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LG's G2: One Of The Best Android Phones On The Market Right Now

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Let me start off this review by saying, out of the crop of similarly sized phones on the market right now, this smartphone from LG is in my top 3 fighting for the number one spot with Samsung's Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5S- actually, I have it ahead of the S4 by a nose. The full HD 1080p screen is stunning, I love the placement of the volume rocker and power buttons on the rear of the device and the build quality is solid with a reassuring heft. It isn't without some flaws, but none that are deal breakers. The G2 even had me reconsidering my plans to purchase the Galaxy Note 3 (review forthcoming) but I really need the features and screen-size of Samsung's latest phablet.

Simple. Beautiful Hardware.

The LG G2 is a great looking piece of hardware. The screen seems to go off the edge of the device like an infinity pool, leaving the impression that the entirety of the front of the phone is pure display. And what a beautiful display it is. At 5.2" it isn't small, but the ultra-thin bezel doesn't allow it to feel unwieldy in hand. Though the pixels-per-inch are less than the HTC One and Galaxy S4, the color saturation feels very natural and the blacks are deep providing users with wide viewing angles to look at content or watch movies on the full HD 1080p display. I know this is a slab so how nice could it really be, but LG has taken a rectangle and made it feel refined by using soft buttons instead of physical buttons like Samsung and Apple, and moved the volume controls and power button to the rear of the device. Yes, that's right. The LG G2 whose screen melts off the edges doesn't mar the aesthetic by placing volume rockers and power buttons or shutter buttons along the edges of the phone. It sounds like I'm making a big deal about a small thing, but it really does make a difference if you're the type who pays attention to such things. Because of the way we tend to hold our phones, this rear placement actually makes sense and feels natural. I'm reviewing the T-Mobile variant and have to say that the fit and finish is great! The buttons aren't too deep or too shallow and easy to click.

The camera on the G2 is nothing to sneeze at either! I took some photos comparing the quality of the 13MP OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) camera with that of Samsung's Galaxy S4 which is generally thought to be one of the top smartphone cameras and the pictures coming from the G2's camera looked a little better in many cases. LG's phone is also equipped with a flash to mated to that 13MP rear-facing camera but if it's a quick selfie you're after, the front-facing camera gives you 2.4MP of image capturing awesomeness, along with HD quality video for that Google Hangout or Skype session. On the top of the device, LG has included an IR port to enable you to use their built-in remote control app (more on that later) to control your AV equipment, you'll find one of the two microphones, but what you won't find is the headphone jack. Instead, they opted to place that on the bottom of the device next to the speakers, and USB port. I really don't like it when they do this, but given the phone's other strengths, I'll give LG a pass on this one.

Other than the stereo speakers, which are generally loud and clear enough for speakerphone calls and listening to music aloud, and the microphones, there isn't much else on the outside to talk about but one of the internal hardware features which has many talking is the SiO+ battery. SiO+ means Silicon Oxide Plus but what you really need to know is that this 3,000mAh battery will get you through a day of moderate use with ease. I picked up one of the LG G2's for my daughter who is a heavy texter and multi-media consumer and she's had no complaints so far. Even better, as a parent, I haven't had to hear "my phone died" as an excuse for why she didn't answer when I was calling. One unique aspect of the battery (geek with me here for a sec) is that it isn't shaped like your typical battery. LG took phone design into consideration and instead of putting your standard block shaped battery into the back of a device with edges which go from thick to thin, they made a battery which works with the taper, allowing them to fill more space with more battery. So simple, yet so brilliant given that one of the most important aspects of smartphone technology which hasn't evolved as quickly as everything else is the ability to power these devices away from the charger for longer periods of time without having some extended battery case or external pack.

Feature Bloat? Yes

This device is feature-laden and while some may consider the sheer amount of little things the G2 does, overkill, there are definitely some handy items that will keep you from feeling buyer's remorse. That said, the vast majority of users will never utilize the vast majority of features this phone has but I'm going to touch on several I think are pretty productive and some that are great in theory but poorly executed.

