Friday, August 23, 2013

LG G2 - The best Android phone yet?

LG announced their long awaited G2 smartphone two weeks ago to much fan-fair in New York. The phone made headlines across the world and is sure to be a best seller, but is it the best smartphone that money can buy? We decided to pit it against major phones from Samsung, HTC, Apple and others to see if this truly is the best phone of the year.
What caught most of the media attention in the announcement of the LG G2 was the unusual placement of the home button. While almost all smartphones place the home button below the screen, LG innovatively moved it to the back of the device just below the camera. This way they were able to increase the size of the screen without the phone becoming bulky. The results are certainly attractive - the thin bezel makes the phone look like a masterpiece of minimalist design - but is it functional? One thing that's for certain is that it will take a little getting used to. Most of us grip our phones in a way that will allow us to easily use the button (which can also be used for other functions such as volume control), but after years of using a below screen home button changing habits might not come easy.
If you don't mind using the rather unusual home button, the main way to compare this phone with other Android devices is on speed. With a Snapdragon 800 Quad-Core 2.3GHz processor described as a "power horse" by one blog, no currently available mobile can compete when it comes to processing power. The chip is so good that it's unlikely that even Apple's upcoming iPhone 5S, rumoured to be unveiled on September 10th, will be able to compete.
But as every geek knows, there's more to speed than processing power. RAM, where our devices store data that's being processed, is also important. Here the LG G2 matches up to the standard 2GB that every high end phone has been fitted with this year, but falls behind the 3GB chip that is expected in the Samsung Galaxy Note III which will be launched shortly.
Storage is one area where phones haven't really seen major improvements in recent years and while the LG G2 comes with respectable offerings of either 16GB or 32GB, it doesn't come with the all important micro SD card slot favoured by those who regularly use their phones for photography.
Camera phone photographers aren't likely to be opting for this device anyway. While the 13 megapixel main camera is respectable, it is significantly lower than other offerings on the market including the Nokia Lumia 1020 with its 41 megapixel chip. The camera does have optical image stabilisation and a sapphire lens, so there's no reason to be put off the phone if you only use the camera casually though. It's also capable of 1080p video recording which is about as good as you'll find on any smartphone.
The screen on the device is arguably the best feature. Coming in at 5.2" inches places the device between a traditional smartphone and a phablet. The screen is larger than the 5" display on the bestselling Samsung Galaxy S4, but thanks to the thin bezel the phone feels smaller than Samsung's rather chunky device. It's also got a full HD resolution and an amazingly bright panel, perfect for use on sunny days.
Would we recommend the LG G2 over the other main devices on the market? The specs do mean the device will be marginally faster than the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and other major Android phones, but not enough to say conclusively that this should be your only option. The phone design is better than the S4, but only about equal to the Sony Xperia Z or HTC One. If you're an Apple user considering switching to Android you might be better to wait to see what Apple announces in a few weeks before making the decision to switch. If you're still not certain if this is the phone for you go try it out when it comes to your local phone store.
Greg Richardson is an Edinburgh based Android developer who regularly uses dozens of Android phones while developing educational apps for Android. He still hasn't convinced his wife to switch from her iPhone.

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