SEOUL, South Korea -- The G2 and the G Pad 8.3, the flagship smartphone and tablet from LG Electronics Inc., are great mobile devices that have fantastic screens, top-end cameras and ample processing power.
But making solid devices is not enough to stand apart from the crowd in the ultracompetitive mobile phone market, which probably pushed LG to make some bold design decisions in a bid to differentiate its G series from Samsung's Galaxy line and Apple's iPad mini.
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For the G2, which was released last month in the U.S., LG moved the power and volume controls to the back of the phone. For the G Pad, which goes on sale in the U.S. next week, LG added a full HD screen, a rarity in 8-inch tablet computers.
While these design choices set the G2 and the G Pad apart from `me too' devices trying to catch up with Samsung and Apple, they might also limit their appeal.
Not everyone will be pleased with having to change the basic habits of smartphone operation. They will scratch their heads looking for those buttons just like I did. The full HD screen display makes the G Pad a couple of hundred dollars more expensive than other 8-inch tablets.
It took a couple of days before my index finger ceased pressing a volume key when I intended to press a power key. But after that, I realized having a power button on the back makes it easier to use a big handset with one hand. The G2 has a 5.2-inch screen.
LG came up with a double-tap gesture to activate the phone. I found it easier and quicker than pressing a home button and then sliding to unlock as with my iPhone 4S. This double-tap to start also applies to the G Pad.
LG removed the physical home button on the front for the G2 and the G Pad. Instead, virtual buttons for back, home and menu actions appear when the screen is activated. I preferred these virtual buttons over physical ones because I could touch them with the same gesture and pressure I applied to the touch screen. One downside of Samsung's Galaxy devices is that the touch screen and the three buttons for home, back and menu options all need a different level of pressure to be activated.
LG's virtual buttons rotated with the screen when I tilted the G2 or the G Pad to a landscape mode. That made them easy to access when I watched a movie in the landscape mode with the G Pad. Removing the physical home button also gives the screen more space in the phone.
But the design elements that make the G2 and the G Pad different from rivals stopped there.
LG has packed the G2 with other features but many of them were no better than what is already available. For example, a feature called Task Slider allows multi-tasking by swiping the screen with three fingers to hide or reopen an application. But Android users are familiar with an extended press of the home button to bring up a list of applications in use, which is quick and more intuitive.
The G2 will be a great choice but only for people who don't mind relearning how to use a smartphone. In the U.S., the G2 smartphone is available at $200 with a two-year contract or $600 without a contract from a carrier.
For people who are willing to pay a premium for the 8.3-inch tablet's full HD screen, the G Pad will also be a decent choice. While the U.S. price is yet to be announced, in South Korea the tablet is offered at 550,000 won ($515).