RE­VIEW: LG G4

Ar­riv­ing fash­ion­ably later than other 2015 flag­ships, has the LG G4 stolen the crown as best phone of 2015?

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It's been a lit­tle wait for the LG G4 af­ter a no-show at MWC 2015 back in March. How­ever, the flag­ship phone is fi­nally here and LG is call­ing it the 'most am­bi­tious smart­phone yet'. We were se­ri­ously im­pressed with the LG G2 and LG G3, so the G4 has a lot to live up to and fierce com­pe­ti­tion from ri­vals.

The LG G4 will ar­rive in the UK on 28 May and, as we ex­pected, the firm has un­der­cut ri­vals as it did with pre­vi­ous flag­ship de­vices with a price of £500.

(£525 for leather). For com­par­i­son, the HTC One M9 is £579 and the Sam­sung Galaxy S6 is £599.

De­sign and build

De­spite ru­mours of a metal build, LG has gone for gen­uine leather in­stead which is un­usual as a main op­tion (you can choose it for the Moto X but it's a pre­mium ex­tra). The leather feels nice with the stitch­ing so it's prefer­able to faux leather as found on some Sam­sung de­vices but some colours aren't great such as yel­low and sky blue. Although the leather is veg­etable tanned and LG says the colour will change over time.

If the idea of leather puts you off the LG G4 straight away then don't worry be­cause there is a ce­ramic op­tion too which has a smooth di­a­mond tex­ture and comes in three colours: Metal­lic Gray, Ce­ramic White and Shiny Gold. How­ever, this feels pretty pla­s­ticky, es­pe­cially the white model, with

LG con­firm­ing the poly­car­bon­ate is only 5 per­cent ce­ramic. You'll need to pay £25 ex­tra for the leather.

That cover is still re­mov­able giv­ing you ac­cess to the bat­tery and mi­croSD card slot which is good to see. What we don't know is how the leather will wear over time so we hope we can have a sam­ple long enough to see what hap­pens. Un­for­tu­nately, we've been sent the Metal­lic Gray model but we have seen the leather op­tions at the G4 launch event.

Since the cover is re­mov­able, we're hop­ing to see third-party case mak­ers of­fer some nice al­ter­na­tives to LG's range.

The LG G4 looks pretty sim­i­lar to the G3 apart from the switch to leather and ce­ramic. How­ever, it's a shame that like the HTC One M9, the firm hasn't man­aged to slim it down. It's heav­ier at 155g and thicker at 9.8mm which isn't ideal. We were also hop­ing for the phone to be thin­ner on the width as the G3 is a tad dif­fi­cult to use in this sense but the G4 is ac­tu­ally taller and wider at 76x149.9mm.

An­other shame is that the frame is still plas­tic, this time with a slightly chromed ef­fect. It feels cheap com­pared to ri­val flag­ships and we're not keen on the sharp edges around the mi­cro-USB- and head­phone ports.

LG uses a Slim Arc curved shape which makes it com­fort­able to hold and sup­pos­edly makes it 20 per­cent more durable than a flat smart­phone in face-down drops. This sub­tle curve ap­plies to the en­tire phone, not just the back, mak­ing it a lit­tle like the G Flex 2. It's cer­tainly not a curved screen phone, but does make the G3 feel dis­tinctly flat.

Hard­ware

We knew a lot about the LG G4 prior to the launch, partly thanks to LG and partly the usual leaks on­line.

The firm has stuck with a 5.5in screen size and a Quad HD res­o­lu­tion (1440x2560), which of­fers

a high pixel den­sity of 538ppi. It's not the same panel though as LG has fit­ted its new IPS Quan­tum Dis­play which is says has 20 per­cent greater colour re­pro­duc­tion, 25 per­cent im­prove­ment in bright­ness and 50 per­cent greater con­trast.

Per­cent­ages aside, the dis­play is bet­ter than the G3 (which was the first Quad HD phone to mar­ket) but it's not a huge leap. Colours do, on the whole, look bet­ter - es­pe­cially whites but some look a lit­tle over the top. For ex­am­ple, the YouTube icon icon looks neon red like it's eaten too many Haribo.

LG hasn't done it­self any favours with the de­fault gar­ish colour scheme but that's some­thing eas­ily changed. Once again, we think the LG G4's screen is top qual­ity so it's re­ally the size which is more of an is­sue here as 5.5in will be too large for some users.

