As with the G2, LG has also introduced a 'smaller' brother to the market for the G3. With a 5 inch screen, the term mini is a bit unbelievable and so he gets the name G3 s.
The G3 s has inherited the looks of its big brother, but apart from the screen and its appearance, the G3 s has not significantly changed in specifications compared to the G2 mini. The hardware buttons are again placed at the back and the camera is an 8 megapixel one.
As a smaller version of the flagship, G3 s will initially compete against the Samsung Galaxy S5 mini, HTC One mini and the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. But because it hasn't really grown in terms of hardware, the new Moto G also comes into the picture as an opponent.
What's with the device?
The G3 s comes in a little shabby box. Unlike the G3 headset is also rather shabby. That is, made of plastic and not very comfortable. We also find a microUSB cable with adapter and a quick start guide in the box.
The G3 s appears to be an identical copy of his big brother in reduced form. As a result, it has the same premium appearance as his more expensive family member. This means that the glass front runs from edge to edge and also covers the silver chin. Especially the limited space above and below the screen benefits the dimensions of the device. Next to the ear loudspeaker is a red notification LED and the secondary camera.
Both the headset and microUSB connectors are located on the bottom of the device. The top is for an infrared transmitter only. To keep the edges as thin as possible, there are no buttons around the device. All control buttons can be found on the back. They do not protrude but can still be easily distinguished at the touch of a button due to differences in profile. Besides the camera, the loudspeaker is also located at the back.
The back has a slight bulge and the back cover has a kind of brushed aluminium look but is made entirely of plastic. It is therefore easy to remove from the unit. The SIM card and microSD card can then be swapped without removing the battery. However, the device must be restarted after removing the SIM card.
Due to its smaller size and ergonomic design, the G3 s is very comfortable to handle. Even in a trouser pocket it does not form a conspicuous or annoying bulge. The back is clearly made of plastic when touched, but the device feels solid and makes a solid impression.
The battery of the G3 s has a capacity of 2,540 mAh. This is slightly larger than its predecessor but the screen is also slightly larger. The end result is similar. During normal use, the endurance fluctuated in our case between one and one and a half day. When you leave the device alone for the most part, it is remarkably economical with its energy. At night it will only use a few percent at most and after a working day where we had used it little, the average consumption was one percent per hour.
LG provides a nice overview of battery usage. The device has a low-power mode that can be activated with 10, 20, 30 or 50 percent remaining battery. This allows a number of functions to be switched off or changed to save battery power. Without really compromising the phone's functionality. Unfortunately, this function does constantly display a message in the notification window.
The phone interface is straightforward and merged with the phonebook. In between, there is also a tab for the call history. The indication on the screen for answering or rejecting a call is a bit strange because it reads 'slide an icon in one direction'. The sound quality during a call is more than adequate. The ear loudspeaker can be quite loud, although the sound sometimes tends to get a bit creaky.
The LG G3 was the first phone to have a Quad HD screen. That's 2,560 x 1,440 pixels.
The G3 s has to do with considerably fewer pixels. The 5 inch screen has a normal HD resolution and thus 1,280 x 720 pixels. That seems on the lean side for a screen this size, but after a few days you are used to it and it is not annoying. Although it is not an AMOLED screen, colors are quite saturated. It makes for a vivid image, but when you hold it next to another device, a bit of a greenish haze seems to be over the image.
Because the G3 s has no ambient light sensor, just like the G2 mini the automatic mode for the screen brightness is missing. However, it is possible to have the lowest screen brightness switched on automatically between 24:00 and 06:00 hours. Strangely enough, this period is not adjustable. With smartscreen, the screen stays on as long as the device detects that you are looking at it.
With the arrival of the G3, LG also came up with a new design for the Optimus UI shell which it is laying over Android 4.4.2. The exuberant colour palette is quite moderate and has been replaced by some five pastel shades that form the core of the interface. The icons for apps have also been reworked and look a lot better. The layout of the interface hasn't changed much and there are still a lot of settings and adjustments.
With KnockOn you can activate the phone by tapping twice quickly on the turned off screen. By tapping an empty spot on the lock or start screen, the screen can be turned off again. We now also see this at other manufacturers and it is a pleasant function. With KnockCode you can also unlock the phone by tapping the four corners of the screen in an adjustable pattern of 2 to 8 taps.
For the virtual function keys at the bottom of the screen, you can choose between a white and black background. In addition, keys for notifications, QuickMemo+ and QSlide can be added. With a maximum of five function keys in total. QSlide is the name of the option to reduce or open most LG apps as a kind of floating widget, but with full functionality. This allows a different kind of multitasking.
On the G3 s, three start screens have been created by default. This can be further expanded by the user. The carousel of start screens can be rotated indefinitely. In contrast to many other Android phones, and despite the limited screen resolution, rows of five shortcuts can be placed next to each other on the start screens. In the notification screen behind the status bar there is a line at the top with round switches that can enable or disable connections and applications. This line can be moved horizontally and the number of switches can be changed. Below that we see a slide for screen brightness and one for ringtone volume. It is only underneath that we see the actual notifications. With QSlide and/or Quick Remote activated, this part sinks even further.
