Are we sure that LG and Samsung are not the same company?
A smartphone showed up at my house yesterday. Now, this is not an infrequent occurrence, so I was not surprised by its arrival. I ripped open the packaging, pulled out the familiar AT&T box and found… a gargantuan smartphone.
Wait, I told myself, they sent the wrong phone. I already have a Samsung Galaxy Note II “phablet” (smartphone/tablet hybrid) device. Then, I looked a little closer. This was not one of Samsung’s infamous phablets. This mammoth was from LG – the Optimus G Pro.
It is thoroughly uninspiring.
Yet Another Phablet
The Optimus G Pro has a 5.5-inch screen, which makes it a hair smaller than the Galaxy Note II that comes in at 5.55-inches. At 6.07 ounces, it is not excessively heavy, which is good for a phone of this size. Screen resolution is decent but not top-end at 1080x1920 pixels (401 pixels per inch). It has a 13-megapixel back camera (in line with the Galaxy S4) and a 2.1-MP front camera. The battery is a bit smaller than that of the Note II, at 3140 mAh (versus 3200 mAh). The device has a plastic, removable back with expandable Micro-SIM and microSD slots.
The Optimus G Pro employs a similar quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon Galaxy S4 identical to the one in the HTC One, clocking in at 1.7 GHz. With 2 GB of RAM, the Optimus G Pro is about as fast as other recently released comparable smartphones.
If you know, or care, anything about hardware specs, you will recognize that the LG Optimus G Pro basically sports the exact same internal components at the HTC One, just with a bigger screen and battery. Its camera is basically the same as the Galaxy S4. Instead of reinventing the wheel, LG more or less just jumped on the components bandwagon with its biggest rivals.
I will say the same thing about the Optimus G Pro that I said about the Galaxy Note II when it came to the market: phablets are ridiculous. They are not practical as smartphones and are too small to be really nice tablets. Smartphones in the 5-inch plus to 7-inch range are the tweeners of the mobile device world. A smartphone loses its luster when it is difficult to put in the pockets of your jeans and looks and feels awkward when pressed against your face for a call. Size matters in the smartphone world and 5.5-inches for a device offers a suboptimal experience.
That being said, if you are a large person in need of a large smartphone, a phablet may be just what the doctor ordered.
A Few Defining Quirks
The Note II comes with a Stylus, what Samsung calls a S Pen. The LG Optimus G Pro does not come with a stylus, but it doe employ similar drawing capabilities.
Most Android smartphones these days come with two or three physical buttons: a power button, a volume button and, depending on the manufacturer, a physical “home” button. LG has all those buttons and one more: a “quick” button on the left side above the volume button.
The “quick” button is not a new concept. Older Android smartphones have employed it to launch the camera app or other functions. LG uses it to implement some of its own peculiar features. By pressing the quick button you are brought to a function call QuickMemo, where you can draw on the screen you are looking at. For instance, if you are reading an article in an app or through the browser, you can easily toggle to QuickMenu and make a note and send it to yourself or someone else. For a functional perspective, this is much easier to do than most of the stylus functions through the Note II.
If you do not want to use QuickMemo, the quick button can be changed to any app that you prefer.
The Android panels for the home screen on the Optimus G Pro also perform in a curious, delightful fashion. Instead of scrolling from one panel to another with the same image static in the background, the image scrolls along with the panels. It is a small detail, but a decent user interface flourish unique to LG.
Android Shines Through
Several of the most recent flagship devices from Android manufacturers do not showcase the operating system at all. Samsung has thoroughly invested in hiding the fact that Android is running on its new Galaxy S4 and HTC makes a decent skin in Sense 5 for the HTC One. On these devices, Android is marginalized, for good or bad, depending on your preference.
If there is one thing to credit with the Optimus G Pro is that LG does little to alter or tweak Android. Yes, there are some interesting UI oddities, but the overall experience is much plainer and simpler than that of any Samsung Galaxy device. That benefits the user as well as developers looking to create apps for the larger screen size.
In the end, the Optimus G Pro is just another large screen Android smartphone. It is not wholly remarkable nor unremarkable. It will hit stores in the United States on May 10 for $199 (on a two-year contract), making it cheaper than the Note II. If you are an individual with inordinately large hands or just curious about the newest crop of Android devices, it is worth at least a look.
Update: The original version of this article referred to the device as the Optimus Pro G. It has been corrected to Optimus G Pro.