Review – Sprint LG Optimus G

 

LG known is well known for making high-end phones and was recently tapped to manufacture Google’s latest Nexus 4 phone. The “halo device” in LG’s Android lineup is Sprint‘s version of the LG Optimus G . This flagship phone features many new technologies as any halo device should. The display is a 4.7 inch True HD IPS+ Display with a Stripe RGB IPS Panel that utilizes in-cell touch technology which makes for an overall thinner screen as the world’s first Zerogap Touch, the thickness of the screen panel is reduced by 30% compared to the previous screen technology and the screen graphics appear to float under your fingertips.

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So when the display is turned off- the bezel and the body blend to seamlessly match with the screen. When the display is on, the combined display sports an amazing high pixel density of 320ppi and a1280x768 resolution in a 15:9 aspect ratio that has extreme brightness at 470 nits while providing a 70 percent reduction in power consumption when compared to AMOLED based displays. The combination of these technologies also doesn’t suffer from screen burn-in as AMOLED based displays have been known to do. The screen is coated in the popular Gorilla Glass 2 coating by Corning not only on the on the front but also on the back.

LG also paired the phone with high capacity 2100mAh battery that utilizes LG Chem’s high-density technology that runs 60% more efficient with a lifespan of 800 cycles compared to the normal 500 cycles of batteries found in current phones. This is a first for a mobile device.

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The phone is powered by Qualcomm’s latest quad-core 1.5GHz  Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 sporting 4 Krait core processors and an Adreno 320 GPU that integrates power savings (via Eco mode found in Quad core control under settings) along with performance along with some A/V components to accelerate video decoding and improve picture quality and can also be found in some set-top boxes and smart TV sets. The chipset also integrates a quad-combo of connectivity solutions — WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth and near field communication (NFC).

Paired with 2GB of internal system memory and 32GB for online storage the Optimus G has enough storage for your apps and content. LG also offers 50GB of offline could storage with Box. So there is enough storage on and off the device making up for the lack of a user accessible microSD slot, (but we still would have liked to see one for future expandability). The cameras included with the LG Optimus G also don’t fail to impress with a 1.3MP front facing camera and a zero lag 13MP rear facing camera with LED flash capable of taking flawless pictures and 1080P full HD video. At the time of this review the phone was running Android ICS 4.04 with an Android Jellybean 4.1/4.2 update slated to arrive in 2013 according to LG.

 

Unboxing the LG Optimus G

 

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In Sprint and LG’s effort to reduce it’s carbon footprint, the box is made of 100% recyclable products with a glueless construction to save additional resources.

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The packaging was printed with soy inks with up to 87% post consumer paper. The LG Optimus G may not have received Jelly Bean just yet, but it did get certified as Carbon-Free from the Carbonfund ,which in my book is huge as a large company, moving forward to being an environmentally responsible business (unlike some of largest sellers of phones and electronics).

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The box while not premium glossy like many other consumer electronic devices is still pleasing to look at with the main details of the phone clearly written on the outside of the box. The picture of the LG Optimus G wraps around the box the right side of the box given it some visual appeal.

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Opening the box the LG Optimus G’s large 4.7 inch screen is clearly evident with the phone stretching to the edges of the box taking up the majority of the box with a very small margin for packing materials. The LG Optimus G is covered with a Location Privacy decal as well as Focus on Driving two safety initiatives Sprint endorses with their products.

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Pulling up on the tab removes the phone in its cardboard tray and reveals a pair of LG Tag+ programmable NFC tags in a static proof bag. I asked LG if the LG Tag+ were available for further purchase, but they had no information at this time on pricing and availability. However other NFC tags work just fine following the NFC standard. I have seen a three pack demoed by LG that featured one for the home mode, office mode, and car mode, but haven’t seen them outside of that demo.

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Underneath that is the documentation for the phone held together with a recyclable brown paper band – A Getting Started Guide in both English and Español as well as safety and terms of service booklet. Underneath that area is a prepaid cell phone recycling envelope for recycling your old phone (in case you don’t want to pass it off to a family member or put up for sale online).

