Review: The LG Intuition and the Rise of the Phablet - 1

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Review: The LG Intuition and the Rise of the Phablet - 1
I'd been waiting to finally try out a phablet like the LG Intuition - the mutant device that sits somewhere between uncomfortably large phone and curiously tiny tablet. Because I have to know why.

First, let me set expectations. I'm in the camp that thinks the current trend of oversized phones has gotten out of control. Not everyone has large hands. I have normal hands. I want a normal sized phone and they're all but disappearing.

I'm also a big fan of tablets, but I haven't really found a legitimate must-have use for one. They're cool, but after years and years of owning the smallest and thinnest laptops I could find, I can tell you the've got them perfectly-sized, neither too big to be bulky nor too small to be useless, and so light that I really don't worry about carrying one around anymore.

Anyway, my point is that if you're someone who thinks phones aren't big enough or tablets aren't small enough - BOOM - here's your device. Stop reading and go buy it.

For the rest of you, what I'm thinking is that a 5.5-inch tall LG Intuition is an attempt to fill the niche when a phone isn't enough but a tablet is too much.

Meh. Is that niche there?

As my last caveat, this isn't going to be a super spec-heavy review because it doesn't need to be. It's a mid-range device. I'll lean more on usage than numbers, because that's what this niche is eventually about, and it's why you'll buy or skip the LG Intuition.

The LG Intuition

Now let's talk about this phablet.

Right away -- and I hate starting a review by fuming about something -- How bad of a decision is it to not be able to store the included stylus on the phablet itself?

This is the first thing I noticed as I unboxed the LG Intuition. I literally spent five minutes trying to figure out where it went. I even cracked the manual, which I never do until I've had at least a day to figure the device out on my own.

This is a critical, crucial mistake on par with leaving the trunk off a car. If the phablet is an attempt to get me to not have to carry a phone and a tablet, why is it making me carry two things?

And I dare you, no matter what kind of OCD freak you might be, I dare you to not lose a stylus that can't be stored in the device.

The silver-lining is you don't really need the stylus. But then... it sort of defeats the purpose of the device as a quick scratch pad, although unlike previous devices that used a stylus, and I'm talking Newton and iPaq for reference, you can pretty much use your finger for everything.


Review: The LG Intuition and the Rise of the Phablet - 2
One place you can take advantage of the stylus (or your finger) is QuickMemo. This is a dedicated button on the Intuition that takes a snapshot of what you're looking at and allows you to draw over it, with customization for your pen color, width, and some effects.

This is part of a larger piece of functionality, Notes, fueled by the rise of the phablet. You can store your notes in one or more notebooks, and share them and... do whatever else you feel like doing with them.

Again, if this functionality is something you need or would flip over, rush right out and buy this phone. If not, I really can't think of any other use for the stylus or even drawing on a device this small except in rare circumstances.

A Tablet That Makes Voice Calls

Here's the pro side of that phone vs tablet argument. With the proliferation of headsets and video calling, I don't know why every tablet can't make and take standard voice calls. It just seems stupid to leave that functionality on the table.

I rarely put my phone to my face as it is these days. You give me a Nexus 7 that can make calls and, oh boy, you give me a dedicated place to store the headset on the device itself... I swear I will buy two of them. I'll be that grateful for your design genius.

So you give me that same tablet that I can put into my pocket if I need too, then we're talking.

Budget Alternative to the Galaxy Note

Now, when discussing the LG Intuition, the elephant in the room is the Samsung Galaxy Note and Note II. The Note isn't available on Verizon and the Note II is more expensive -- $299 compared to $149 for the Intuition. Both however, are speced better than the less-expensive Intuition. So props to LG for providing a budget device in such a new market.

But you may notice the budget aspect. For example, there was also a noticeable, not terrible, but noticeable lag on the Intuition's processor switching orientation to landscape and back. There were also lags on rendering some apps and websites. The Intuition has a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor, so I'm thinking the 1.6 Ghz quad-core in the Note II will definitely eliminate that.

