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Review: LG G3 for Verizon Wireless

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Media

The G3 offers a variety of media apps and services. The Google Play Store is available for purchasing content, and the individual Play apps are loaded, as well. These apps haven't changed much over the last two years. The G3 also offers a basic music player for side-loaded music, and the stock YouTube application.

Verizon was sure to bundle in a ton of its preferred apps, as well. You'll find Amazon Music and Audible for MP3 and audio book consumption, respectively, as well as NFL Mobile and Slacker Radio.

The G3 does include LG's remote control app for your home theater gear. I found it easy to setup and use with my TV and cable box. I was flipping channels and surfing my content guide in no time.

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Remote  

There are multiple tools for sharing media between devices. First, there's NFC for easier pairing; just tap to share. LG's SmartShare Beam connects the G3 to other LG phones and tablets, but the phone also has a Media Server tool for connecting with devices via DLNA. The G3 also supports Miracast for connecting to TVs and LG PC Suite for connecting to PCs.

Camera

LG has really toned down its camera software, minimizing the app down to almost the bare minimum. As noted, it can be launched from the lock screen or with a long press of one of the volume toggles. There is no dedicated hardware camera button. The app launches swiftly.

At its most basic, the camera UI has but three buttons: one to access the settings, one to jump to the photo gallery, and one to exit the camera. In short, you can launch the camera and get to the shooting screen quickly. All you have to do to take a shot is press the screen.

If you want more, press the three little dots in the corner. The tools unfurl along the left edge of the screen and include access to the flash, front-facing camera, shooting mode, and settings. A visible shutter button for taking pictures/video doesn't appear until you press the three little dots, either.

Shooting modes have been reduced to four: Auto, Magic Focus, Panorama, and Dual Shot. Magic Focus lets users select what portion of the image they want to be in focus after the fact. It works best when there's a well-defined subject and background. Panorama is self-explanatory. The Dual Shot mode lets you shoot images with both the front and back cameras at the same time, so you can include your vain self in that shot of the Grand Canyon or Statue of Liberty.

The full settings have been drastically reduced. You can turn the framing grids on/off, turn LG's Cheese Shutter feature on/off (why does this still exist?), adjust the resolution of images, and cycle through the HDR modes. That's it. There's no white balance, no exposure, no color controls, nor many other controls that are often available to smartphone cameras.

I like the HDR tool best. There are three options: HDR On, HDR Off, and HDR Auto. HDR is an important tool for balancing out exposures, but it needs to be used carefully. Having an Auto option - which senses whether or not it's needed before taking the shot - is truly helpful. In my tests, it used HDR in appropriate settings.

LG made the G3's camera incredibly easy to use and still included just the right amount of tools for the creative photographer.

Camera  

Pictures

The G3 can take pictures up to 13 megapixels. The highest setting shoots full frame (4:3) images. If you choose the “wide” 16:9 ratio, images will be cropped to 10 megapixels.

In general, I liked the images. They look staggering when viewed on the G3's luscious screen. The sensor handled really bright spots well, as evidenced by the visible details in the red flower below. Other cameras I've used recently, in comparison, lost those details entirely. Focus is mostly good, white balance is accurate, and exposures mostly spot on. I'd say quite comfortably the G3 can stand as your main camera when on vacation.

Photos  

Video

The G3 can capture 4K video, but you don't need that unless you have a 4K (Ultra HD) TV. Stick with the 1080p HD video capture setting and you be plenty pleased with the results. I thought the video looked fantastic. The focus is razor sharp, exposure spot-on, and white balance perfect. I thought motion was sometimes a bit jittery when the G3 was being panned during filming. Otherwise, you can rest easy in knowing that the G3 can take nearly professional-quality video.

Gallery

LG installed both the standard Android gallery and the Google+ Photos app for managing your pictures.

The standard gallery has been skinned by LG with its newer interface aesthetics, but the underlying mechanics are about the same. It lets you view the gallery by album, date, or location and separates the local camera roll from other online galleries that might be visible. You can even see the photo galleries of nearby LG devices (as long as the owner of that device has made it public). I really like that the gallery lets you separate videos from pictures.

Whichever album you open, the images are arranged in a grid. You can perform pinch-to-zoom gestures to increase the size of the photos in the grid. Individual pictures can be moved and renamed, cropped and rotated, as well as adjusted for exposure, color, and so on. There are a number of built-in filters that adjust the tone and artistic appeal of photos. Sharing tools are a breeze to use, and let you easily send your photos to just about any online destination.

If you've taken any pictures with the Magic Focus setting, you have to use the Gallery app to choose what you want to be in focus before you can share them.

Gallery  

Apps

Verizon stacked the G3 with plenty of annoying apps. Some include Caller Name ID, Verizon Cloud, My Verizon Mobile, VZ Protect, and VZ Navigator. There's a full suite of Amazon-branded apps, such as the Amazon Appstore, Amazon Store, Kindle, and so on. Some LG-specific apps include an Update Center for managing system and app updates, a download manager, and a file manager. There's even a dedicated app for live support via text messages.

The G3 also supports LG's QMemo and QSlide apps. The QMemo feature takes a screenshot and then loads the image into a simple editor for marking up and sharing.

QSlide apps are miniature apps that can remain open and running on top of other apps in a little floating window. Some of them include the phone/contacts app, messaging app, browser, calculator, and several others. These features have been around on LG phones for a while and function perfectly on the G3.

Bluetooth

The G3 supports Bluetooth 4.0 and a wide range of profiles. I successfully paired the G3 with a half-dozen different devices. Phone calls routed to my car's hands-free system sounded very good and offered plenty of volume. The G3 includes the aptX stereo music profile, which makes for high-quality playback through other devices that support the same profile. I spent hours listening to the G3 through my favorite portable speaker when cleaning out my garage over the weekend and the sound was amazing.

Browser

The Verizon G3 includes only Google's Chrome browser. I like the way it syncs open tabs and bookmarks between other devices, and it does a fine job of rendering web sites. It performed very well over Verizon's LTE 4G network.

Browser  

Clock

There are several clock options for the lock screen. You can leave the lock screen blank, place a single clock there, a dual clock, or a clock combined with a weather widget. Whichever you choose, the clock is easy to read anywhere… inside. I couldn't read the time at all outside, even with the screen brightness cranked. That's kind of annoying.

GPS

The review unit included Google Maps and Verizon's VZ Navigator for navigation. Both apps paired well with the G3's GPS radio, which was consistent at pinpointing me in fewer than 5 seconds and to within 15 feet. I like Google Maps because it is great for search, routing directions, and is free. VZ Navigator is also a solid option, but it carries a monthly fee.

Guest Mode

Guest Mode is meant to safely protect the owner's data and settings while lending the phone to someone else (read: a kid.) Guest mode lets people play games or listen to the media player, for example, but not access email, messaging, or settings. It's a cinch to set up and helps keep private info private. The mode can be accessed with a dedicated lock screen pattern (drawing a "G" on the screen.)

Smart Stay / Smart Video

The Smart Stay feature can be used to keep the G3's display on for as long as you're looking at it. It doesn't always work. For example, it is more or less useless if you're reading a Twitter update in the dark. There's a similar app called Smart Video that keeps the video player playing as long as the front-facing camera can see your face. It'll pause the video if you look away and resume when you look back. As on other phones, these features are gimmicky at best.

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