LG just took the wraps off its newest flagship smart phone, the G2, an impressive model that combines user-friendly features with cutting-edge technology. The LG G2 packs a 5.2-inch display and a massive battery into a slim, curved case. It will be available in in the fourth quarter of 2013 on all four major carriers; the price hasn’t yet been announced.
One of LG’s boldest ergonomic moves was moving the power/volume button cluster on the G2 to the back of the phone, instead of along the top or sides, for easier access. Other enhancements include smarter shortcuts to common tasks, such as auto answering when you hold the phone up to your ear, clever new ways to juggle open apps, and a high-performance 13-megapixel camera that can focus on your subjects in interesting new ways.
I recently had plenty of time to try out the G2 during a meeting with LG (Consumer Reports will receive a press sample to review soon). Until then, here are my impressions of this intriguing phone:
Ergonomic, space-saving design
LG said it moved the controls to the back, just under the 13-megapixel camera, because that’s where most people park their index finger when they're holding larger-screen smart phones. During my tryout of the G2, my index finger repeatedly landed on those rear-mounted controls without any special effort. What's more, they're slightly raised (vertically mounted up/down volume keys, with the power button in the center), so I could correctly manipulate them without having to see them.
No wasted space
This feature-packed phone slips a relatively large 5.2-inch, 1080p IPS display (423 ppi resolution) into a case just 138.5mm x 70.9mm x 8.9mm. The phone is made even more palm-friendly by its curved back. Bringing the screen close to the case edge helped keep the phone slim.
The only thing between the G2's 5.2-inch display and the edge of the phone is a bezel that's only 2.65mm thick. Another space-saver was the G2's massive 3,000mAh battery, specially shaped to fit under the curved case.
The LG G2's UX interface cleverly anticipates your next action based on what you just did. Besides auto-answering a phone call when you raise a ringing phone to your ear, the G2 automatically shows you the music player and other multimedia apps when you plug in your headphones or a USB cable.
When the phone is on its back, you can unlock the screen by gently tapping it twice. The G2 is also smarter about sharing, allowing you to grab map locations, contacts, and other data from text messages and plop them into a memo or calendar.
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The LG G2’s 13-megapixel camera comes with an optical image stabilizer—just like the Samsung Galaxy S Zoom, Nokia Lumia 1020, and Nokia PureView 808. Along with the camera's back-sided image sensor, the image stabilizer should help the camera take better stills and video under low-light conditions, or in situations when it's difficult to keep the camera steady.
What's more, the camcorder can stay focused on any subject you choose, such as one player in a soccer game, to ensure they remain sharp no matter where they roam. Another neat trick: After shooting a video of, say, a crowd, you can select any person in the crowd, and when you play back the video, the video will be altered to show more close-ups of that person you selected. The downside is that enhanced version only exists on the phone, so you can't share it with a friend or post it on Facebook.
Another G2 camcorder trick: You can zoom in on the face of a subject and have it appear as an inset in your video, though I’m not sure why anyone would use this feature. One scenario LG offered was being able to see a close-up of a baby uttering its first words. Meh.
Multitasking on multi windows
LG smart phones were among the first to allow you to simultaneously work on two apps at the same time, on a split screen. LG upped that number to three on the G2. But instead of a split screen, open apps appear full-screen, stacked above one another like a deck of cards. You can fan them out by swiping across the screen with three fingers.
Another interesting feature: If you receive a phone call while an app is open, the call notification will show up as a bubble rather than block out your whole screen. That gives you the option of switching to speakerphone so you can continue working.
And finally, earlier LG models allowed you to "float" a video in a smaller window, and even adjust its transparency. Now on the LG G2 you can do this with multiple apps at the same time, such as the calculator, calendar, etc. Here, too, LG boldly went where no one had gone before—or wanted to.
Phones like the LG G2, as well as the recently announced Moto X, seem to be signaling a welcome change in smart phone design, focusing more on how people use their phones rather than how the phone makers hope they will.
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