LG’s latest flagship phone, the LG G4, will warm the heart of any long-term Android fan. It is one of the last remaining Android flagships to keep a removable back, memory expansion slot and replaceable battery. That combination once distinguished Androids from iPhones.
If you miss those features, this is the phone for you.
There may be an old-school feel to that classic combination, but otherwise the G4 is a 2015 smartphone through-and-through.
The G4 has a 5.5 inch 1440 by 2560 pixel display. At 538 pixels per inch, it makes for razor sharp images and beautiful text. The colour and brightness are first class. The screen shows stunning, crisp pictures.
LG G4 display up with the best
All 2015 flagship phones have good displays. This one is up with the best. Likewise the camera. LG uses a 16-megapixel camera capable of taking sharp images. It produces some of the best low-light condition pictures I’ve seen from a cellphone.
The camera software offers more manual mode flexibility than I’ve seen on other recent phones. That might appeal if photography is important. It might put you off if you look for simplicity.
Inside the case is a six-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. On paper that puts it a touch behind the eight-core processors found on other Android flagships, but outside of hardcore geeks no-one will ever notice a difference in practice.
LG puts the power and volume buttons on the back of its phones, not on the side. This may appeal to some people. I struggle with that, but it’s not likely to be a deal breaker for anyone. You can knock the phone to wake it, again, this feature is not for everyone.
I’m not a fan of the way phone makers load software over Android. The good news is they are now more restrained. LG’s software looks and feels seamless enough.
LG’s problem is that all phone makers are on top of providing great screens, cameras and processors. So standing out from the crowd requires fresh thinking. I’m not convinced LG has found the right answer.
Most 2015 flagship smartphones are glass-fronted metal or plastic slabs. The review LG G4 came with an optional black leather back cover.
Apart from making the phone look different in a sea of sameness, it makes it easier to grip. Leather also gives the phone a better feel.
LG packed a dark plastic alternative back in the case with the review model. That feels cheap.
Glass and metal phones have more of a quality feel. The downside is they can be slippery in the hand.
Less likely to drop
Dropping a $1000 phone is not fun. The G4 plastic cover feels just as slippery as glass or metal. Although it can take more rough and tumble. It wouldn’t be expensive to replace if you scratched it.
The leather back has a grain effect, making it harder to drop the phone. It still doesn’t have the solid, quality feel you get from an iPhone, but for the most part it sits in the hand better than other Android flagship phones.
A leather back could put it among the most comfortable phones to hold, but for one problem: the G4 gets hotter than most other phones. I also found the case too large for easy one-handed operation, although that applies to all similar sized phones.
Overall LG ticks the boxes with the G4. It’s a flagship 2015 Android phone with all the trimmings. Yet, despite all the good points, there’s little to catapult the G4 ahead of a crowded field.
That means any decision to buy the G4 will come down to price. LG hasn’t announced the New Zealand list price yet. Parallel importers sell it for around NZ$1000. It will need to come in at a lower price to tempt those who would otherwise buy a Samsung Galaxy S6.
Update: The New Zealand recommended retail price is $1200. That makes the LG G4 $100 more expensive than the Samsung Galaxy S6 and $50 cheaper than the least expensive Apple iPhone 6 Plus.