We're not big fans of superlatives, but for LG's flagship phone of the season, we'll make an exception. The LG Optimus G is the best phone from the company, especially considering its string of ho-hum handsets that were good but not great.
Australians have had to wait a while for this, with even LG admitting that the Optimus G's arrival was "somewhat overdue", but the Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core CPU still stands up, as does the impressive display and powerful 13-megapixel camera. With the formal local launch of the device on 13 March, it's also been revealed that the Optimus G will be a Telstra exclusive "for the foreseeable future".
Design and build
At 131.9x68.9x8.45mm, LG's Optimus G has a moderately slim profile and tips the scale at just 145g. The handset comes in basic black and has a familiar square design. The corners are ever so slightly rounded, but the edges of the phone face drop in steep, noticeable cliffs. The left and right spines then slope more gently into the back, creating a more comfortable handhold than if you grip the phone by its face. While it's pleasant looking and functional, it certainly isn't pushing boundaries, defining your personality or wowing you with standout machining — although the "crystal reflection" finish on the back is nice, if a bit of a fingerprint magnet.
LG calls its 4.7-inch Optimus G's screen a True HD IPS+ display; that translates to a 1280x768-pixel resolution (WXGA). The Optimus G's 15:9 aspect ratio is a little off the 16:9 standard, but that hasn't bothered us so far. Pixel density comes in at 320 pixels per inch (ppi). For reference, the Nokia Lumia 920 has 332ppi, the iPhone 5 has 326ppi and the Samsung Galaxy S3 has a density of 306ppi.
The absolute pixel density, by the way, only indicates clarity, but suffice it to say that this beautiful screen did not disappoint, giving bright and crisp edges and vivid, appealing colour.
There's more to know about the dominating screen, as well. LG boasts that its Touch Hybrid Display technology makes the screen 30 percent slimmer because it removes the air gaps separating the cover glass from the touch layers — and light source — below. LG isn't the only company to do this; the iPhone 5 and HTC One X advertise a similar process. In addition, the use of Corning's Gorilla Glass 2 on the front and back panels contributes to the weight, but could also lend strength. However, we didn't want to smash the phone on concrete to test durability against cracks.
Below the display are touch-sensitive buttons for Back, Home and Menu. Press and hold Home to also open your list of recent apps. Do the same to the Menu button to pull up a Google search bar.
Above the screen, you'll find the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. The volume rocker hangs out on the left spine and the power button is on the right. (We not-so-secretly wish that a hardware camera button were here, too, but its absence doesn't earn the phone any black marks.) Unfortunately, you can take a cue from the two screws securing the back panel in place and stop your search for expandable memory right here.
You'll charge the Optimus G through a micro-USB charging port on the bottom of the phone, and you'll connect your headset through the 3.5mm jack up top. Nestled into the polarized back panel are the 13-megapixel camera lens and LED flash.
Features and OS
The LG Optimus G runs on the Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean OS and is, of course, loaded with the traditional Telstra One app. Other goodies include two file-sharing apps (SmartShare and FileShare), Polaris Office 4.0 mobile office suite and two video editors. Of course, there are more basic apps, such as a native browser and email client, music and movie players, a clock with alarm functions, an address book, a notepad and voice command.
Furthermore, LG packed its flagship device with tons of interesting features. Some we've seen before, like the Optimus user interface. LG has done a nice job of adding some functionality without imposing too much of its own personality on top of Android, although some may argue that it's not as sleek and elegant as Google's vision of the OS. Rest assured, at any rate, that the OS doesn't get in the way of using the phone.
LG's signature note-taking app, QuickMemo, comes packaged with Optimus 3.0. With this app, you can use your finger or a stylus to jot down quick notes and sketches directly over screen images, which you can then save and share. You can also customize the colour and style of your pen tip. Impressively, you can, for example, jot down an address or phone number and have it remain overlayed on the screen until you open the required app to input the info.
Another feature, Dual Screen Dual Play, lets you mirror screen images between the phone and another TV or monitor. And what's displayed doesn't necessarily have to be the same content as what's on your phone — you can play a video on your TV and then use other phone functions without affecting playback.
The QSlide function also allows you to run three separate applications at once and adjust the transparency of each one on the fly.
Camera and video
A 13-megapixel camera, you say? We were sceptical when we first heard about it, too. Of the handful of very high-resolution smartphone cameras we've tested, few live up to expectations. (Nokia's 808 PureView's 41-megapixel camera was one exception.)
There are controls for choosing among seven scene modes, five white-balance modes and four colour effects. You can select resolution that goes from 13 megapixels down to 1 megapixel. Geotagging, brightness and flash are other settings. While you can select your favourite of four shutter sounds, we weren't able to turn the sound off. LG gets a slight demerit there for the lack of a stealth mode.