Today saw the unveiling of the LG G2 in New York and if you think we missed an 'Optimus' in there, we didn't. LG has decided to drop the Optimus branding and keep things simple with just a letter and a number.
The LG G2 is the South Korean company's latest and hopefully greatest phone. With a 2.26GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, it's got enough power under the hood to give the competition pause, but the real focus seems to be on making a device that learns from the user and one that's intuitive and easy to use, even with just one hand.
The LG G2 isn't likely to win any design awards. It has a plastic body rather reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and, well, it doesn't look amazing for it. Its 2.7-inch wide body is at least quite sleek, due in large part to the placement of the buttons on the back, leaving nothing to break the lines when viewed front or side on.
Ultimately the LG G2 can probably give the Samsung Galaxy S4 a run for its money in the design stakes, but that's not saying much and in comparison to the premium metal builds of the HTC One or the iPhone 5 it just can't compete.
The LG G2 has an impressively large Full HD 5.2-inch IPS edge-to-edge screen, which LG claims is the largest size the average person can comfortably hold with one hand. Not only is it big but based on our time with the phone, it provides clear images.
LG has some competition on the screen front though as the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and iPhone 5 all also provide top-flight displays. The Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 5-inch Super AMOLED display, the HTC One has a 4.7-inch Super LCD3 display and the iPhone 5 has a 4-inch IPS display. They're all tremendous quality but the LG G2 scores points for squeezing such a big screen in without making the handset unwieldy, thanks in no small part to its ultra-slim 0.1-inch bezel.
One of the biggest and most noticeable features of the LG G2 is that the volume rocker and power button are both on the back. That arguably makes the back a little cluttered and ugly, but it frees up the sides of the phone, as those are the only buttons on the LG G2. So nothing breaks the lines when viewed front or side on, which is how most people will view the phone most of the time.
The button placement isn't just about aesthetics though; it's also about ease of use and comfort. LG have concluded that people naturally hold their phones in such a way that their index finger is resting on the back - right about where LG has placed the buttons. Which means that by having the buttons on the back you can comfortably press them without adjusting your grip, both making it more comfortable and hopefully making you less likely to drop the phone when fiddling with the volume.
The headline feature of the HTC One on the other hand is probably its 4 Ultrapixel camera. However, the fact that it's crafted from a single piece of aluminium and that it has high quality front-facing speakers are both major selling points too.
The iPhone 5's headline feature is arguably its widescreen design and the bump in screen size over previous models. While the Samsung Galaxy S4 really doesn't have one stand out feature, instead aiming to be a jack-of-all-trades packed with many different ones.
We're not sure the button placement on the LG G2 is really that exciting though or that it was even really a problem that needed solving. Perhaps we'll be converted once we've spent more time with the phone, but right now it doesn't seem that much more convenient having the buttons on the back than on the sides, so we can't help but feel that it's a feature that falls a little flat, particularly in comparison to its rivals.
The LG G2 ships with Android 4.2.2, which is a bit of a shame since we're up to 4.3 now. On the interface front it puts a lot of focus on ease of use and has a bunch of features to support that, such as 'Answer Me' mode, which allows users to answer the phone simply by putting it to their ear, or 'Plug & Pop' which appears whenever you plug headphones in, making it easier to access the apps and features that you're likely to want to use. Alone some of these features would be quite intuitive, but with so many different ones built in it could take a while to get used to.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One both also have Android 4.2.2 and like LG the companies have skinned the interface in individual ways. The Galaxy S4 is fairly easy to navigate, but like the LG G2 it has a bunch of supplementary features such as 'Air Gesture' which lets you swipe the air in front of the screen rather than the screen itself in order to interact with the phone, or eye-tracking features which ensure the screen never turns off while you're looking at it.
The HTC One feels rather bare-bones in comparison but that's not necessarily a criticism. It's highly intuitive and easy to setup, with only BlinkFeed (an aggregated news feed which you can't turn off) serving as a potential annoyance.
The iPhone 5 is the odd one out here as it's the only handset in this comparison not running Android, but being an iPhone it's all about intuitiveness and while some may lament the lack of flexibility in Apple's OS, it makes it very easy to learn and for the most part it's very slick to use.
As increases in processor speeds and screen resolutions become increasingly meaningless the camera seems to be the new smartphone battleground, with competitors vying to out-megapixel each other, provide the best low light shots or just include a bunch of different shooting modes.
The LG G2 doesn't cower from this battle, packing a 13-megapixel camera complete with optical image stabilisation. That optical image stabilisation should minimise camera shake and in so doing also allow for good low light shots as the shutter can stay open for longer without blurring the image. LG tells us it's the first time that optical image stabilisation has been implemented into a 13-megapixel smartphone camera and they've achieved it without adding much bulk.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 also boasts a 13-megapixel sensor but it doesn't have optical image stabilisation, so the LG G2 will almost certainly out-perform it in low light.
The HTC One is all about low light shots, but with just a 4-megapixel sensor its pictures are unlikely to offer the same quality as the LG G2. Finally the iPhone 5 has an 8-megapixel camera which is starting to look a bit old hat. We'll reserve final judgement till we've had a chance to properly put the LG G2 through its paces, but based on just the specs the camera should easily be able to hold its own.
The LG G2 should be a brilliant little device for media. Not only does it have a large 5.2-inch screen but the actual quality of the picture is above-average, so it should work well for videos. It also promises top-flight sound quality, so music should be good too. With up to 32GB of built in storage coupled with a microSD card slot, there should be no shortage of space. Then there's the battery which at 3000mAh should allow the LG G2 to keep you entertained for an extended period.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 is similarly equipped to serve media fans, thanks to an almost-as-big 5-inch screen, up to 64GB of built in storage, a microSD card slot and solid battery life provided by a 2600mAh battery.
The HTC One has a great screen too, though with no microSD card slot your storage is limited to the 32GB that comes with the phone. It has brilliant speakers and reasonable battery life provided by a 2300mAh battery.
The iPhone 5 has a smaller 4-inch screen, so it's not as ideal for movies, but it's still a high quality picture and it provides true 16:9 widescreen. It has up to 64GB of storage, but like the HTC One there's no microSD card slot.
In other words all of these phones are great for media, but going on first impressions the LG G2 looks like it might actually be able to trump the competition as it promises the complete package of a great screen, great sound, long battery life and loads of storage.
For many people the choice of phone will in large part come down to the price and while we'd hoped we'd be able to do a comparison on that, we unfortunately don't know what the LG G2 will retail for. However being a flagship device with specs to match we'd hazard a guess that it will be in the £450-£500 range at launch. That amounts to $620-$775 in the U.S. (off contract, of course) and AU$690-AU$863. That would put it roughly on a par with the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One and iPhone 5.
So far we have mixed feelings about the LG G2. The screen was good in the less-than-ideal conditions where we toyed around with the phone, the camera promises a lot and it's an enormously powerful handset. But LG seems to have placed a lot of focus on the user experience by putting the buttons on the back and adding a bunch of software features aimed at making life easier.
There's nothing wrong with that, but we're not convinced by how successful those will end up becoming. If anything, LG seems to be trying to solve a button problem that was never really there. The plastic build is also a little disappointing, particularly in comparison to the HTC One and iPhone 5.
Right now as an overall device we're not sure it's any better than the iPhone 5, HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG is likely to have a hard time convincing consumers on these shores that they should buy it over any of the aforementioned devices.