Back to the future: The LG G2 smartphone is big, fast and different

It's been difficult to figure out how to begin the announcements of new smartphones these days -- there isn't all that much to distinguish them. So I was pleased when LG announced, at today's presentation of its new G2 Android phone, that there was at least one very visible difference: the power and volume keys are on the back of the phone rather than on the side.

There are, of course, other specs that are of interest. The phone comes with a large 5.2-in. 1920 x 1080 IPS display (that was visibly brighter than that of the Moto X when the two were put side by side) and is powered by Qualcomm's latest quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor. It comes with a 13-megapixel camera and a 3,000mAh battery (probably necessary, considering the size of the display).

LG G2

But it's the controls that are of initial interest. In fact, the company boasts that there are no controls at all on the phone, aside from on the back. The only interruptions in the sleek lines of the G2's edges are on the bottom, where the power port and two speakers are located. Besides the front and rear cameras, there is also a tiny LED at the top left of the front of the phone for notifications.

Like the recently-announced Moto X, the G2's bezel has been minimized as much as possible. In the case of the Moto X, that was to make the phone as small as possible; in the case of the G2, it's obviously to make a phone with that large a display comfortable for people to handle.

From the few minutes I spent playing with the phone, I think I could get used to it. Despite the size of the display, I didn't feel that my hand was stretching too far to use it (although the proof of that pudding would be in longer-term use).

I could also, I think, get used to having the controls in back of the phone. I was able to play with the volume keys and turn the phone on and off using my forefinger, and I didn't notice any time when my finger was getting in the way of the camera lens (although I have fairly slim fingers; someone with bigger hands may have a different experience). The volume key will also offer two other features; when the screen is off, the down key will power on the camera, while the up key will start a QuickMemo note app.

In fact, I found fairly easy to manipulate the phone with one hand, especially using LG's "KnockOn" feature that allows you to turn the screen on and off by tapping on it twice.

Several other software features will be included with the G2. "Answer Me" will allow you to answer a call as soon as you pick it up and put it to your ear, using a proximity sensor. "Plug & Pop" will, when you connect the phone to a headset, bring on the screen the apps and functions that you would be using a headset for. "Text Link" will allow users to easily access a calendar or map depending on the content of a text message. And "Guest Mode" lets you customize access to the phone, using a pattern to lock or unlock it -- so that, for example, you can hand the phone to a child without worry that he or she will start erasing your contacts.

It's difficult to say at this point how well the LG G2 will do. Part of the problem is that we still don't have any information about when it will ship or how much it will cost. Once that information is available -- and once we can really test the phone -- it will be easier to say whether the controls on the back -- together with the new processor, the 13-megapixel camera and the larger display -- will make this a must-have product.

In short, the LG G2 gives all the appearance of being a premium smartphone. If it costs the expected premium price, it could be very popular among the higher-end prosumers who are looking for a large, sleek device that can be easily used with one hand. The rest of us may have to reconsider.

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