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LG G3 deep-dive review: A phone with great specs, but real-world issues

JR Raphael | July 31, 2014
The LG G3 Android smartphone has some impressive features, but during real-world use, problems can emerge.

The software

The G3 runs custom LG software based on Google's Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system. LG has not yet made any promises as to if or when it'll upgrade the phone to this fall's upcoming Android "L" release. Given how significant of an upgrade that release is expected to be and how poor of a track record LG has when it comes to upgrade delivery, that's certainly something to keep in mind.

The LG G3's software is an improvement from the past, but it still packs too many overlapping elements into the device.

Visually speaking, the G3's software is a definite improvement from what LG has created in the past, with a flatter and more subdued design. It's more palatable than Samsung's take on Android but significantly less user-friendly than Google's stock configuration or HTC's Sense UI.

The real problem with the G3's software is that LG just tries to do way too much. Features and options are great when they exist for a reason. But there's a limit -- when you pack too many overlapping and unnecessary elements into a device, it starts to hurt the user experience (not to mention the system's performance, as I alluded to earlier).

Case in point: The G3 has three -- yes, three -- built-in methods of multitasking: You can press the on-screen Recent Apps key to jump to any recently opened app (and within that screen, you can choose from three different methods of viewing the icons); you can use LG's Dual Window mode to open a limited selection of apps in split windows on the screen; or you can use LG's QSlide feature to open a limited selection of apps in movable windows on top of other content.

The phone's notification panel, meanwhile, is cluttered up with half a screen's worth of links, sliders and settings -- including two near-identical wrench icons that take you to different places.

And instead of just opening Android's excellent Google Now intelligent assistant, as it does on most phones, swiping up from the G3's Home button presents you with three choices: Voice Mate, an embarrassingly inferior replica of Android's native Voice Search functionality (which is also present on the device); QuickMemo+ (a note-taking app); and Google Now.

Instead of just offering Google Now, the LG G3 gives you three "swipe-up" choices.

LG is even trying to create its own version of Google Now with something it calls Smart Notice. The system promises to act as a personal assistant and deliver contextual cards to your home screen. In my time with the phone, it's provided tips about using the phone, info about the day's weather and notices about missed calls. LG says it can also provide info like birthday notifications and memo reminders. Why anyone would need that when the vastly superior Google Now is also on the system is beyond me.


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