Review: LG G3 smartphone close to the front of the Android pack: Peter Nowak

A super-sharp display and camera make up for half-baked health-tracking function

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It seems like good Android phones are now the rule rather than the exception, with underwhelming devices – at least from the marquee players – getting harder to find. Add LG’s new G3 to that list of solid smartphones that are unlikely to disappoint.

The South Korean company’s new flagship device improves on its predecessor – the G2, natch – in several ways.

First up is its look and feel. While it isn’t actually made of metal, the phone’s backing is a plastic hybrid that’s metal-ish (which normal practitioners of the English language would call “metallic”). As such, it feels sturdier but remains super-light. Moreover, the G3 has a nice curved backing much like the HTC One, which gives it top marks in the all-important “hand feel” departmen.

LG is hyping the G3′s “quad-HD” display as one of its big selling points. With a pixel resolution of 2,560 by 1,440, or a whopping 538 pixels per inch, it’s one of the sharpest screens available. The iPhone 5S, for example, comes in at a relatively measly 326 ppi while even the newer Samsung Galaxy S5 stops short at 432 ppi.

In real terms, while the display certainly is nice to look at – and a giant step up over the grainy screen of LG’s other recent effort, the bendable Flex – it’s not that much better looking than its competitors. It may just be that the human eye is incapable of detecting such subtle resolution differences.

That said, the G3 does pack an impressive 13-megapixel camera that manages to capture excellent details in well-lit conditions thanks to its laser focus – yup, it has a frickin’ laser. As for lower-light conditions, well, the G3 is about as good as it gets as far as smartphones are concerned, which is to say you’re still way better off with a real camera in such situations.

LG has thrown a few tricks into its camera as well, including the return of the voice-activated shutter. Rather than risk shaking the camera by pressing buttons, you can instead fire off a shot by saying “cheese,” “kimchi” or a few other words. Similarly, you can also take selfies by showing your hand to the camera and then clenching it into a fist, which starts a shot countdown. That’s going to be extra useful for those selfie junkies who put their phones on poles and then can’t reach the shutter button.

iphone-flower

A flower as shot on the iPhone 5S.

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The same flower on the G3. They both look pretty good, don’t they?

The G3 also improves on its predecessor with a removable battery, which is useful in this day and age of quickly draining phones. The new device also a micro-SD slot, unlike its older brethren, so that’s good too.

One thing I’m still not sold on is the power button being on the back of the phone, as it was with the G2. With just about every other device having its on/off switch on top or on the side, it’s a difficult thing to get used to, which is why I’ve actually become a fan of the G3′s KnockOn feature. Similar to a swipe unlock, KnockOn lets you set a tap pattern that will wake the phone from sleep.

It’s not terribly secure, since a thief could probably make an educated guess to your pattern judging from where your fingerprints are, but I found it easier to use than the back button.

I’m also not very impressed with LG Health, the built-in fitness tracker which has now become de rigeur for smartphones. Dedicated fitness bands like the Fitbit or Misfit Shine do a much better job of tracking steps and heart rates, if you’re into that sort of thing, so I find little reason to drain the phone’s battery using such functions. So far, at least.

I do also like the default active weather lock screen, which shows me an animated lightning storm if it happens to be thundering out. Similarly, I also dig the G3′s resizeable keyboard, which can be adjusted to take up around two-thirds of the screen. It’s a great feature if you have chunky fingers.

All told, the G3 is another addition to the already impressive array of flagship Android smartphones. Along with the Galaxy S5, the HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z2, not to mention the Google Nexus 5, Android fans now have an embarrassment of riches to choose from. It’s hard to go wrong with any of them, although I would put the G3 near the top of the list.

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