Which pro­ces­sor LG would opt for was some­thing we had to wait to find out and it's not the Qual­comm Snap­dragon 810 (as used in the LG G Flex 2) or the

firm's own Nu­clun pro­ces­sor. In­stead the LG G4 has a Snap­dragon 808 mak­ing it the first de­vice we've seen with the chip. The rea­son is un­known but sus­pected to be be­hind the over­heat­ing is­sues of the 810, although Qual­comm de­nies this.

Nev­er­the­less, the Snap­dragon 808 is a six-core pro­ces­sor rather than octa-core of­fer­ing dual-core ARM Cor­tex A57 and quad-core A53 with 64-bit sup­port. It also has an Adreno 418 GPU which sup­ports 3D gam­ing on 4K dis­plays and X10 LTE which has in­te­grated LTE Ad­vanced for down­load speeds of up to 450Mbps (the­o­ret­i­cally).

It can't keep up with ri­vals on pure bench­mark num­bers, as you might ex­pect, but that doesn't mean the LG G4 is slow. It feels nip­pier than the G3 and can keep up with the Galaxy S6 some of the time in a side-by-side com­par­i­son but Sam­sung's phone does feel that lit­tle bit silkier in op­er­a­tion.

LG says it has worked with Qual­comm on the 808 tout­ing is as 'snappy yet en­ergy-thrifty'. It claims the change means an ex­tra 20 per­cent bat­tery life com­pared to the G3 de­spite hav­ing the same bat­tery ca­pac­ity. A re­mov­able bat­tery is a key fea­ture of the LG G4 when com­pared to ri­vals as it's the only flag­ship with this op­tion.

In terms of bat­tery life, we've not no­ticed it be­ing dramatically dif­fer­ent to the G3 which lasted a

cou­ple of days with nor­mal us­age. Af­ter a num­ber of days with the LG G4 it lasts a day and half to two days so there's re­ally no dif­fer­ence.

In our bat­tery test, the LG G4 man­aged four hours and 44 min­utes with a nu­mer­i­cal score of 2841 which quite a way off the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge which pro­duce close to seven hours and a score over 4000.

Our real quib­ble on the bat­tery front is that LG has down­graded to no wire­less charg­ing as stan­dard, which is not a good move. You'll need to buy the Quick Cir­cle case to gain this fea­ture, which seems silly when hav­ing a leather cover is one of the main rea­sons to buy the G4.

It's also strange that the LG G4 doesn't of­fer Qual­comm's Quick Charge 2.0 de­spite the Snap­dragon 808 sup­port­ing this fea­ture. Like the G3, it is sup­plied with a 1.8A charger though, which is still pretty speedy. It's also odd to see no type of ex­treme power sav­ing mode which ri­vals of­fer which gives you ba­sic func­tion­al­ity on a black and white in­ter­face.

LG has sim­pli­fied things when it comes to mem­ory and stor­age with a flat 3GB of RAM and 32GB of stor­age match­ing ri­vals - the amount varies on the G3. There is, how­ever, that mi­croSD card slot which many were an­noyed to see dropped on the Galaxy S6 so you can bump things up if you need to.

The G4 has the kind of wire­less you'd ex­pect from a top-end phone with 11ac Wi-Fi, Blue­tooth 4.1 LE and NFC. This does mean that LG hasn't added fea­tures

you can find else­where such as a finger­print scan­ner and heart rate mon­i­tor but the IR blaster re­mains from the G3.

Cam­eras

A ma­jor fea­ture which LG has been push­ing since be­fore the launch event is the cam­era which is con­firmed would have an aper­ture of f/1.8 – nar­rowly beat­ing the Galaxy S6 by 0.1. We now know the main cam­era is 16Mp, up from 13Mp, and has OIS 2.0 (op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion). A new fea­ture called Quick Shot means you can dou­ble tap the Rear Key to launch the cam­era and take a photo but while this is fast, it's dif­fi­cult to frame the shot with the screen off so you'll prob­a­bly need to do some crop­ping.

Not that the cam­era was bad on the G3, but this is the big­gest area of up­grade for us. The LG G4's main cam­era is up there with the best tak­ing pre­dom­i­nantly great shots in a range of con­di­tions.

The new ver­sion of OIS can move up to two de­grees which is dou­ble what the G3 has to of­fer and now has a third z-axis of move­ment. You can re­ally see and feel this in ac­tion when you're shoot­ing with the G4 and is the best op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion we've seen on any smart­phone.

