LG G3 smart phone smokes Amazon Fire in Consumer Reports' tests

The Fire’s 3D effects and shopping tools are entertaining but no match for the G3’s top-notch display, keyboard, and controls

Published: August 14, 2014 12:00 PM
Photo: Amazon

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We’ve just completed our tests of Amazon’s first smart phone, the Fire, and LG’s latest flagship model, the G3. Both phones are outstanding in their own ways, with unique and compelling features that should dazzle tech fans. But their designs reflect radically different views on what a smart phone should be. As the headline implies, Consumer Reports testers determined that the G3’s approach gets much closer to the target.

Amazon Fire

The Fire is all things Amazon, heavily integrated with Amazon Prime, Apps, Kindle, and more. Several unique capabilities make it easy, and even fun, to spend money with the retail giant.

For example Firefly, an onboard app, scans objects or listens to songs, then finds them in Amazon’s immense retail and digital content so you can buy them. Another intriguing technology, Dynamic Perspective, can make certain flat images appear three-dimensional on the phone’s 4.7-inch display, allowing you to view them from different angles as you tilt the phone in various ways. You can also scroll up and down Web pages, summon app menu options, or view messages and other notifications by jerking or tilting the phone.

But battery life is much shorter than on many other phones from Samsung, LG, and others, including the G3. Also, the Fire’s unique and somewhat unintuitive interface takes effort to master. For instance, to go back a step or return to a previous menu, you swipe your finger up from the bottom of the phone.

The Fire’s biggest drawback, at least for Android fans: App choices are confined to Amazon’s Appstore, which is notably bereft of Google apps. That means no Google Maps, Google Music, Gmail, Google Now, Google Plus, Google Drive, and of course, Google’s Play app store. You may be able to jump in via Amazon's e-mail app, Silk Web browser, or some third-party app developer, but you won’t enjoy the synergy of Google apps working together on the same device.

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The LG G3 is among the sharpest phones we’ve tested, beginning with its 5.5-inch quad HD display with 2560x1440 resolution that presents photos, videos, Web pages, and other objects with more than 530 pixels per inch. That's more than 100 extra pixels stuffed into each square inch compared to the next-sharpest phone display we’ve tested to date.

While it’s unlikely that most users will notice all those pixels in everyday use, other G3 refinements will be hard to miss. For example, the slim, curved design makes this phone more comfortable to hold for a model in this size class. The G3 also has one of the best-laid-out virtual keyboards we’ve seen. Its height and layout can easily be adjusted to the user’s liking, and you can even split it in two to access items behind it. In portrait orientation, the keyboard features five rows (a rarity among phones) with dedicated keys for numbers across the top row, and a mouselike cursor control.

The power and volume controls are on the back of the phone in a cluster below the rear-facing camera lens, instead of on the top or side. LG says it believes that’s where users are likely to rest their index fingers while holding the phone. But you don't need to hunt for the power button to wake up or turn off the screen. You can do that by simply double-tapping the display.

Mike Gikas

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