LG tries desperately to stand out with the over-sized G2 smartphone

A massive screen and a new design for the necessary buttons differentiate the LG G2 smartphone, but is that enough?

The G2 introduced today by LG today is a testament to how hard it is to differentiate a premium flagship smartphone amongst its competitors.

First impression - the G2 has a lot to like, but is not really significantly different. Standout features are the ergonomics, brilliant display and the fastest Qualcomm Snapdragon quadcore processor. LG has also made a few interesting user-interface improvements to stock Android.

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LG explained that its research has shown that the visual user experience (UX) is optimized without losing one-handed operation, with its 5”x2.8”x0.35” dimensions. The HD 1920x1080p 424 ppi screen is an almost edge-to-edge display, leaving only a small, quarter-inch bezel at the top and bottom, and less than an eighth of an inch on each side. The intent is to create a phablet-like visual UX without losing a comfortable fit in the user’s hand or pocket.

The chart below presented by LG raised a concern that this might be a smartphone designed for a man’s larger hand. Using an unscientific sampling of three women, I asked them if the phone was too big for their smaller hands. None complained that the G2 was oversized.

The very bright and clear large display uses IPS technology that optimizes the accurate representation of color in addition to high resolution. It is a product of LG’s flat panel television expertise. IPS technology also conserves power.

The G2's designers were the first to experiment with a new physical layout, moving the lock button and volume controls to the back of the phone. Reaching side-mounted controls can be awkward with a large smartphone. This rear positioning is comfortable, allowing both controls to be manipulated with an index or middle finger while the smartphone is held in a safe grip.

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An intuitive tweak to the UI is a feature called “Answer Me.” A G2 call is automatically answered and the ringtone lowered when the phone is raised to one’s ear. It’s analogous to the way people answered corded phones - pick up the receiver and speak. Given that sometimes one wants to avoid certain calls or callers, the G2 display can be turned on by tapping twice on the screen, so one can identify the calls they don’t want to answer without accidently picking up.

For the time being, in the arms race of premium smartphones, the LG G2 processor leads the competition, including the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One, and the MotoX . It has the fastest quadcore 2.26 Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, as reported by CNET. To power that processor, the G2 has a beefy 3,000mAh battery, also besting the competition.

The G2 has a feature-rich still-image and video camera with a 13-Megapixel CCD using optical image stabilization (OIS.) An interesting video application of OIS is the video recording that can automatically focus. The user can also choose to center one subject in the image as the focus of the video recording. A similar feature allows the audio from one part of the video to be directionally enhanced, so audio from one source in the video can be heard over competing audio sources.

Many more features were announced, including high-resolution FLAC music media. Some of the features, like the display, are certain to catch the attention of consumers. Others, like the rearranged lock and volume controls, are worthwhile experiments that could prove to be a better design than traditional smartphones boast. But other features will have smaller appreciative audiences, and may have been mentioned in a shotgun effort to differentiate the G2 from all the other black-slab Android smartphones.

There is much to “like” about the G2, but it will be hard to know what consumers will “love” until it ships. No price was announced and the battery life was not disclosed.

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