I already mentioned that display, but LG's not scrimped on the rest of the spec sheet. In fact, it pretty much reads like an Android fan's wish list. That means a 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of built-in storage, a 13-megapixel camera and, of course, that QHD screen. There's also an option with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage if you don't need all that memory (and like having more money). As for the design, the G3 has a sharp, modern look with subtle curves and a brushed-metal finish. Compared to Samsung's "don't ever change anything" approach, LG appears positively progressive, especially if we think back to the Optimus G. Last year's G2 was a decently built, smart-looking phone, and the G3 inherits some of its charm (not to mention the G Pro 2's). The primary difference between the G2 and its successor is, of course, the size. The G3's 5.5-inch display makes the handset much larger -- we're well into (excuse the term) "phablet" territory here, despite this being marketed as a mainstream flagship.
In fact, the G3 has a bigger panel than the original Samsung Galaxy Note, which blew some people's minds when it launched with its then-wrist-bending 5.3-inch display. But times change, and a 5.5-inch screen is no longer out of the ordinary. So, yes, this is a big phone -- and while it definitely feels bigger than, say, the G2 or a Nexus 5, it's worth remembering that other mainstream handsets like the OnePlus One carry a display the same size as the G3's. In fact, both the Galaxy Note 2 and OnePlus One rock a 5.5-inch screen -- the difference being both those phones sport wider frames. Perhaps I've adapted to larger phones over the years, but the G3 is easily the most comfortable handset of this size I've encountered to date. That said, it's definitely still going to be a stretch for some people.
For example, as with the G2, all three of the physical buttons are located around the back, just under the camera lens. If you like to hold your phone firmly around the base, your digits need to travel quite a distance to reach them. And once they do, the combination of your grip around the bottom and your extended finger creates a kind of lever. So, when you try and push the button, there's often not enough resistance and you need to either adjust your grip, or use your other hand. You'll likely get the one-handed technique down with time, but it won't suit every hand. A related issue is that the circular main/central button, which locks or unlocks the phone (the other two are primarily for volume control), is much more flush to the back of the handset. This is generally a good thing, as it means the G3 sits flat on a desk, but it also means that you'll sometimes find yourself prodding at the camera lens situated just above it (which is also flat and round). Symmetry fans will love the G3's rear, though, as the inclusion of an infrared laser for the camera gives it a nice, balanced design.
The "metallic skin" paint job (another one of LG's marketing terms) is basically to brushed metal what Samsung's latest phones are to leather -- they look legit, but feel like plastic. It's pleasing to the eye, and gives it a classy appearance, but if you're a fan of cold, hard metal, it's a bit disappointing. Luckily, it's at least less susceptible to fingerprints than glossier materials -- something that couldn't be said for the G2. By contrast, the front is almost entirely dominated by the display; the bezels are narrow, save for the modest chin at the bottom, so the only splash of that metallic color up front is the thin strip at the bottom.
LG made a fair amount of noise over that floating arc design (i.e., the curved back). The idea being that, to counter the width increase that a bigger display commands, you taper the edges in, thus creating an illusion (in the hand) of holding a thinner, narrower device. I'd say it mostly works. The official specification claims the sides of the G3 measure just 2.7mm (0.1 inch) at their thinnest, growing to a still-reasonable 8.9mm (0.35 inch) at their thickest. The Galaxy Note 3 is only 3.6mm (0.14 inch) wider than the G3, but it's much flatter, and feels all the broader for it in side-by-side comparisons.
The rest of the hardware is more utilitarian, but for those who want to know, here's a quick run-through. The radios include 2G (GSM/EDGE), 3G (HSPA+ 42 Mbps/HSPA+ 21 Mbps) and LTE (SVLTE, CSFB, CA, VoLTE RCS, MIMO). There's Bluetooth 4.0 (with aptX), 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, GPS and GLONASS, a 3,000mAh removable battery, IR blaster, microSD card slot, wireless charging and NFC. There's also support for SlimPort and USB OTG. The 2-megapixel front camera has, groan-inducingly, been rebranded as the "selfie-camera." Our handset has a subtle gold hue, but it'll mostly be available in black and white (plus red and violet, depending on the market).
Did you hear? It's Quad HD. That's 2,560 x 1,440 if you prefer pixels, or 534 pixels per inch if screen density is your metric of choice. That's not bad if we're just going by numbers. The G3 isn't the first phone with a screen of this resolution, but it's the first of the current wave of flagships from the big names. In fact, I'm surprised Samsung didn't endow the GS5 with a similar screen. That company loves being the first with such features, and (like LG) it makes panels itself, so it's certainly capable. But, perhaps this is an indicator of just how far LG has come in the phone game.
Before we delve into how the display actually performs, there's a bit of background worth mentioning. At the G3's launch event, LG went out of its way to refute Steve Jobs' claim that the iPhone's Retina display surpasses what the human eye could detect in terms of detail. The truth, said LG's Dr. Ramchan Woo, is more complicated than that. The theory is that the print world has known the resolution tipping point for some time. When it comes to displays, though, the digital ppi doesn't directly translate from print dpi. In fact, it needs to be roughly double. LG's calculations led to a magic number of (based on two x 270) 540 ppi, which the G3's QHD panel just misses, at 534 ppi. Close enough, we guess.
So, how does it look? The short answer is: pretty great. The long answer, though, is more nuanced. High-resolution videos and images look pin-sharp and beautifully recreated -- especially, and unsurprisingly, the pre-loaded (and optimized) content included in the Gallery app. Colors look vivid but not oversaturated; blacks are dark; and viewing angles are decent (though not quite as good as we'd expect from an IPS panel). The reality is, for most of your daily/vanilla Android usage -- browsing, navigating menus and so on -- that high resolution doesn't make itself obvious. By that, I mean that everything looks more or less the same as, say, a regular HD display on a competing phone. Basically, then, if you were hoping for the OS to suddenly pop out at you with newfound crispness, it doesn't. Icons do look sharper compared to, say, a Nexus 5. But even then, it's only when you look at them side by side that you'll notice.
All told, while it's a great display, it's a bit like having an HDTV in 2004. Great if you can get the content for it, otherwise it's just a good TV. Over time, more and more apps and content will be made for such resolutions, but for now, they're scarce. In fact, the resolution appears to make some apps incompatible -- and unfortunately, the Play Store hides apps that won't run on your phone. Usually this is to stop older handsets from downloading apps they can't handle. But, if you try searching for Candy Crush Saga, for example, it won't come up. So, whether intentional or not, it appears some developers haven't optimized their apps for 2K/QHD displays yet.
"Simple" was easily the dominant buzzword LG chose when marketing the G3. "Simple is the new smart," and, "To be simple is to be great," were some of the slogans of choice. That manifests itself in the G3 in a few software tweaks that (hopefully) improve the Android experience. As with any custom take on Google's software, though, it can be a risk. Unique features can be as much a hindrance to the seasoned user as they are a help to the beginner (if they're a help at all). Sometimes, though, you can strike gold and create something useful enough that it gets adopted by everyone, even on stock Android (think: Swype-style keyboards). Has LG cracked any such nuts this time?