Last year’s LG G3 was one of my favourite devices of the year as LG showed that they were capable of really innovating in their smartphones; the Quad HD display brought a new standard to the market and the handset looked fantastic. Improving on that very good smartphone was always going to be a challenge for LG.
This year’s G4 brings an all-new curved design that’s inspired by the G Flex 2, and, rather than bring a raft of innovations, LG have fixed a few faults, added an upgraded camera and optimised the experience by working closely with both Google, on the software, and Qualcomm, on the processor.
The LG G4 looks a lot like the G Flex 2 but actually this isn’t a bad thing; given the screen measures 5.5-inches, it’s quite a large handset compared to other smartphones measuring between 5.0 and 5.2 inches. The curve becomes useful as most smartphones that size are difficult to use in one hand but the curve ensures the G4 remains ergonomically friendly.
The front has the same design as the G3 and is dominated by the 5.5 inch Quad HD display, which although identical to the G3 in size and resolution, is superior to its predecessor in every way. The key difference between the two displays is the use of Quantum Dot technology in the G4, which refers to the way molecules are manipulated as they pass through a phosphor layer. The result is a screen that’s fantastic and shows that LG’s TV display pedigree is ushering in a new era for its smartphones.
The other part of the display is LG’s adherence to the DCI standard, which is normally reserved for television and cinema. On Samsung devices, the Super AMOLED display often exceeds the standard with over-saturation of colours, but, in comparison, the G4 achieves 98% compliance with the standard. As a result, content appears more realistic and especially in the case of films, appears closest to the colours offered in a cinema screen.
On the back, the G4 uses the same rear button design as the G3 but while Josh was happy with the new buttons, I personally do not like them. On both the LG G2 and the G3, the buttons were easy to locate but more than once, I’ve found myself accidentally switching off the display when trying to turn the volume down while watching a film or show. That being said, the volume keys have a different finish, which does make it somewhat easy to tell them apart from the power button and the button is located exactly where your finger rests when holding the phone in your hand.
My one main dislike of the G4 design is the titanium finished plastic version, which is the model I’ve been using. Designed as a somewhat cheaper alternative to the leather back, the titanium finished plastic is satisfactory but makes the handset feel a little less premium. That being said, the leather back G4 is actually only a few pounds more in the UK (and presumably the same elsewhere) and I would definitely recommend that; I went hands-on with the leather cover at the G4 launch and I like it a lot more than the plastic version.
The removal of the back cover offers access to the removable 3,000mAh battery and for me, is one of the key selling points of the G4. I’ve been a massive fan of removable batteries and this was one of the reasons I’ve primarily used a Samsung device as my daily driver for the past few years. I’ve already covered my thoughts on the Galaxy S6 Edge including the battery life and I can safely say that the G4 beats the S6 Edge (and the S6, as I also have one of those) by a considerable margin. Over the past ten days, the battery has lasted a minimum of 24 hours with medium to heavy usage and at least 3.5 hours screen on time.
The camera is one of the key features that LG have promoted on the G4 and there’s good reason for this; the 16MP sensor is backed by a color spectrum sensor, optical image stabilisation and laser autofocus and takes fantastic images. The Simple and Auto modes take fantastic images but manual mode is where real magic can happen, as you’ll see in the video below:
I’ve previously used the Nokia Lumia 1020 and while other devices between that and the G4 have offered manual controls, the G4 is the first to offer it with the same simplicity. Using manual mode on the G4 is as simple as firing it up and playing with the sliders – the image automatically (and quickly) updates in the viewfinder and offers instant gratification that you’ve taken a great photo.
There’s more to the G4 camera than just manual mode as gestures make taking selfies simple; raising your hand and closing it to make a fist will trigger a countdown from 3, doing the gesture twice will take a burst shot of four images in quick succession and lowering your phone immediately after a shot lets automatically review the selfie you’ve just taken. These make taking selfies surprisingly easy and will appeal to anyone who uses their phone as a portable mirror.
Here’s some images I captured on the G4 (all 100% crop):
We’ve also got a blind comparison against the Galaxy S6 Edge, iPhone 6 Plus and Lumia 930 coming up where you decide if the LG G4 camera is better than its rivals, so stay tuned to see just how good the G4 camera is.
From camera and hardware to the software, and here is one of my key issues with the G4; while LG have optimised the software a lot, the handset still stutters and lags when running resource intensive tasks or having multiple apps open. That being said, the software experience is still vastly superior to past LG G devices and has been achieved by LG working closely with Google.
Instead of random LG bloat apps, there’s only a handful of pre-loaded apps and instead of creating apps to replace Google’s own, LG has instead used Google apps as default in many parts of its interface. There are still some LG features that come pre-loaded onto the handset, including the Smart Notice widget, Smart Bulletin information aggregator and updated gallery and calendar widgets. You can read more in our review.
Overall, the G UX 4.0 is faster than previous versions and offers an experience that enhances stock Android. There are still things that seem downright odd – such as the Sound & Notifications tab name that has to scroll in the settings menu – but these small things don’t impact the overall experience too much.
The LG G4 is very much a handset that aims to do everything for everyone and mostly, it achieves this. Where LG haven’t innovated too much with the overall handset, they have fixed small things and added new features to improve the handset.
While the LG G4 is certainly not perfect, it does offer an experience that’s worthy of a premium price tag and for LG, it’s their most competitive smartphone yet. The Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge and the HTC One M9 have had trade-offs between design and some of the specifications – in the case of the Galaxy S6, it’s certainly the battery life – but LG has managed to keep everything that all customers care about.
The G4 might be the perfect smartphone for you..
At first glance, the G4 may not appeal to some users but you should definitely consider it; LG doesn’t have the marketing budgets of some of its competitors, but the G4 is a handset that can stand tall against any rival. I personally would probably buy the Leather version as I don’t like the titanium finish but you may find you prefer the plastic rear over the leather finish. If you’ve been looking for a new device and have found others lacking, the G4 might be the perfect smartphone for you.