LG has been working hard to increase its presence in the European smartphone market, releasing a steady stream of innovative handsets that challenge existing technology and design conceptions.
This started in 2013 when LG released its G2 smartphone. Featuring top-end internal specifications and a clever design that placed the handset's power and volume controls on the rear, the G2 was one of 2013's most interesting phones.
The LG G3 follows on from this and aims to refine the user experience debuted on the G2 by adding a number of new technologies that on paper make it one of 2014's highest specced handsets.
Design and build
It's no secret that we here at V3 are big fans of metal smartphones. As we've noted time and time again when testing handsets like the HTC One M8 or Apple iPhone 5S, the use of metal not only makes phones more robust, it makes them feel better quality. As a result we're delighted LG's chosen to redesign the G3 and build its chassis out of metal, as opposed to polycarbonate.
During our hands-on the G3 felt significantly better built than its predecessor, the G2. We were also impressed with the G3's ergonomic curved design which meant that, despite measuring 146x75x8.9mm and weighing 149g, the phone fits neatly into the contours of your hand and never feels unwieldy.
This was helped by the G3's intelligent button placement. The G3 features the same button configuration as on the G2, which places its power and volume buttons on the top of the phone's back. While the placement takes a little time to get used to, as past smartphone designs mean most users will intuitively look for the volume and power buttons along the phone's sides, we found the G3's layout superior and quicker and easier to use one handed.
Smartphone makers in the past might have claimed that the human eye can't discern the difference between resolutions past the 300ppi mark. But LG has moved to quash this claim with the G3, loading the device with a Quad HD, 2560x1440, 538ppi IPS capacitive touchscreen which it said will offer noticeably improved display quality over competing handsets.
LG claims to have increased the G3's screen's pixel per inch count past the 500 mark by reducing the size of displayed pixels by 40 percent, making it the crispest and most vibrant currently available.
Testing the G3's display at the launch event's brightly lit showroom floor, we found that, while colours weren't quite as vibrant as those on competing Super Amoled displays like the Galaxy S5's, the G3's screen is very impressive. Icons and text were sharp and the brightness levels were dazzling.
Operating system and software
The G3 runs Google's Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system overlaid with LG's custom Graphical User Interface.
Normally we're not big fans of custom skins as the majority either make needless, or detrimental, changes to Android's native UI. LG claims its GUI is designed to do the exact opposite of this and will actually improve Android's native user interface by doing things like using "simpler, cleaner typefaces" and adjusting the menus and settings layouts to reduce clutter.
Testing the G3 we found the custom UI significantly cleaner than some of the skins we've seen, like Huawei Emotion and Samsung Touchwiz, but not significantly better than the vanilla Android version. We also noticed that the G3 comes with a number of bloatware applications, although being fair to LG we were using a Korean demo unit so couldn't tell what many of them were meant to do.
Android's security has been a constant problem hampering business interest in the platform, as the OS' open nature makes it easy for criminals to flood the ecosystem with things like trojanised applications.
Aware of this, LG has worked hard to roll out a number of security services onto the G3. The three most important of these are the G3's Knock Code, Content Lock and Killswitch security services for Android.
Knock Code is an anti-theft feature that unlocks the phone only when the owner taps a certain sequence into the screen. Content Lock lets users encrypt files stored on the G3 and set them to not appear until the phone is connected to a computer, while Killswitch can remotely wipe, lock and disable the G3 should it be lost or stolen.
On paper the combination of security features means that the G3 should be a safer option than most Android smartphones. However, the demo unit we tested had the features disabled and we didn't get a chance to test them during our hands-on.
Despite rumours that the G3 would come loaded with Qualcomm's next-generation Snapdragon 805 chip, the phone uses a 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor with 2GB of RAM. On paper this puts the G3 on a par with other 2014 flagships, like the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5, which feature identical specifications.
While we're slightly disappointed that the rumours of a newer chip were unfounded, the use of the Snapdragon 801 chip is no bad thing. As we found on past Snapdragon 801 handsets, the G3 was very quick and dealt with all our opening tests hassle free.
During our hands-on the G3 opened applications in seconds and smoothly transitioned between menu screens. Sadly we didn't get a chance to properly benchmark the G3 or see how it dealt with more demanding tasks, like 3D gaming, but will be sure to do so for our full review.
The G3 comes with a 13MP, 4160x3120 rear camera with dual-LED (dual tone) flash, Optical Image Stabilizer Plus and Laser Autofocus and a 2.1MP, 1080p front camera.
LG made a big deal about the G3's Laser Auto Focus technology, claiming that the G3's camera focuses images in 0.276 seconds. While we didn't get a chance to accurately check LG's time claims, we were very impressed with the G3's camera. Snapping images on the showroom floor, the rear camera focused on our intended subject and captured images close to instantly.
Image quality was fairly impressive and photos shot on the G3 featured decent contrast and brightness levels and looked suitably crisp when viewed on the phone's screen. We'll be interested to see if the image quality remains as good when we blow the images up on bigger displays.
Image quality wasn't stellar when taking a few shots on the G3's front camera, but it was more than good enough for video calling.
Battery and storage
The G3 is one of a select few smartphones to come with wireless charging support so, if you're willing to shell out some extra money for a wireless charging plate, it should be quick and easy to sporadically charge the handset's 3,000mAh battery throughout the day.
The UK version of the G3 will come with just 16GB of internal storage. Luckily users will be able to add a further 128GB using the G3's microSD card slot, meaning they shouldn't have to worry about running out of space.
Overall, our opening impressions of the LG G3 are very positive. Featuring the same intelligent button placement as the G2, but with a redesigned metal chassis that feels sturdier and more top-end than its predecessor's, the G3 is one of the best looking smartphones this year. Add to this its wealth of components, like the Quad HD display, and what appears to be above average rear camera, and we can definitely see the G3 being a contender for phone of the year.
Hopefully the G3 will make good on its opening promise when it is released in the UK in July. However, a big part of its ability to do this will depend on one key factor that LG's keeping quiet about: its price.
Check back with V3 later for a full review of the LG G3.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
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