LG's new Optimus G may well be the fastest smartphone with the most brilliant display that holiday buyers will be able to find in the coming weeks.
The release date and price haven't yet been announced, but the phone will be available for the holiday buying season from both Sprint and AT&T, according to LG. A price of $200 with a two-year contract is widely expected.
I got a short hands-on experience with the smartphone at the MobileCon mobile IT conference yesterday.
The Optimus G weighs 5.1 oz., about the industry average, and measures 5.1 x 2.7 x 0.3 in. I found that the size, weight and feel of the phone were quite comfortable.
The phone's quad-core processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro with a clock speed of 1.5GHz, offers snappy speeds for making swipes and touches, especially useful in gaming moves. The Optimus G will include either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, along with a microSD slot and a pre-loaded 16GB SD card. There is also a high-capacity 2,100 mAh battery, offering an estimated 13 hours of talk time.
The 4.7-in. display, at a resolution of 1280 x 768 pixels, provides vivid colors with what LG calls true HD IPS (In-Plane Switching) Plus and Zerogap Touch technologies. According to LG, Zerogap eliminates the gap between the glass and the LCD panel to add clarity to the display. And this showed up in my quick tryout while I was looking at images and videos -- I have to admit, the screen quality was truly impressive.
Great new features
But while speed and a great display are standouts, what makes the G in Optimus G stand for gold -- at least, for me -- are features such as the Dual Screen Dual Play capability, which allows mirroring of an image onscreen with a TV or monitor. Dual Screen Dual Play means a trainer or presenter can run a PowerPoint presentation on the phone, complete with notes and slides panel, and then show the presentation to an audience on a large display -- without the notes or the panel visible.
In addition, if the presenter needs to answer a question from the audience, she can quickly browse the Web for an answer on the Optimus G without the search showing up on the larger display. This is the kind of technology that shows the power of the smartphone as a truly convenient and effective mobile computer.
Other software features include a QSlide function that shows two different screens simultaneously on the phone's display with adjustable transparent overlays. That means you can write and send an email while keeping another app open, such as a Web page or a game, in the background.
A QuickMemo feature allows you to take notes using your finger as a stylus on a document or photo. (A real stylus, not included, can also be used for more handwriting precision.) For example, you could draw a circle around an item on a Web page, capture it as a screenshot and then email it. For Web designers and others, QuickMemo could prove to be a time-saver.
I was also impressed by the phone's Screen Zooming capability, which allows you to zoom in and out of photos, emails, texts and lists.
Differences in the cameras
At least one difference in the two carriers' versions of the Optimus G will be in the camera. Sprint's will have a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, while AT&T's version will have an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera. I didn't personally evaluate the cameras, but during its presentation, LG projected images taken with the phone onto wall-size displays that were crystal clear. (As with any phone used to take photos, one of the biggest limitations is improper lighting, and LG used plenty of supplemental artificial light to take its brilliant photos during the outdoor evening event.)
One note: The higher-resolution rear-facing camera on Sprint's version of the Optimus G protrudes slightly from the rear case, which made me wonder whether it might get scratched or damaged with heavy use. The lower-resolution camera on the AT&T version is flush with the rear case.
With all of its great qualities, the LG Optimus G deserves to do well in the market. But it will face a wide array of new smartphones shipping in the next few weeks, including quad-core models like the HTC One X+ running Jelly Bean, and a slew of new devices which will be running Windows Phone 8.
And, oh yes, there's that iPhone 5 to consider, with Apple continuing to dominate the marketing wars.
LG seems to have arrived at the smartphone party wearing a great outfit and fabulous jewelry. But Apple may have already moved on to the after-party with its many friends.
Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen, or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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