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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?

Another frustration related to the phone's on-off functionality: If you wake the device while your thumb is sitting on the top-left or top-center border of its face — which is evidently something I do frequently when gripping a phone and reaching around its back — the display will turn on for a second and then turn itself right back off. I'm assuming that's the result of some sort of sensor-related glitch, but it's a consistent one, and it happens with the AT&T and Verizon models as well as with the international version of the device.

The G2 has a micro-SIM card drawer — accessible via a special pin tool — on its upper-left edge. The bottom edge of the phone, meanwhile, holds a 3.5mm headphone jack and a micro-USB port that doubles as an HDMI-out port with the use of a Slimport adapter. Miracast-based HDMI streaming is supported as well.

In addition to the headphone jack and charging port, the phone's bottom edge is home to a pair of speaker grilles that deliver respectably decent audio quality for a phone (except for the Verizon version, which mysteriously has only one speaker grille and sounds slightly worse as a result). Their placement allows sound to remain clear and unmuffled even when the phone is sitting flat on a surface.

Much ado about buttons
The G2's main Android navigation buttons are virtual and appear on the display itself when needed. While this setup generally provides a better user experience than the dated physical-button alternative some manufacturers continue to use, LG has made the vexing decision to alter the standard Android button arrangement and replace the app-switching key (introduced with Android 4.x) with the long-deprecated Menu key.

This causes functions that would typically appear in plain sight to be hidden within the Menu key, with no visual cues; it also forces you to long-press the Home key and wait an extra second to get to Android's app-switching tool.

LG does provide a way for you to customize the virtual button setup but, oddly enough, there's no option to remove the Menu button and replace it with an app-switching key. Instead, you can rearrange or re-theme the buttons and add in quick-keys to open the notification panel or the phone's QuickMemo function. (More on that in a bit.)

The buttons also exhibit a strange behavior in which they use a transparent background until you open an app, at which point they randomly switch to a bright white background. I found this sudden contrast to be distracting and visually unpleasant, particularly when using an app that's darker by nature.

Under the hood
The G2 has plenty of horsepower under its hood: a 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor along with 2GB of RAM. It's no surprise, then, that the phone is fast — really fast.

 

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