While the enthusiast segment is no stranger to LG smartphones, for the most part LG hasn’t received nearly the amount of attention that Samsung has. At first, it doesn’t make much sense. After all, LG is almost as big as Samsung. Both are chaebols, with enormous resources and power that few other companies have. Starting from the Optimus G, it seems that LG has shipped some of the best hardware in the industry, leveraging all the branches of the company from LG Innotek to LG Display to make a product that was easily equal to or better than the competition at the time.

One of the real issues that LG faced was a credibility gap. After the Optimus 2X and 4X HD, LG simply lacked credibility amongst the enthusiast audience. Without this audience and without the marketing push that other OEMs had, LG phones simply didn’t sell. Fortunately, things have gotten better since those days. The G2 brought significant attention to LG phones, and if anything, LG has been the sleeping giant in the industry. LG’s displays have been some of the best in the industry, and as an Android OEM they’ve consistently executed well on hardware. The immense popularity of the LG-made Nexus 4 and 5, even amongst mainstream consumers is surprising, especially because they were supposed to be developer devices.

Hardware

This leads us to the LG G3, which is now available in Korea and ready to be sold internationally. LG now faces the difficult task of succeeding the G2, one of the best phones of 2013. To find out whether they’ve made a worthy successor, we start with industrial and material design. When you first pick up the G3, it’s obvious that LG wanted to make a phone with the look and feel of brushed aluminum. To this end, LG has definitely done a good job. Although the polycarbonate back feels much warmer in the hand, the texture is good, and in practice even after extended use I never felt like the phone was grimy. It’s good to see that most of these OEMs are moving away from glossy finishes. The back cover is also removable, which allows for a removable battery and microSD slot. The front of the display is almost unchanged from last year, with extremely small bezels all around to reduce wasted space. The one change to the front of the phone is a band of color around the bottom that matches the color of the back.

Around the sides, the port layout remains nearly identical. The top has the IR Tx/Rx ports, the bottom has the 3.5mm jack and a microUSB port in the USB 2.0 shape. LG has also added a beveled edge from the display to the sides, which emphasizes the curved nature of the back. On the back of the phone, one can see the camera with the IR rangefinder and LED flash to the sides. The volume and power buttons are directly below the camera. The volume rocker is relatively flat compared to the protruding power button, which also has a noticeably different texture to distinguish the two from each other. The single, 1W speaker is towards the bottom.

Outside of these basic button and port placements, the hardware itself is high-end. The key differentiation points in this case are the camera system, QHD display, and the high-power speaker. I’ve put the rest of the basic specs in the table below.

  LG G3
SoC MSM8974AC 2.45 GHz Snapdragon 801
RAM/NAND 3 GB LPDDR3, 32GB NAND + microSD
Display 5.5” 1440p IPS LCD
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE)
Dimensions 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm, 149 grams
Camera 13MP rear camera, 1.12 µm pixels, 1/3.06" CMOS size, F/2.4. 2.1MP F/2.0 FFC
Battery 3000 mAh (11.4 Whr)
OS Android 4.4.2 with LG UI
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, MHL, DLNA, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM

While the spec sheet gives an idea of what to expect from the G3’s size, it’s surprisingly small for a 5.5” display size device. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make the G3 easy to use with one hand. While using the One (M8) and Galaxy S5 with one hand is uncomfortable, the G3 is almost impossible to use with one hand. Trying to tap something on the left side of the phone when using it with the right hand is difficult, and trying to reach for something on the top left of the display is almost impossible. While the division between phone and phablet is relatively clear in my mind, the G3 is in the line between both. I don’t object to the phablet formfactor, but this is supposed to be a phone, not a phablet. In addition, because the G3 has such thin bezels, it's very easy to accidentally activate the touch panel unintentionally while trying to stretch for one area of the display.

Other than the size, I definitely like what LG has done here. The design of the phone is understated and classy, even if it’s a bit off-putting that LG is trying to make plastic feel like metal. The back buttons are a non-issue, even without KnockOn/Off and KnockCode, and the curved back is great for ergonomics. However, I question the wisdom of moving to a removable battery/back cover in this case, as it means that there’s no stacked battery that we saw in the LG G2 and reduces volumetric efficiency. LG has included a curved battery in the G3, although in practice the curve isn't as aggressive as the one we've seen on the G2.

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  • SleepyFE - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    I was holding it down for a minute. Nothing happened. And now in the newer Android holding down the power button opens pop up. The pop up is useful, but it does not turn the phone off. Reply
  • devione - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    My Sony Xperia Z1 Compact (and probably most in the Xperia line) hard resets when you hold volume down and power at the same time for a few seconds. It has yet to fail me and resets every time I've used it.

    Without mentioning your mobile phone model, which probably has a similar hard reset mechanism, you're probably just being disingenuous.

    Do you complain about not being able to hard reset sealed laptops or tablets too?
    Reply
  • SleepyFE - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    I don't use or plan to use tablets. My laptop has a removable battery. The hard reset that you mention is a factory reset. At least it was on the LG L5. My old phone was the LG Swift. Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    Sony uses different combos than LG. Reply
  • flutberf - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    Does your Z1c freeze often? I've never had my Z1s freeze. In fact, I haven't had a random reboot or freeze since my Galaxy Nexus. Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Saturday, July 05, 2014 - link

    I've had it happen on my Z once, never on the Z1 or Z2.

    Then again, I seem to have amazing luck and miss almost all bugs...
    Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Saturday, July 05, 2014 - link

    I have had my Galaxy S3 freeze or restart on me at times. Mostly because I was not running stock software I think. Reply
  • fimurca - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    Hold power button and volume down at the same time for several seconds. Internal battery is a non issue. I've had it lock up before. Power and down volume always works. Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    My Z1 (to be sold) and Z2 have a hard power-off switch near the SIM tray (or you can pull the SIM card out, that reboots the phone too). My Z before both (now my dad's) had a hard-poweroff if you held down the power button for some time (not sure if 4s or 10s), like most current PCs. Phone freezes are a non-excuse for people who want removable batteries. Reply
  • SleepyFE - Friday, July 04, 2014 - link

    An Android phone works without SIM, so why does pulling it out reset it? Does the flight mode reset it as well?
    And you can't tell me that's a non-excuse. If you pay 200€ for a phone and you can't use it after a freeze. I would be very pissed off. A power off switch under the cover that physically cuts power would be the best way to go, but no review ever mentioned that, as far as i know.
    Reply

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