It is not a secret that LG wants to step into the phablet market which is dominated by Samsung’s 5.3″ Galaxy Note and 5.5″ Galaxy Note 2. The 5″ rectangle slab, Optimus Vu, and Vu 2, announced last year, failed miserably to get into this niche market.
So, this year, LG Optimus G Pro was announced during Mobile World Congress 2013. It will be released in selected regions next month. This time LG gambles on the Optimus G branding. Will it be successful?
The eye-catching feature of this phone is its 5.5″ full HD IPS display. So, the targeted competitor of Optimus G Pro is not Galaxy S3 or recently announced Galaxy S4. LG actually wants this phone to be the alternative of Galaxy Note 2.
From the timing of the announcement, it can be easily deduced that Galaxy Note 2 is the target. By releasing a handset in the middle of Galaxy Note 2 and the coming Note 3, Optimus G Pro can get about 6-month lead in hardware specifications against Note 2.
LG recently started to know how to design a great Android phone after they worked with Google for the Nexus 4. LG then transformed Nexus 4 into Optimus G, which is the most successful Android phone LG ever made.
Design and build quality
From the exterior, Optimus G Pro likes a sibling of Galaxy Note 2. It is totally different from Optimus Vu or Optimus G. Physical home button and two capacitive buttons for menu and back are similarly placed like that in Galaxy Note 2. However, Optimus G Pro has slightly smaller side bezels.
For the back, LG also abandoned the all-glass design spotted in Optimus G. Plastic was chosen for Optimus G Pro. The build quality is similar to Note 2.
One thing that some people may like in Optimus G Pro is the Q Button. This is a dedicated button in the left side. You can configure any (but only one) app for this button. Of course, you can configure it as a camera button, just like many Symbian smartphones. However, the location of t his button is annoying. You may often mistakenly press it. It would have been better if it had been placed near the bottom.
Software and skin
Both LG Optimus G Pro and Galaxy Note 2 come with Jelly Bean 4.1, and Jelly Bean 4.2 update is on the way. However, based on the leaked updating roadmap, Samsung will also update Note 2 to Android 5.0 (Key Lime Pie) which will surely be announced in this May during the Google I/O 2013. Based on the updating track record, this is very likely. For example, Galaxy Note was shipped with Gingerbread (2.3) in 2011, updated to Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) in 2012, and then Jelly Bean 4.1 this year.
However., if you check the OS updating record for LG Android phones, you may know Optimus G Pro will very likely end up with Jelly Bean 4.2.
For the skin overlay (UI), TouchWiz is over-bloated. The latest version, Nature UX, was refined and polished significantly, but surely further polishing and structural change are needed. Some changes in the UI do not improve the stock ones, and are just for the sake of change. But when you compared it with LG Optimus UI, you will feel Samsung does a better job. The Optimus UI has some nice features, but it is clumsy and counter-intuitive. Maybe, because I get used to TouchWiz or vanilla Android.
LG Optimus Pro is packed with a full HD (1920*1080) display. While Galaxy Note 2 comes with a HD display (1280*720). On the paper, LG Optimus G pro should give more sharp images. But when you compare them side by side, most people probably still prefer Samsung’s over-saturated AMOLED display because it is simply more vivid than the IPS panel in Optimus G Pro. Some may disagree. But the bottom line is that the resolution or number of pixels does not matter; it is the contrast and brightness that matter.
The pixel density in Optimus G Pro goes to 401ppi. This is beyond the capability of human eyes to identify pixels when you hold your phone 4 inches away. For a smartphone, 300ppi is sufficient for most eyes. Because all smartphone manufacturers are crazily fighting into hardware specification race, full HD has been spotted on more and more phones, although it is just a waste on these 4-6″ screens. Galaxy Note 3 will surely join this full HD club.
Camera and video
Optimus G Pro comes with a 13MP rear camera, which is the new standard configuration of flagship smartphones in 2013. Higher pixels does not mean better images: it all depends on software. The tiny image sensor may have trouble to get enough light if more pixels are packed. This has to be mainly solved through software. But anyway, 13MP may be better than 8MP if the light is not an issue.
A nice feature packed with Optimus G Pro is the dual recording, with which you can use both cameras for one video (video in video). The announced update will bring this (dual camera) to photos as well. Similar features were announced in Galaxy S4, and will go to Galaxy Note 2 in the Jelly Bean 4.2 update. So, for Galaxy Note 2 users, we have to wait a few months for these features.
Finger vs S Pen
Surprisingly, Optimus G Pro does not come with a stylus. Both Optimus Vu and Vu 2 give you a stylus. So, LG is expecting you to use fingers, instead of a stylus, on this phone.
Another reason is probably LG is not able to deliver a stylus better than S Pen. So, it is wise to omit this component.
Q Memo vs S Note
LG has Q memo for quite long time. So it is not an app specially for Optimus G Pro. But most users want to compare it with S Memo (in Galaxy Note). Q Memo is simple to use, compared with S Note in Note and Note 2. Of course, Q Memo has less functions/features for a long note/memo.
Lacking a stylus makes the Q Memo less useful. In Galaxy Note 2, you have more choices: when pulling out your S Pen, popup note will be available; If you need take notes for a lecture or meeting, you can use S Note.
In addition, Galaxy Note 2 has a lot of cool and useful features related to S Pen.
Q Slide vs Multi Window
Q Slide in Optimus G Pro is similar to multi window in Note 2. But in Q Slide, the selected apps overlay other apps and you can change the transparency of the overlayed app. In Note 2, the screen is split and you can re-size them. So, the Q Slide likes popup note with adjustable transparency and size.
Optimus G Pro is another over-powered (that is the reason why I skipped other hardware specifications) phone, with some innovative features. It is a good, not great phone in this form factor.
However, lacking of a stylus and related apps makes it hard to compete against Galaxy Note 2 in this screen size, although better hardware specifications may lure some gamers.
What do you think?