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The included accessories are a micro USB data cable and a 5V 1.2 Amp AC Travel adapter for quickly charging your device. (Note if you use another charger like say a standard automobile charger that doesn’t supply 1.2A you will charge in low power mode). Like most new phones manufacturers are not included combo ear bud headphones and microphones, which is a shame. While the quality of these headsets are not the best it is still better than nothing especially when these phones are supposed to be premium headsets.

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As mentioned the phone is not only covered in a front facing protective wrap, but also has one on the back as well as the top and bottom, which have a stronger adhesive as compared to the static cling.

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The back is gorgeous, sporting a really cool glossy finish called Crystal Reflection. If angled in the light properly you can see a very cool reflective mosaic pattern small tiny crystals.

Both the screen and finish appear to be finger print magnets and I found myself wiping the device down after each use. The Optimus G could benefit from a slip case to mitigate this, but the Gorilla Glass 2 coating has stood up for 2 months of use with no scratches, dings or dents.

Ding

The only  sign of use was a small ding in the silver bezel on the front of the phone, which I don’t know how it got there unless it was from my daughter’s use as her go to Snapchat and Instagram device due to the great cameras on the LG Optimus G.

 

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Looking the phone over you will notice the Optimus LG is totally devoid of any carrier branding, which I think is a first for Sprint and gives the phone IMHO some panache. On the front lies the front facing camera on the right of the earpiece and the phone’s sensors are located to the left , with an LG logo beneath the earpiece and backlit capacitive buttons along the bottom. The Optimus G sports similar Android buttons, but in a different order than we are used to with the home button in the center instead of the left , the back button on the left instead of the right and a menu button on the right which is usually found on the left. It takes some getting used to, but it doesn’t take long. When asked why LG stated that modern phones are moving towards minimalist buttons.

 

lg right

Right side: Power/Lock button

 

lg left

Left side: is the volume rocker

 

lg top

Top: headphone/microphone jack and a secondary microphone to help filter background noise by providing differential input, which subtracts out any extraneous noise. There is a nice chamfer cut on the top that makes the phone feel good in the hand – smaller and easier to handle. Those small attention detail makes a big deal with the user’s connection to the device.

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Bottom : micro-USB port / MHL connector  along with two torx screws (if you wish to take it apart.) Using an MHL to HDMI dongle you can view video out on a large screen device, but LG didn’t include one in the box and my local Sprint stores didn’t have one either. The dongle is like a pig tail still needing a micro USB for power and HDMI to your television. I did try using a Samsung USB On-The-Go adapter with the LG Optimus G, but the phone wouldn’t recognized any of the connections to a USB thumb drive, keyboard or mouse as the Samsung Galaxy S III did.

lg back

Back: 13MP camera with single LED flash. We found that the bezel around the camera mechanism sticks out so much, that when the phone is placed down on a surface facing up it rocks/teeters back and forth on the silver bezel and doesn’t lay flat-akin to a table with a bent or loose leg. The model number on the back is LGLS970.

 

Using the LG Optimus G

Powering on the device you are welcomed by the standard LG and Sprint animations and the phone settles on the lock screen and a quick swipe you are on home screen.

 Home Screen Home

Here you can see how brilliant the display is. Next to it to the left is a screen capture taken a bit earlier while turning it on and before adding a location for the Yahoo! weather widget.

Lockscreen benchmark

The lock screen bubble (which does a transparent bubble distortion of the page beneath the lock screen that moves rather fluidity across the lock screen) really demonstrates the smoothness of the Qualcomm  Snapdragon S4 Pro processor paired with the latest gen of Adrino GPUs as well as how smooth and quickly the screens transitions through the phones UI. Quick benchmark tests show that this phone is performing at near PC standards is quite impressive. Running applications seem a bit quicker, but most applications have been developed for duo-core processors and don’t really take advantage of the additional 2 cores, so only slight performance can be observed in comparison speed tests.

Activate

To start using the phone on Sprint’s network we had to activate the device. Normally if you go into a store this will be done for you by the sales personnel, but if it is shipped you there are no directions on how to do this. Activating the device is done by going into settings and scrolling down to System and selecting Activate this device.

