5 Features I Absolutely Love in LG’s Optimus UI

For the past three months, I have been using an LG Optimus 4X along with my Samsung Galaxy S3. To be honest, I came to LG with a lot of reticence and excitement. After all, when you consider the spec sheet, they always seem to have winner devices on their hands but somehow this fails to translate into real blockbusters. Part of it is probably due to their Android skin: while you might find a few people who love HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz / Nature UI, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who’ll blatantly tell you that they favor LG’s Optimus UI.

I’m here to debunk that myth. Three months in, I’ll easily proclaim that if I were to run a non-stock Android device as is, without any mods, I’d pick LG over any other OEM. Actually, if it weren’t for custom ROMs like FoxHound, the S3 would be unusable for me. By comparison, I use the Optimus 4X as it came out of the box and I love it. Below are five reasons why.


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QuickMemo

If there’s one feature I instantly fell for on the Optimus UI, it’s QuickMemo. From the notification drop-down, click QuickMemo and you can instantly write on top of the screen with your finger and save the image. There’s no need to take a screenshot prior, no need to have a dedicated stylus — I can’t stress this enough. Plus, you can easily crop to the part of the screen that you want, as well as change the type of brush and color. All of these options are more than enough for a quick annotation.

QuickMemo and crop demonstration

QuickMemo and crop demonstration

Set Bluetooth Devices as Authorized

Back in 2006, we had bluetooth on our dumb phones, and we could give automatic access to certain devices so we didn’t have to confirm every single transfer. Yet here were are, in 2013, and Android requires you to manually approve each bluetooth transfer, regardless of the sender. I’ve never been annoyed by anything on the platform as much as this.

HTC used to allow setting devices as authorized but removed it from newer versions of Sense, Samsung doesn’t have the option, but the first time I paired my computer with the Optimus 4X, I saw a checkbox with “Always allow this device” and almost jumped of giddiness. There’s simply no reason why this shouldn’t exist on all Android devices.

Setting a bluetooth device as authorized on first connection, or later on.

Setting a bluetooth device as authorized on first connection, or later on.

Charge-Only

Another no-brainer when it comes to daily use is connecting a micro-USB cable to charge your phone from a computer. For some reason, unbeknownst to anyone, several OEMs like Samsung won’t give you that option: if you connect your phone to your computer, it assumes that you must be about to transfer files through PTP or MTP. It will also charge your phone, but you will be stuck with the MTP/PTP notification regardless of whether or not you’re transferring files. Stock Android allows you to uncheck both, hence using a counter-intuitive approach to get you a charge-only mode.

On LG’s Optimus UI — and HTC’s Sense — Charge-Only is an option you select, and that’s that. I connect my phone to my computer, and I’m just charging it.

Charge-only on LG (left) vs only MTP/PTP on Samsung (right)

Charge-only on LG (left) vs only MTP/PTP on Samsung (right)

Customizable Launcher and Icons

Look, I know there are enough launchers for Android to satisfy every customization geek — free or paid, simple or full-featured, there’s an option for anyone. But what we have to remember is that us geeks are the minority. Average users simply keep the launcher that came with their device. And if I had to go with an OEM’s launcher, I would pick LG’s, no questions asked. You can add icons and widgets, change the scrolling animation, and even change the “theme” — akin to HTC’s Sense — but it also offers customization options I haven’t seen anywhere else.

First of all, the Optimus UI launcher is the only I have seen that allows you to change the number of screens. I don’t want 5 or 7 homescreens, I’m perfectly fine with 2 or 3, so out goes the rest. Second, when you click and hold an icon, you’re given an option to change it. So you could use a better suited image for your app from preloaded sets or from your own photo gallery. It’s a nifty option that makes personalizing your phone a little bit more accessible.

Customizing the number of screens and the app's icons.

Customizing the number of screens and the app’s icons.

Customizable Lockscreen

The same debate about homescreens applies here. There are many alternatives, but for the average user going with whatever was preloaded on his device, LG’s lockscreen is by far the best out there. You get a choice of 5 clocks to suit your image — analogue or digital, with or without a calendar. You also get 4 quick shortcuts on the bottom, which can be re-assigned and easily flipped.

