When everyone is making improvements in their smartphones and a Quad HD display isn’t enough to grab attention, LG had a tough job to make their latest smartphone, the LG G4 appealing to everyone. With an improved display, better battery life, and a killer camera, the LG G4 makes improvements in all the right places. Is it enough?
- 5.5” Inch 2560×1440 Quantum IPS display
- Snapdragon 808 Processor
- 3GB RAM
- 32GB Storage (expandable via microSD)
- 16MP Rear Camera w/ OIS 2.0 & f/1.8
- 8MP Front Camera
- 3,000 mAh Battery (removable)
Hardware & Design
Over the past year we’ve seen nearly every major flagship incorporating at least some amount of metal. The Nexus 6, Moto X, HTC One M9, and in a shocking change, the Galaxy S6. When LG got ready to announce the G4, we didn’t know for sure if they would follow that trend, and it turns out they didn’t. Instead the build of the LG G4 is fairly similar to last year’s LG G3 with a plastic build. There are several variations however. Options range from “metal infused” Titanium Black to multiple colors of vegetable tanned leather. The unit I had the opportunity to test was the Titanium Black model and I have to be honest, I was just as satisfied with this model as I was with many more premium build smartphones. It might not have the cool touch of metal, but it felt good in the hand and doesn’t feel like a plastic phone. Everything is well put together and I was very satisfied with the hardware.
When it comes to the design, LG didn’t change much here from the G3 either. The front of the phone looks very similar except with slightly larger bezels and a slight curve to the display. The back of the plastic variant has a diamond pattern along the back which personally I’m a big fan of. As usual the buttons are on the back of the phone and they are the best to date. All the buttons of very tactile and easy to use. I’ve always been a fan of LG’s rear-mounted button solution and it was great to come back to that this time around with the G4.
Software & Performance
Out of the box the LG G4 runs Android 5.1 with their own skin on top. This latest version of LG’s UI doesn’t appear much different from previous versions. In fact it’s pretty much the same skin with a few refinements. Just like previous versions LG throws a lot of features at you and hopes some stick. This time around, there are fewer and many have the potential to be very useful, but I never found myself using them much. Perhaps the most useful features that I actually put to use on the G4 were Knock Code and the customizable navigation bar. Knock Code of course is LG’s unique take on your lockscreen which allows you to unlock your device based on a certain number of taps in different quadrants of the display. Since it’s release, this has remained one of my favorite features on LG phones. The navigation bar is also still customizable allowing you to change the location of buttons or add some. I kept mine stock, but added a notification toggle.
Other notable features include LG’s take on multi-window which, while limited, can be useful on the 5.5” inch display. There are also features such as Quick Remote which uses the IR port to control your TV and the “Smart Bulletin” feature which gives you access to a few pre-loaded widgets on your leftmost homescreen. “Smart Notice” also makes a return and this time around I found it pretty useful. This feature is essentially LG’s version of Google Now and basically becomes a long-winded way to show the weather. While that’s useful in it’s own way, what I found handy was the fact that Smart Notice will keep track of any background apps that are eating away at your battery life. Several times when I left an app such as Link Bubble open in the background, Smart Notice saved me by reminding me that it was open and sucking away at power.
Overall, the software on the LG G4 is very pleasing to use. Sure, it’s not the best looking out there or the closest to Stock Android, but it is without a doubt a great experience that many users will highly enjoy. There a couple things I’d change right off the bat, but overall. I’m satisfied with the software.
When it comes to performance, we’ve got a Snapdragon 808 under the hood paired with 3GB of RAM. The G4 is easily the best experience I’ve had so far on a 2015 flagship in terms of performance not only out of the box, but a few weeks down the road. Both the Galaxy S6 and One M9 tend to slow down a bit after time, but the G4 feels almost exactly the same as it did when I took it out of the box. I can’t say that I’ve ever come across lag or dropped frames while using the G4 as I normally do. I’m not much of a gamer, but the games I did try play without any issues. While I know many will complain because LG opted not to use the 810, let me put this is the simplest way possible. The 808 is just as good. Sure, it’s got a couple less cores. However it is less power hungry, highly optimized for the software of the G4, and doesn’t heat up (although the 810 doesn’t either at this point). I couldn’t be happier with LG’s move to include a Snapdragon 808, and you will enjoy it just as much as you would have an 810.
In moving from the LG G3 to the LG G4, LG opted to keep the same size and resolution in their display. It’s still a 2560×1440 Quad HD panel, but this year’s display is much better. Brightness finally reaches acceptable levels and is visible even in bright sunlight. It’s not the brightest out there, but it certainly does the job for me. This display also has better viewing angles and has more accurate colors. Rather than oversaturating colors to make the display more vibrant, LG decided to keep things accurate and I’m glad they did. Aside from the brightness, I’d say this is probably the best display on a smartphone today with only the Galaxy S6 providing close competition.
Oh, and one other thing LG changed is that the display on the G4 is curved. Now we’re not talking a curve like what is found on the LG G Flex, but this is a noticeable curve that I actually quite enjoy. It makes the phone ever so slightly easier to use and LG even claims that it makes the display 20% more resistant to breaking when dropped. It also picks the majority of the display up when you place it face down which is a great addition.
So the camera. This is the real talking point on the LG G4. This camera is amazing. There’s not strong enough words in the dictionary to describe how much I love this camera. At 16MP, detail should already be sharp, but LG has really blown me away here. Shots taken are fairly color accurate and simply breath taking. If you take a picture during the day in good light, it will be comparable to even a DSLR. If you take one in low light, you’ll be shocked you just took that picture on a smartphone. However the fun doesn’t stop there.
Manual mode is easily the best addition to the LG G4. It brings full manual controls over the camera right to your fingertips. You can change everything from ISO, white balance, manual focus, and even the shutter speed. With a few tweaks, you can get a even better picture than you would in automatic mode.
While you can get a great shot in any mode on the G4, it’s amazing the quality you can pull off in manual. Below you’ll find two different galleries one of which is full of images taken in full automatic mode (top gallery) and one which has images which were taken in manual (lower gallery). Now I could go on forever talking about this camera, but I think the pictures below should explain things quite clearly.
Auto Mode Photos
Manual Mode Photos
One of the worst things about all the flagship smartphones launched so far in 2015 has been the battery life. Both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 have had very poor battery life and that’s something no one enjoys. Thankfully, LG is trying to break that trend with the G4. Included in this phone is a removable 3,000 mAh battery that will easily get you through a day. While I can’t speak for exactly what your results will be like in an American unit (my unit is a Korean model), I can only imagine things will be even better. While the G4 lacks wireless charging, it does have support for Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0. Without a doubt, it has the best battery life of any flagship released this year and that’s a big deal.
One of the only real downsides of the LG G4 is the speaker. Unlike other phones released this year, it’s rear mounted. While front facing speakers would be tough with this design, I disappointed at the least to still see a rear mounted speaker. That said the speaker isn’t terrible. It provides loud sound which is pleasing the ear, as long as you don’t cover up the hole by mistake, something you will certainly do at some point.
So, has LG created the phone to buy in 2015? In my opinion yes. While there are some sore points, this is still the best flagship phone released in 2015 so far. It’s got the best camera, best battery life, the most options that die-hard Android users need, and everything thing else is on par with the competition. There’s really not much to say, LG nailed it with the G4. Their efforts last year brought us a very good phone, but with this refinement, they’ve created the phone to beat. Should you buy it? If you’re in the market for a new Android phone, I say definitely. There’s no reason why I can’t recommend this over any other current flagships.