Hands-on with LG’s iPhone 5 competitor, the Optimus G

LG hasn’t exactly been in Australia’s mobile space in a big way this year, focusing instead on the budget market with its L-series range of Android handsets. From what we’re hearing, there won’t be a 2012 release of a flagship handset locally, but we’ve played with the future, and it’s looking pretty sweet.

Coming in 2013 and currently in testing with the various telcos in Australia, the Optimus G aims to throw LG back in the mobile flagship fight, a place the electronics giant has been missing from for the better part of a year.

Mobile World Congress came and went in February, and LG had some pretty impressive announcements there, but since then, we haven’t seen a single flagship phone out of the company.

A few weeks ago, LG threw back the covers from its mobile section and unveiled the Optimus G, the world’s first quad-core 4G device, featuring a plethora of features, including a big 2300mAh battery, Near-Field Communication, 4G, quad-core processing, and more.

Last week, LG announced that unlike it’s big-screen brother – the Optimus Vu – the G would be coming to Australia, and we’ve been given an exclusive hands-on.

In the hands, there’s a very sturdy feeling, with LG crafting its 4.7 inch flagship out of plastic but then encasing it in glass, providing what feels more premium than many of the models it competes with.

It’s sort of a cross between the feel you get from the Galaxy S3 and the iPhone 4S, with a slick feel that manages to carry enough heft to feel solid while also being well-balanced. We’ll have to spend more time with it to see if it’s not a touch too slippery, but it does feel nice in the hands.

The design is very rectangular, though with softened edges, almost reminiscent of the Galaxy S2, with thickness closer to the Galaxy S3, in fact.

But it’s a hell of a lot faster than both of those phones. In fact, it’s possibly the fastest phone around, with LG showing us a benchmark with the Optimus G toppling the HTC One X and XL handsets, out in front by a massive lead.

You can see the speed when using the handset, with no lag or slowdown as you switch menus, browse through the homescreens, or loads an immense amount of apps. Some of this comes down to the 2GB RAM being used here, an increase of a whole gigabyte on top of most smartphones, which no doubt makes the Optimus G better at multitasking.

LG hasn’t done much to Android here, either, with a look and feel closer to that of stock Android with very little customisation, which doesn’t seem to hurt it. You can see the widget loader has changed, as have the drop down phone controls, but it generally feels close to Android the way Google intended it to be.

A few features were shown to us, standout bits that make LG’s Optimus G shine and are specific to the handset.

One of these is the dual screen technology, which – when paired with a special wireless streaming box for HDMI inputs on TVs – allows the handset to send the screen to the TV, in pretty much real-time.

Surfing the web over Chrome, playing Angry Birds, checking Facebook, and doing pretty much anything else you normally do on your mobile can be shared to your TV, making the experience as big as your TV.

Take down memos, or draw a crazy hair style on your boss. It's your call.

The quick-memo feature or “QMemo” is also unique to LG, with an extra layer of interactivity thrown into the phone that allows you to take notes on top of what you’re doing.

It could be especially useful with needing to remember phone numbers, with you being able to quickly scrawl down the number in the memo feature on the handset, keep it overlaid on the screen, and then going into the phone dial pad, where you can easily see the numbers you needed to remember.

Most people know that display technology is getting better in mobile handsets, and LG is including a similar screen to what it produced for Apple in the iPhone 5, with a thinner screen that apparently has much better touch sensitivity and also works better in direct sunlight than other phones.

Over on the camera side, Australians will have an 8 megapixel camera in their smartphone, which can do some pretty neat things such as trigger when someone says “cheese” or take several photos before the shutter is pressed and during, constantly buffering like the smart shutter functionality we’re beginning to see in compact and mirror-less cameras.

The LG Optimus G (left) compared with the Samsung Galaxy S3 (right). This was taken with brightness settings set to the same, and we can see the LG pre-production unit is much brighter.

Even in the video section, we’ve seen some impressive stuff, with real-time zooming when you’re watching Full HD content on the Optimus G, and even the ability to change the opacity of a video, allowing you to watch TV shows or music videos while you’re browsing the web or tweeting.

All up, it’s an impressive phone, though it does come with a long wait time, with LG telling us that it won’t be here until early next year.

If nothing out there is really impressing you and staying with your current phone is fine by you, then it might be worth waiting, because LG is planning on coming back in a big way.