The global LG G4 release date was early June. It's selling for 599 USD/490 GBP for the model with the plastic (sorry, ‘ceramic’) back panel and 610 USD/510 GBP for the leather-backed model, which also comes with a spare plastic battery cover.
The LG G4 price does a great job of undercutting its rivals by 50-100 USD. The prices can be attributed to a lack of extraneous gadgets (see the 'Special Features' section below) and a cheaper Snapdragon 808 chipset. Do these factors make it a lesser phone than its rivals though?
The first thing you may - or indeed may not - notice about the LG G4 is that its screen curves ever so slightly. For those of you who found the crescent-shaped LG G Flex 2 a bit too outrageous, don't panic, because the LG G4 curve is much more subtle.
This design means that the vast majority of the Gorilla Glass 4-covered screen doesn’t quite touch the surface when you place your phone face-down (though why would you do such a terrible thing?), better protecting it from scratches. To this end, there is also a slight 'lip' around the edge of the screen.
LG claims that this design also makes the screen more shatter-proof in case of drops (20 percent stronger than the LG G3, apparently, though we'd be interested to see how many phones they had to destroy to test this).
The curved display is surrounded by a super-slim bezel on the sides, and has an elegant carbon-fiber effect under the glass. The display complements the rounded back of the phone - which in our case wasn’t covered in the coveted leather layer, but the cheaper plastic version with a brushed effect and diamond pattern.
A tenet of the leather rear plate is that it inevitably gets worn down over time. LG spins this positively, saying that this will make each LG G4 unique to its owner, as the leather will wear and adapt depending on how you hold, use and treat your phone.
This is, of course, just a romantic way of saying that leather degrades faster than aluminum or plastic, and it’ll be up to the individual whether the resulting look is something that appeals to them.
The other option for the LG G4 case is a ‘ceramic’ rather than metal effect. This model still looks and feels unique and classy, though we are certainly still more drawn to the leather-backed version. But perhaps that's just us.
One of the best design touches of the LG G3 was the rear-mounted volume rocker and power button, which is happily retained on the LG G4. The positioning is perfect (once you stop instinctively fiddling around the sides and top of the phone for these buttons), as you use fingers that naturally wrap around the back of your phone anyway, which leaves your thumb free to carry out on-screen actions.
The rear-mounted buttons, along with the removable back cover under which lay the SIM and microSD slots, means that the only slots around the sides of the phone are the USB port and audio jack. There is also a virtually invisible pinprick of an IR blaster at the top of the phone, which lets you use your G4 as a remote control.
The lack of buttons, flaps and slots around the G4 makes for a clean design, while the clever positioning of buttons on the back of the phone means it’s also very ergonomic.
The curve of the screen and the relatively big battery in the LG G4 means that it’s not the slimmest of phones at 9.8 mm. This seems a reasonable trade-off though, as the vast majority of smartphone users - including ourselves - prioritize battery life over svelteness. The LG G4 design makes a bold statement, giving it a strong identity next to other, more delicate-looking flagships.
You'd normally expect the 'Special Features' section of a flagship phone review to be filled with various gadgets, gizmos and ‘wow’ features that you’re just as likely to love as never use in your life. However, the LG G4 features surprisingly little to write about on this front.
A case could be made that features like wireless charging, heartbeat monitors, and fingerprint sensors (the G4 has none of these) are all superfluous at this point in time, but they do indicate a desire to try new things with smartphones that could eventually prove life-changing. Has LG just been lazy in this department?
Another way of looking at it is that the LG G4 is a no-nonsense smartphone, eschewing all unnecessary add-ons and focusing on delivering a top-quality user experience at a very reasonable price for a flagship. We’re leaning towards this point of view, and think that the LG G4 price easily justifies the phone not being quite the James Bond gizmo that the Galaxy S6 Edge is.
Aside from a host of voice commands to take photos, reject phone calls and switch off alarms, the most noteworthy special feature on the LG G4 is MirrorLink, which lets you beam a car-friendly version of the G4 interface onto compatible car's in-dash display.
With the LG G3, LG was the first smartphone maker to bring a QHD resolution (2,560 x 1,440) display to smartphone users. The LG G4 retains a QHD display, while this time aiming for the DCI (Digital Cinema Initiatives) color standard, which focuses on recreating natural colors more than you’ll find on the sRGB standard, which most other smartphones use.
Viewing angles are perfect, and turned all the way up the display is blindingly bright (though a little less so than that of the competing Galaxy S6). Being an IPS LCD display, blacks aren’t as deep as on the AMOLED screen of the LG G Flex 2, but this doesn’t make the screen inferior overall.
