Review by Sunetra Chakravati,5/6/2015 10:48:10 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Premium leather finish I Quad HD display I Unfussy UI I Incredible camera
Middling battery life I Plastic back option not the best
-By Sunetra Chakravarti
LG eschewed the opportunity to launch their latest flagship at Barcelona during Mobile World Congress so the G4 would not get overshadowed by Samsung's duo and instead showed off the much-leaked handset to a select crowd in London.
With Sony still resting on its Z3 crown, Samsung are currently at the top of their game but LG's latest launch is bound to make them break into a sweat.
The LG G4 is a phablet that has everything that a heavy-duty android user will demand from their phone and then some more.
A removable 3000mAH battery is absolutely top drawer, the camera is the best in class and with minimal bloatware, and with all the bells and whistles that LG's previous offering had. If the G4 doesn't snatch the crown from Samsung's Galaxy S6, it wouldn't be because it lacked in specifications but because the company didn't shout about it enough.
Unibody smartphones are all a rage at the moment for flagship handsets but LG decided to bypass what is fast becoming a norm in favour of a removable back-cover. Also, the only glass you will find on the phone is on the 5.5-inch display. There are a choice of two 'back' options: a hand-stitched leather available in a choice of 6 colours and a patterned plastic back, available in rather poetic ceramic gray, ceramic white and shiny gold. The leather version feels weighty, premium and bespoke and even though I usually dont like plastic-shelled smartphones, my ceramic white version doesn't feel too bad.
The idea of curved smartphones was first brought forward by LG with the G Flex, they have extended that design sensibility to their flagship here with the G4 sporting a 'slim arc'. Almost indiscernable and understated, the design is less banana and more perfectly shaped brow.
LG have gone all ninja to out-shine the superlative G3 with their new baby. The 2560 X 1440 resolution yields a pixel density of 538ppi and even though it is less than the 577 of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, the slightly curved body accentuates the visuals and it comes into its own and beautiful viewing angles and the slight curve gives your humble streaming on the phone a movie theatre experience.
The Quad HD IPS Quantum Display blows holes in the arsenal of all would-be and could-be competitors. One of the best out there at the moment, it uses both white as well as blue LEDs alongside colour filters to get the shades just right and right they do get. The tightly spaced pixels make it almost impossible to see if there are any visible but the Quantum Display also meaks that the pinks and purples of the stock home screen and background almost hurt the eye with their level of saturation.
When I asked if the G4 was a phone with a camera on it, or a camera which could also make calls, Andy Coughlin, LG UK and Ireland head of mobile laughed saying that was exactly the question they wanted people to ask them. To say that the camera is excellent is under-selling it.
The manual mode, is obviously at par with a DSLR and you can take your time adjusting every angle and number you possibly might want to, but then the camera also takes its timr taking the picture- it is very laggy and you may have to wait a while before the image is in the can.
The aperture is f/1.8, making it the best in the market. This basically means that it is incredibly powerful and effective whle taking photos in low-light condutions because lower the 'f' number, more is the light it draws into the camera. The aperture on the Samsung Galaxy S6 is f/1.9 and that on the HTC One M9 is f/2.2.
Also part of its bag of tricks are a colour spectrum sensor. Sited next to the flash on the back of the phone, it decides the type of flash you might need for pictures- no more pictures on night-outs where you look more an apparation than a human being.
The laser-powered auto focus is still there- the IR beam fires a stream which tells the sensor what the depth of field is. Autofocus adjusts itself to that point and Bob's your uncle.
The main camera is 16MP but the really wow factor is packed on the front-facing camera which clocks in at 8MP. Although selfie features are available on all flagships and lesser phones, the only phone with a better selfie option than this one is the HTC Desire Eye with a dual 16MP camera. And the reson why the LG's latest baby wins the race here is because all its selfies come in HDR mode. Who needs a beautify tool when you can have crisp reality in front of you?
Qualcomm's CEO Steve Mollenkopf reassured attendants at the global launch that the Snapdragon processor on the G4 was fit for purpose. While it may seen that the hexa-core Snapdragon 808 chip is a climb down from the octa-cora Snapdragon 810 that the G4's peer group sports, it isnt really.
Unless you are a gaming fanatic who simultaneously likes to check emails and send messages, chances are you wouldnt really need the octa-core processor and with the 810 recieving some amount of flak for over-heating, an issue that I encountered before a firmware update made it go away, I am happy to report that the G4 has no such issues. I have used to phone solidly for more than 3 weeks now and apart from a little warming that all phones go through, the G4 was absolutely fine.
Away from the overheating shadow looming large, the performance was measured and dual-window mode usage didnt make it stutter or pause to reflect.
The 4GB DDR3 RAM makes solid multi-tasking a breeze. Onboard, you get 32GB and 100GB of free Google Drive storage for a year. The microSD card slot can accept cards upto 2TB- so basically, you have not a care in the world.
The 3000mAH might seem like a lot but it IS a massive quad HD display. During my use these past three weeks, the phone would usually last for a day and a half with me giving up and plugging it in around lunchtime on Day 2. This included 2 long-ish video playback sessions via BBC's iPlayer apart from the usual flurry of Whatsapp messages, emails, calls and browsing. I had thought the battery performance would be more solid than this but it is in no way to be sneezed at.
LG's bespoke UI atop Android has been made more streamlined. Flick to the right and you get an HTC's Blinkfeed lookalike called the Smart Bulletin screen which orders phone features in order of preference. Smart Remote again makes an appearance- a great party trick of controlling your electronics from your phone, LG's Knock On security feature as well as the Q Slide feature that lets you multi-task away to your heart's contentment.
Simple, unfussy and one where the control has been handed over to the user to decide what they want and dont on their smartphone, it is almost faultless.
Until a couple of years back, you wouldnt have given much thought to an LG handset. The status quo changed with the G2 and with the G4, LG are at the top of their game. Offering a phone with a removable battery, expandable storage and a camera and display that is second to none at a price point of £499 SIM-free, they have hit the ball out of the park.
Everything about the G4 is well thought-out, considered and impeccably executed. They even went to the extent of cladding the handset in leather- usually associated with the top-end of the market.
With the G4, LG have given us a handset that stands out not just for sheer value but also for being different- one with an arc, removable back plate, expandable storage and when you see something that is such a worthy competitor to the crowd, you cant do anything but applaud the effort for sheer gumption.