Special features such as QuickRemote and Video Wiz separate LG from some other brands. Sadly, below-average camera performance and design prevented this brand from earning a higher score. The Optimus G Pro proved to be a solid big-screen phone, but middling battery life and a lack of widespread availability put LG smack in the middle of the smartphone pack.
Of the 10 LG phones we reviewed, four received 4 stars, and five received 3.5 stars. However, none of these handsets earned an Editors’ Choice Award. The LG Intuition, a 5-inch phablet that came with a stylus — but no place to dock it — received just 2.5 stars, dragging LG to last place. It’s a shame, because we were relatively pleased with LG’s Optimus line — the G Pro has a ton of innovative apps, the Optimus G a sharp camera and the L9 is affordable and gets excellent battery life.
As of press time, LG was still selling new low-end phones loaded with Google’s outdated Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS. High-end phones like the Optimus G Pro, however, come loaded with the latest version of Android Jelly Bean. The company’s Optimus 3 skin adds a melange of enhancements to the Android Notification drawer, including three to four rows of buttons that let you control a host of features. The OS’ QSlide function lets users control two of four available apps at once, including QSlide versions of Video Player, Note Pad, Calendar and Calculator.
LG’s smartphones provided a solid average battery life of 6 hours and 20 minutes in the past year, with the budget-minded LG Lucid 2 lasting a strong 7 hours and 55 minutes. However, the flagship Optimus G Pro only managed a modest 5 hours and 55 minutes. Fortunately, most of LG’s phones come with removable batteries.
LG stuffs its Android phones with plenty of features to keep its customers both entertained and more productive. For instance, Note Pad lets you take notes on the fly with your finger or capacitive stylus. And QuickRemote turns the Optimus G Pro into a universal remote, although it’s missing the program guides offered by Samsung and HTC. LG’s Video Wiz app is pretty cool because it helps you easily create fun clips for recorded videos, complete with music and fun transitions.
The only smartphone to offer a 1080p display in LG’s lineup is the 5.5-inch Optimus G Pro. While the screen was crisp and bright, viewing angles were narrower and colors duller than on the HTC One. Although the Escape produced sharp text on its 4.3-inch, 960 x 540-pixel panel, colors looked washed out. The 4-inch, 960 x 540 qHD AH-IPS display found on the Lucid 2 offered crisp text, but shallow viewing angles. The Spirit 4G’s 4.5-inch 960 x 540 IPS display suffered from similar issues, though images were bright.
LG’s Optimus G Pro impressed us with its detail and color saturation when snapping outdoor photos in our Smartphone Camera Shootout, helping it place third out of nine brands. Less expensive and older models such as the Escape and Optimus L9 delivered washed-out colors and mediocre shots, but newer smartphones such as the Optimus G and Optimus G Pro performed well and come with features such as Time Machine Mode, which captures five additional pictures from just before you snap the shutter button, and Say Cheese, which captures a photo you utter the phrase.
If Apple and HTC are the Christian Dior and Chanel of the phone world, then LG is the Dress Barn. It’s hard to distinguish between premium devices like the Optimus G Pro from the bargain phones such as the Spectrum 2 due to LG’s uniform, rather plain rectangular slab aesthetic. The company vacillates between dreary textured back panels (LG Spirit 4G) and glossy, slippery affairs that add to the shine factor (LG Escape) and the likelihood of dropping the phone. The majority of LG’s devices can easily be used with one hand, except for the Intuition, where LG sought to buck phablet design by making it wider than necessary.
MORE: Best Smartphones 2013
Weak audio is a regular complaint when it comes to LG smartphones, which kept this brand among the lower third. We experienced muffled speakers that produced hollow sound on the otherwise robust “Gin and Juice” by Snoop Dogg. Volume was not a problem for handsets such as the Optimus G Pro, but when pushed to the limit, you get more fuzz and distortion than quality audio. However, the call quality was clear both in quiet or noisy locations.
LG’s Optimus G Pro is one of the best smartphones on the market, but if you want to buy it in the United States, you can only find it on AT&T. The company’s Intuition 4G phablet is an interesting choice, but only available to Verizon customers as is its budget-minded Lucid 2. The outdated Optimus G, which is available on Sprint or AT&T, is the manufacturer’s only major release to appear on more than one U.S. carrier.