Optimus G Pro deep-dive review: A supersized smartphone done right

LG's new Android smartphone brings a fresh dose of elegance to the large smartphone form.

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Software

The Optimus G Pro uses custom LG software based on the Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean) platform. While many manufacturer-modified versions of Android end up making the operating system uglier and less intuitive than what Google's base software provides, LG has managed to put its own stamp on the OS while maintaining a usable and visually consistent user environment.

To be sure, LG has made its share of silly changes -- redesigning system icons for no apparent reason, for instance, and loading up the notification pulldown with far too many nonpertinent elements -- but for the most part, the end result actually works. Using the Optimus G Pro feels like using a custom Android launcher like Nova or Apex: The basic look and feel of Android is still in place, only with some subtle visual differences and a lot of added opportunities for customization.

optimus-g-pro-qslide_338a.jpg
The QSlide function lets you open certain apps in movable and resizable windows that sit on top of whatever else you're doing.

Some examples: The Optimus G Pro's Favorites tray -- the dock of icons at the bottom of the screen -- can hold four app shortcuts and a link to your app drawer, like in Google's stock Android setup, or can expand effortlessly to hold up to seven items total. You can choose from a variety of different home screen transition effects. And if you don't like an icon anywhere on your home screen -- whether for a system app or a third-party app you've installed -- you can easily swap it out for something else.

Beyond the basic user interface, the Optimus G Pro has some interesting software features added into the mix. The aforementioned QuickMemo lets you make notes on top of the screen, using your finger; you can then access the notes anytime or save them as JPG screenshots.

The phone's QSlide function, meanwhile, lets you open certain apps in movable and resizable windows that sit on top of whatever else you're doing. It's an innovative take on multitasking that can come in quite handy; the only problem is that it's very limited in the ways it can be used. Currently, only four LG-made apps can be placed in a floating window: a notepad, calendar, calculator and video player (which works only with locally stored clips -- not YouTube videos or content from the Google Play Store).

The Optimus G Pro can also be configured to pause video, silence an incoming call or snooze an alarm when you flip the phone down on its face. That's a far more sensible approach than the gimmicky Samsung equivalent, which uses either unreliable eye detection or impractical hand waving movements to accomplish the same sorts of tasks.

The Optimus G Pro does have ample bloatware, largely courtesy of AT&T, but nearly all of it can be disabled and hidden from view.

Last but not least, I have to mention the always-touchy subject of Android upgrades: The level of software with which the Optimus G Pro ships, as you may have noticed, is a step behind the current 4.2 version of Android. An LG representative told Computerworld the phone should be receiving an upgrade soon, but the company has yet to provide any specific details on when that could occur.

I'd like to think a phone of this caliber would receive a reasonable level of ongoing software support, but the cold hard truth is that LG has a poor track record in that department -- even when specific promises have been made. That's something you'll have to take into account when considering this phone.

Bottom line

LG's Optimus G Pro is a plus-sized phone with plenty of positive qualities. The device has a fantastic 1080p display, impeccable performance and outstanding battery life. It also has a subdued and visually consistent user interface with some useful added features.

It isn't all roses, though: The Optimus G Pro has a plasticky construction that makes it look and feel less premium than other high-end devices. It also has an awkward and dated primary button configuration, and its camera -- while good for casual use -- isn't at the same level as other top-of-the-line devices.

Still, the Optimus G Pro delivers a cohesive and compelling all-around experience that's a pleasure to use. Unless you absolutely need a native stylus -- something only the Galaxy Note II provides -- the Optimus G Pro is the best supersized smartphone you can buy today.

It's just a shame it's limited to AT&T.

This article, Optimus G Pro deep-dive review: A supersized smartphone done right, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

JR Raphael is a Computerworld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. For more Android tips and insights, follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook.

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Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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