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As I mentioned last week, the Samsung Galaxy S6 is a fantastic Android smartphone for the most part, but the battery didn't satisfy my particular needs. The LG G4 looks better on paper so I have been testing it out extensively to see if it indeed beats the S6.
Like the HTC One M9, the LG G4 may not appear at first to be much of an upgrade over the LG G3. In my experiences, the display is much better even though the resolution is the same, the leather back option feels great and makes the LG G4 one of the most comfortable devices I have ever held, the camera may be the best on a current smartphone, and it's refreshing to see a manufacturer continue to provide expandable storage and a removable battery despite the trend away from these options.
Display: 5.5 inch 2560 x 1440 Quantum-HD IPS display, 538 ppi
Storage: 32 GB internal with microSD expansion option, supporting up to 2TB cards
Rear camera: 16 megapixel with f/1.8 aperture, 1/2.6" sensor, laser autofocus, RAW capture capability, color sensor, and OIS
Front facing camera: 8 megapixel wtih f/2.0 aperture
Battery: Removable 3,000 mAh with support for Quick Charge 2.0 technology
Dimensions: 149.1 x 75.3 x 8.9 mm and weight of 155 grams
The device I am testing is part of an early T-Mobile Preview Tour program and I was told this was not the final shipping software, but that every attempt would be made to provide an update before public release of the phone. As you will read about in my review below, I have yet to see any major software issues and am hoping that the final software tweaks the battery settings to last a bit longer.
Check out the CNET review where the editor awarded the LG G4 an 8/10 score.
I went on a walkaround of the hardware in my first impressions article so I won't repeat everything again here. I did pop in a 64GB microSD card and took loads of photos with the LG G4 to test out the camera and battery life.
After more than a week with the LG G4 in my hand, I still can't get over how great it feels to hold. The leather back looks and even smells fantastic. It's not a cold piece of hardware and I get the feeling it is more personal with the leather back.
The front display is lightly curved and only noticeable if you place it face down on a flat surface. The back buttons are very easy to find without looking and definitely the best design of any recent LG smartphone. I am coming to love the clean edges on the phone with the buttons on the back and am starting to wonder why no one else is thinking of innovative button designs like this.
You can actually double press the volume down button to launch the camera and double press the volume up button to launch Memo+. There is also a setting to have the camera then capture a photo, but I kept getting shots of the floor as I was lifting the phone to shoot so toggle off that setting.
The ZDNet image gallery requires images of rather low resolution so if you want to see all of the original images I captured with the LG G4, along with comparison shots with a Sony Xperia Z3 and Apple iPhone 6 Plus, then please visit this Flickr gallery.
You have to have time to capture and edit RAW images and I am a typical auto settings guy so I haven't spent enough time to learn the ins and outs of manual mode. I've seen some amazing photos captured with the LG G4 though and plan to spend more time in manual mode really testing this phone out.
In my first impressions post I mentioned that the LG G4 does not support Quick Charge 2.0 technology. It turns out that LG was holding back on us as the G4 actually does support rapid charging. I have a couple rapid chargers, but there was not one provided in my early release device.
As you can see in the pictures of my device, the battery has a 2,900 mAh capacity label on it. LG confirmed the capacity is actually 3,000 mAh and is just mislabeled on this early preview device.
I returned the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge because I was only able to get something like 8-10 hours of battery life and that just wasn't going to work for me since I do spend lots of time away from a desk or gear bag/battery pack. I'm seeing something on the order of 12-14 hours with the LG G4 preview device. My BlackBerry Passport, Apple iPhone 6 Plus, and Sony Xperia Z3 can get me through my typical 16 hour day with battery life to spare. It looks like the G4 may get me further than the Galaxy S6, but the peace of mind of the Apple iPhone 6 Plus won't be there.
A few phones now have front facing speakers, but my Apple iPhone 6 Plus with bottom speaker is my go-to phone for enjoying podcasts while I drive. It's even louder than the HTC BoomSound speakers. The LG G4 has a speaker on the back, but it bests the volume on my iPhone 6 Plus and I am able to enjoy music and podcasts while driving 60 mph down the highway. With the curved back, resting your phone on the back makes the audio bounce off a table too. It gets a bit distorted if you blast it at 100 percent, but I don't crank my tunes that loud.
While I do like using physical home buttons, readers chimed in with some valid arguments against them. While the LG G4 doesn't have a button or fingerprint scanner, you can setup a custom Knock Code to unlock and also double press the volume down button to launch the camera. If I could just figure out a way to easily launch Google Now then I could get past the physical home button.
There is a lot going on with the LG software on the LG G4, but most of it is tucked away in settings that you have to consciously go into in order to setup and enable. There are a few widgets loaded by default that are easy enough to remove, especially those related to T-Mobile services I don't want.
