The smartphone playground looks the same this year as it did last year. Apple and Samsung continue to dominate with their iPhones and Galaxy smartphones. And LG and HTC, two companies capable of making well-designed smartphones continue to lag in their dust.
Last year's LG G2 gave us a smartphone with a 5.2-inch screen, rear-placed volume and power buttons that doubled as app launchers, a 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization, and a breakthrough battery that let you truly use it all day long.
LG's back with the G3, and this time, the baby gloves are off.
Out Of This World Display
The very first thing you notice on the G3 is its gigantic 5.5-inch display. This is a screen fit for a phablet. And yet, LG's done something no other company has been able to replicate: shrink the bezels so that the smartphone itself isn't so damned wide.
You're probably thinking: whoopity-doo. Samsung's been there, done that with the Galaxy Note II back in 2012. Actually, the screen is a big whoop. You see, the screen on the G3 is not your run-of-the-mill 1080p Full HD display. It's a QuadHD display with 2560 x 1440 resolution, which is four times more pixels than a 720p display and 1.8 times more than a 1080p screen.
That type of resolution on a smartphone is unheard of (that is unless you've actually heard of the Oppo Find 7 which also has the same resolution screen and PPI display). If you thought 1080p on a smartphone was overkill, wait until you feast your eyes on the G3's screen. More impressive is that LG says the high-resolution screen doesn't drain the battery more than normal.
So Much Power
The G2 was a supercharged smartphone in its own right, and so too is the G3. LG took the best and fastest mobile components it could find and crammed it all into the G3's 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.95mm body. It's quite an engineering feat if you stop and think about it.
Here's what the G3's rocking: 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM (3GB in some regions), 16/32GB of internal storage (expandable up to 128GB via microSD cards), and a 3,000mAh removable battery.
(Above: LG G3 with 5.5-inch screen on left. Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with 5.7-inch screen on right.)
The G3's cameras are also solid: 2.1-megapixel front facing camera and a 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization. That's great and all, but LG wouldn't be LG if it didn't add a little something extra to the camera. One the rear is what LG calls "Laser Auto Focus," (akin to technology in radar guns) which when coupled with the OIS provides sharp pics without any blur. We took some test shots on a few moving models and the G3's imaging chops are impressive indeed. The Laser Auto Focus is also incredibly fast.
Sound also got a boost again. The G3 features a 1 watt speaker with boost amp for deep bass and clear treble. The speakers are loud, but the HTC One (M8) and its BoomSound front-facing stereo speakers may have the upper hand. I'll have to test the G3 in a place that isn't filled with loud tech journalists and bloggers before I can declare a definitive winner.
As far as wireless, it'll have your usual Wi-Fi and NFC, as well as wireless charging. There's also a built-in FM radio!
Back Buttons Here To Stay
With the G2, LG introduced rear-placed volume and power buttons. The reasoning was that reaching buttons on the sides of larger (and consequently wider) smartphones was becoming impossible with one hand. Moving the buttons to the back lets your index finger get some button-pressing action.
As we've seen throughout many of LG's major smartphone releases (G Flex and G2 mini) last year, the design is here to stay. The G3 retains the same rear-positioned volume and home buttons. The only difference this time is that they don't stick out; they're flush with the G3's back.
The G3 runs a customized version of Android 4.4.2 Kitkat. But this time around, it's not as unsightly. Gone are the skeuomorphic icons and unnecessary visual elements and in its place is a flattened, more modern and clean-looking interface that feels more 2014 and less 2007.
LG's also incorporated specific colors for individual apps so that it'll be easier to spot. It's very reminiscent of iOS 7 in that an app's main color extends into the notification bar.
Thumbing through the OS, I really like it. It's so much better than what LG was pumping into the G2 and G Flex.
Price and Release
LG's also selling a QuickCircle case that functions like its old screen cases except the cutout is a circle and not a square. It's a decent case that lets you use choose from your six most used apps in bite-sized form.
The G3 will be available in five colors white, black, gold, pink and blue. It'll be available on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon this summer in the U.S. International folk can buy the G3 starting tomorrow (May 28). Pricing is TBA.
(All photos by Raymond Wong for DVICE.)