A year ago we reviewed the LG G3 and according to the iron laws of the mobile phone market it is now time for the LG G4.
The G4 is LG's flagship for 2015 and mainly wants to distinguish itself with the outstanding features of the 16 megapixel camera. LG releases the G4 in a special version with a leather back. Furthermore, the camera has a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexacore processor and a 3,000 mAh battery.
LG has been competing against the other big guys in the mobile phone market for some time now, and for the G4 the competition will again come from Samsung, HTC and Apple. The defensive trio is formed by the Samsung Galaxy S6, iPhone 6 and HTC One M9. And last year's flagship had the advantage of a relatively low price, the G4 is priced more in line with the competition.
What's with the device?
The G4 comes in a rectangular, red box with a white lid. Apart from the device, it contains only a separate battery and a white microUSB cable with an adapter for the socket. Those who, just like with the G3, expected a luxury in-ear headset, are deceived. This one is not part of the package by default. A bit sparse if you ask us.
The front view of the G4 is not particularly spectacular. It consists entirely of a black glass plate with a small grille at the top for the ear loudspeaker and the LG logo at the bottom. After activating the screen, it turns out that the spaces around the screen are nicely kept small and the device has a nice size in relation to the screen. In addition, the screen has a very light curve. It is almost impossible to see with the naked eye, but it might help.
Around the device there is a metal-coloured, plastic edge with, as we are used to from LG by now, no buttons at all. We do find the connections for the microUSB cable and headset at the bottom. On the back there are three buttons directly underneath the camera. From previous experiences, we know that after some getting used to it, this works fine.
Our test model had a black leather back. Exactly in the middle of the leather is a seam with real stitching on both sides. Because of the seam, the machine is not very stable on the table. Of course there is just a plastic backcover under the leather, but the leather fits very tight and there are no sloppy edges or corners. LG has clearly thought carefully about the application of leather and its vulnerability. The leather is additionally protected by plastic edges at the headset and USB connections and the notch to loosen the backcover.
The loudspeaker is also located at the back, which in combination with the large screen is of course a less ideal placement. Although it must be said that the volume can be loud enough to have reasonably good sound at the front as well. The G4 is solid but doesn't really give a premium feeling. The leather back is a distinguishing feature and enhances its boring appearance considerably.
Because of its 3,000 mAh battery, it is relatively easy for the G4 to last one day on a full charge. On average, we had a screen-on-time of around 5 hours. Even just over 30 hours on a single battery charge should still be feasible with less intensive use, but 1.5 days is really too high. This means that the G4 does meet the current minimum requirements, but it is not really generous.
There is a power save mode that can be automatically enabled at 15% or 5% remaining battery level and apps in the background can be limited. Unfortunately, neither of these can be modified to suit the specific functionality. There is also a 'game optimizer'. This adjusts the video quality in games to save battery power.
The interface of the phone application is a little bit refreshed and therefore up to date again. At the top there are five tabs for calls, call info, contacts, favorites and groups. Looking up a contact is easy by typing the first few letters of a name on the numeric keypad. If you change your mind at the last moment, it is also possible to open the message app from the dialer and set up an SMS.
Conversation partners are generally easy to understand although the sound is rather shrill, especially when the volume is higher. We received a few complaints about a crackling and disruptive connection which made it difficult for us to understand ourselves. Noise reduction and better voice clarity can be enabled in the settings. Strangely enough, these are not already turned on by default.
Like its predecessor, the G4 is equipped with a Quad HD display that measures 5.5 inches diagonally. Quad HD means that as a user you can record 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. LG now uses an IPS Quantum display. This has increased contrast (50%), brightness (25%) and colour range (56%). This of course ensures a very detailed and calm image. The automatic mode for screen brightness screws this standard back a bit but otherwise works very well. Fortunately, LG no longer works with a fairly aggressive filter as it did with the G3.
During our test period it became known that users were complaining about a poorly responsive touchscreen of the G4. We, too, had already run into this. Especially the activation of the screen by means of the knock-on method regularly required multiple attempts. While this can be a very fast and convenient function. Locking went generally well at once. Hopefully LG manages to improve this with a software update.
The G4 runs on Android 5.1 and is completely contemporary. LG has also updated its Optimus interface, the shell over Android. As a result, a number of icons have been updated and minor improvements have been made to the interface to bring it more in line with Android Lollipop guidelines and the Material Design style.
For the virtual function keys at the bottom of the screen, you can choose between a white and black background or transparent for the start screen. The number of touch keys at the bottom of the screen can be expanded to up to five with keys for notification, Dual Window, QuickMemo+ and QSlide. QSlide is the name of the option to reduce or open most LG apps as a kind of floating widget, but with full functionality. This allows a different kind of multitasking.
On the start screens for the G4 there is an extra row available for icons or widgets, both horizontally and vertically. To the left of the normal start screens is Google Now for bare Android, HTC Blinkfeed and LG now introduces Smart Bulletin. It contains a kind of small maps with updates of LG Health, the calendar, music, smart settings, QuickRemote and Smart Tips. We thought it didn't really have much added value. If you feel the same way, you can just turn this screen off. To expand the number of start screens you need to zoom out by pinching an existing start screen.