We also like the ad­di­tion of the Man­ual Mode which lets you start con­trol­ling the set­tings your­self – it's fun to try even if you're not into photography. You can tweak the shut­ter speed, ISO, ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion, white bal­ance and use man­ual fo­cus. You can even shoot in RAW if you like!

Selfie fans will love the 8Mp front cam­era which has an f/2.0 aper­ture. It's easy to take pho­tos us­ing the Rear Key as a shut­ter but­ton but you can also use the new Ges­ture In­ter­val Shot fea­ture to take a se­ries of four self­ies.

Soft­ware

The LG G4 comes pre­loaded with the lat­est ver­sion of An­droid, 5.1 Lol­lipop, and the firm's new UX 4.0 in­ter­face which it teased be­fore the launch. It looks sim­i­lar to the G3's user in­ter­face as you'd ex­pect and still has ex­ist­ing fea­tures such as Smart Bul­letin and Smart No­tice, but there are some new fea­tures.

Smart Bul­letin sits to the left of the home screen, a now com­mon place for a spe­cial fea­ture like

The LG G4 has the best op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion we've seen on any smart­phone

Google Now, Flip­board and BlinkFeed depend­ing on the de­vice. On the G4, this ver­ti­cal feed gives you in­for­ma­tion such as fit­ness track­ing, cal­en­dar events and also gives you con­trol such as mu­sic play­back and the QRe­mote. If you don't like it, Smart Bul­letin can be switched off in the set­tings menu. Smart No­tice is im­proved and the wid­get now changes colour to match your wall­pa­per.

There's also an im­proved Gallery app and a new fea­ture called Event Pocket al­lows you to cre­ate a uni­fied cal­en­dar by drag­ging and drop­ping ap­point­ments and ac­tiv­i­ties from mul­ti­ple cal­en­dars and so­cial me­dia sites.

It's also worth not­ing that the LG G4 comes pre­in­stalled with Google Of­fice and G4 own­ers will re­ceive an ad­di­tional 100GB of Google Drive stor­age free for two years which is a lot of ex­tra space. LG also said VW own­ers will be able to "view a car­friendly ver­sion of the G4 in­ter­face on the in-dash

dis­play for full in­te­gra­tion with con­tacts, nav­i­ga­tion and mu­sic on the smart­phone".

Be­yond th­ese ad­di­tions, what we re­ally like is the num­ber of things you can cus­tomise and some cool things hid­den away in the set­tings menu.

Like pre­vi­ous de­vices, you don't have to make do with the stan­dard nav­i­ga­tion but­tons. You can have up to five on the bar in­clud­ing one to open and close the no­ti­fi­ca­tion bar, QMemo+, QSlide and Dual Win­dow. You can also man­u­ally choose whether to show or hide the nav­i­ga­tion bar in apps you have in­stalled rather than let­ting the phone de­cide.

You can once again choose the font (and size) for the in­ter­face and turn the no­ti­fi­ca­tion LED off if you re­ally don't want it. There's also the abil­ity to ad­just the strength of vi­bra­tion for hap­tic feed­back and no­ti­fi­ca­tions, which is great.

New for the G4 is a new sec­tion called Smart set­tings. This means you can au­to­mate a lot of things like switch­ing Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth on and off plus chang­ing your sound pro­file. You can set th­ese to au­to­mat­i­cally ad­just when you're at home or away from home plus when ear­phones are plugged in.

An­other fea­ture is Smart clean­ing which will help you clear some space on the G4 by clean­ing some apps and delet­ing tem­po­rary files.

Ver­dict

LG has gone down an un­ex­pected route with leather mod­els, which we like apart from a cou­ple of colours. The so-called ce­ramic model is less ex­pen­sive but we think it feels cheap and pla­s­ticky. On the whole, hard­ware is once again strong – par­tic­u­larly the cam­era – but not mas­sively dif­fer­ent from the G3 and the G4 has some tough com­pe­ti­tion. We feel build qual­ity could be bet­ter, with a metal frame and di­men­sions go­ing down, not the re­verse. This is the flag­ship to go for if you want a re­mov­able bat­tery and ex­pand­able stor­age, but it's a shame to see fea­tures such as wire­less charg­ing dropped. (Re­mem­ber the G3 is now a steal at un­der £300 SIM-free.)

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