Picking a clock and changing the shortcuts on the lockscreen.

Picking a clock and changing the shortcuts on the lockscreen.

It’s the Little Things

Besides the points mentioned above, the Optimus UI keeps a rather ICS-like stock look in the notification bar, comes with a Backup solution that saves your homescreen and settings to restore on other devices, allows you to uninstall some of the bloat like SmartWorld or the Today Widget, offers a small preview window while skipping a video, lets you fully control your phone from its computer suite, and comes with more easter eggs than I can count.

Thumbnail preview while skipping a video.

Thumbnail preview while skipping a video.

If you look at each of the above points by itself, you’d think that it’s insignificant and that you could — and probably do — live without it. All of them are just tiny features, interspersed here and there throughout the UI, that you barely notice because they’re intuitive and blend into your daily use. But add them together and they make a compelling offer that significantly improves your satisfaction with the product.

After all, stock Android is quite excellent, so it should’t really take that much to make it better. Yet, HTC is stuck trying to emboss and add shadows to anything on Android, Samsung is implementing gestures no one will bother using beyond the first week and for demonstration purposes only, and Sony is focusing more on hardware, all of them neglecting the small gaps in Android that could easily be filled with a few lines of code.

Only LG has bothered to look at those and fix them, and they get zero credit for it. It’s a shame that somehow, we can all get excited over the silliness of holding an icon and physically panning our phones to move it to another screen, yet we can’t appreciate the usefulness of an always-authorized bluetooth connection. Samsung devices will keep selling like hotcakes, but as I said in the beginning, if you plan on using your device as is, without custom ROMs, I can’t recommend LG enough.


  • the problem

    the problem with lg phones are
    1. lack of reliability in past years unlike Nokia (..and samsung or HTC) in the dumbphone age. here in india Nokia with its dying OS still grabs 2nd position just for the same reason- it’s been most reliable brand (not only in mobile industry) since 20th century.
    2. Generally, irrespective of mAh number, battery in LG doesn’t last a day unlike other popular brand….that’s a personal experience.
    3. They don’t have a unique product and lime up is usually inferior to the others. Last time they brought something new was dual core processor inside optimus whatever.
    4. Last but most important: They are just too lazy to provide software update. Most of the time they don’t bother to upgrade their phones. They forget their customers so customer forgets them at time of buying his next phone.

  • Matt

    I will never forgive LG for the worst phone I’ve ever owned: G2x. I will never buy another LG product as long as I live. I hate this damn phone.

  • Sigilist

    I have to agree with previous comments in general, though I have had limited experience and only with earlier models. When it comes to the quality of a product, hardware first! The rest can be changed… oh yes, it can.

    • Sigilist

      ADDENDUM: If you really want to do a run down on a new model of any device, user convenience of OS and UI and Apps isn’t enough. People who come to AppStorm generally want to know a physical product for its physical attributes first and how well they stand up. Without that, the rest is short lived in its appeal.

  • Forrest

    I love my LG spectrum, and I have never had problems with it. That said, LG is really bad at getting out updates for their phones, and I am not a big fan of their skin. However, if I am going to be forced to pick a skin, LG’s is the most like stock, and thus the best.

  • http://lg salman anis

    lg always better then other smart phones. like price, quality bettry back up, and display…

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  • Deepak Yadav

    I love my optimus G…a wonderfull phone..lok like some solid thing in hand not some crappy plastic

  • Sanath Kumar

    I own a LG Optimus One P500 for over 2 years, the phone with its specs and battery at that point in time was amazing. LG is crappy in rolling out updates and weak in customer care. I had to install custom ROMs to get more out of this amazing phone. I have tried almost all available ROMs I loved the MIUI, but it was unstable as porting gives basic functionality of the original ROM, I have tried the touch-wiz, xperia UI too but recently i installed a ROM with the LG UI 3.0 and was surprised. I really love I and realized it was the most underrated UI out there. Very customizable, simple, elegant, quick n classy, I have just fallen for it and even if I end up buying a phone from other manufactures, I would retain the LG UI. It is the small things that do make a difference in the user-experience and LG have scored a home run, if only they they could soup-up and re-amp their marketing strategy they could do a lot lot better in the sales market as they have great phones.