By dragging the notification bar down, the notification screen appears with switches for things like WiFi, vibrate mode, screen rotation and NFC at the top. You can scroll through it horizontally and unused switches can be turned off. Beneath this line of fairly large switches is a slider for screen brightness and one for the ringtone volume. These can also be turned off. When the QSlide and/or Quick Remote are also switched on, the messages are pushed even further down.
In the application menu, apps can also be placed in folders and you can choose from two formats for the icons. Apps can be sorted by alphabet, download date or in their own format. LG still maintains a separate tab for widgets. This is a rather useless functionality and gives the menu a somewhat outdated look.
As mentioned before, the phonebook is fully integrated in the phone app but there is still a separate icon for the contact list in the menu. Contacts can be synchronized from multiple accounts and images are also retrieved as much as possible. This is useful, but it does make the list very extensive. With the help of the settings options, the overview can be restored to a large extent. Using the migration option under 'manage contacts', duplicate contacts can be merged. Although you will also have to do a lot by hand. By tapping the image in front of a name, the available contact options appear. Behind contacts with a phone number is a shortcut to call directly. You can even zoom in and out by pinching.
The messages app has also been given a small 'Material Design' sauce and continues to work properly. You can also use Hangouts to text, but we don't think this works as well. In addition to the Gmail app with which accounts from other providers can also be synchronised, the G4 also has a separate email application. It works very well with similar functionality as Gmail and also has a nice widget.
The keyboard is extensive and clear. It's worth diving into the settings at the start to adjust the keyboard to your personal preferences. For example, the height of the keyboard can be adjusted and the separate row for numbers at the top can also be switched off. In addition to the space bar, an extra key for punctuation can be added. Switching between different input languages is easy to do and with path input, text can also be entered by swiping from letter to letter. This works reasonably well. Although the word suggestion and spelling correction are a bit erratic. We've just turned the latter off. The keyboard automatically fills in a space after choosing the correct word suggestion, but not after a point or comma.
LG put a lot of work into the G4's camera. It is a completely new 16 megapixel one with an aperture of f/1.8 in front of the lens. This allows more light through. Moreover, it has an infrared color spectrum sensor which makes colors even more realistic. The optical image stabilization is improved and the laser autofocus is faster. Because of this, the G4 according to LG in terms of image quality must come close to an expensive SLR camera (DSLR). To be able to approach the DSLR even better, it is also possible to take photos in the RAW format. This gives you better options to do post-processing.
By default, the camera is in automatic mode and the interface looks the same as on the LG G3. However, the number of setting options is more limited to ensure that the LG software can do its job optimally. In general, this works very well, because the G4 shoots very nice photos in different circumstances. Zooming in is also possible to a certain extent without disturbing loss of quality.
In addition, the camera can also be operated in a fully manual mode. This allows you to adjust a range of settings manually. Besides the obvious options such as white balance and ISO, focus and shutter speed can also be set. The latter in particular has a positive influence on the image quality when taking photos in difficult light conditions. When it comes to video, the G4 is also a winner. The colors and details are nicely reproduced and the sound is very good. Only the focus sometimes has to look a bit too long.
On the Network tab in the settings you will find switches for WiFi, Bluetooth and data connection. For mobile internet, the G4 can of course connect via the 4G network. More exotic connection options such as NFC, Android Beam, DLNA and Miracast can be found under the heading 'Share & Connect'. To turn the G4 into an internet hotspot, go to 'Tethering & Networking'. Here you will also find the flightmode and VPN settings.
The infrared transmitter makes it possible to transform the device with the QuickRemote app into a remote control to control all kinds of devices. The remote control can also be displayed on the lock and notification screen. Of course, you will first need to go through a small installation wizard to pair up your device.
In contrast to Google's Chrome, LG's internet browser still has a bar with navigation keys at the bottom of the screen. This bar and the address bar at the top of the screen both disappear when you scroll down. If you scroll up for a moment, they will become visible again. The browser works well and especially fast, according to our experience.
The G4 comes standard with the applications calendar, file manager, calculator, cell broadcast, downloads, fm radio, clock, LG backup, LG health, Maps, music, Quick Remote, Quickmemo+, RemoteCall service, SmartWorld, tasks, voice mate, voice recorder, weather and YouTube.
A separate folder at the beginning of the menu contains the other Google apps such as voice search, Google+, Play music/films/books/kiosk/games, Google Drive, photos, Hangouts, documents, sheets and presentations.
LG's Update Center can now only be accessed via the settings and is still the place to update LG's software and apps. This can be a bit confusing but in general updates come in smoothly and everything shows itself through notifications.
The LG G4 is not really a sparkling appearance. After all, it is mainly a large plastic smartphone. The version with a leather back certainly gives it a little more character. In terms of appearance it may not be very special but it will appeal to some users that with the G4 it is still possible to change the battery and insert a separate memory card.
The G4 is also a very user-friendly phone on other points. The excellent screen and the above average well functioning camera are clearly strong points. The G4 has a solid battery, but with regard to its endurance, it gets enough. We are also counting on LG to be able to solve the problems with the touchscreen in the near future.