In the hand

In the hand the phone has a nice smooth feel to it provided by the the Gorilla glass on the back and front of the device sandwiching the phone in a creak free solid feeling device due to its unibody design. The back has a slight bevel to it so it fits well in the hand.  The small metal bezel represents a minimalists feel that makes the device look elegant and classy.

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In the pocket it was a snug fit and like many other large screen phones it can’t be squeezed into smaller front pockets, but seems to fit fine in larger pockets, back pockets and of course bags. It’s thin design helps it fit in most pockets, but its weight at 5.10 oz is significant enough that you will notice it is there – so you can avoid that panic pat down looking if you forgot your phone. :)

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During the first few days of use I noticed that the back of the phone got quite warm towards the top near the LG logo. After about a week of use I didn’t notice it as much. I don’t know what could have caused this either the radio set or using the camera for an extended period of time.

The audio quality from the headphone jack was OK nothing special and nothing lacking producing a very clean output. The same could be said for the built-in speaker. No complaints and no real advances in this aspect of the phone. Call quality was clear as was using the the LG Optimus G in speaker phone mode. Voices on both ends were clear during calls and was devoid of that tinny sound that many phones suffer from. Android does miss some of the features of other mobile headsets with double and triple click functions for media playback control of the mic activation button. Fortunately there are several 3rd party apps that enable this.ClickClickNext and HeadsetButton Controller. When playing back video via the headphone Jack Dolby Mobile will be engaged via the Video Player.

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Video Playback was very good with the built-in player and played every type of format we threw at it with out skipping a beat DivX, Xvid, MP4, AVI, WMV, MKV all the way up to 1080P resolution. The player even supports subtitles. SmartShare DNLA is a hidden feature in the video player (we couldn’t figure how to enable DNLA for audio playback from apps or the built-in Music app) that allows you to play content from your phone directly to your Television or other DNLA enabled device. The LG Optimus was able to do this and allowed me to read my RSS feeds and control my television via apps without skipping or losing a frame. Using SmartShare you can play pause and resume your video as well as control the volume on your television via the SmartShare app. I was pretty impressed with the ability to quickly fast forward and rewind with no lag, that I generally find when streaming video from other network enabled devices. I really like that I could watch a movie on my phone and resume where I left off right on my TV. Playing back some of the built-in recorded video playback had issues with unsupported audio codecs and if the video was recorded in portrait there was no way to change the orientation of the video playback to landscape.

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Bluetooth pairing worked well; connecting and sending pictures,files,etc. via Bluetooth 4.0. Music playback sounded fine via several Bluetooth headphones, Bluetooth speakers, and vehicle sound systems. Pairing and connecting for phone calls worked, but we had difficulty in listening and responding to text messages via Bluetooth via several different automobile infotainment centers and had no issues when doing the same with speakers or headsets.

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Wi-Fi tests performed well. Wi-Fi tethering could not be tested due to the lack of a tethering plan with our review device. Sprint utilizes a cool feature called Connections Optimizer to maximize your data if you are not on a truly unlimited plan that searches for “remembered” Wi-Fi networks and connects via settings on the phone. The LG Optimus also has Wi-Fi Direct for media streaming to Miracast capable devices as well as direct data transfer to devices that use Wi-Fi Direct via SmartShare/FileShare.

Qualcomm ELS

GPS Navigation worked as well as other Android based phones we have tested thanks to Google Maps. We also ran Navigon and TomTom without any issues. Qualcomm even includes an app called Qualcomm Enhanced Location Service that has been around quite some time in other phones that utilizes IZat, which uses Qualcomm Atheros’s location technology which helps your device determine its location and conserve battery power when you use location-based apps by creating reference points from GPS, aGPS, Glonass, WiFi, and Cellular towers to better pinpoint your location, which works well inside of buildings where GPS can’t normally reach.

Car Home

Placing a magnet on the back (near the LG logo) launches the Car Home utilities for easy use in a vehicle. Hopefully LG or a third party will make a car mount for this.

