LG’s a funny old brand. From a gloriously dominant position in feature phones to not quite noticing that smartphones were becoming a ‘thing’, it’s impressive that the South Korean company has started making lust-worthy phones again.
The LG G4 picks up from where the G3 left off - essentially, it’s taken the iffy-but-high-res screen, made it much more delightful and added in an alternative material and supercharged the camera.
Plus it’s doing it for a little less cash than Samsung is with the Galaxy S6, or Apple with the iPhone 6. Sounds like a winner, doesn’t it?
LG G4 Design
Unfortunately, almost instantly you’ll see the main issue we have with this phone. Where Samsung got its act together with the Galaxy S6 and realised that consumers want a beautiful fusion of metal and glass when buying an expensive smartphone, LG seems convinced it needs to go down an alternative route to make sure it’s not a ‘me too’ brand.
The result? You’ve got a choice of plastic or leather for the rear of the phone. The plastic just feels cheap in the hand, with the mottled effect actually making it look even less premium, and while we like the fact that leather is alternative, it’s not got the effect we were hoping for.
Ask someone if they’d like a phone encased in cow hide and they’ll recoil - show them the LG G4 and they’ll change their mind. Then hand the phone to them, let them experience the super-stretched thin skin on the back (with faux stitching) and they’ll head back to the previous opinion.
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It’s a shame, as LG could have had a stonker of a phone here if it had played the ‘me too’ game. The removable back cover means the battery can be replaced, but it comes at the cost of thickness. We like that it also packs a microSD slot, but that can be shoved on the side of the phone, as the HTC One M9 and Sony Xperia Z3 have proven.
LG G4 Features
Let’s say you’re into leather (no, not like that) and you still fancy the G4 - the good news is it packs a boatload of awesome features.
The first is the screen: where the G3 was one of the first phones on the market with a QHD (2560 x 1440) resolution, which means a huge amount of pixels in every inch of the phone. The result was only OK, as the brightness and colours were so muted, but with the G4 LG has really fixed that.
Using a similar colour range to screen at your local multiplex, the G4 genuinely rivals Samsung’s awesome Super AMOLED screens for richness, contrast ratio and depth - it’s definitely one of our favourite screens to look at.
It slightly lacks the sharpness of the S6, thanks to having a larger 5.5-inch screen, and it also suffers with the same issue of not actually having much content on there which really makes use of all those extra pixels.
Web browsing and video playback do looks crisper though, with the inbuilt upscaler working well, but it’s like owning a 4K TV: an amazing thing to look at but not enough to exploit it yet.
The camera is the other area that’s really been given a boost here - and the specs make for salivating reading. A 16MP sensor is fused with an f1.8 aperture designed to deliver spectacular low-light ability.
On top of that LG has added in a huge amount of control to the camera, allowing users to choose the settings for pretty much any area of the snapper they wish to play with - this is a camera for the photographer in all of us.
The results are generally brilliant too, with low light giving some excellent pictures that other smartphone cameras simply can’t manage. If you get a bright scene that you can compose properly, the LG G4 will bring you excellent results. As per usual, the pictures can be a little smudgy when zoomed in (thanks to LG’s over-enthusiastic smoothing algorithm) but on the whole they’re brilliant.
LG G4 Performance and usability
In terms of out and out performance, this is another area where the LG G4 lags. The battery life is our biggest area of concern, with the G4 still only just able to last a full day on moderate use.
Keep this in your pocket to check the time once in a while and it’ll easily pootle to around 48 hours’ use, but then you should probably question why you’re dropping so much cash on a phone with this power if you’re not going to make use of it.
The engine inside is an interesting choice: the Qualcomm 808 chipset isn’t as powerful as the 810 adorning the new Sony Xperia Z3+ or the HTC One M9, but that’s been plagued with reports of overheating so we expected LG’s choice to be a mega smart one. After all, this is still a hexacore processor with 3GB of RAM, so the phone should still be able to handle any task and keep a little bit of battery in reserve.
Weirdly that doesn’t bear out. It’s swift enough, but it’s a long way from the snappy experience we get on the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6. LG’s interface is clean and usable - and we love the little notes about the weather each day, such as being told that ‘Rain expected throughout today - try not to catch a cold’ - but it’s not amazing to use day to day.
Add to that the fact this larger phone is a little hard to use one-handed and it’s not the mind-blowing experience we’d hoped for from this leading brand.
The LG G4 is definitely another step forward for the once-ailing smartphone brand, but it’s a step that puts it further behind the leading pack. Some users will be enticed by the lower price, and some might even love the alternative feel of the leather on the back - and they’ll find a more-than-decent phone in their hands if they do plump for the G4.
But the rest of competition has leapt forward this year, whether it’s Samsung realising that a beautiful phone goes a long way or Apple sorting out its battery life, meaning LG had to do something special to keep up.
This is still a really great phone in so many ways, but there’s nothing extraordinary about it that you can’t find elsewhere - come on LG, the G5 has GOT to be brilliant, right?
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