KnockOn sounds gimmicky but I found myself really appreciating this feature which allowed me to wake the phone by simply double-tapping the center of the screen with two fingers. I know this sounds silly, but it may take you a second to get used to this as you do have to hit pretty close to dead center and with a certain cadence, which you can set to faster or slower in the phone's settings. It isn't a big deal, but worth a mention. Another feature which sounds gimmicky but was awesome in execution is Quick Remote. I'll admit that the notification pull-down in the LG G2 suffers from a serious case of clutter but if you're one of the 80% of smartphone owners who sit in front of the TV, phone in hand or at the ready by your side, you'll be glad that you don't have to hunt for a remote when you want to catch up on the latest Walking Dead episode you DVR'd. Rememer that IR port I told you about earlier? Quick Remote is the software that makes that piece of hardware work and it works quite well. I set it up to work with my Sharp LCD and AT&T Uverse receiver (a Motorola unit) and it worked the first time. It's real simple and a process that anyone who has purchased a universal remote to cut down on clutter should be familiar with. You enter a setup mode, then you hit the power button and the device will cycle through codes until it picks the right one, which you'll know because the TV will power off. You'll be asked to turn the TV back on, then try to use the volume buttons. Everything works? You're good to go and can lock in that configuration. In both instances, the Uverse receiver and TV turned off with the first push of the power and volume buttons. Now, any time I'd sit in front of the TV (which isn't often), I'd just pull down the notification shade et voila! This is especially useful if you have young children who use and tend to, ahem, "misplace" the remote frequently. Although I'm not a heavy user of cut and paste, there are some who will find the Clip Tray feature a very productive addition to the OS. Basically, you copy/save images to a clipboard and can pull that up in different apps to share what you've copied to the clipboard. The clip board slides up as a tray from which you can then choose which object you want to share, whether it be an image or a block of text. Speaking of sliding, Slide Aside is one of those features which is a cool idea but on a device this size, it really is clumsy. Slide Aside creates a bin where you can store up to three apps for quick access, or for switching between them by simply using three fingers to slide the current app to the left, offscreen. Therein lies the problem. I found swiping to the left on a 5" screen to feel awkward and probably better suited for something like a tablet instead of a phone. Additionally, Android's built-in task switching works just fine and Slide Aside is definitely not an improvement so the feature feels pointless.

When it comes to communication, LG built a feature into their handset which I know a lot of people will like and that is emoticons. With many devices, if you want emoticons you have to add additional keyboards, either free or at a nominal charge, but LG threw one in for you! It is chock-full of enough emoticons to ensure that every teen who picks up the device is fully covered for every pubescent catharsis they choose to share via text messaging or their emoji/emoticon supported social media service of choice. You can also change the color of the keyboard to suit your tastes, if you're into pastel key entry. One of the coolest features you won't get unless you include LG's Folio case which you can get free when you buy the phone through T-Mobile online or for $49.99. The Folio case comes with a window cut out which allows you to see the time, text messages, other notifications and who is calling you without opening the case. You can also answer calls from that little window in the Folio case as well as choose various clock faces which come in variety of colors. In some of the clock faces, you'll find that whatever wallpaper you're using on your homescreen also becomes the wallpaper for that clock face. It's a small thing, I know and LG isn't the first to do it but it is well implemented and enjoyable to use.

Final Thoughts

If you're in the market for a new Android, the LG G2 should definitely be atop your short list of "must try" devices. It has great hardware, some compelling custom software features on top of the Android operating system and a display that doesn't disappoint! It should keep you powered, easily, through a day's use and you get some great bonus features if you pick up LG's Folio case, though at $49.99 it is pricey if you're paying full price for it. Of course you'll be bombarded by a billion features you'll play with once and probably never more, but the built-in Quick Remote and a few others will definitely find a place in your rotation of frequently used features and apps.

Tshaka Armstrong Tech Ninja Tshaka Armstong writes about the latest technology and helping FOX 11 Viewers understand how to be safer, smarter users of the internet and their "gadgets. He's also one of our social media guys, helping guide the station's online efforts and social media outreach.
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