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NFC is a pretty nascent feature in that its full potential can’t be reached due to the lack of integration with apps and more importantly Google Wallet, which which won’t install from the Google Play Store, which seems it is blocked by Sprint or LG. :( You do get 2 LG Tag+ NFC tags to program and set up some interesting scenarios to share contacts, urls, text messages, calendar events, request a call, or even launch apps.

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I had set up the two included NFC tags to activate a series of events in my home when I got home as well as one for work. Very cool technology!

 

Preinstalled storage Running stop apps

The LG Optimus G comes with several preinstalled apps and widgets where 298MB of memory are used and 25GB are available for storage. Above are some of the screen shots of installed apps that could be removed to free up space if needed.The internal memory has 1.2GB free and 596MB used out of the claimed 2GB. This of course can be freed up as well, by shutting down and uninstalling unneeded apps if necessary

Needless to say all apps ran with out a hitch and speedily thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro. Gaming on the phone is a complete pleasure.

 

LG Optimus G Camera

The 13MP camera takes pretty amazing shots with a maximum resolution of  4208 X 3120. The camera controls are similar to other smartphones where touching on the shutter button takes the picture, pinch and zoom will zoom in and out of the picture frame and the same can be done via the volume controls button on the side of the phone. There are some cool features like capturing photos from video, standard Android special effects, etc. which makes using this fantastic camera fun.

There are several different modes available :

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  • Time Catch Shot: Capture images even before pressing the shutter button, which it does by recording a video and selecting different frames from that video. You then choose which picture you wish to keep.
  • Cheese Shutter: Say cheese to capture images without pressing the shutter button. There several words to choose from to activate this mode – Cheese, Smile, Whisky, Kimchi, and LG. Any words that some syllabically similar to the chosen word will trigger the shutter to take the picture as well like Macaroni, Please,etc.
  • Smart Shutter: Automatically adjusts for subject movement for clearer images and takes the picture as soon as you press
  • Live Shot: Snap a still photo while simultaneously shooting HD video.

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When using the digital zoom some resolution is lost, but it still made pretty decent photographs in tricky light generally requiring a low F-stop lens you can see the bird on the wire a bit more.

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Here is an example of using the autofocus and tap to focus to take a picture. Indoor shots were pretty good as well when looked at on the phone, but when looked on a large monitor the image looked like it could use some post filtering and even using a simple app enhanced the photos taken.

    We did however find problems with autofocus system where focus hunting took a while unless you choose to use touch to focus and take your picture very quickly. The issue wasn’t as prominent in outdoor lighting as in indoors. I found the camera UI very customizable- very similar to that found on the Samsung Galaxy SIII. The low light performance is actually slightly better than the Galaxy SIII (we would expected more, but both netted similar ISO results) and outdoor shots also seem better probably more in part to the larger MP rating. The front facing camera as expected ended in mix results, but most of the time using the front facing camera the user kind of expects that. A lot of the pictures can be enhanced in post with third party programs and filters.

There were some downsides as well. In that the camera software didn’t allow for a silent shutter instead a loud shutter sound emitted from the phone every time you took a picture. A real nuisance in a public setting like a child’s play or wedding. LG had similar issues in the past with other models. There are work arounds to minimize the sound coming from the phone via an app called Silent Camera, but you don’t get any of the cool software enhancements LG has provided. One way is to rename or delete the file responsible for the sound – camera_click.ogg  located in /system/media/audio/ui directory. I suggest moving it somewhere else as a backup or renaming it rather than deleting it.  The other is something LG should do – edit the build.proc file and change one value, which will allow you to silence the camera with the phone’s volume rocker. If you are willing to root your device and change your build.proc file all you have to do is change the line ro.camera.sound.forced=1 to ro.camera.sound.forced=0  note make sure you reset the properties build.prop to -rw-r–r– (644) or your phone will end up getting stuck at the end of the Sprint boot animation and not booting. A reboot is needed for this setting to take effect. (Note do this at your own risk.)