It's Big

At 5.5 inches tall, 3.56 inches wide, and 0.33 inches thick, you MUST use two hands with this device. There is no such thing as one-handed use. In fact I found it difficult to even manipulate the phone with one hand -- in other words, pick it up palm down and flip it around so I'm holding the back. You've entered the drop zone.

At 6.08 ounces, it's lighter than it should be, which is a good thing. But the weight is a factor here too, it's a little slippery and almost feels edge-heavy, like it's heavier at the left and right most edges than it is in the center - and I guess, in a tablet sense, it's meant to be that way.

The Intuition is not going to stay in your pocket. I mean, it's going to fit, but it's too bulky to stay there all day. When you sit down, it's going to remind you it's there. Putting it up to your face is kind of odd too. I never made a call with the Intuition in public where at least one person didn't give me a second look. Like I said, it's a Bluetooth and earpiece world, but if you put the phone up to your face, be advised it will cover most of it.

The Intuition has Android 4.0 but it has the old-school four button layout under the screen -- back, home, currently running apps, and menu. This actually works for the Intuition. A big problem with larger Android-based phones is having to navigate with the dedicated device menu at bottom but then also having to immediately move to the top where the vast majority of the app menus are now located. Having the menu button at the bottom cuts down on a lot of this movement.

Using the LG Intuition

Review: The LG Intuition and the Rise of the Phablet - 3
The big selling point here, pun intended, is the display. It's a 5-inch LCD screen with a 1024x768 resolution. It's decent and definitely a good looking display. The blacks leave a lot to be desired though, especially in hi-def video. And as big of a screen as it is, in a comparison of the HD Iron Man 3 trailer, the video, while larger, wasn't as crisp as on my Incredible 4G.

The 4:3 resolution takes almost as much getting used to as the stylus. The Intuition renders apps automatically to optimize for the 4:3 ratio, and I can't imagine this isn't putting additional lag on the processor. Watching video, you get a lot of black bar in HD streaming videos, rendering it pretty much the same size you get on a 4.5 inch screen.

4:3 was great for browsing though, and that's where you start to see the benefits of the phablet, with a much larger view of the web. Even mobile sites became roomier and easier to use.

The sound is not good. The calls were tolerable but not crisp and clear like I get with the higher-end Android phones. The speaker is all but useless, and I'm beginning to wonder if a speaker is now just an afterthought on modern handsets - with all the advancements being made in other areas, you still can't find a decent speaker on a mobile phone. However, this one isn't even close to decent, it's tinny and very muffled.

The camera is average, if you overlook the aforementioned issues with faded-out dark areas. The cool thing, and trust me this is a cool thing, is that it also takes pictures in 4:3. Here's an area where the size of the Intuition is a big win. Taking and reviewing pictures on the big screen is awesome, and the video is sharp (again, blacks were awful). Widescreen is great and all, but there's something about personal videos that were meant for 4:3.

Finally, since I've spent a lot of time pointing out the flaws -- which you have to do for a budget entry into a new niche, here's where the Intuition excels:

It's a Workhorse

I don't have the kind of lifestyle that requires me to jot, sketch, or write out things a lot, but if I did, I assume I would have to do it often and under a lot of different circumstances. The Intuition makes that possible, in the same way a tablet does, with a rock-solid battery and fast and strong LTE.

If I'm taking pictures and drawing and uploading, I can do this pretty much all day. So if I had that life, where this was part of my day-to-day, the Intuition is excellent at it.

Also, as a modem and as a standalone web-enabled device, it was speedy enough for video calling, another area in which the large screen is a bonus.

The battery lasted all day with moderate use and about 6-8 hours under heavy use. However, you should note that it takes forever to charge the phone.

Ultimately, I come down on the side of the LG Intuition being a curiously tiny tablet with a phone built in. If I look at it as a step in the direction of a Nexus 7 (or iPad mini or Kindle Fire) with a phone built in, I give the Intuition kudos. If you're looking for a budget phablet and can live with some of the mediocrity of its specs as compared to some of the high-end phones on the market today, this might be your choice.