The G3 was arguably one of the better smartphones of 2014, and many critics consider it a staple of that year. With the G2, LG proved that they could build a solid handset while still trying new things: the exquisitely thin bezels of the phone and it’s oddly placed rear buttons were fringe at the time, and whilst this first iteration of the setup was wonderful, many felt it didn’t live to its full potential.
The G3, however, managed to exploit that much better. The minimal bezels benefit any phone, but by bumping the screen size to the 5.5 inch phablet range, LG created the world’s most maneuverable phablet out there. After handling a G3 for a while, users report that other 5.5 inch phones feel awkward in comparison. When it comes to pure design, LG’s build was excellent with smooth curves that attach to your hand naturally, and the brushed back is perhaps one of the more convincing attempts at faux metal.
LG killed it in many other places, however. First of all, the laser-focus camera oddity proved a success as well, with fast focusing, crisp pictures and good low-light performance. The battery life took a small step back from that of the G2’s, but this has happened in almost all 1440p successors and it was still better than most of what came before it. Speaking of which, the screen was leading-class at the time by being the first 1440p panel in the mainstream market, which marked another industry-first for LG. The Snapdragon 801 was also the latest at the time, and the 3GB RAM meant good multitasking. And the creme de la creme were the removable battery and SD card slot. No matter from where you looked at it, the LG G3 had excellent hardware.
While the hardware of the G3 was excellent for a specification sheet, there were some real-world constraints. The display suffered from too much power consumption and the device was prone to heating up at maximum brightness, at which point the phone would lower it automatically. The display was not very well calibrated either, with abnormally saturated colors that were more saturated than the Note 3’s AMOLED screen. The contrast was also not that great, but what really puzzled users was some artificial screen sharpening that LG decided to add to the screen.
For the G4, however, we have much higher expectations: LG announced a new 5.5 inch 1440p display just a few days ago, and in their statement they address the particular issues the G3 panel had: “[the new panel] represents a quantum jump in terms of key features, including color gamut, brightness, contrast ratio, touch function, power consumption and thinness”. The colors, brightness, contrast and power consumption were really all the things that LG needs to improve upon, and this panel is likely to make it into the G4. On this point, we can expect all of our wishes to be sated.
The G2 was crowned the battery king for quite some time, and many had expected the G3 to reclaim the crown. Sadly, the aforementioned 1440p display sucked more juice than it should have. The G3 still has remarkably good battery life, however, and with an even more efficient system on a chip plus the teased screen and Lollipop’s optimizations, there should be little to fear. As far as capacity goes, we can probably expect a Lithium-Ion battery (or maybe even the Lithium-Polymer trooper LG liked so much) of over 3000mAh. What we do want is an all-day-then-some battery life, regardless of numbers. The Nexus 6 and Note 4 phablets managed to squeeze a day and a half with a 1440p display, and sometimes two – so with the promise of a more battery efficient chip and a supposedly more advanced chipset, we can only expect better than that.
This is perhaps the part where wishes themselves are hard to make: the two most likely options that LG can go with are the Snapdragon 810 and the “weaker” 808. When it comes to chipsets and performance, LG is in a pickle: the LG G Flex 2 sported a Snapdragon 810, and the phone suffered greatly from it with frequent stutters, disappointing synthetic benchmark outputs and the menace of possible heat issues. The G Flex 2 also had poorer battery life than its predecessor, and many attribute it to the Snapdragon 810 as well. LG’s UX performance has never been the fastest, and now that their biggest hometown competitor Samsung has that as a design focus, they must put attention to it too.
The Snapdragon 808 is a more well-rounded contender, and it does feature the advancements of 64-bit goodness that the 810 has over last year’s 805 as well. But as we discussed last week, this processor has a GPU that is weaker than that of the 805, and when it comes to 1440p panels, a strong GPU is a must. This is precisely the main reason why the G3 suffered from less-than-stellar performance despite leading processing capabilities, and the graphic-intensive on-screen benchmarks tell the story. It also cannot address DDR4 memory like the 810 can, but at least it does offer the capability to raise the RAM to 4GB… But if the leaked benchmarks are to be trusted, the G4 won’t feature that much and will instead settle for the 3GB of standard. When it comes to on-board storage, the device should at least feature a minimum of 32GB of storage with SD card slots for further expansion if they want to make their fans happy.