 

LG Optimus G Exclusive Features

 

Quick Memo

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QuickMemo allows you take ink notes on any screen simply by dragging down the top taskbar and selecting the QuickMemo icon or pressing both the volume buttons simultaneously, which will bring down it’s own toolbar with choice of pen type and color as well as a Post it Note feature to save to the Notebook app or share it via email, Bluetooth,Box, DropBox,Email,Evernote, FileShare, Foursquare, Instagram, Skydrive, Skype,etc. or any of several social apps you have installed. The feature mostly used would be a  highlighting a webpage, document or email or doctoring/enhancing a photo with a message to someone via Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter,etc. It is a very cool easy to use feature that really enhances the use of these apps and communicating with your social networks.

 

QSlide

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QSlide is a multitasking function is an added feature exclusive to LG that provides a picture in picture mode to display two different screens simultaneously on one display. So you have note taking ability to write on the screen while you are in the middle of doing something else. This works great to write down a quick memo, take notes, send a text with a marked up image, etc. Qslide also allows you to check email or text while watching a video where you can control  the opacity of the video playing in the background.

Live Zooming

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Another cool feature that really takes advantage of the processing power supplied by Qualcomm is called Live Zooming with saved videos so you can Zoom in (up to 5X) on the details of your videos. This would have been a cooler feature if this worked with streaming video sources like Netflix and YouTube, but worked well with movies I had purchased from the PlayStore, Amazon and other videos I ported to the device as well as videos taken with the device. 

 

Alarm/Clock

 Set Alarm Set Sound

LG has a cool alarm feature when the alarm goes off you can have it launch with a memo or even automatically launch an app like weather, play your favorite song, launch your to do list, etc. via the Application Link. Flipping the phone will snooze or stop the alarm by turning over the phone which is picked up by the accelerometer(this feature is set under settings->gestures. For the alarm sounds you can play one of the preloaded sounds or a music file of your choosing. It would be nice if you could add applications to the Application Link for true a customization. 

  Alarm Lock 

If you know you hit the snooze too often or accidently shut off your alarm too many times you can opt to turn off the alarm via a puzzle to ensure you are awake. :) 

Wise Ringtone

 Wise Ringtone

Will automatically adjust the volume of the ringtone given your surroundings. This is found in the Sound settings. This feature uses the differential microphones at the top and bottom to adjust the volume accordingly. Here you can also set the Quiet Time for you phone so you won’t be disturbed at home when you are with your family or sleeping and dreaming about playing ping pong with two female star tennis players who are sisters.

Wise Screen

 Wise Screen

Is a cool feature that uses the front facing camera to keep the screen on when the LG Optimus G detects your face looking at the screen. I found that it also works for the backlight as well if dims a quick glance will turn it back on. This feature can be found in the settings under display.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

  • OS:
    • Android (4.0.4)
  • Dimensions:
    • 5.19 x 2.71 x 0.33 (131.9 x 68.9 x 8.45 mm)
  • Weight:
    • 5.10 oz (145 g)

DISPLAY

  • Physical size:
    • 4.70 inches
  • Resolution:
    • 768 x 1280 pixels
  • Pixel density:
    • 320 ppi
  • Technology:
    • HD IPS+ Display with a Stripe RGB IPS Panel
  • Colors:
    • 16,77, 216
  • Touchscreen:
    • Capacitive, Multi-touch
  • Features:
    • Light sensor, Proximity sensor

BATTERY

  • Talk time:
    • 13.00 hours
  • Daily usage:
    • our average was a bit over 8h (489 min) over several weeks with various radios and usage scenarios (we are fairly heavy users of our phones)
  • Capacity:
    • 2100 mAh

HARDWARE

  • System chip:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064
  • Processor:
    • Quad core, 1500 MHz, Krait
  • Graphics Processor:
    • Adreno 320
  • System memory:
    • 2048 MB RAM
  • Built-in storage:
    • 32 GB

CAMERA

  • Camera (rear):
    • 13 megapixels
    • Flash:
      • LED
    • Features:
      • Auto focus, Face detection, Smile detection, Exposure compensation, ISO control, White balance presets, Burst mode, Digital zoom, Geo tagging, Panorama, Scenes, Effects, Voice activation
  • Camcorder:
    • 1920×1080 (1080p HD)
    • Video Calling
    • Capture still shots while recording video
  • Front-facing camera:
    • 1.3 megapixels

