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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?

I found the feature actually worked fairly well, so long as the targeted sound was loud enough and the background noise wasn't overwhelming. It's the kind of thing that may be more novel than practical for most people, but one could certainly imagine circumstances where it could come in handy.

The software
The G2 runs custom LG software based on Google's Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean operating system. (LG has not said if or when the phone might be upgraded to the more current Android 4.3 release or the upcoming Android 4.4 KitKat OS.) While LG's take on Android is more consistent and less confusing than some other manufacturers' versions of the software, the company does make its share of arbitrary changes that serve only to add clutter and dilute the user experience.

The prime example is the G2's notification panel: LG has packed so much junk in there that you can barely even call it a notification panel. The top two-thirds of the pull-down are filled with a menagerie of toggles and settings, leaving barely any room for your actual notifications to appear. You can disable a couple of the elements in the panel but, at best, you're still looking at roughly half the screen being taken up by stuff you probably won't need on a regular basis.

What's most vexing about that is the fact that Google's stock Android 4.2 setup includes a Quick Settings area that's designed to hold commonly used toggles and links without overwhelming the main notification panel. (On a stock Android 4.2 phone, you'd access the Quick Settings area either by swiping down with two fingers or by tapping a special icon in the main notification panel.) For some reason, LG did away with this feature and crammed everything under the sun into one overwhelmed panel instead.

Density aside, the design of the G2's notification panel is just a confusing mess. The link to the system settings — a wrench icon alongside the date — sits almost directly beneath an identical but larger wrench icon that takes you to a pop-up for volume settings. Even after using the device for days, I continued to tap the wrong icon by mistake.

(The Verizon version of the phone, interestingly enough, has an altered notification panel that cleans up much of the clutter and simplifies things significantly. Once again, it's the only model of the phone that veers from the base blueprint in this way.)

Among the numerous arbitrary UI changes, LG did add some nice functionality into the core software — functionality that brings to mind the flexibility you get with a custom Android launcher like Nova or Apex. You can do things like expand the Favorites Tray (the dock of icons at the bottom of the screen), choose from a variety of home screen transition effects and easily change the icons for apps on your home screen.

 

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