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First Look: With LG G Pro 2, Software, Not Hardware, Is Real Star of the Show

Better selfies, y'all.


“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

Apple may be a rival of LG’s, but I’m sure the company would agree with the late Apple CEO’s thoughts on design, especially in this day and age when all smartphones look similar.

In fact, the Korean electronics company has said that it’s becoming more difficult to create smartphones that stand out from the pack, particularly as the screens have gotten bigger and left less room to innovate. The company managed to mix things up over the past year by adding a curved display and relocating some buttons to the back. Now, it’s also turning to user experience to help differentiate itself from its competitors. The new LG G Pro 2 is a good example of that.

Announced just ahead of Mobile World Congress, the G Pro 2 is the company’s latest phablet. It has all the features one would expect from today’s high-end phone, such as a 5.9-inch full-HD touchscreen, a 13-megapixel camera than can record 4K video and Android 4.4 KitKat. But it’s the software features that make for some of the most interesting points of the handset.

For example, there’s the new KnockCode. An evolution of the KnockOn function that was introduced on the LG G2, it allows you to unlock your device by tapping a pattern on the screen. Your unique combination can consist of anywhere between two and eight taps, and you can enter it on any part of the display. Also, on the issue of security, the G Pro 2 lets you lock certain files (photos, videos, notes, etc.) with a passcode.

KnockCode worked well when I tried it, though I found that if you wake the phone using the power button on back, you have to knock your code in a specified area. The company said KnockCode is all about making the phone simpler and more convenient to use, and will be part of more LG devices in the future.

What I found more useful was a feature called Mini View. Swiping left or right on the navigation bar below the display minimizes the screen, so you can more easily use the phone one-handed — something that’s quite difficult to do with phablets.

To enable better multitasking, LG also added a function called Dual Browser. A long press on the back button brings up a screen of your most recently used apps, and you can then fling one to the top half of the screen and another to the bottom half, allowing you to view and work in two apps at once. Though the feature is new to LG phones, Samsung has offered a similar function called multi-window mode on its Galaxy Note phablets for a little while.

The last couple of software features are available from the camera app. One called Magic Focus lets you adjust the focus point of a photo after you’ve taken it (think Lytro). Another is designed to take better selfies (very important!). When you activate the front-facing 2.1-megapixel camera, it displays a large white border around the viewfinder to act as a soft flash to provide better lighting when you need to take a better photo for your dating profile or something.

With these software features and some top-of-the-line hardware specs, the G Pro 2 looks like a solid smartphone. But it’s also got tough competition ahead. Samsung and Sony both announced their new flagship devices yesterday.

The LG G Pro 2 will be available first in Korea. No word yet on when and if it will come to other markets. For a closer look at the phone, check out the hands-on photo gallery below.

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