So long, software silliness! 7 quick tweaks to make the LG G3 better

lg g3 tweaks
LG G3 Tweaks

The LG G3 has a lot of good things going for it -- but the phone's software isn't its strongest suit.

As I noted in my in-depth review of the device, LG falls into the all-too-common trap of trying to do way too much. Features are fine when they exist for a reason -- but when you pack in layers upon layers of overlapping options, you create a convoluted mess that doesn't make for a great user experience.

The good news, though: While the G3's software may be a bit much out of the box, it's reasonably easy to hide many of the redundant elements and bad design decisions. And once you do, the phone's far more pleasant to use.

If you're going to get a G3, here are seven quick tweaks I'd suggest you make post-haste:

1. Clean up the notification panel

LG loves to clutter up its notification panel with all sorts of crap you don't need. The result is, well, this:

LG G3 Notification Panel

It's a step forward from last year's effort, sure -- but that only means so much. On most models of the phone, you can make things look a lot better by scrolling all the way to the right of that row of icons at the top and selecting "Edit," then unchecking the options for "Brightness" and "Volumes."

(Unless, of course, you really need constant access to a slider for your phone's brightness -- which, especially with autobrightness, most folks don't. As for the ringer volume, you can just press the phone's volume buttons to accomplish the same thing that slider does.)

While you're there, take a moment to uncheck any quick-setting items you don't actually need -- things like QuickMemo+, Accounts & Sync, NFC, and Voice Mate. The notification panel will be far more useful if it's limited to settings you regularly use instead of being a mishmash of random shortcuts and irrelevant links.

2. Disable the "Smart Bulletin" home screen panel

LG has created a permanent panel on the G3's home screen called "Smart Bulletin." It lives at the far left of the home screen and is represented by a special "G" indicator at the bottom of the screen.

Unfortunately, Smart Bulletin isn't all that smart. All it does is provide a half-screen box for pedometer info and a half-screen box for tips about using the phone, neither of which are things that warrant a dedicated panel for most people.

LG G3 Smart Bulletin

Send Smart Bulletin to smartphone hell by heading into the G3's system settings and tapping the "Home Screen" option under the "Display" section. Then toggle the switch on the option labeled "Smart Bulletin" to "off."

The one weird thing here is that LG has provided no direct way to get to its Health app, which is the service that shows you pedometer-based info (steps per day and so forth). So if you want that data, you'll have no choice but to leave the panel on.

3. Disable Smart Notice

LG's Smart Notice is kind of like a poor man's Google Now: It lurks on your home screen and delivers "contextual" cards that also appear as notifications. But it has a fraction of the functionality Now provides -- and it doesn't really do anything useful you won't find somewhere else on the system.

Save yourself the redundant info and wasted space by putting Smart Notice out of its misery: Just tap the wrench icon in the upper-right corner of the G3's main home screen panel, located on the widget showing you the time.

On the screen that pops up next, uncheck the option for "New card notifications" -- and while you're at it, uncheck everything else on that screen, too. Then head back to your home screen, long-press that widget, and drag it to the trash icon at the top of the screen.

You could replace it with the regular weather widget that comes preloaded on the system or with something provided by a third-party developer (I like the weather widgets from 1Weather and HD Widgets, myself).

4. Change the Recent Apps view

The G3's default Recent Apps view is pretty darn overwhelming -- not exactly the kind of design you can process at a glance.

LG G3 Recent Apps

It's easy to fix, though: Just open up the Recent Apps screen (by tapping the button at the bottom-right of your display, next to the Back and Home keys), then put two fingers together in the middle of the screen and slowly spread them apart. That'll toggle the UI to something like this:

LG G3 Recent Apps

If you want things to be even easier on the eyes, perform that same pinching-out gesture a second time to shift to an uncluttered single-column view:

LG G3 Recent Apps

Presto, change-o.

5. Change the system button design

For some reason, LG has opted to give the main system buttons a white background by default instead of black, as they typically have on Android devices. As a result, the buttons are more visually prominent than they should be -- and your eye naturally ends up moving to them instead of to the main content on the screen.

LG G3 Buttons

The background of the buttons is designed to be black in Android for a reason: That color causes the bar to blend into the phone's bezels, regardless of the color of the current on-screen background, and remain a nonfocal point of the display.

To switch the G3's button bar to black, head into the "Display" section of the system settings and look for the option labeled "Home Touch Buttons." Tap it, then tap "Color" and select "Black."

LG G3 Buttons

Much better, no?

6. Switch the system settings to a list view

LG, like some other Android manufacturers, has made Android's system settings far more complicated than they need to be. The company has split up the settings into a series of tabbed menus that actually make it harder to find what you need.

Do yourself a favor and switch your phone into a more traditional single-list settings view: Open up the system settings, tap the overflow icon (the three vertical dots) at the top-right of the screen, and select "Switch to list view."

(At least one carrier has already made a single-list view the default on its model of the G3, by the way -- so if your phone already shows that, disregard this and use the time you saved to buy yourself a soft pretzel.)

7. Banish bloatware

The G3 is chock-full of preinstalled garbage you probably don't want and will never use -- but just because something comes on a phone when you buy it doesn't mean it has to stay there forever.

Go into your system settings and look for the option called "Apps" (it'll be under the "General" tab, if you're still using the tabbed view). Swipe over three times until you're looking at the field labeled "All," then scroll through the list.

As a general rule, you don't want to disable any system processes or services that run behind the scenes. If you aren't sure what something is, it's best to leave it alone.

But third-party nonsense that LG or your carrier has put on the phone is safe to slay -- apps like Amazon, Box, eBay, Lookout, Messaging+, or pretty much anything with your carrier's name in it.

When you come across any such app in the list, tap it and then look for a button that says either "Uninstall" or "Disable" and pound the hell out of that thing. In some cases, you might encounter a button called "Uninstall updates" that you'll have to hit first before the "Disable" option will appear.

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With these seven tweaks behind you, your G3's software should be cleaner, easier on the eyes, and more pleasant to use. They're all relatively little things, but added together, they make a big difference in improving the user experience.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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