TECHNOLOGY

  • CDMA:
    • 800, 1900 MHz
  • GSM:
    • 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • UMTS:
    • 850, 1900 MHz
  • LTE:
    • 1900 MHz
  • Data:
    • LTE, HSPA (unspecified), UMTS, EDGE, GPRS, EV-DO Rev.A
  • Positioning:
    • GPS, A-GPS, Glonass
  • Navigation:
    • Turn-by-turn navigation, Voice navigation, Points of interest (POI)

CONNECTIVITY

  • Bluetooth:
    • 4.0
  • Wi-Fi:
    • Yes
  • Mobile hotspot:
    • Yes
  • USB:
    • Connector:
      • microUSB
    • Features:
      • Mass storage device, USB Host, USB charging
  • HDMI:
    • via microUSB/MHL to HDMI
  • Other:
    • NFC, DLNA, MHL, Tethering, Computer sync, OTA sync

OTHER FEATURES

  • Notifications:
    • Haptic feedback, Music ringtones (MP3), Polyphonic ringtones, Vibration, Flight mode, Silent mode, Speakerphone
  • Additional microphone(s):
    • Yes
  • Sensors:
    • Accelerometer, Compass
  • Hearing aid compatibility:
    • M4
  • Voice dialing, Voice commands, Voice recording
    • Android standard and Voice Recorder app

Pros

  • Very fast processor (1500 MHz) Snapdragon S4 Pro Quad-Core Processor
  • Robust amount of RAM (2048 MB RAM)
  • Mass storage (32GB Internal Memory with 50GB cloud storage with Box)
  • Long lasting 2100 mAh High-Density battery
  • Large Vibrant Display (4.70 inches and 470 nits )
  • High Pixel Density (320 ppi)
  • High-resolution display (768 x 1280 pixels)
  • High-resolution camera (13 megapixels) advanced optics & zero shutter lag
  • Fast mobile data support (4G LTE)
  • Dual-mode CDMA/GSM phone
  • NFC with 2 tags
  • HDMI connector for TV-out (via microUSB)
  • Mirracast support over for media sharing with Wi-Fi supporting Display
  • Dual Screen Dual Play (work while streaming)
  • QSlide Function – Doubles productivity
  • Quick Memo

Cons

  • Lacks microSD slot for storage expansion
  • No Google Wallet  (yet)
  • No Jellybean update (yet)
  • No Wireless Charging
  • No USB Host
  • No way to silence camera sounds

LG adds a very pleasant UI and set of features to Android’s 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich. It would be nice if the device was updated as quickly as the Nexus device to Jellybean. The hardware in the Optimus G can more than handle the next release of Android as well as many more yet to come. The LG Optimus G is probably the first Android Phone in a while that has really wowed me, the last being the Samsung Galaxy S III last March, which has a slightly few more features than this phone, like wireless charging, better DNLA integration, and USB host support (USB On-The-Go). However, I would probably choose the LG Optimus G over the Samasung Galaxy S III due to the way it feels in the hand, the display, and sheer power, which is faster than some of the latest tablets I have and this phone is currently my go to Android device even though it doesn’t have Jellybean yet (maybe LG is waiting for Key Lime Pie?) even over my Android tablets (7” and 10”).

If you are looking for the latest powerful phone with a ton of features, the LG Optimus G is definitely one worth considering.

Currently Sprint is selling the LG Optimus G for $199. More information on purchasing the LG Optimus G directly from Sprint can be found here. Sprint is also currently offering the phone with a BOGO (BuyOneGetOne) free offer. Sprint ALSO offers a very affordable Everything Data Plan for $79.99/month to help get you on your way to enjoying your LG Optimus G.

About Steve Hughes

Steve Hughes has written 1 posts on Mobile Jaw..

  • http://www.MobileJaw.com/ Mike Temporale

    Very detailed review Steve!
    I was really impressed with light around the power button. When you plug in the phone, this glows red. So simple, but so cool. :-)