LG G2 review
Android 4.2.2, 5.2in 1,920x1,080 display
It's been a long time since we last saw a high-end LG phone. Even the top-end models we encountered at this year's MWC show, such as the LG Optimus G Pro, never made it to the UK. LG has pulled out all the stops with its latest top-end handset, though; the LG G2 is a huge 5.2-inch Full HD phone with a powerful quad-core 2.2GHz processor. It might now have been superceded by the LG G3, but last year's model is still a seriously powerful handset with incredible battery life.
LG has done an excellent job of hiding the G2's bulk. A slim screen bezel all round means the handset is both shorter and narrower than 5in phones such as the Sony Xperia Z1. It's also remarkably comfortable to hold; the phone's rounded edges and gently tapered back mean it sits well in your hand, and never feels overly large when you're making a phone call. Android smartphones are growing ever bigger, and now that Apple has followed suit with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, compact flagship phones like the G2 are looking increasingly rare. Even if you have small hands, the G2 is physically small enough to use without stretching - despite the large screen.
There's one part of the G2's design that goes against the grain. There are no buttons around the edge - instead, the volume and screen lock buttons sit on the back. We're not convinced this works. The volume buttons sit within easy reach of your index finger, but we found the lock button hard to locate, and often ended up changing the phone's volume instead of locking or unlocking the display. You can also unlock and lock the phone with a double-tap of your finger on the screen, which we found worked well most of the time. After a week with the phone we struggled to go back to using a button - tapping the screen just feels more natural. We still missed having a lock button on the side or top of the phone, though.
Since launch the LG G2 has received an update from Android 4.2 to Android 4.4.2. This brings with it a host of new features: an improved user interface, with a full screen immersive mode when you're enjoying films or an eBook; improved cloud printing, so you can pretty much print from any app, a speed boost in browsing thanks to the Chromium engine, and much more. We're still waiting for LG to confirm which of its handsets will be getting the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop update, but considering the phone is only slightly more than a year old, we would be surprised if the company neglected to release an update eventually. For the time being, existing owners and anyone looking to pick up a G2 today will have to make do with KitKat until we hear otherwise.
The basic structure of LG's software follows that of stock Android, with the app tray split between apps and widgets. However, there are several subtle and not-so-subtle customisations, which are thoughtfully done. As with most Android phones, you can rearrange the icons in the shortcut tray at the bottom of the homescreen, but on the G2 you can also move the icon that opens the main app tray. This is a small change, but a big help if you're coming from another manufacturer's handset; Sony, for example, puts this commonly-pressed icon in the middle, while Samsung insists on placing it to the right of the shortcut tray. There's room for a sixth shortcut icon here too, which could save you frequent trips into the app drawer. You can also choose from a number of options for the soft keys at the very bottom of the display, meaning you can move the back key from the left to the right to suit the position you're used to.
The app drawer itself is completely customisable, letting you change the wallpaper independently from the home screen and arrange apps to your own preference, rather than being forced to keep them in alphabetical order. You have the choice between small and large icons, fitting either 20 or 25 apps per page depending on whether you prefer to keep things compact or struggle to see icons at their default size. Finally, you can hide apps from the drawer altogether, without actually uninstalling them; this is perfect for those annoying stock apps you don't use often like Google Settings, which would otherwise clutter up your screen. We would normally expect to have to install a third-party launcher to get this level of customisation, so it's great to see LG providing it out of the box.
The pull-down notification tray is also heavily modified. As well as the normal Android notifications, you have brightness and volume sliders, and access to Quick Memo, which lets you scribble on the screen and save the note for later. This is also where you can run QSlide apps. These are apps which run hovering on the screen, so you can have a calendar up next to a messaging app, or your email next to a calculator. It's a good system which is slightly more flexible than Samsung's model, which insists that apps are always side by side and you can't move them around. However, the effect is spoiled when the huge keyboard pops up; with the keyboard taking up half the screen, we found it almost impossible to type a message while looking at the calendar.
The default keyboard is pretty overwhelming at first due to the sheer number of icons scattered around. We liked having a dedicated number row, but there's a shortcut key to a bewildering array of emoticons and cute little graphics to put into multimedia messages, and we feel the input language icon could easily have been relegated to a menu option. We liked the multifunction punctuation keys at the bottom-right, which you can hold down to bring up a selection of commonly-used marks such as slashes, colons and parentheses, but we'd prefer these to default back to the commonly-used full stop and comma rather than remain on the last type of punctuation used.