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LG G2 Flash Review

4 min read

Due to a combination of horrible timing and a lack of my second and third choices1 at the T-Mobile store2, I have been using an G2 for about a week and a half. In that time I mostly just used it to search 'Nexus 5 T-Mobile release date' over and over again (finally announced last Friday), but I thought I should jot down some thoughts about this interim phone.

  • Knock-On is awesome. All phones should have it. It's a great way to make sure the power button survives your phone contract. I have already tried to do it on other devices unconsciously.
  • There is a huge amount of LG bloatware, but I weirdly don't find it as oppressive as Touchwiz. It was a big deal in the Droid X days, but now you can just disable things you won't use.
  • The processor can handle it all, too. Top of the top of the line (and yes, I typed that twice). But then, so can the Nexus 5, because they share the same processor and amount of RAM.
  • I understand the Nexus is bloat-free, but that doesn't mean you don't also take time to set it up as your own. It probably took 1.5-2 days to set this phone up the way I like it, and would probably take about half that on the Nexus.
  • Battery life has been fantastic, but damn does it get hot playing Plants vs. Zombies 2.
  • The back casing is horrible. Feels like a toy phone the first time, then it just feels gross because it sucks all the oils from your hand onto the phone. Gets pretty greasy.
  • That is easily remedied by the Poetic Palette case, which adds a soft touch to the back but leaves the smooth bezels. I like them for some reason.
  • The case also frames the rear buttons, making them slightly easier to find. The button design works in theory, but practice is a different story. Your index finger does not naturally rest where these buttons are, as your thumb does on every other phone you've ever used (top power buttons are for iPhones). You also can't adjust the volume of the phone if it is sitting on a table; it has to be in your hand, which seems dumb.
  • This is odd, because LG is one of the only manufacturers forgoing the front hardware buttons (home, back, menu). I put that firmly in the plus column. itself removed the necessity of hardware buttons 2 years and 4 major software revisions ago with the Galaxy Nexus, a phone with a special place in my heart.

Saturday is the end of my 14-day return period for this phone, and the drops there Thursday next Wednesday (in store).3 I was really hoping for some overlap there, but I still can't bring myself to keep the G2. The power user in me (the one that was mashing the F5 button on the Play Store on Halloween) recoils at the cartoony animations throughout the G2 . Maybe someday the hardware manufacturers will understand that their custom software is their weakness. I want to see what this hardware can do when the software gets out of the way.4 I don't want an LG phone - I want a Google phone. So much so that I am willing to buy a burner and wait 3-4 days to get one.

photo: Creative Commons License LG전자 via Compfight

  1. Moto X (not available in-store) and Nexus 4 (long since liquidated), respectively. 
  2. Suck it Verizon! You won't stop being the worst carrier for Android people, so you give me no choice but to vote with my wallet. 
  3. I didn't want to buy it through T-Mo, but again, the first part of the combo at the very top was horrible timing. Next year, when we are not paying VZW ETFs, it will be Play Store all the way for me. 
  4. And I don't want to have to go the DIY route to get there again. 


Phablet Couture, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Touchwiz

5 min read

I've had a Galaxy Note 2 for about 6 months. I bought it because I got the itch to upgrade, and it was the best phone available at the time (caveat: on Verizon. I would have gladly gone with the One, or 4, or any other flagship device that skipped Verizon for reasons I outlined a while back). Being a ROM aficionado, I knew hardware was the biggest factor for me. My loyal Galaxy Nexus was a solid phone, but with heavy use it would die by early afternoon without a charger nearby. Better processor and gigantic battery (and dearth of options) made the Note 2 a no-brainer.

But I heard a panelist on a recent episode of This Week in Google (could have been All About Android too) talk about the zen of wanting the phone you have, or something like that. It is a noble concept, and I tried to live up to it with my previous phone (until I didn't). But it is easy to do with a Nexus device, or an iPhone, because you are at ground zero of the operating system. So I dove down the rabbit hole that is , to look for enlightenment.

Been down this rabbit hole before

This was a formidable challenge, too. After spending my first 2 years of smartphone ownership in the hellscape of MotoBlur, my reluctance for anything but AOSP (or stock Android, to the uninitiated) cannot be overstated. My initial reaction to any overly skinned version of Android is usually minor wretching. The Verge put it well in their review of the new Note 3:

Pen Window is almost something you have to see in person to really grasp how silly it is.

This can be said for many features packs into these phones. I am supposed to live with this device for 2 years, according to my carrier. I am not looking for "silly."

That being said, there are some very useful features. Before, I would have to download Tasker, re-learn how to use it, and hack around to get settings automated on my phone. Samsung preempted this use case and launches menus automatically when I do things like plug in my headphones or pull out the S-pen stylus. It follows that if I do those things, I am going to do something with my phone. Touchwiz lubricates that interaction.

The S-pen would probably increase smartphone adoption among the older demographic if it were packaged with more phones. There is something satisfying about pulling it out and launching the built-in note app and jotting things down. It is still not faster than typing; the last several years have conditioned me to type faster than I write. But I am still conditioned to remember things that I write down with a pen or pencil.

The size is not that big of an issue, pun intended. You acclamate pretty quickly. I do miss being able to reach the opposite upper corner of the screen with my thumb, as Google has slowly moved Android design to use it more often for menu overflow. Other than that, though, I have no trouble operating the phone with one hand. Touchwiz (and now Swiftkey, actually) uses customizable keyboards for one-handed use on larger devices.

Greener grass

For all its usefulness, I keep pining for features that are native to newer versions of Android. Dash Clock has probably been the first app I install on every 4.2.x-and-up ROM I've used since it was released. Actionable notifications are fantastic, and I often use the abililty to expand and minimize them at will. And it pains me to use a phone with hardware buttons anymore after the GNexus proved them to be unnecessary. Samsung, though, has kept this phone running the software it was released with, nearly a year later. The only reason it will get a 4.3 update at all is Samsung's ill conceived smartwatch that (as of right now) only works with the Note 3.

But there is still that part of me, once I arrive back on , that misses the pen features and the other custom Samsung firmware. So I would switch back. I have been indulging this fickle dual-boot scenario for almost a month. I still haven't landed on one or the other.

Luckily, this first world problem has solved itself. My wife has an upgrade, but Verizon won't let us keep our unlimited data if she uses it. I did some research and found that T-Mobile covers our area, has unlimited data, and will save us a bit over $500/year over the course of our next contract (In fairness, VZW would save us ~$300/year if it took away our unlimited data). We can stick it to Verizon, and I can finally hop to the flagship phone I was looking for 6 months ago. Hello 5!