic body, it's not so bad and I found the G2 to be a well built, solid device.
Interface and performance
The LG G2 originally shipped with Android 4.2.2, but it has since been upgraded to Android 4.4.2 KitKat, although the Korean firm's has stuck its own skin over the top.
Custom interfaces for Android can be hit or miss, but they're getting better over time. HTC's Sense 6 is excellent, and Motorola's new UI - a far cry from the horrible Blur or Motoblur - is unobtrusive and Samsung is getting there. Sort of.
LG's UI for the G2 is attractive enough, and it has its conveniences. Buttons and options come up where you'd like them to be, and customization options are plenty.
When you power on the device, you'll find that there are five home screens to customize. Android 4.4.2 widgets are available, but LG has thrown in a small handful of its own widgets in there, too.
Let's take one step back and chat about the lock screen. Like many Android devices, there are a number of shortcuts easily accessible from the lock screen, like the phone, messages, camera and more.
You can customize this, of course, but it's pretty convenient when you want to get to certain apps the second you power on the G2.
I've already mentioned during the introduction that the G2 comes with LG's KnockOn function, allowing you to wake up and put to sleep the handset with a couple of taps of the screen.
This saves you from having to fumble around for the sometimes tricky to locate power/lock key on the rear of the G2, but since the Android KitKat update it's also gained another feature - KnockCode.
As you may have guessed, this is an extension of KnockOn, where you can set a particular pattern of taps to not only wake, but also unlock the G2 in one motion.
I found that this was easy to do, and the G2 was able to pick up my pattern pretty much every time - even when done at speed.
If you're already familiar with Android, navigating the LG UX will be intuitive enough for you. And like other custom Android interfaces, the LG G2 has some tricks up its sleeve, too.
One feature that LG users will be familiar with is QSlide, which is a multitasking feature exclusive to LG handsets. It allows you to run two apps simultaneously, and while that sounds to be a bit much for smartphones, it can come in handy when you're reading or watching videos on your phone.
QSlide allows an active app to shrink down and become transparent - you can control its transparency with a slider - while you work in another app or browse through the home screen or apps page.
It's a nice feature to have, but like the dual-window multitasking feature on the Samsung Galaxy phones and tablets, I didn't find myself using it much.
To quickly access the QSlide feature, you simply pull down the notification tray from the top bar. Doing so will also reveal your notifications and system shortcuts.
From here, you can quickly access Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and adjust brightness, too. There are a number of shortcuts here, and you can edit a few of them if you'd like.
The issue here is that with the quick settings bar, plus controls for brightness and volume LG has added another row of QSlide apps - meaning the space left for your actual notifications is actually pretty non-existence.
I recommend closing the QSlide bar immediately to free up some space here, as it's a little too overcrowded.
Accessing apps is as easy as tapping the apps button on the home screen. The apps screen is easy to navigate and swipes left to right like most other Android devices except some HTC devices.
From the apps screen, you'll also have quick access to the phone's widgets. Simply tap on the Widgets tab up top and you can choose the ones you want to add to your home screens.
Interestingly, tapping on the gear button in the apps screen doesn't take you into the phone's settings as you might expect. Instead, it gives you the option to customize the apps screen, whether that means rearranging them or creating folders.
From there, you'll also be able to delete apps. Simply hit the gear button in the app screen, then tap the red "X" that shows up next to the app (kind of like the iPhone).
You'll be prompted to uninstall the app. It's much easier than going into Settings, Apps and then trying to find the app you want to uninstall.
Whether you're familiar with Android or not, the LG G2 has a little something for everyone. The interface is easy enough for novice and expert smartphone users alike, and in just a few days you'll be poking around the device with ease.
Because the LG G2 is equipped with such a powerful chipset and plenty of RAM, performance is excellent. In normal, everyday use, there isn't generally any lag, but fire up some intensive applications, while also having a lot of widgets on your homescreens and the G2 can struggle at times.
If you're multitasking with QSlide, the phone still runs well. I sometimes think that something like the 2.26GHz quad-core prcoessor is a little overkill for the average user's needs, but with more demanding apps, it's certainly nice to have it.
I really tried to push the G2 by running videos and fiddling around with other apps at the same time, and the smartphone still worked like a charm. I was very pleased with the overall performance of the device and give LG props on that.
