At what size do smartphones end and tablets begin? The $199 LG Intuition is the latest device to blur the line, offering a massive 5-inch display, a handy stylus and equally useful note-taking software. In addition, this Android smartphone can take advantage of Verizon's blistering 4G LTE speeds. But is this phablet fab or fail?
It seems that it's hip to be square over at LG. The Intuition is so wide that it feels less like a smartphone, and conjures up memories of an old Sony eReader. The Intuition is most definitely a two-handed affair, as we could barely wrap our thumb around its massive 5.5 x 3.6 x 0.33-inch frame. It almost makes the 5.78 x 3.3 x 0.38-inch Samsung Galaxy Note seem small by comparison. However, the 5.93-ounce Intuition is noticeably lighter than the 6.5-ounce Note. The Note II is 6.4 ounces.
The front of the Intuition is dominated by the huge 5-inch display. It's not as large as the Galaxy Note's 5.3-inch screen or the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 2's 5.5-inch panel. A thick black bezel surrounds the screen, the top of which sports a 1.3 megapixel camera and a chrome Verizon insignia. A chrome LG logo sits at the bottom resting above four capacitive buttons (Back, Home, Recent Apps and Menu).
We were disappointed to discover the Intuition lacks a dock for the included stylus, something included on the Galaxy Note. Without the dock it's almost inevitable that the stylus will go missing.
A dark gray plastic band wraps around the bezel and the sides of the phone, accentuating the device's rounded corners. Buttons for volume are on the right, and a port cover in the top left conceals the SIM card slot. The power button rests on the top with a headphone jack. Here there's also a dedicated button to launch QuickMemo and a sliding cover that conceals the microUSB port.
The Intuition's rear has a textured black plastic panel that resembles a piece of cloth; its small divots ensured a firm grip as we held the device. An 8-megapixel camera and a LED flash sit in the top left corner in a silver metal oval. A pair of speakers sit on the lower left side of the phablet.
Display and Audio
The Intuition's 5-inch, 1024 x 768p Gorilla Glass display isn't as big as the Galaxy Note's 5.3-inch screen, but it's still a sight to behold. Text on CNN.com and Kotaku.com was crisp and defined, as were images. Most pages looked fine despite the unique 4:3 aspect ratio.
The high-definition trailer of "The Great Gatsby" was gorgeous on the Intuition's 284 ppi display. Due to the unorthodox 4:3 aspect ratio. the black bars at the top and bottom were even larger than on phones with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Still, the screen exploded into a cacophony of opulent golds, violets and emeralds. The sharpness and detail were impressive as we could easily see every rhinestone and pearl in Daisy's beaded headband. Viewing angles were nice and wide with very little washout. The Galaxy Note (256 ppi) did offer a larger picture with more precise color accuracy, but there was some noticeable distortion, especially during night scenes.
The Intuition's display brightness of 471 lux was more than enough to outshine both the 296 lux Android phone category average and the Galaxy Note's 240 lux. However, all that brightness didn't help once we stepped out of our office into a sunny September day.
Unfortunately, audio left much to be desired. The diminutive pair of speakers failed to fill our small test room and produced hollow, distant sound. Dialogue during "The Great Gatsby" came in a few decibels above a whisper. When we listened to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" classic "The Time Warp," we strained to hear the usually vivacious guitar riffs. The accompanying piano and vocals were a little louder, but it was a shadow of the raucous number we're accustomed to.
Rubberdium Pen, QuickMemo and Notebook
LG ships the Intuition with a stylus for all your impromptu note-taking and drawing sessions. Called the Rubberdium, the round plastic stylus is hardier than the Galaxy Note's twig-like S Pen, but has a more ridiculous name. A thin strip of chrome is near the pen's head, which is composed of a black matte rubber material. A clip made out of textured black plastic, similar to the Intuition's rear panel, sits near the back of the pen.
QuickMemo and Notebook are the two apps designed to work in concert with the pen. Pressing the QuickMemo button on top of the phone instantly captured a screenshot of the display and launched QuickMemo, letting us doodle on the image. Within the app, icons for Memo background, Undo, Redo, Pen Style and Eraser sit along the top. A screen lock icon in the bottom left corner locks the memo in place, disabling the capacitive keys.