The LG G4 display achieves 98 percent DCI color reproduction, sacrificing eye-searing saturation for more subtle, nuanced colors. While it’s perhaps not literally as eye-catching as an AMOLED display, there’s something to be said for images you see on screen replicating colors in reality.
It’s always impressive when there’s a sense that nothing more could be squeezed out of a given feature on a phone, and yet a manufacturer manages it. The G4 had a tough task in topping the game-changing display of its predecessor, but it’s done so in every little way possible - particularly in terms of brightness and color reproduction.
While resolution and PPI have remained the same as on the LG G3, we think that QHD is the sweet spot for smartphone resolutions, and will continue to be for some time yet.
LG has come a very long way in recent years on the software side of things, and its new UX 4.0 UI, running on Android 5.1 Lollipop, is its slimmest, simplest offering yet. But as with all manufacturer skins, it won't be to everybody's tastes.
Smart Notice - the large widget at the top of the main home screen - is arguably more useful than equivalent widgets on other phones. It provides the usual weather, time and temperature information, but also has a small message underneath that forecasts the weather for the rest of the day. It reminds you, for example, that it may be clear now, but will rain later so best have an umbrella on standby.
Tapping the Smart Notice message expands the widget, showing key information about your phone - like which apps are using up the most battery - with the option to stop them instantly.
Smart Settings is a particularly useful feature that syncs with Lollipop’s ‘My Places’ - in which you can set various locations where you don’t need a password to unlock your phone. Smart Settings builds on this by letting you set Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to automatically switch on when you’re at home, for example, or set a ‘Silent’ profile when your phone detects you arrive at work. You can also order your G4 to automatically switch to your favorite music app when your plug your headphones in.
The Smart Bulletin board makes a return in the LG G4, and can be accessed by going left from the home screen. It features tabs pointing you to LG’s Health, Calendar, Music, Smart Settings, and QRemote (IR remote control). None of LG’s own apps have any exceptional qualities, so you may find this feature of little use if you end up using third-party apps. Thankfully, you can switch it off so it won’t get in your way.
The Dual Window feature also returns from the LG G3, and can be accessed by tapping the Recent Apps navigation button. It's a nice touch, letting you view two apps on the screen at the same time, and even adjust their window sizes. Perhaps the 5.5-inch LG G4 display is a bit tight on space for this to be fully functional, but it’s a feature that we hope will evolve to become more practical with time.
Several months of user complaints regarding a persistent bootloop issue went unignored by LG until Android Authority took matters into their own hands and elicited a response from the Korean firm, who now promise to repair affected devices.
LG states that the problem stems from "a loose contact between components". By taking your device into the carrier branch where you bought your G4 from, or into a local LG Service Center, LG will repair the device under full warranty.
It goes without saying that the LG G4 specs ensure it runs perfectly smoothly even under a fair amount of strain. The hexa-core Snapdragon 808 chipset - with its two Cortex-A57 cores clocking speeds up to 2.5 GHz - handles standard tasks swimmingly, though when put under strain it does wane a bit next to the octa-core Snapdragon 810.
When running high-end graphics benchmarks on GFXBench, the Adreno 418 GPU couldn't handle the demanding Manhattan ES 3.1 test, which ran at a hopeless 5.8 fps. This was at 1440p resolution to be fair, but even at 1080p, it only managed around 11 fps, whereas the Snapdragon 810 GPU managed 18 fps (which makes a big difference in the low-fps range).
All the lovely animations of Android Lollipop run smoothly on the Snapdragon 808, web browsing is a cinch, and switching between open apps - even demanding games like Asphalt 8 and Real Boxing - is buttery smooth. Along with these apps, we had around 10 tabs open in Chrome at the same time and the 3 GB of RAM never showed signs of suffering.
Frame-rates in games were a little bit lower than on other flagships, which can be attributed to the QHD resolution rather than any deficiency in the Adreno 418 graphics processor. It's a trade-off of super-crispy 2,560 x 1,440 resolution for a lower frame-rate, and whether this is preferable or not comes down to personal taste.
For us, the graphics in Android games don't quite warrant 1440p resolution, so we prefer to stick with 1080p resolution and faster performance on our phones for the time being. When our games demand 1440p we'll reconsider things.
The LG G4 does a decent job of multitasking, easily handling ten open Chrome tabs along with one high-end game in the background. When we tried running two or three high-end games in the background though, the G4 would automatically close them until there was just one open, which is a bit less than the Snapdragon 810 can handle.
The Snapdragon 808 offers flagship-worthy performance that's great value for money, though after some time with it we can say that it's noticeably - though not drastically - weaker than its octa-core rivals.
