I liked to think that I was one of Nexus fan boys, but since Nexus 7 LTE (2013) didn’t even have an official Lollipop after other’s several Lollipop updates. No more point having Nexuses and I had to move on. After that, I highly put manufacturers’s tweak into top of the buying factors. Something like multi-window app, Pen too from Samsung, all tricks Moto X could do, LG’s unique back button design and so on. These were things I couldn’t get from a plain stock Android.

On my wishlist, there were Moto X, YotaPhone 2, LG G3, and Sony Xperia Z3 compact. Samsung Galaxy Note wasn’t in the list because of its price tag. I couldn’t spend that much no more after getting iPhone 6 Plus. YotaPhone 2 was expensive as well, but hey it had e-ink on the back. Z3 had nothing special, but battery life was much more than you could deny. In the end, there was a local service provider promotion for 50% off of LG G3 and I couldn’t deny that. I eventually got it around $400 more or less including extra $ from contract.

LG G3 was the phone I thought it was one of the best of 2014 with buttonless front design reminding me of Sony Clie TH-55 which was the king in Palm OS day. Moreover, G3 was a successor of LG G2 which was among the popular ones in its day. Could LG meet my expectation?

front back

Impression

Everything was what you could expect from a flagship phone. Nice screen, solid, sturdy feeling and so on. I couldn’t even imagine that LG G3’s screen was exactly the same size as iPhone 6 Plus’, but LG managed to get LG G3 in much smaller package w/o sacrificing things – both had pretty much the same battery capacity too. Let’s talk about its specialness.

Infrared

LG put an infrared sensor and its remote app in G3 too. It worked with your TV out of the box. Setting up was easy enough; selecting TV’s make, then trying out one or two times. You were good to go. App UI was nice too. I couldn’t say anything bad about it.

Back Buttons

Back buttons were one thing I was disappointed. They weren’t anything bad about it. Placement was good; tactile was nice. Did it feel weird using it? No, it did not. However, they were not useful at all. I meant they could get rid of them altogether and put a power button on the side. LG G3 would still be the same phone to me. I just couldn’t find use of them. Maybe if they could make up and down button trackpad-like to scroll the page. That would be much more awesome, but so far they were useless to me. Unfortunately capturing screen with a combination of power and volume down buttons was awkward. Not difficult, but awkward since the two were next to each other.

There was a gimmick for volume down buttons though; LG did assign it for camera app shortcut while screen off. It also acted like a shutter. You needed to remember not to hold it, only press it short to take a photo. Maybe I got used to hold-half to focus before hard-press to get the photo from DSLR. Anyway, shutter at that position was not so comfortable unless you were a stalker pretending to look at your phone while taking photos. (It indeed worked great for that matter; please be careful to turn any sound off lol)

On software side, without front buttons, LG had to find the way to turn the device on w/o reaching back buttons. LG found knock code sequence which was pretty darn nice to have. It was basically your own tapping pattern on screen. It wasn’t as smooth log in as Apple Touch ID experience I had to admit since sometimes it didn’t recognize the pattern on first try or you found yourself knocking again and again while the phone was upside down. Wake up time was a bit delay. I usually thought that I tapped the pattern wrong and started tapping once more before screen on. Eventually I settled for double-tap to wake and had a regular pattern lock for security. Maybe Moto X with a touchless gesture was the only more convenient way to turn on the phone–I wish I had Moto X to prove my assumption but I wasn’t in the US no more–that made Moto X quite a rare item.

Surprisingly LG G3 got a chance to taste Lollipop at very early day. That proved LG commitment to the phone quite strongly. Although some could say that LG didn’t have as heavy framework as Samsung did with TouchWiz, I didn’t not see a thing missing when upgrading from KitKat to Lollipop either and that wasn’t little IMHO. Indeed Lollipop on LG G3 wasn’t vanilla and in my opinion that was the best thing for every Android manufacturers. I bought LG G3 for LG flavor of Android. If I wanted to have a pure AOSP, I would go to closest ROM like CyanogenMod or just take a Nexus route instead.

color Custom Home Button

Customized home button was something extra people like me would appreciate. I couldn’t count how many times I complained about back button on the right on Samsung or Oppo devices. LG just solved the problem in the simplest way–whatever layout user please.