The G3’s software was more akin to Samsung’s than HTC’s, and for many people it worked. LG offered a vast array of useful features, and the knock code is still a fan-favorite innovation on their part. Their multi-window solution is not the best around, but given that there’s barely any other alternatives, it is very appreciated. The LG keyboard is truly great (check out an XDA port for yourself), and their customization options for things such as navigation keys are a practical breath of fresh air. LG has shown us a teaser of the UI and some of its features, and for the most part, they seem to be doing a good job adding new features. The only thing they have to be wary off is not falling into software redundancy.
The part that we wish LG improved upon is UI design, as their pastel colors give a vibe that is a little too mellow on iconography that is too flat. Their Lollipop updates didn’t significantly improve on these fronts either, and they didn’t adopt the right elements of Material Design. With LG’s 4th UX, they claim to emphasize simplicity and focus on the essentials, which is definitely what they need if they want to compete against the new Samsung (history can be ironic). The interface still doesn’t look as Material as we’d like it to look, however, and that can be worrisome. The Notification Drawer of the G line is something plenty dislike, and we wish to at least see more customization options as those present in the new M9 and S6.
As far as optimization and performance go, LG must deliver. The G Flex 2 and M9 proved that despite all the processing power out there, newest phones can still lag. The S6 still has some stutters as well. If LG manages to pull off an UI as smooth as stock Android, then they’d have most buttery UX of 2015. With the rumors of an 808 hosting an Adreno 418, we can’t put all of our bets on this, but we can still hope for the best.
The design of the new phone is still shrouded in mystery, and this is one of the most subjective aspects so we don’t want to speculate much on this front. But we do wish to see the small bezels retained, and the back buttons are teased to return. There’s been plenty of leaked renders and photographs, but none offer substantial evidence to warrant much consideration.
What it seems power users want is for them to keep the removable battery and SD card slot. The push for premium-feeling handsets has made Samsung go down the other path, and this is seen as one of the few things that everyone agrees was a step backwards in the S6. LG’s brushed back for the G3 far surpassed their previous glossy plastic, and they are known to innovate in materials with their self-healing back technology. We hope to be surprised by something unexpected, as we were with the G3. LG might also go with the curve once more and bring us a curved screen a-la-Flex, but now in their flagship. We can expect very good hardware design from the G4 regardless, given the good track record of LG in the past two years.
LG cameras have been some of the best these past two years, so the G4 has a lot to live up to. The camera in the G4 was recently touted to have an F1.8 aperture shooter, superior to the praised F1.9 aperture of the S6’s excellent camera. When it comes to megapixel count, most leaks suggest a 16MP rear camera, while there are also mentions of a bigger bump with a 20.7MP possibility. With the latest developments of the M9 and the S6 cameras, we now know better than ever that this last number can be rather meaningless, and hopefully consumers become more aware of this to put a decisive end to the MP wars.
While LG phones have had great camera modules with great hardware firsts such as IOS and Laser Focus, now it is time for them to focus extensively on the software as well. Any Samsung user on non-TouchWiz ROMs notices how big of a deal good software can be for the camera’s final picture quality, so LG should too. To be concise: we want an amazing camera experience, and we know LG can give us one if they really want to.
LG is in a privileged spot right now, as their latest G3 flagship was one of Android’s jewels. That privilege with consumers also comes with high expectations from both users and critics, so they also have a lot to live up to and surpass. With the M9, we’ve seen how staying on the spot and stagnating on all of the listed aspects is severely detrimental. Wishlists typically ask for the best phone, but in LG’s case, that’s not asking for much. Their previous G phone was very close to being the best all-around, and with their new display technology and UX mission statement, they seem to be listening. I have a feeling this is going to be a hell of a phone, so ultimately the real wish in our list is for them to not mess it up!
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The LG G4 is set to be unveiled on April 28th. Stay tuned for further coverage!