LG G2: An Android phone like any other

LG G2: An Android phone like any other

Stop us if you're heard this one: It has great specs, a plain design, and lots of minor annoyances.

Even though LG was behind last year's Google-backed Nexus 4, that wasn't enough to launch it into the Android spotlight. What the company needs is a standout phone--something that differentiates it from the Samsungs and the HTCs. It's on the right track with its focus on solid performance and a high-resolution display, but if you took a quick look at G2, you wouldn't find much to set it apart from the crowd.

Devil is in the (design) details

Almost nothing about the G2's design stands out. It features an edge-to-edge screen, rounded corners, and an easy-to-hold chassis, but it looks like a stock phone. On its back you'll find--in place of the Nexus 4's glittery hexagonal design--a muted, striped pattern.

LG decided to put the volume and power buttons on the rear of the device rather than on the side, supposedly to make the phone easier to use one-handed. It doesn't work. You can hold down on the screen with your thumb to press the buttons on the back, or you can risk dropping the phone by cradling it and reaching one finger back. It's weird, and more than once I managed to double-press a button by accident.

At least LG made the smart design decision to put the headphone jack on the bottom. If you're using it as music player, this makes the process of pulling out the phone from your pocket a little easier.

Those insides, dat screen

These days, many handsets, including the G2, come packed with a Snapdragon 800 system-on-a-chip (SOC). The power provided by its 2.26GHz processor and 2GB of RAM is obvious when you're multitasking, launching apps, and playing graphic-intensive games. Apps start up quickly and close out fast, and that performance holds true across the myriad apps that LG bundles with the phone.

The G2's 3,000mAh battery pack will get you through a full day of watching videos, if you're on a binge. On a full charge, at half brightness and with Airplane Mode turned on, the phone managed a whopping 9.5 hours of video streaming--about an hour longer than both the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4. LG made some tweaks under the hood to help save battery life when the screen isn't doing much, significantly reducing the display's energy consumption.

The company's success in manufacturing TVs has trickled down to its mobile products. The G2's vibrant, 5.3-inch, 1080p IPS display looks great from any angle, though it gets intensely bright when you crank it all the way up. That option comes in handy on sunny days when you need to use the phone outside. Unfortunately the display can be quite a battery sucker if you're not using power-saving settings.

One particularly neat feature of the G2 is its support for 192KHz music: The G2 can playback WAV and FLAC files that produce sound at far better than CD quality.

Snapping photos

We're living in an age when a phone that can't capture the moment is not worth buying. To its credit, the G2's 13-megapixel camera takes clear pictures, indoor and out. While it's output can't match that of Nokia's Lumia Windows Phones, its bundled features--such as the ability to use a manual focus slider, and the the ability to home in on a subject in your videos with Audio Zoom--are enticing.

A crowded interface

Like most other Android phones, the G2 doesn't use the stock Android interface. The notifications shade is crowded to make room for the G2's brightness and volume settings and the QSlide apps, which are LG's pop-up, multitasking apps. If only LG could find a way to include them without jamming everything together.

Should you get it?

The G2 is packed with the latest top-tier hardware, and it features a long-lasting battery and a perfectly capable camera. But it's beset by small problems--the crowded notifications screen, the awkward rear-facing buttons, its plain-Jane design. It makes you remember that LG is still missing the je ne sais quoi that sets other top phones apart from their competitors.

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