We're taking a step into the wild here. People familiar with stock Android will hardly recognize what we're dealing with here and that's because both Samsung and LG have done quite a big number on stock Android in favor of their own TouchWiz and Optimus UI OSes.
Before we get down to business here are two videos to get you up to speed.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 in action
The LG G Pro 2 in action
Samsung is very well known for its over-the-top features and customizations, while LG has been known for some time now as a copycat of many, if not all, Samsung innovative features. We'll get to those in a second but first let's see about the lockscreens.
Samsung's take on the Android lockscreen stays close to stock but adds some customization options. For starters you have more than one lockscreen pane and you can place widgets on each one. You can also go for five shortcuts to apps on the lockscreen, which are customizable.
Samsung also has a personal message option as well. Finally, there's a camera shortcut in the lower right corner.
LG also has multiple lockscreen panes able to carry widgets. There's also a camera shortcut on the right and the ability to set shortcuts to five apps on the bottom. So they are pretty neck and neck thus far.
However here's where LG gets more creative. Starting off with the Knock Core unlock. It allows you to unlock the device with a predefined knock pattern, including taps in a specific part of the display. LG says there are 86,367 possible knock patterns (each taking from 2 to 8 taps on the four available sections of the screen) and yours should be as impossible to break as a password.
Then there is Guest Mode - it's activated by a specific unlock pattern. There's no app drawer in guest mode - you can access five apps by default: camera, video and music players, calculator and quick remote. You can, of course, make more apps available.
To redeem itself the Galaxy Note 3 features the Quick glance feature. It uses the proximity sensor to detect you reaching for the device and it lights up the screen and shows the time, missed call and message counters, battery charge and music track info - all without touching a button (or screen).
The Samsung notification area plays host to a horizontally-scrollable list of quick toggles (five in portrait and eight in landscape mode) for easy access to various settings. Under them there's a useful brightness slider - it can be adjusted for a minimum brightness which come in quite handy.
Finally come expandable notifications.
Optimus UI's notification area is very close. It also has five quick toggles in portrait and, you guessed it, eight in landscape. There's also a brightness and even volume slider in the notification areas and the brightness slider can be adjusted for a minimum brightness setting like on the Galaxy Note 3.
The homescreens are again, more of the same. There are five docked icons on each homescreen (including one app drawer shortcut), there are apps and widgets.
We've criticized Samsung before on this one. Instead of capitalizing on the larger display Samsung is presenting users with nothing more than an oversized Galaxy S4 (or S5) user interface with the same 4x4 app icon grid on the homescreen.
LG allows for an additional fifth line making for a 5x4 grid of apps. Not exactly utilizing the full potential of larger screen canvas compared to a G2 but still a little better than the Note 3.
LG does allow you to change individual app icons, a feature lacking on the Galaxy Note 3.
Then comes Q Slide - it lets you have miniature apps on top of the UI. You can resize the mini app the way you like, and there is a dedicated shortcut that'll take you to the full screen app. There is also a transparency scrubber - once you decrease the transparency even by a hair, the mini app is no longer part of the active UI (besides its transparency scrubber) and you can interact with whatever's beneath it (the mini app will continue its work of course, i.e. a video will still be playing).
We critiqued the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 for bringing an upsized Galaxy S4 UI to the much bigger display but Samsung did make up for that in other areas of the software.
First off, you can shrink down the UI by performing an edge swipe. This downsizes the whole active screen to only a portion of real screen. You can still use the Galaxy Note 3 as you'd normally would and the whole navigation process becomes manageable with a single hand.
LG's take on this feature is the One-hand operations.
LG has another multitasking feature the Note 3 lacks and it's Slide Aside. You can use a three-finger swipe from the right side of the screen to add the app into the Slide Aside UI, while three finger swipes from the left will switch between the running apps.
Honestly, we find three finger gestures quite cumbersome to perform so we doubt this one will see much use.
Another multi-tasking boost in TouchWiz is Multi-window. It allows launching two instances of the same app - i.e. you can have two Chrome windows next to each other - or two different apps for that matter - side by side.
LG's version of this is Dual Window. However unlike Multi window on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Dual Window doesn't allow running two instances of one and the same app.
Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 has an ample screen not just for immersive viewing of content. The provided S Pen gives a whole new dimension to the experience. Once you pull the S-Pen out, the OS will pop up the new Air Command menu. The new menu is available everywhere throughout the UI too, you just need to press the side button on the S-Pen.
The Air Command menu is a virtual ring with five shortcuts - Action Memo, Scrap Booker, Screen Write, S Finder and Pen Window.
S Pen can be used with a myriad of provided apps. Action Memo pops up a memo on which you can write or doodle and it can be coupled with a variety of actions like calling a number you scribbled on, etc.
Scrap booker lets you highlight just about every part of the on-screen content and save it to your Scrapbook; Screen Write creates a screenshot of your screen and lets you write and draw on it; Pen Window allows you to open a set number of apps into a pre-selected area of the screen (using S Pen), which can help multi-tasking. Then there's S Note, which is like a personalizable diary on your Galaxy Note 3.
To conclude this segment, LG and Samsung have the most feature-rich UIs on the smartphone market right now and are almost neck and neck, feature to feature. LG has done a good job of creating itw own versions of some of the features Samsung first introduced and it has further elevated and personalied the user experience with the likes of Slide Aside, Knock Code, Guest Mode and others.
Winner: Tie. You decide which one looks better for you but on the feature front neither will disappoint you. In fact both instances of Android KitKat featured in this review need some to time to get used to if you want to utilize all of their features.