Moving on to the phone's unusual button placement, you can double-tap the screen to wake it up (as on Nokia's recent phones). You can also do the same on the status bar, empty home screen space or the lock screen to return it to slumber. Suffice to say, it's a lot less awkward than proclaiming "Hey Google Now." LG's previously dense drop-down menu is now even busier. Well, until you start switching off some of the sub-menus. There are dedicated rails for those QSlide window apps and remote functionality -- and those can be turned off, but there are also sliders for brightness and volume, choking the space available on the drop-down for missed calls, emails reminders and the rest.
One clever addition to LG's latest interpretation of Android 4.2 is the ability to choose which on-screen soft-keys you want, with several permutations of home, back, menu, search, multitask and a shortcut key to the G2's note-taking function available. Swipe around on the Android home screen enough and you'll arrive at a tutorial for some of the phone's newer features. (Don't worry, you can turn this off once you're educated.) Up first is guest mode, which lets you lock down the device so it's kid-friendly or at least protected against pranks and / or corporate espionage. The mode can be switched on through the settings menu, where you can define a specific lock pattern for guest users. You can specify which apps they can access, however Google programs will still think the guests are using your account, so it's worth bearing in mind -- it will still hold onto your internet cookies and passwords.
Another multitasking function alongside the QSlide apps is Slide Aside, which will keep three apps running concurrently on the side (you house them there through a three-finger swipe). I'm not exactly sure how much time this saves me over holding the home button (and seeing all the currently running apps), or from simply loading apps again from the home screen. After trying it out once, I never went back to it. It's the new Dual Camera.
Performance and battery life
The G2 houses 2GB of RAM, Qualcomm's 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and
16GB 32GB of non-expandable storage. In short, it's a beast. Like we mentioned in our Xperia Z Ultra review (packing the same processor), it uses the improved Adreno 330 graphics processor, meaning slicker existing games and (hopefully) richer titles in the future, if Android continues to push the gaming envelope. The Snapdragon 600 didn't exactly crawl along, so it's harder to rave about how smooth everything runs, or how fast apps appear or the phone reboots. Be assured that's all true, and when I fired up the GPU-straining likes of GTA3, I was amazed how quickly it loaded right into the game. The benchmark numbers back up my experience -- and then some:
The G2 more than doubles the scores we saw on last year's Optimus G. Which is great, but like a lot of Android phones since 2012, it translates into diminishing returns in real-world use. The new LG flagship doesn't feel twice as fast, but this is the swiftest Android phone we've seen yet, even despite all the extras LG's attached to the stock Android software. The G2 is LTE-ready, and it's coming to all the major US carriers, so your requisite bands are covered. However, I couldn't put those to the test -- so we'll update when we can. On a 3G SIM, however, my HSPA+ data rates were around 2.2 Mbps down, and 400 Kbps up -- pretty much standard across the networks. Voice calls were also clear, with a trio of mics helping to cancel out unwanted noise.
Perhaps this is a sign that we're finally crossing into a world of sensible smartphone batteries.
When it came to battery life, I had high hopes and during the first few days of testing, those hopes were fulfilled. Now, a 3,000mAh battery might not sound like a lot (especially with a high-end processor and large 1080p screen ticking along). It's smaller than both the Galaxy Note II (3,100mAh) and the Droid Maxx (3,500mAh). But, rejoice, because those flagship specs can go along with top-class battery life. Under heavy use, I was easily able to cross over the 20-hour mark, with regular use of GPS, WiFi and voice calls, all with the screen on at least half-brightness. Less holistically, in Engadget's HD video rundown, I managed a glorious (well, tortuous if you're in the middle of reviewing) 16 hours of playback on a single charge. Alongside the Moto X, perhaps this is a sign that we're finally crossing into a world of sensible smartphone batteries.
The G2 took what I loved from the tablet-smartphone category, and crammed it into a regular smartphone. A big one, granted, but not an unnecessarily huge one. LG's smartphone screens are among the best, and its newest phone continues to lead its peers. This time around, however, it's got the battery to do it justice. I had no aversion to watching more video, taking more photos or just doing more with the G2 because I knew that the phone would go the distance even with very heavy use. Incredibly, too, the device isn't even being marketed for its battery savings so much as its top-notch specs. Here, then, you can finally have the best of both. If you're sick of phones that won't last until sunset -- I'm looking at you, Nexus 4 -- this is the solution.
The new button positions are not a gimmick, but they take some getting used to and indeed, many prospective users might never come around. After a week of using the G2, I'm utterly sold on the double-tap to unlock. There was no need to reach around for the power switch; I just had to be able to reach the screen to check emails or the time. There are some new duds in LG's new software coffers (Slide Aside can be left aside), and the OS feels denser and more complicated than a vanilla Android build, but there are still a few gems to ensure LG's skin is worth using. With that battery life, Google and LG could oblige us with a Play version, or maybe we'll see specs crammed into the next Nexus -- we certainly liked the price tag the last time that happened. The miraculous endurance of the G2 paired with a high-level screen and processor, make it one of the most tempting smartphones I've seen in the last six months.
Edgar Alvarez contributed to this review.