By Stephen Schenck | July 31, 2013 7:01 AM
LG has made no secret of the fact that it will announce its new G2 flagship in a week, premiering on August 7. The name’s official, the SoC’s official, and LG has even begun announcing G2 accessories – it really seems at times that this launch event has just become a formality, and the G2′s as good as out there already.
Since last year’s Optimus G ended up delivering a surprisingly solid handset – though maybe better known still for its role in becoming the Nexus 4 – we’ve been optimistic to learn what LG might attempt for the phone’s follow-up. The Optimus G Pro earlier this year was more of a stepping stone, keeping our interest piqued for the G’s proper successor.
Now that it’s about to arrive, though, I’m finding myself a whole lot less interested than I was when the G2 was just an idea. As we started assigning specs to the phone, and got to check out images of real hardware, I kept waiting for some hook, some inspiration LG used to make the G2 really stand out – but I’m not seeing anything along those lines. The G2 may end up being a totally decent phone, but it’s not going to be any silver bullet that makes LG a serious smartphone contender, nor are users going to feel any special attraction to what’s shaping up to be what feels like a pretty ho-hum handset
When A Great SoC Isn’t Enough
Did I seriously just call a 1080p Android running a Snapdragon 800 “ho-hum?” Afraid so. Look, the Snapdragon 800 sounds like a fantastic chip, and it’s absolutely going to be powering the next wave of Android heavyweights, but the G2 shouldn’t bank too heavily on being one of the first phones to get it. For one thing, we’re about to see its usage explode, so simply having an 800 won’t matter so much on its own for long – it’s just going to be too popular.
And if some of the rumors of refreshed versions of existing Androids – like an international version of the LTE-A Galaxy S 4 – end up being accurate, the G2 won’t even have to wait for new competition – it will be fighting phones with big head starts.
All the cool 800 tricks will still be cool, but LG shouldn’t count on them being seen as G2-things for long.
Different Doesn’t Always Mean Better
I said the G2 doesn’t have any big stand-out feature, but what about those rear-mounted volume controls? That’s unusual, right? Maybe that could be what makes the G2 get noticed.
Well, “stand out” perhaps, but not in a good way. Try picking up your phone and imagining it has those buttons like we’ve seen them – centered, on the upper half of the phone’s back. We’ve heard that the G2 could have a 5.2-inch display, so if you’ve got a phone with a screen in that 5-to-5.5-inch range, grab that one.
Look at how you naturally hold the phone. For me, I’m going to be using one of three grips: left hand holding the phone on both edges while interacting with my right hand, right hand holding the phone from the edges and interacting with my right thumb, or a from-beneath balancing act where the phone just sort of rests on my fingers – not really grasping the handset – but giving me a wider range of thumb motion.
In those first two situations, I’ve already got fingertips around the phone’s edge, perfectly positioned to be working traditional side-mounted volume controls. In the third case, while my fingers are in the right place for this new G2 system, I have no leverage to work any controls because the phone’s just resting in my hand – in order to push on any rear-mounted buttons, I would have to grip the phone from the edges, once again. There just doesn’t seem to be an obvious way to use rear buttons that doesn’t simultaneously make a case for side-mounted ones being preferable.
But There’s Got To Be Something To Like?
Launching with 3GB of RAM could have found the G2 a little extra attention. To be fair, I’d put that in the same boat as the 800, where an appearance of exclusivity would quickly fade as more devices took the same route. But at least 3GB hasn’t happened anywhere, making it potentially more of a coup than the 800.
Regardless, it sounds like a moot point by now, as G2 rumors have circled back around to the 2GB idea – nothing to get excited about.
If the G2 is the basis for the next Nexus phone, that could really help its prospects – but I’m highly skeptical of seeing that happen. For one, there’s the complicated nature of the Google-Motorola relationship that we’re still feeling out – maybe post-Moto-X we’ll have a better sense of things. Perhaps more than that, Nexus devices have lately been simple, streamlined hardware and I think this G2 rear button business is the polar opposite of that.
You’re Kind Of The Problem Yourself, LG
I’m not sure I’d be quite as harsh on the G2 if the phone was coming from a Samsung or an HTC. Maybe it’s that LG software fails to excite me, but I think it’s more than that; LG has a brand perception problem. It’s not so much that the company makes bad phones or anything so damning, but just that its stuff too often feels uninspired or out of touch. I’ll stop bringing it up when LG stops making new ones, but the Vu line and its 4:3 screens is nothing short of maddening. Who are you designing this stuff for, LG?
That’s really a shame, because LG has a ton of potential, and has really made some great hardware. I think my biggest issue with the G2, coming up against its launch, is that the phone now seems so much like a squandered opportunity. Why aren’t we more excited about this phone? For as long as LG had to develop it, I was just really hoping for something more captivating.