LG's updated G4 meets most of fan's high hopes
Last year’s LG G3 was my choice for smartphone of the year and, as I eagerly awaited this year’s G4, I wondered if I’d gotten my hopes up to the point where I’d make excuses for any shortcomings. I realized it was more my expectations than anything, because the G4 has some mighty big shoes to fill, and it succeeded — for the most part.
The problem is, for every great thing the G4 carried over from the G3, there are a few opportunities LG missed out on — updating, beautifying and decluttering software features, improving battery life and introducing metal to the stable are chief among them.
Like the G3, the G4 is instantly recognized by its placement of the physical buttons (power/lock and volume rocker) on the back of the device, and the glorious 5.5-inch display. One difference that won’t slip by G3 users looking to upgrade is the G4’s increased bulk.
The extra millimeters in thickness, height and width the phone packs on — which adds a few grams of weight to the device — is surprisingly noticeable. The extra heft actually puts it closer on par with the Samsung Note 4 than most other devices, which is something that should be considered before committing to the phone. It’s a phablet in every sense of the word.
The device comes with a leather backing, but the review model I was given has a diamond-patterned, gunmetal plastic back. Both designs function the same, giving access to the battery, and microSD mini SIM slots, but I have to point it out because I believe my thoughts on the feel and ease-of-use of the device would’ve been different if I had the leather-clad version.
That being said, using the plastic-backed G4 is comfortable to use and I didn’t experience any issues with lack of grip, which, I imagine, also wouldn’t be an issue with the leather version. Although an all-metal G4 would be sexy as hell, I’m a fan of being able to swap out my device’s battery and expand the storage via microSD, so I’ll take plastic phones for as long as I can.
Low battery warning
LG continues to improve on its beautiful displays by packing a 2560 x 1440 resolution into the G4’s slightly-but-completely-unnoticable curved panel. You might not be able to see it with the naked eye, but the G4’s screen is curved a slight degree, which LG claims will help with usability and eye comfort. Truth be told, had I not read about the curve, I never would’ve noticed it, which is both good and bad.
But with great power comes great responsibility, and a large, beautiful display wreaks havoc on the device’s battery. Sure, it boasts a beautiful world of color and has sharpness for miles, but it is probably the reason the G4’s battery life isn’t as impressive as other handhelds on the market. During my time with the device, and with moderate-to-heavy use (podcasts, some video, photo taking and editing, etc.), I got about 10 hours through the day before I needed to connect to a charger. While disappointing, there is a silver lining: Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0.
Quick Charge allows G4 users to recharge their phone to around 70 percent life in as little as 30 minutes. So, while the battery life remains disappointing, the Quick Charge compatibility and support is Heaven-sent.
LG didn’t really bother themselves with improving the software aspect of their new flagship device, and that’s a bit confusing. The Q Slide apps — cool idea but impractical when put to the test — could’ve been cut completely, if you ask me.
Software falls short
LG did add some new software features, but none are particularly fun to use, or even useful. LG Smart Bulletin, for example, somehow makes it more cumbersome to create a new home page that displays widgets of often-used apps. Anyone used to Android knows how to do this with ease without Smart Bulletin, so the inclusion of it is perplexing.
Event Pocket automatically syncs your phone’s calendar with Facebook events. I imagine this is great for people who actually use Facebook events, but for people like me, who don’t, it’s useless.
Kudos to LG, however, for the Smart settings, which can recognize certain locations and shut off specific settings (volume, Wi-Fi and the like). This is helpful at the movie theater, in the car and so on.
One area where LG really stepped up their game is with the camera. They moved to a brighter f/1.8 aperture and a larger 1/2.6-inch image sensor. In other words: more light + more image information = hubba hubba.
LG also tossed in more manual controls for things like brightness, ISO and white balance, which can be a major benefit to more experienced digital photographers who want a bit more of a handle on their craft while using a smartphone.
The 16-megapixel rear camera is also capable of capturing Ultra HD (4K) video, while the front-facing camera sits pretty at a hefty 8-megapixel that’s capable of 1080p video recording.
All of these added features and camera upgrades lead to a better final product. Images are packed with detail, an even balance of colors, brightness and sharpness, and even the G4’s exposure is something to behold. Shadows and dark areas remain clear, especially when putting the manual white balance controls to work.
Powered by a hexa-core 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 processor, and backed by 32 gigabytes of internal storage (expandable via microSD up to 128 GB) and 3 GB RAM, the LG G4 is a powerhouse that should be a serious contender if you’re looking for a new device, if you don’t mind the $630 price tag through ATT off-contract (or $200 on).
LG might’ve dropped the ball here and there with the G4, but they ended up rebounding with assists from Quick Charge, great camera upgrades, and a comfortable and nimble experience. Well done, LG.