One full home screen panel is called Smart Bulletin. Tapping the gear icon in the upper right will allow you to toggle it off if you don't want to see it. If you do want to check it out for a while to see if there is useful information presented, then you can go down the list and enable and reorder different types of information. The modules include calendar, music, QuickRemote, LG Health, Smart settings, and Smart tips.
Smart settings is one of the device settings that lets you setup actions for home, away from home, when connected to earphones, and when connected to Bluetooth. I have WiFi turn on and the sound profile enabled when I get home. When I leave home, the profile goes to vibrate and WiFi gets turned off. Pocket Casts launches when I plug in my headphones.
Samsung TouchWiz devices have a notification area that takes up about 40 percent of your display. Thankfully, LG lets you easily toggle off the brightness and volume bars so you then just have a single line of quick settings.
I like that you can create custom vibration patterns, custom Knock Code to unlock your device, and so much more. Other new settings and utilities include:
Smart Notice: This is a widget that takes up about a third of your display and is installed out of the box. It contains the time, location, weather, date, and a small area with personalized suggestions. The background color of this widget also dynamically changes to match your selected wallpaper. It takes time using the widget for the system to learn and so far I am seeing just basic functionality with no friend integration.
Air Drive: The utility on the phone is present, but I couldn't find the associated PC application. This utility is supposed to let you connect from your PC to your phone wirelessly, via WiFi or cellular network. Hopefully, the PC application becomes available when the LG G4 officially launches on carriers.
Event Pocket: I like the default LG calendar and the Event Pocket functionality lets you add images, memos, Facebook events, location-based events, and tasks to your calendar by dragging and dropping from the Event Pocket to your calendar.
Ringtone ID: This utility creates custome ringtones for selected callers based on the incoming phone number. The numbers determine what notes are played.
Glance View: You can swipe down when the display is off to see the time, date, and taskbar notifications.
Themes: Like Samsung and HTC, you can download themes from the theme store and install them on your LG G4.
One reader asked me about the LG email application, not the standard Gmail app. I use the email application with my work Exchange account and am pleased with the available settings and user interface. As you can see in one of my screenshots, you can set peak and off-peak custom schedules for your email. There is also an available email widget, I still can't believe HTC doesn't have one. Email can be shown in conversation view and also used in a smaller QSlide window.
For some reason, there is also a LG voice command app that duplicates a lot of what Google Now can do. I haven't tested it out much, but so far haven't been able to get the launch voice code to work.
The other two new flagship Android smartphones are the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge/S6 and HTC One M9. With the amazing camera, elegant leather back, removable battery, gorgeous display, and expandable microSD storage I feel the LG G4 is the best of these three new Android smartphones.
Apple competes with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but most people are either fans of Android or iOS. Thus, Android fans should seriously consider the LG G4. Even iPhone fans may want to at least take a look at a leather-backed unit in the store.
Unfortunately, we don't yet have pricing information on the LG G4. I was handed a G4 as part of the T-Mobile Preview Tour and US carriers have not yet provided pricing information. I think it will be similar to other high end Android devices, but given that the Galaxy S6/S6 Edge is priced higher than the iPhone 6 I am curious to see where LG positions the G4.
I also can't wait to find out more about the pricing for replacement back covers. The T-Mobile light brown leather is very nice, but it would be nice to know how much it will cost to accessorize the LG G4 with other colors and materials as well. There will be a Qi wireless charging back cover that interests me.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
The LG G4 runs with a Snapdragon 808 processor while the latest and greatest is the 810. There has been lots of discussion about overheating and throttling in the 810. So far the Snapdragon 808 has performed flawlessly and I haven't felt any heating up on the back of the LG G4. The 808 may have been a good move for LG.
As I mentioned, I push phones to their battery limits and am able to get through most of the day with the LG G4. I have access to a charger on most days so as long as I give it a quick charge the LG G4 will be just fine.
Phone call quality has been outstanding with VoLTE supported out of the box. I am regularly seeing the HD voice icon appear during calls and callers sound crisp and clear. The RF signal is also strong on the LG G4 with the device working in areas where my iPhone 6 Plus does not.
I absolutely love the leather back and the fact that I can swap it for other leather backs or new ones if this one ever wears out is even better. Removable batteries are nice for the road warrior and I can skip having to worry about sliding the LG G4 into a chunky battery case. Shoot, with the leather back and plastic sides, I don't even think the LG G4 needs a case.
While the sides are plastic and the underside of the leather back is plastic, this leads to a very light device that should be able to withstand a slip or drop from time-to-time. The all glass devices worry me a bit and I have no problem with the use of plastics as long as the devices doesn't feel cheap.
LG did an excellent job with the G4 and while it may not be a revolutionary update over the G3, there are plenty of improvements that make it the best LG ever made. My current photo testing shows the LG G4 may also be the new champ in the camera department as well.
LG G4 image, camera sample, and screenshot gallery