We captured a screen from a video of Super Bowl XLVI and unleashed our inner John Madden, highlighting some of our favorite plays. Once we were done playing amateur sports analyst, we had the option of sharing our work via email or various social networks or saving it to Notebook or the Photo Gallery. However, Samsung's S Memo enables users to record notes, insert clip art and maps captured directly from Google Maps. We could also draw on captured screenshots by selecting the clipboard option as well as insert pictures from the gallery.
Notebook expands on the QuickMemo concept, allowing users to jot down notes, attach pictures and create multipage mini-presentations. We liked that LG incorporates some light customization into the process with five cover and page style choices. Still, we preferred Samsung S Note's myriad templates, including the Magazine, Diary and Recipe templates. Similar to Samsung S Note, Notebook enables users to add voice recording, video and images to a page. LG adds some new wrinkles to the equation with the capture video and insert audio features.
While Notebook offers a keyboard option, we found the quickest and easiest way to add our thoughts was by way of the pen. Unfortunately, Notebook doesn't feature native handwriting recognition, which left our handwriting indecipherable to everyone but us. However, selecting the Handwriting feature in the keyboard settings afforded us a modicum of relief. While the handwriting recognition in Samsung's S Note App was wanting, at least it was there.
Overall, we prefer Samsung's note-taking apps on the Galaxy Note. We like the ability to jot down notes on screenshots in QuickMemo, but it should have been a feature inside of a larger app, similar to S Memo. It would have been nice to have a few templates to give us a starting point with our note-taking.
The Intuition comes loaded with three virtual keyboards. Unfortunately they're buried in the keyboard menu settings. After selecting the LG keyboard setting, we were taken to the language page where we pressed the Settings icon to access the keyboards. Here, there's the QWERTY keyboard for standard point-and-peck messaging. The Shape writer keyboard incorporates trace technology, a la Swype, to make the texting process a little bit faster.
Users who prefer the retro look can switch to the Phone keyboard that displays all the letters and symbols in groups of three or four. We appreciate the large, generously spaced keys on each of the keyboards, and the Intuition also delivered strong haptic feedback. Our favorite keyboard was the Shape writer, due to the speed with which we were able to shoot off a text or an email.
There's also a handwriting option for those who want to get the most mileage out of their Rubberdium pens. We were impressed with the phone's ability to read our handwriting and translate it into decipherable text.
The LG Intuition runs Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) with an overlay of LG's Optimus 3.0 interface. The first visible difference versus stock Android comes on the lock screen. Instead of having to swipe a particular icon, we could swipe anywhere on the screen to unlock the device. You can also quick-launch into one of five apps listed along the bottom of the lock screen. By default, they are Phone, Messaging, Email, Camera and Notebook, but these can be changed in Settings.
There are seven customizable home screens, the majority of which are preloaded with a number of apps and widgets, including a calendar, Yahoo News and Amazon. Pinching the screens allowed us to change the default home screen. We liked the animated water wallpaper that rose and sank according to the device's battery life. Six icons (Phone, Messaging, Contacts, Notebook, Camera and Apps) line the bottom of the display, and could be switched out for apps of our choosing.
The Recent Apps button cues up the familiar list of open applications, but LG added the ability to access app info via long press. In addition to the usual Apps and Widgets tabs on the Apps page, LG incorporated a Downloads tab. Clicking the Settings button allowed us to quickly uninstall said apps.
In addition to customizing home screens, users can also create custom app icons. Long-pressing an app icon on a home screen cues up a small purple paintbrush icon on the app. Pressing the app again takes users to new page with a number of generic images to swap with the original image. Our favorite part of this feature is the ability to make icons from photos. Clicking the Create Photo Icon button let us use an image from the gallery or snap a new image.
Another helpful feature can be found in Email and Contacts. Pinching the screen reordered our contacts into an alphabetical index. Pinching out created a more detailed list that displayed names and emails. Unfortunately, this feature doesn't work in Gmail.
The Intuition also supports a number of gestures. Flipping the device mutes incoming calls, stops alarms and pauses video. The phone also uses tilt mechanics, enabling us to reposition apps on the home screen by pressing down on the screen and tilting the device to the left or right.
The Intuition tries to please a broad audience with its choice of preloaded apps. Multimedia users will gravitate to the IMDB, Audible, Slacker Radio and Amazon Kindle Apps. "Real Racing 2" and "Shark Dash" zapped our productivity with their addictive gameplay. When we felt a little social, we shared photos and video using Color. And the Zappos app was there to satiate our shopping bug.