Show Home Buttons hide Home Button

If you had a love for ParanoidAndroid and its pie control, with G3, you could hide buttons for a bit bigger screen-estate too. It was app-specific though. You had to check which app you liked to hide buttons, then swiping up would bring buttons back on top. It wasn’t as nice as a pie control, but I didn’t mind having options.

Another weird gimmick was flipping phone, picking up your phone for somthing and another repetitive stuffs like T action I didn’t even know what made that different from regular gesture which you didn’t have to enable.

  • flipping phone to silent the ring was pretty useful since I first knew with Samsung Bada phone but it seemed half baked here. The phone needed to lay down with screen on top and flip (screen against the surface.) It didn’t work if it was the other way around. WTH?
  • picking up phone to lower the ringtone volume? yep it worked but by picking up, a speaker was at the back. The volume was already low to me.
  • raising your phone to the ear to answer the call? I sounded like a good idea, but I always kept asking myself whether the call was answered and I needed to look at it to confirm anyway.

These above were things I thought could be useful, but sadly they were only a glimpse of useful stuffs. It just was not ready or well implemented for LG G3. The rest I hadn’t mentioned was even more stupid honestly.

Camera app

Camera app was simple. It was quick to take a photo or video, but other than that it fell short. Focus was fast; faster than iPhone I would say although you couldn’t adjust exposure or any extra thing. Photos were mostly good; however, comparing to iPhone’s ones, LG G3 photos were sharpen a lot more and small details were lost too. At night, photos looked sorta good until you zoomed 100%; that’s where you saw everything had been processed too much and nothing was crisp. Anyway, it was better than most and nothing at all.

Warning: If you swiped to any direction in camera app, it meant switching back and forth between back and front camera. Some who always did selfie might like that but surely that wasn’t me. No way to turn that thing off. Hell.

back-inside

Although G3 powered by a huge 3000mAh battery, battery life wasn’t up to iPhone 6+ level. It lasted a day easily for heavy users but that was about it. G3 surely needed to charge over the night to ensure that recharging or power bank wasn’t required during the next day.

Downside

With these many goodies packed in the G3, LG did miss something to make it perfect.

  • How on earth they could forget to have Flashlight or Torch app. Although you could get an app for that, LG should have had that. I used Quick Torch which was nothing but flashlight. Anyway, this app’s widget was unreliable although torch on and off in the app or Qslide (LG’s own floating app framework) worked as advertised.
  • A magic Dual window was restricted too much. If they could ever let any other apps in there, it might not be as smooth but it was better than nothing at all.
  • LG’s ROM came with junk too. McAfee Security, Update Center, SmartWorld, RemoteCall Service, and Voice Mate. Most junks required you to agree to the terms; I just didn’t and was happy that it didn’t run. As of Voice Mate, it was Siri-like, but I was sure of that everyone preferred Google Now to this hit-or-miss.

LG should had taken a more polished route. Never brought half-baked stuffs into a product. They shouldn’t have aimed to amaze people with impractical gimmicks.

Verdict

LG G3 was a great phone. It was a good incremental upgrade, but might not be enough to anyone having a previous year flagship to upgrade just yet. For older devices, you would find LG G3 was much better in every single way.

Nonetheless, LG didn’t win me. It was a nice phone but it wasn’t unique enough to make it shine in front of others, surely in this case were iPhone 6+ and among my older phones. I couldn’t speak of anything else I hadn’t had my hand on at least a month. Playing in store wasn’t enough to judge whether a phone was good or not.

For the price I bought, $400, it was quite a bang for the buck but if I could trade for Moto X, I would not hesitate. Yes, I didn’t know if Moto X was better, but I would be willing to try out something else.