LG's Optimus G is the first high-end smartphone from the company to have a serious presence in America. In the past, LG's offerings in the U.S. have largely been mid-range handsets that were, in large part, easy to overlook. Its mobile marketing efforts in the U.S. have also been somewhat unimpressive, hindering the company's chances to increase its market share. But the Optimus G is something different. It's a fresh and powerful piece of kit that seems to hit all of the right marks, at least from a technical standpoint.
What's most interesting about the overall design of the Optimus G is its size. With a 4.7" display, it falls somewhere in between a larger-than-average size smartphone and a phablet. It feels huge compared to the iPhone 4S, but a bit on the small side compared to the Galaxy Note II. Ultimately, the phone feels wide overall, but we suspect those that like larger screens will dig the Optimus G.
The 4.7" display is clearly the star of the show. The company's Zerogap Touch technology places the capacitive layer inside of the panel, enabling LG to make the phone a little bit slimmer, and the images on the panel a little bit clearer. At first glance, images are pin sharp, and colors are remarkably vibrant. It's easily one of the more stunning mobile panels in terms of clarity. But there's an issue here that you'll notice after you spend an extended amount of time with the phone: if you tilt the screen at a more extreme angle, you'll notice a subtle discoloration. Whites turn a slight off-white, almost yellow, and based on the information we have available, this issue seems to be uniform across these devices. It's not a huge issue until you tilt the screen at fairly extreme angles, but most other devices don't have the same issue. For a flagship phone, it's fairly disheartening to see such an obvious weak spot in the panel.
The front of the phone is a glossy black, with a 1.3MP (720p) front-facing webcam in the top right corner. The right edge of the phone is home to a power / screen lock key (with an illumination light for notifications), while the top edge has a 3.5mm headphone jack. The left edge is home to a volume up / down rocker, as well as a pop-out lid that hides the micro-SIM slot and microSD slot. (AT&T's version of the Optimus G has 16GB of onboard storage + 16GB microSD card.) The bottom edge is home to a microUSB / MHL port. The rear of the phone is home to an 8MP sensor and an LED flash, as well as a silver AT&T logo. Oddly, the global version of the Optimus G (and Sprint's version) has a 13MP camera.
Overall, the phone feels like a rigid device, but it's an ultra-slick piece of hardware that may slip out of your hand as easily as in your pocket. Clumsy hands best opt for a case with some grip. At over five ounces, it also feels a tad on the heavy side, but most concerning is the somewhat underwhelming feel of the build materials. Unlike the iPhone, which uses metals that are smooth to the touch or even the cheaper RAZR M, which relies on a svelte Kevlar backing, this phone relies on cheaper plastics from top to bottom. For a low-end or mid-range phone, this would be expected. For a flagship product that costs $549.99 (off-contract), we were left longing for more premium materials.