First impressions of a new flagship, the LG Optimus G Pro for AT&T

May 7, 2013

Last week, AT&T announced it is exclusively selling the LG Optimus G Pro for $199 with contract. The phone can be pre-ordered now and is expected to be available on May 10. I received an early review unit and have spent just a little time so far using the phone. A few things already stand out to me: LG is mimicking Samsung’s large phone approach — both with hardware and software — and those looking for a flagship phone will have to add the Optimus G Pro to their list of potential candidates.

I’ll have a full review forthcoming — I never review a phone without at least five days use for testing battery life and other reasons — but for now, here are my first impressions, in no particular order, followed by some images of the phone.

When I first removed the phone from the box, I thought I was sent the wrong phone. It appears nearly identical to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, although LG’s new handset is roughly a quarter-inch narrower in width. And that small width shaving makes a big difference — for the better — when holding this phone.

Like the Note 2, the Optimus G Pro is all plastic and has a removable back cover. In all seriousness: If I didn’t see the LG branding on the top of the device, I would have sworn it was Samsung made.

The 5.5-inch 1080p display is excellent, easily rivaling those on the Galaxy S 4 and HTC One, both of which also have 1920 x 1080 resolution screens. There’s nary a pixel to be seen.


LGs' new smartphone Optimus G Pro is unveiled during a press conference in Seoul, South Korea on Feb. 18, 2013. (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

LG’s software is much improved over earlier efforts. Although this phone doesn’t run stock Android, LG’s skin is very minimal compared to similar phones. The home screens have a nice 3D effect: When swiping through them, everything on the display rotates around the left axis of the screen as if the icons and widgets were rotating around a flagpole.

Short of LG’s Tag+ NFC software and an IR remote control app, there are no other LG-specific apps. The same can’t be said of AT&T: I count at least nine bits of software from the carrier.

Similar to the Galaxy S 4, the Optimus G Pro has settings split up by four tabs. It’s not a confusing layout, but clearly the high-end Android phones are gaining more features that could add complexity. There are no hover gestures, but you can pause video by turning the phone over.

A quad-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 with 2 GB of memory powers the phone and for some reason it appears to perform a smidge better than the HTC One and Galaxy S 4 in my limited usage so far. I suspect the lack of a complex skin atop Android may be the reason, however, it’s too early to determine a performance winner.

I don’t mind a physical home button on Android phones although some do. The one on the Optimus G Pro isn’t my favorite though. I find it too small; it’s wide enough, but very thin. It does, however, have a nice LED ring around it with different colors for notifications and such. I also personally don’t like the placement of the two capacitive buttons: Back is on the left side of the Home button, while Menu is to the right. This may not bother others.

The phone comes with 32 GB of internal memory at this price; cheaper than the 32 GB Galaxy S 4. And you can expand it, unlike the HTC One, although some won’t have to. However, the total space available is 23.3 GB, which surprises me; I would have expected around 26 GB or so. Carrier bloatware, perhaps?

Like many new phones, the Optimus G Pro ships with Android 4.1.2. There is a bit of multitasking capability as some apps and widgets have a transparency slider. Use this and the app is see through so you can interact with other apps. Slide it back for the original app to regain focus.

Although there isn’t a stylus, the phone has a dedicated note-taking app called QuickMemo, which is available from the drop-down notifications shade. I almost wish there was a stylus because I don’t see many folks taking notes here with their fingers.

I haven’t taken many photos with the 13 megapixel rear camera yet. I did notice that there are only a few camera modes: Normal, HDR, Panorama, VR Panorama, Burst Shot and Beauty Shot. Perhaps that’s a good thing so consumers won’t get overwhelmed by a wider range of image modes.

It’s too early to determine battery life on a single charge. However, with a 3140 mAh battery, I’d be disappointed (and somewhat surprised) if this phone doesn’t easily last a full day for all but a very select number of power users.

(c) 2013, GigaOM.com.

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