As with the just announced Android 5.0, the status bar colors along with the menu bar of some apps. Strangely enough, there is a slight delay in this for the LG apps in particular. The settings menu is split up into the sections Networking, Sound, Display and General. Each with its own tab.
In the application menu, apps can also be placed in folders and you can choose from two formats for the icons. Not quite up to date yet is the fact that LG still shows a separate tab for widgets here. This part has now disappeared from regular Android and this rule takes up unnecessary space.
That the G3s has a slightly lean processor is unfortunately noticeable from time to time. When returning to the home screens it sometimes takes a while before the widgets and shortcuts appear. Also other transitions and opening apps sometimes go a bit bumpy.
In addition to the two tabs for calling in the phone application, there are three more tabs for the phonebook. The middle of the five is for the contact list and the two on the right for favourites and groups can also be switched off. You can switch between the different tabs by swiping across the screen. Different accounts are neatly merged and displayed in the address book, including profile photos. To save the overview, the list can be filtered and sorted according to the wishes of the user.
The message app is also taut and nicely organized. In the mail application of LG Microsoft Exchange and other accounts can be set up. In principle this goes well but it's not completely clear if the settings of regular providers are always automatically recognized. The interface is a bit basic and you can't drag the screen down to refresh it but the synchronization will work fine.
The keyboard is rather cramped at first. Fortunately, the height of the entire keyboard can be adjusted and that saves a lot. The separate row for numbers at the top can also be switched off. Next to the space bar an extra key for punctuation can be added. Switching between different input languages is easy to do and text can also be entered by swiping from letter to letter. This works reasonably well. Although the word prediction and spelling correction are a bit erratic. The keyboard automatically fills in a space after choosing the correct word prediction but not after a dot or comma.
On the Network tab in the settings you will find switches for WiFi, Bluetooth and data connection. The G3 s can use the 4G network for mobile internet. For connection options such as NFC, Android Beam, DLNA and Miracast you can go to 'Share & Connect'. To turn the G3 s into an internet hotspot, go to 'Tethering & Networking'. Here you will also find the flightmode and VPN settings.
The infrared transmitter makes it possible to turn the device into a remote control with the QuickRemote app to control all kinds of multimedia devices. The remote control can also be displayed on the lock and notification screen.
In contrast to Google's Chrome, LG's internet browser still has a bar with navigation keys at the bottom of the screen. This bar and the other one at the top of the screen with the address window both disappear when you scroll down. If you scroll up for a moment, they will become visible again. The browser is working properly but in the latest version of Chrome everything seems to go a little smoother and the animations are more fluid.
The camera of the G3 was combined by LG with a laser they had borrowed from their robot vacuum cleaners. This was used to measure the distance to objects and to improve the focus. The camera of G3 s went from 13 to 8 megapixels but also has this laser technology. Although the camera starts up rather syrupy, focusing remains fast because of this.
The interface has been kept reasonably simple. The settings are hidden under the cogwheel icon. Here you can set things like HDR, resolution and timer. You can also find the activation of the voice control here. The different scene modes can be found under the heading 'mode'. Unfortunately, when actually taking a picture, the inertia of the processor comes into play again. This often results in eventful images. Something that also the laser focus can't do anything against.
By reducing the image resolution compared to the G3, the image quality has also clearly dropped to a more midrange level. This certainly does not mean that it is bad, but the results are variable. Of course, daylight delivers the best images. Colour and details then look fine. Contrast differences can still be easily absorbed with the HDR mode for still subjects. When there is less light, there is quickly a lot of noise.
In addition to the aforementioned applications, the G3 s is also equipped with a calendar, file manager, calculator, cell broadcast, downloads, FM radio, clock, Maps, music, QuickMemo+, QuickRemote, RemoteCall service, SmartWorld, tasks, ThinkFree viewer, update center, voice recorder, weather, YouTube, Google, voice search, Google+, Play Music/Movies/Books/Kiosk/Games, Google Drive, photos and Hangouts.
QuickMemo+, just like the action memo on Galaxy Note devices, creates a screenshot after which you can make a note of it. Without the stylus of the Note, this is still a lot less useful application.
The update center can be used to check whether the firmware of the device and the applications preinstalled by LG are up to date. Immediately after we started using the device, we indeed had to update a number of applications.
After testing the G3 s, the impression remains that the device is failing itself. Especially in the form of its screen resolution and undersized processor. If these two aspects had been of better quality, the G3 s would have been a fantastic smartphone. But... the price would probably have been considerably higher as well. And right now it's well under 300 euros.
For that price you get a nice, handy phone with the same looks as his high-end big brother the G3. His endurance is also a clear plus and we like the LG interface very much. Although it is a bit stuttered on the G3 s. All in all, somewhere in the back of our minds the idea remains that LG might have done better to exchange the infrared transmitter and laser focus for a stronger processor and / or higher screen resolution.