RichNote and Polaris Office both make use of the Rubberdium pen. RichNote lets users jot down a quick note and set reminders, while Polaris Office can create Microsoft Office-compatible documents, spreadsheets and presentations. SmartShare, a media-sharing app, is one of the few LG-branded apps.
Unfortunately, the Intuition comes loaded with carrier-branded software, which, try as we might, were unable to uninstall. There's VCast Tones, VZ Navigator, Verizon Apps and My Verizon Mobile. We found a couple of bright spots in the TV.com-powered Viewdini and the NFL Mobile App that served up video of our beloved New York Giants.Third-party apps include YouTube, Amazon and Amazon MP3.
Because of its 4:3 aspect ratio, apps designed for most Android phones -- which have a 16:9 aspect ratio -- won't fit the screen perfectly. However, long-pressing the home button allows you to resize the apps to fill the screen or show them in their native size. Be advised that the latter selection will result in unsightly black bars on either side of the app.
The Intuition is one of a growing number of smartphones with an NFC chip built in. The only NFC app on the phone, LG Tag+, let us program a series of actions that were activated when we touched the phone to an included NFC tag. For example, using the Car tag, we programmed the phone to turn on Navigation, Bluetooth and Destination when we touched the phone to the tag.
The 1.5-GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor in the LG Intuition delivered solid performance numbers. On the CPU portion of the Benchmark test, the Intuition notched 2,747, slightly above the 2,740 Android phone average. However, it was more than enough to beat the Samsung Galaxy Note and its 1.5-GHz dual-core processor's score of 2.206.
In the graphics arena, the Intuition scored 7,093 on An3DBench, just below the 7,130 average, but a little higher than the Galaxy Note (7,028). During the Quadrant benchmark, which measures overall system performance, the Intuition notched 3,453. That's more than enough to blow past the 2,762 category average and the Note's 2,323.
During our real world testing, we raced around the track in "Real Racing 2" with three apps running in the background and four open Web browser tabs. There was a slight lag during the initial loading session, but from then on it was smooth racing.
4G LTE and Web Browsing
The Intuition taps into Verizon's widespread 4G LTE network. On Speedtest.net, the phone clocked an average download speed of 11.9 Mbps. Upload speeds were even faster at 12.4 Mbps. Mobile sites such as ESPN.com, CNN.com and NYTimes.com loaded in 5.5, 4.3, and 3.4 seconds, respectively.
Taking pictures with the Intuition's rear-facing 8MP camera yielded an explosion of colors. Our flower test shots delivered nice color accuracy, especially with blues, reds and purples. Our favorite top-down shot of some lilies displayed the deep blush of the petals and the light purple stamen. However, it was difficult to make out the finer details in a bouquet of purple daisies. The petals looked fuzzy and lacked texture.
The 1080p video was equally impressive in terms of color. However, there was some noticeable blurring, and text appeared fuzzy. For example, the normally bold black lettering on cabs passing by looked gray around the edges.
LG added a nifty feature into the camera. Instead of fumbling around with a button, photogs can snap off a photo by uttering "say cheese." The feature worked almost instantaneously, snapping the photo a second after the command. We found that the command works when the phone was within three to six inches from our face.
The 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera delivered passable images, although it lacked the vividness of the rear-facing camera. The 720p video we took was rather dark and grainy despite being in a well-lit area.
In those rare occasions that we used the Intuition as a phone, we received plenty of confused stares. This is one phone you'll want to use in conjunction with a Bluetooth headset. Still, we were pleased with the Intuition's call quality on both mobile and landlines. We heard clear, crisp audio during the majority of our tests. There were a few moments of fade outs at our home in the Bronx, however. Our callers reported loud audio with little feedback during our calls.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over 4G LTE), the LG Intuition lasted 4 hours and 59 seconds. That's nearly an hour less than the 5:54 average, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Note (5:46).
The LG Intution follows the mantra of "go big or go home," but we're leaning toward the latter. The large 5-inch display is beautiful with deep colors and sharp detail, and we like its fast Verizon LTE data speeds. The large stylus will definitely please the note-taking crowd, but the fact that the phone lacks a dock for the pen is a major con. Also, this device is so large, it's nearly impossible to use with one hand, which should be a prerequisite for anything billed as a smartphone. If you're looking for a phablet, we suggest waiting for the Galaxy Note II, which will be coming to all the major carriers. Ultimately, the LG Intuition proved to be more than a handful.