The LG Optimus G Pro makes its debut in a crowded market

There have been so many new phones introduced of late that it is becoming a little difficult to distinguish them from one another. Last night, I attended the introduction (to the U.S., anyway) of the LG Optimus G Pro, which will be available from AT&T for $199.99 starting May 10 (with the usual two-year contract) and for online pre-order starting May 3. On first look, the Optimus G Pro looks like a nicely equipped smartphone with a few distinguishing features.

The specs for the Optimus G Pro (who comes up with these names anyway?) is certainly promising. It features a large 5.5-in. 1920 x 1080 IPS display -- without any formal comparisons, I will say that the screen looked bright and the colors sharp.

LG Optimus G Pro

It is equipped with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.7GHz quad-core precessor, 2GB RAM, 32GB of on-board storage that can be expanded to up tp 64GB, a 13-megapixel HD rear camera and a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera. The case  -- which I found very comfortable to hold -- is dark gray with a rather nice thin silver trim which, in a stylish touch, travels around the edge of the case and widens on the top and the bottom. The back opens up fully, revealing a removeable 3140mAh battery.

The phone uses a hard home button with capacitive buttons for back and menu on each side; as is the case often enough, the capacitive keys weren't always lit and so were often difficult to see. 

The microUSB power connector is on the bottom; at top is the audio port and the IR sensor (so that you can use the G Pro as a TV remote -- and yes, there is an app for that). The power button is on the top right edge while the volume rocker is on the middle left edge.

Above the volume rocker is one of the features that make a difference: the QuickButton, a hardware button which can be programmed to start a wide variety of tools, such as QuickMemo (which lets you write on the screen with your fingertip) or one of the built-in apps. I thought this was a very neat touch -- to offer a way to speedily access a much-used function.

I found other interesting features in the Optimus G. Like many phones being introduced recently (including the Samsung Galaxy S 4 ), the Optimus G Pro comes with a very elaborate overlay over its Android base (in this case, version 4.1.2 Jelly Bean -- LG reps said that there would be an upgrade soon).

When you brush your finger across the home screen, instead of just moving sideways to the next screen, the interface gives the impression of circling around -- as if you were pushing a revolving door. All the app icons and widgets appear to move separately; it's an intriguing effect.

In the short time I played with the phone, I saw some interesting apps as well. One called VuTalk allows users to draw and share notes in real time -- sort of a miniature whiteboard. Another, called QSlide 2.0, lets you overlay app windows; an LG rep showed me a running video overlaid over another app, so that it was slightly transparent. I'm not sure how practical something like that is, but, like the circling interface, it was certainly fun to watch.

And there are several others as well, such as dual-camera photos that let you put yourself into a photo or video via an insert from the front-facing camera (this seems to be a popular feature among vendors, although I'm not sure how well-used it will be).

In short, the LG Optimus G Pro looks like it could be an excellent phone, with enough new features to be interesting, but not so many that they become overwhelming. We hope to get a review unit soon; in that case, we'll have a lot more to say about it.

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