AT&T LG G3 review: Everything you want in a smartphone with the best display ever

Summary:We seem to always ask for more on our high end smartphones, but LG brings it all with the G3 so there is really nothing preventing me from visiting my carrier store this weekend.

AT&T LG G3 review: Everything you want in a smartphone with the best display ever

Last month LG sent out early Korean LG G3 devices for people to test out. I wrote my first impressions , but without carrier support I couldn't write a review since the experience was too limited. I have now spent a week with the AT&T LG G3 and am very impressed by this latest offering.

The Korean LG G2 convinced me to sell my Xperia Z2 and I just sold my one month old Galaxy S5 on Swappa after testing out a US version of the G3. I may be visiting T-Mobile this weekend.

Hardware

The Quad HD display, that's a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels with a 538 ppi, is the star of the show here and it really is gorgeous, flawless actually. In addition to the high resolution, the colors look quite natural without being overly bright or too vibrant. You will also find that LG was able to maximize the display size with minimal bezels all around. They did a great job with this on the G2 and now ever better on the G3.

You will find an indicator light above the display to the left near the front facing camera. LG actually uses the display to help light up the scene when taking selfies in low light, which I think is a great solution to poor lighting on selfies.

There are no buttons on the sides of the G3 with the microUSB port and headphone jack found on the bottom and the IR port on the top. On the back you will find the power and volume buttons positioned just below the camera lens. These buttons were tough for me to press accurately on the G2, but are now redesigned and work very well. It actually is quite natural for your fingers to rest on them when holding the device and if I bought one I think I really could come to prefer them over the traditional side buttons.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S5, there are no additional gimmicks like a fingerprint scanner or heart rate monitor. There is a laser focus opening on the opposite side of the LED flash that is designed to help quickly focus the camera. In my experiences that seems to work quite well too.

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The G3 has a 13 megapixel camera with OIS so it competes well with what we see on Nokia Lumia cameras and challenges the Galaxy S5 for the title of best Android camera.

There is one speaker near the bottom of the back and it is rated at 1 watt with a 1.5 watt boost amp so sound is actually pretty good out of the single speaker.

The back has a brushed metal look, but is plastic. It is not a cheap plastic though and has curves to make it very comfortable in the hand.

Software

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The LG G3 runs Android 4.4.2 and is very lightly skinned by LG. I thought LG went a bit overboard with the G2, especially in regards to consuming too much space in the notifications area. That is no longer the case and their UI is minimal while actually giving you benefits.

The Knock Code allows you to secure your device and unlock it through a three to eight point pattern. Double-tap to wake is also supported on the G3.

They have a helpful Smart Notice feature that comes in the form of a widget that provides the weather, time, date, and some personalized recommendations and reminders. It gives you things such as weather forecasts in conversational language. For example, it might say something like "You may want to wear a light jacket as it cools down this evening."

LG also offers an enhanced keyboard that learns your style as you type. I love having a dedicated number row and am finding the prediction on it is scary accurate. I highly recommend you take the time to understand all of the power in the keyboard and think you will find it to be extremely helpful.

There is also a new home screen panel called LG Health. I must have turned it off out of the box because I couldn't find it anywhere in the app drawer. It is actually a dedicated homescreen panel that you can enable in the panel management utility. LG Health is designed to track and manage your daily activity with selected exercise options of walking, running, cycling, hiking, and inline skating.  When I set it up with my age, height, and weight it showed my target weight as 166.8 pounds. I haven't weighed that low since 8th grade so that is never going to happen. This is one utility that I have to spend many weeks testing to see benefits.

Dual windows mode is supported so you can see two apps in split-screen format. Small pop-up windows are also supported and I like the way you can launch them from within the app. For example, you can tap a button on your calendar and then a small calendar is overlaid on the display where you can even change the opaqueness of it.

LG really did a fantastic job with their software on the G3, providing real utility without overwhelming the consumer. Unfortunately, AT&T likes to load up all of their apps and you will find at least 12 of them in an AT&T folder right on the G3. I wish carriers would just let you download them from a special segment on the Play Store rather than preloading them without the ability to uninstall them.

Usage and experiences

The LG G3 was fast, the display is gorgeous, the camera takes good shots. Battery life has been fine, but I also see websites that did extensive testing show it suffers a bit due to the high resolution display.

I adapted much faster to using the back buttons, compared to the trouble I had with the G2. The device fits well in my hand, especially considering it has a 5.5 inch display. It is light for the size and the curved back helps the fit and finish.

Pros and cons

To summarize my experiences with the LG G3, here are my pros and cons.

Pros Cons
Flawless high resolution Quad HD display Too many preloaded AT&T apps and services
Compelling design with maximum screen size and minimal bezels No water resistant rating
Excellent 13 megapixel camera with OIS  
Nearly pure Google experience with helpful LG utilities  
microSD expansion card slot and removable 3000 mAh battery  
Customizable capacitive buttons  

Pricing and availability

The LG G3 is available from AT&T for $199.99 with 2-year contract or $579.99 with no contract. You can also buy it in black or white for $24.17 per month with the AT&T Next program. This is about the same price for the LG G3 on all carriers and is typical for high end smartphones.

The competition

The LG G3 takes on the Samsung Galaxy S5, Apple iPhone 5s, Nokia Lumia 930 (not available in the US) and the HTC One (M8). When I look at the competition then it is clear to me that LG hit it out of the ballpark this time and is the leader of the current group of high end smartphones.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is excellent and takes fantastic photos while also providing waterproof protection. However, it falls down a bit with gimmicks and a bit too much in the way of software. HTC's camera cannot compete with the GS5 or G3, but is a well made device. The Z2 isn't readily available in the US, but it is quite a large device. The Lumia 930 runs Windows Phone and while the camera is top notch there is still too many missing apps.

Specifications

  • Processor: Snapdragon 801 2.5 GHz quad-core processor
  • Display: 5.5 inch Quad HD IPS with 2560x1440 pixels at 538 ppi
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Internal storage: 32 GB
  • External storage: microSD up to 2TB
  • Cameras: 13 megapixel rear with OIS and 2.1 megapixel front facing
  • Battery capacity: 3,000 mAh and removable
  • Dimensions: 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm and 149 grams

Conclusion

LG continues to show they have what it takes to compete with the latest and greatest smartphones and the G3 is easily their best effort yet. They are listening to consumers with an update to the button design, lightening of the software elements, and providing a removable battery and microSD card with an ample amount of RAM and internal storage. There are models with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, but AT&T and T-Mobile both have the higher end models.

I don't think it was necessary to have such a high resolution display, but it does give them something to stand out from the rest and it really does look fantastic. Battery life might take a bit of a hit, but you can charge it up quickly and always carry a spare if you are looking at your display and using the device constantly. I was able to go for most of a day and find the pros far outweigh the cons here.

A perfect rating is tough to ever give because it seems no device is ever flawless. LG does come close here with the G3 though and it offers just about everything I could ever want in a smartphone. I understand I can even add Qi charging if I buy a new back so if I visit T-Mobile this weekend I will be hunting down one of those accessories.

I held off buying the G2 because I didn't like the back buttons and found their UI too overbearing, especially in the notifications area. These have both been fixed in the G3 and there really is nothing major I can complain about.

Contributor's rating: 9.5 out of 10

Topics: Mobility, Android, Reviews, Smartphones

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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