Another area in which LG didn’t go above and beyond the flagship call of duty is the speaker, which is a mono offering tucked away at the bottom corner of the phone’s pretty rear. It certainly pales in comparison to the stereo blasters on the HTC One M9, but still does a good job of delivering loud - if not entirely crisp - music on a similar level to the Galaxy S6.
A little-known trick on the LG G4 is that you can connect a pair of wired and bluetooth headphones to the phone simultaneously, and listen to the same thing on both of them - pretty cool.
Call quality and volume is perfectly sufficient - a tad surprising given the tiny size of the speaker grille - and there is little background interference when speaking to people in loud environments.
The LG G4 camera takes a bump up to 16 MP, but perhaps more crucially it has a large f/1.8 aperture and OIS 2.0 (Optical Image Stabilization 2.0). This means it captures plenty of light, and also gives a good amount of leeway for those with shaky hands to not end up with blurry images.
More so than any of its rivals, LG has focused on making the G4 camera a worthy secondary camera for people interested in DSLR photography. To this end, there is a robust manual mode alongside the standard ‘auto’ mode and a ‘simple’ mode - in which you simply tap anywhere on the screen to take a photo.
The manual mode is filled with options, letting you change ISO, shutter speeds and focal depth of the G4 camera. You can also change the color temperature, and even save photos in RAW format - great for advanced photographers who do their own image processing.
The camera features LG’s ‘color spectrum sensor’ (CSS) instead of a dual LED flash. This technology, in line with the display itself, measures the light conditions of your environment, and determines the white point of an image accordingly.
In plain English, this means that colors in photos come out balanced, with no yellow or blue tints to photos that some smartphone cameras suffer from. The sensor also does a great job of capturing natural, nuanced reds, as you can see by looking at the tomatoes in our image gallery.
At their best, photos taken with the LG G4 camera look spectacular, capturing a level of detail only matched by the Galaxy S6. Night shots are well-balanced, capturing plenty of detail using the flash without making the subject look over-exposed against a dark background.
Does the LG G4 camera beat the top-dog Galaxy S6 camera? Based on our time with it, it’s not quite there, but we’ll give a more definitive answer when we do a side-by-side comparison of the two. In the meantime, check out our LG G4 camera snaps gallery below.
LG was adamant that the 3,000 mAh LG G4 battery was going to more than justify the added bulkiness of the phone. Extra battery life was also a key reason for opting for the six-core Snapdragon 808 chipset rather than the hotter and hungrier eight-core Snapdragon 810.
From our time with the LG G4 its battery power wasn’t all that impressive. Using the phone moderately - making a few phone calls, playing about half an hour’s worth of videos, but cranking the screen up to full brightness - we got just under 18 hours use out of it before it needed a recharge (that included around seven hours of sleep, when the phone wasn't being used).
The majority of battery use was attributed to the notoriously battery-draining Facebook app, immediately followed by the screen. While a screen is expected to be a big battery drain, we think that the QHD resolution and undeniably top-quality display took a bigger-than-expected toll on battery. Making some amends is the Smart Notice feature and a useful native battery monitor, both of which let you quickly pick out and close battery-hogging apps.
Contrary to early reports, the LG G4 battery does have Quick Charge 2.0, which is a built-in feature of the Snapdragon 808 chipset. This means you can charge around 60 percent of the LG G4 battery in just half an hour.
The LG G4 is a fantastic phone, and makes the necessary improvements in performance, camera quality, and screen clarity to make it a worthy successor to the LG G3. It’s bigger and bulkier than any other major flagship out there, which may attract some people while turning others away. Even if you are looking for a slightly more svelte top-end phone, you may want to give the LG G4 some consideration on account of its very reasonable asking price.
Is the LG G4 the best smartphone in the world? We think not, but by the thinnest of margins. Samsung really came good this year with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, and those two phones remain the ones to beat on account of their record-breaking performance, cameras and design. But they'll cost you significantly more than the LG G4.
The LG G4 screen is bold and beautiful and the phone's unique design - particularly the leather version - may well attract Android die-hards who think the Galaxy S6 looks a bit too ‘Apple’. It may not feature gizmos galore, but LG’s latest flagship has certainly made our Best Android phones list that bit tougher to break into.
Has our LG G4 review persuaded you to take a look at this big boy when it gets released, or is it missing that special something? Leave a comment and let us know.
- where to buy?
Please note: only the lowest tariffs and main networks are shown. Cheaper deals may be found with re-sellers.
Three £39/£42/£45 p/m (£19 upfront) with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 1 GB/2 GB/4 GB data.
O2 £37.50/£41 p/m (£0 upfront) with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 1 GB/3 GB data
Vodafone £40/£45 p/m (£0 upfront) with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2 GB/6 GB data
Verizon $22.91 p/m ($10 upfront) with unlimited minutes, unlimited texts, 2 GB data