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LG G3: Great battery life, wonderful features, and no more software bloat

Florence Ion | June 13, 2014
When it comes to Android smartphone mindshare, Samsung gets all the attention, while HTC plays mop up. But way out in left field sits the oft-forgotten LG, a company that continues to make great phones. Add the new flagship G3 to LG's strong legacy--it has to be seriously considered by anyone looking for a feature-filled smartphone. This is a phone with smart industrial design and stellar battery life, and LG has eliminated much of its software bloat.

The G3's biggest hardware folly is its single speaker. Music strains and struggles to blast through the slit on the back of the phone. And even the gentle whispers of NPR sounded disappointing while streaming over Wi-Fi.

LG has severely paired down its camera interface to only the most basic features; the phone automatically adjusts for every photo-taking situation, so that you can worry about snapping photos without futzing around with buttons, switches and toggles. In terms of camera resolution, the 13-megapixel G3 falls closer to the 16-megapixel Galaxy S5 than the 4-megapixel HTC One (M8). While you don't need 16 megapixels to take good smartphone photos, the HTC One (M8) taught us that we do need more than four megapixels.

The G3 takes impressive low-light photos with particularly strong white balance performance. Photos shot with ample lighting came out crisp and clear, and the G3's focusing abilities are impressive.

I wasn't a fan of the bubbly, skeuomorphic icons LG used in the G2 interface, or the numerous rows of annoying things that crowded up the Notifications panel. The G3's remodeled interface is a welcome refresh, and it kind of resembles some of the popular themes floating around the Google Play store.

LG has dramatically scaled back its bundled extras, though there are still some speckled throughout the interface. For instance, the QSlide apps are still accessible in the Notifications panel (though they're hidden behind their own designated button), and there's also the QRemote application for compatible entertainment systems. LG also included its own Health app, which counts your steps, tracks your running routes, and calculates your daily calorie burn.

Finally, we come to LG's KnockOn feature, which does actually work. This convenient addition (first introduced in the G2) lets you double-tap the screen to wake it up and put it back to sleep. You can also use the Knock Code (introduced later in the G Pro 2) feature to unlock the phone by tapping out a pattern without turning on the screen. Knock Code is great, and I prefer it to unlocking the phone with a swipe-across fingerprint scanner, like on the Galaxy S5. It's simply not as tedious. It also works for securing content, like photos and videos. But like all lockscreen passwords, make sure to adjust the settings to give yourself some time between screen unlocks.

The bottom line

In a direct comparison of the Galaxy S5 and the G3, the LG phone wins, if only by the slimmest of margins. It's a fantastic piece of hardware chock full of features that should be standard for any flagship: a default keyboard you don't immediately feel like swapping out; an extremely capable camera; long-lasting battery life; and an interface that doesn't deviate too far from what Google intended. The G3 is also mostly free of extraneous software and hardware features that no one really asked for in the first place. And the few issues it does suffer aren't critical deal-breakers. The G3 is simply one of the best phones to debut this year.


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