After several days of testing and constant pushing, the device never crashed. When I find myself using a device, and later coming to the realisation that the experience was quite boring, it also means that it was smooth.
I didn't run into any issues at all with the LG G2, so it seems that all that power under the hood has been put to good use - although sometimes there was a noticeable wait time when exiting an app and returning to the homescreen. My advice, try and keep it widgets to a minimum.
Battery life on the LG G2 is excellent. It seriously impressed when it first arrived on the scene in 2013, and I'm pleased to report that since the Android KitKat update battery life has managed to get even better.
LG made a big deal out of taking up more internal space by staggering its battery shape within the device. As the back curves, the battery staggers or pyramids a little in shape to take advantage of what would otherwise be empty space.
While the LG G2 doesn't benefit from the additional power efficiency of the Snapdragon 801 chip housed inside 2014's flagship devices, it trumps the likes of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One which had to make do with the Snapdragon 600 processor - giving the G2 a boost in the battery department.
With relatively heavy use (e-mail, social network, phone calls, messaging and some gaming) and all push notifications turned on, along with GPS and Wi-Fi on most of the day, the LG G2 still had some juice left by the time the work day was over.
I unplugged the device from its charger at around 8am on average, and found that I'd still have about 20-25% battery life by the time I went to bed, which was around midnight. That's impressive.
We subjected it to our proper and in-depth battery test, placing the phone on Wi-Fi and brightness correcting the display to 305 lumens, and then running a 90 minute Full HD video.
With the updated Android 4.4 KitKat software the LG G2 took the prize as the longest-lasting phone on test - it lost just 7% of juice during the video.
That is some serious performance, as I usually see top end smartphones lose between 15% and 25% of juice in the same test.
If you do find yourself running out of juice the LG G2 comes with a power saving mode which you can flick on to help get the most out of the last few drops.
You can get the power saving mode to come on automatically when the battery drops below a certain percentage, and there are various options you can enable/disable while it's in operation.
The camera on the LG G2 is excellent. I'm very picky when it comes to how a device's camera performs, and I was very satisfied with the LG G2's camera.
It seems that manufacturers are really putting a strong emphasis on imaging these days. HTC, Nokia and Apple have stressed the strengths of their imaging systems - whether it's bigger pixels, larger sensors, better optics and image stabilization, the competition is a win-win for the consumer.
The 13MP shooter you'll find on the G2 will more than suffice for anything you could ever want to shoot with a smartphone. Whether you're shooting your lunch to post on Instagram, or a bathroom selfie for Facebook, the G2's camera won't disappoint.
It performs well in low light, optical image stabilization, or OIS, helps with both stills and video and detail and color are excellent.
By default, when you power on the camera, everything is set to auto. Focus is clustered in the middle with a number of focus points, but you can also tap to focus if you like.
There are a number of scenes to choose from, like Normal, HDR, Burst shot, Panorama and more, and another scene section that includes Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Night and others.
The camera's settings offer a number of customization options. You can adjust exposure compensation, focus modes, ISO, white balance and more.
You'll also have the option for using the volume buttons to activate the shutter, but I would recommend against this due to its awkward placement and proximity to the lens. I don't know why LG would've included this option.
Photos look sharp and clear. Colors are excellent, especially when you shoot in good light, and details are incredible. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the processing, sharpening and everything else the G2 does with the 13MP images.
HDR looks natural, but as with HDR photos that look more natural, you can still lose a lot of details in highlights and shadows if the scene's dynamic range is dramatic.
In terms of what I've come to expect from a smartphone camera, there really isn't anything to complain about with the LG G2.
It doesn't have the same issues with metering as the Moto X, and it keeps more details than the HTC One thanks to its huge megapixel count. Perhaps it's only trumped by the iPhone for image quality, and the Lumia 1020 for image quality and low-light performance. That's not so bad.
I'm also happy to see that the tap-to-focus will meter for the selected area. Some other Android devices will only focus, and you have to manually change exposure, which can become annoying.
Overall, still images are excellent. That leaves video. Video quality from the LG G2 camera is great. Optical image stabilization helps quite a bit, though you still have to keep a steady hand. It isn't as good as the Lumia 1020's stabilization system, but it works well enough and beats the iPhone in terms of steadiness and smoothness.
