Yuhnke Review: LG Optimus G on Sprint, best of the best Android smartphones?

PHOENIX - The world of smartphones is a world of one-uppers. Every new phone on the market is trying to 1-up the smartphone before it. On Sprint, the new LG Optimus G may have just stolen the crown from the Samsung Galaxy S3. The Optimus G is a superphone with one of the highest resolution cameras we've seen yet on a smartphone. I had a chance to test it out.

Hardware

For many, LG isn't known as a "high-end" smartphone maker. In the past it seems the company focused on middle of the road and lower end smartphones. Clearly, LG is changing that path. The LG Optimus G on Sprint is built like a rock. Glass on the front, glass on the back and a powerhouse of a smartphone in between.

It has a quad-core 1.5GHz processor! This is one of the fastest on the market right now. The phone zips from one thing to another. We're starting to see so much processor power that, in the case of the Optimus G, the phone can play a video in the background while another app is being used in the foreground. In other words, it has "oomph"!

The 4.7" IPS display (768x1280) looks bright and crisp. The blacks aren't as true black as Samsung's Super AMOLED screen. This is not a deal breaker by any means. In fact, most users would barely notice the difference.  It's a gorgeous 4.7" screen.

The real star of the Optimus G is the 13 Megapixel camera on the back! It's one of the highest resolution cameras I've seen on a smartphone yet. Is 13 Megapixels really worth it? Possibly not. I took pictures with the Optimus G and my Samsung Galaxy Nexus (only 5 Megapixels) and to the naked eye, the pictures looked similar. When I zoomed in, the Optimus G seemed to have a bit more clarity to it but not much. Not as much as I expected. There's only so much camera goodness you can cram into a tiny smartphone. It's a great camera and 13 Megapixels is impressive but it still won't replace your micro 4/3 or SLR camera.

The Optimus G feels great in your hand. It's solid yet light. It's not the thinnest smartphone on the market but it's far from fat. It's a good size and weight and feels as sturdy as a rock.

The Optimus G supports LTE 4G but I wasn't able to test it on the 4G network since Sprint has yet to upgrade the Phoenix area to LTE. 3G data speeds were good but not great in my tests in various areas of the Valley.

Software

The Optimus G is running Google Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0.4) as of December 2012. It also sports LG's enhancements to Android which are good and bad. Every manufacturer seems to put their own touch on Android. I wish they would leave the basic look and feel of Android alone. LG's changes, like most smartphone companies, look good but I'm not convinced many of them are necessary. Why re-work Google's default icons? Why re-create apps that Google already perfected? None the less, if you haven't fallen in love with a previous Android smartphone interface, you probably won't even notice these changes.

What you may notice are some of the goodies that LG tacked on. While watching a video (in the LG video app) you can essentially move it to the background. This allows you to continue watching the video semi-transparent on your screen while using other apps on your phone on top of it. Slick! You can also stream a video wirelessly to a supported TV while using another app at the same time. Keep in mind that this only works with the basic video player. It won't work with other video apps like Youtube or Netflix.

The extra LG feature I like the best is called QuickMemo. Tap this icon and it takes a snapshot of your screen, lets you draw on top of it and then save it. This is a great way to show someone something on your phone. For example, if you bring up a map and want to send a screenshot to someone quickly with a few written notes, perfect! I love the idea and it's super simple to use.

Conclusion

The LG Optimus G on Sprint is awesome. I'm excited to see LG joining the ranks of high-end smartphone makers like Samsung and HTC. From my testing, I think the Optimus G is as good as the Samsung Galaxy S III. It's powerful, sleek and packs some interesting additions to Google Android. The 13 Megapixel camera shouldn't be the deciding factor but it's a pretty impressive spec and takes some great pictures.

The LG Optimus G is available right now on Sprint for $199 with a 2 year contract. 

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