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LG G2: Great features in a flawed smartphone

JR Raphael | Sept. 19, 2013
he new LG G2 Android smartphone has an outstanding screen and top-notch performance, but is that enough to make it worth buying?

Body and design
LG made some interesting choices when it comes to the G2's design. First, the company traded the patterned glass back of last year's Optimus G flagship for a glossy plastic (though still non-removable) material.

Unfortunately, while glass has its share of downsides — fragility, most notably — glossy plastic seems like a step in the wrong direction. The material looks and feels cheaper than other smartphone surfaces (even other plastic ones such as the Moto X) and also serves as a magnet for messy-looking fingerprints. Compared to many current flagship phones — even the Optimus G — the G2 has a less distinctive and premium feel as a result.

One area where the G2 does stand out is in its button configuration: In an unusual twist, the phone has no physical buttons anywhere on its face or sides. Instead, the power button and volume rocker live on the device's back panel — a placement LG believes will prove to be more natural for users.

One thing's for sure: The setup requires some serious adjustment. I spent the first few days struggling to get used to finding buttons on the back and had more than a few instances of fumbling around with the phone while trying to power on or off in a hurry.

At this point, I'm generally okay with the configuration but still find it more awkward to use than a standard button setup. Maybe it's just years of using phones with side-sitting buttons, but when I pick up a device, my fingers naturally wrap around its outer edge; it actually feels a little unnatural to me to have to shift to the back and slide my fingers around to search for buttons there. I suspect it's going to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it sorts of things; despite my best efforts to adapt, I find myself falling into the latter camp.

The Verizon model, it's worth noting, has smaller and flatter buttons than the AT&T version of the device. I found those to be particularly difficult to find by touch — much more than the AT&T arrangement. This quirk appears to be limited to Verizon; the Sprint and T-Mobile models are both expected to use the same setup as the AT&T model, which follows the blueprint of LG's international design.

To help make up for the sometimes out-of-the-way placement, LG allows you to turn the G2's display on or off by tapping twice on the display. While nice in concept, I found the action to be inconsistent in practice; sometimes I'd get the display to turn on with a single double-tap as advertised, but just as often, it'd take two or three tries for it to work. At that point, it's more of a frustration than a convenience; combined with the added second it takes for the screen to turn on even when the double-tap does work, I found myself reaching for the power button more often than not.


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