Colours and video quality look good, although sound could be better. Sound quality is always something that needs a lot of work on a smartphone, but there's only so much that can be done with the physical constraints.
A microphone placed on the body of a camera, situated several feet away from an audio source, will never sound as good as having dedicated microphones. However, for what you might be shooting with a smartphone, it works just fine.
That's one thing to keep in mind when you're being bombarded with these great camera claims from smartphone manufacturers. In the end, these are still just smartphone cameras.
If you're looking for real, solid image quality, you'd go for a compact system camera or DSLR. And if you want to shoot great video, a DSLR or dedicated video camera will be your best bet.
Samsung Galaxy S4
Like the G2 and the other smartphones in this competition section the Samsung Galaxy S4 is still on sale even though it's been replaced by a newer model.
Samsung packed the S4 full of tricks including eye, head and hand tracking, selling the handset as a "life companion."
Silly gimmicks aside the Galaxy S4 is still a supremely power handset with a lot to offer. It too has been updated to Android KitKat and is enjoying a new lease of life with the latest version of Google's OS.
It's still a little pricier than the other flagships from 2013, but not a great deal so - especially for a handset which sticks so many features under one roof.
The HTC One was the hero of 2013, claiming the best phone in the world title, but the LG G2 pushed it hard.
Like the G2, the One doesn't have a microSD slot, but it does benefit from a superior metal chassis and powerful Boomsound speakers.
Battery life on the One isn't quite as strong as it is on the G2, but HTC's Sense interface and clever camera tricks keeps this year old smartphone interesting.
If you fancy a premium smartphone without the premium price tag the HTC One is still a very good shout.
Sony Xperia Z1
The Sony Xperia Z1 launched a several months after the G2, Galaxy S4 and One, but it's still a decent comparison from the class of 2013.
With a dust and waterproof body, a chassis formed of metal and glass and the inclusion of a microSD slot the Xperia Z1 has some instant plus points over the G2.
The more industrial design of the Sony may put some off, as will the flaps which need to be removed every time you want to charge the device - but the version of Android it's running is closer to the stock Google puts out.
In terms of price there's not too much difference between the Z1 and the G2, with both handsets providing a strong offering.
I really like the LG G2. It's one of the better Android smartphones you can buy right now. The screen is large and gorgeous, and because the display almost reaches out to the very edges of the device, it doesn't feel any wider than it has to.
The display and camera are really killer, and performance is incredible. It ate up every benchmark for breakfast, turned out great photos and dazzled me with its high-resolution display. Oh, and on top of that, battery life was a charm.
Using the smartphone doesn't come with the headaches, hiccups and hangups that I get with other device, thanks mostly to the gorgeous display and powerful chipset.
So, is it all butterflies and roses for the LG G2?
Well, no. The button placement drove me insane for the first few days, and it wasn't pretty. It's incredibly frustrating and takes some time to get used to.
Adjusting volume when on a call was relatively easy if you spent enough time feeling around for the volume keys, but adjusting volume for watching videos is a total pain in the rear.
There are a lot of on screen menus, but it will take a least a month to get used to the change in button placement.
I can take or leave the completely plastic build, too. LG typically makes smartphones with premium feel, and although nothing feels cheap about the G2, I wish that it had a soft touch or textured backside or body.
The phone gets smudged with fingerprints very easily, which is only a minor complaint and definitely not a deal breaker.
The UI is just awful at times though. Why is most of the notifications bar taken up with things that aren't notifications? Surely LG must realise that it's packing too much into the space if you can't see a message when it arrives.
As far as Android smartphones go, you can do no wrong with the LG G2. If you can live with the button placement - which I have done, and even begun to enjoy - you'll come to love this phone.
The G2 has everything you could ask for in a smartphone: solid camera, great performance, excellent battery life and a design I can live with.
I even came to love the placement of the buttons because I was so enamoured with the phone - that's high praise indeed when something you dislike fades into the background on balance.
What matters is your daily experience with the phone, and while I'll admit it wasn't the best with the button placement, this thing is slick once you get over that.
If you want a top end smartphone, but don't have the budget to stretch to the new breed currently on offer the LG G2 is an excellent choice at an attractively low price.
First reviewed: September 2013