Every year smartphone manufacturers revamp and refresh their flagship devices. Very often, though, this upgraded iteration isn‘t more than a minor spec bump and slightly changed design. In some ways this is also true of the LG G4, but in other ways it is much more than that. The LG G3 was one of our favourite devices of last year. How will the new iteration stack up to the competition?
Before we get to the full review, here are some key features:

  • 5.5″ QHD (1440 x 2560px) Quantum Display IPS LCD, 534ppi, Gorilla Glass 3
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop with the latest LG UX v4.0
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chipset with hex-core processor (dual Cortex-A57 @ 1.82GHz, quad A53 @ 1.44GHz), Adreno 418 GPU and 3GB of RAM
  • 16MP camera, phase detection/laser autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, OIS, 2160p video recording, f/1.8 aperture
  • 8MP front-facing camera, 1080p video recording
  • 32GB of built-in storage, expandable via a microSD card slot
  • Active noise cancellation with a secondary microphone
  • 3,000mAh user-replaceable battery
  • Subtly curved design with optional leather backs

Design and Build
lg-g4-review-d1Last year‘s version of LG‘s flagship range sure did us impress us very much, including in the design department. It had tiny bezels and so packed a large screen into an easily handled package. One gripe we had with the design was the feel of the back cover.
This time around, LG has addressed this minor qualm magnificently. The design of the G4 is a definite upgrade on the LG G3 from last year, and will be very familiar to anyone used to their unique design language.
LG offer the G4 with a leather back cover, and that is the version we have here. It is the only real noticeable change from last year‘s model and it comes in this tanned colour, as well as in black and red. The stitching down the middle of device lends to its symmetric look and feel, and works very well with the rear placed lock- and volume rocker buttons.
In the hand the leather back feels wonderful ““ it‘s grippy, yet plush. Its stunning to behold, the pictures definitely don‘t do it justice. Never before have I been stopped so regularly by strangers who want to look at my phone.
The phone feels rock solid, which also means it doesn’t bend like the G Flex 2. The weight is also on point, with the centre of gravity shifted slightly to the bottom.
The device is slightly curved (not as pronounced as on the G Flex 2) which means it does feel smaller than its 5.5-inch display would suggest. Overall, the size and handling should suit anyone‘s hand size and we think it is amongst the best devices to hold in hand.
We also had a short amount of time with the plastic back variant, and can confirm that it feels better than last year‘s version and not quite as slippery. The slight price increase to the leather version is a no brainer to us, though.
When LG announced last year that the LG G3 would include an impossibly sharp Quad HD display (that‘s a 1440 x 2560 resolution) there was a collective jaw drop in our offices. They were the first major manufacturer to do so (and others have followed suit) but it was slightly disappointing.
It was extremely sharp, yes, but its viewing angles and outside visibility wasn‘t great at all (though acceptable), and saturation was sub-par. LG tried to change that with its new 5.5-inch display of the same resolution.
LG claims that the phone’s screen, an IPS Quantum Display that it says is the first of its kind anywhere, is 25 percent brighter and has a 20 percent wider colour range than its previous QHD screens on mobile devices.
All this technical mumbo-jumbo translates very well in the real world and we can attest that it is a marked improvement over last year‘s model. On maximum brightness the G4‘s screen is in another league, and the visibility in direct sunlight is much better as well.
It is so much easier to use the screen on a daily basis in all circumstances that on the G3 and we‘re happy to see the immense improvement. This screen is only slightly shaded by the one on the Galaxy S6.
User Interface
Out of the box you will find Android 5.1 Lollipop on the LG G4. The design of LG‘s proprietary UX 4.0 user interface has been overhauled to be more in line with Material Design that Google have brought to the Android software suite, which does look better than last year‘s G3 interface ““ it looks more mature than before.
This is LG‘s most refreshing UI to date and is very easy to navigate and to understand. It includes some unique touches throughout the software experience which sets it apart from other Android skins out there.
LG have included a feature called Smart Bulletin, which dedicates an entire home screen page to display widgets of certain apps, including the music player, your Calendar, the LG Health fitness tracker, QRemote (which uses the IR blaster on the device’s top edge to turn your handset into a universal remote), and more.
Smart Notice has also been revised, but we didn‘t find ourselves ever using it over Google Now. LG has also included split screen functionality (called Dual Window), which has been greatly improved. The implementation thereof is well thought out, though we still prefer Samsung‘s.
Overall you have a very pleasant software experience here, only slightly overshadowed by that of the HTC One M9.
The G4’s hexa-core 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 processor sounds like a step down from the G Flex 2’s octa-core 810 processor, but LG says that the 808 chip is actually more optimized for the G4. It has been refined to work better with its camera and upgraded display.
While it may not stack up as highly as some others in benchmark testing, in real world, everyday use it doesn‘t pick up any lag or sluggishness at all. In fact, many times you will find it performs better than some of its rivals which scored higher on paper.
General performance is top notch in this device, as is expected. When opening apps, changing between apps, multitasking and using the camera it is the snappiest device on Android right now.
Battery Life
The LG G4 has a 3,000mAh battery, larger than those on its biggest competitors. It is the same size as that on its previous two versions of the flagship G range, and performance of it is somewhere in between.
The LG G2 had brilliant battery life and the G3 had disappointing battery life. The G4‘s battery life is, for the lack of a better word, adequate. Web browsing and video playback times were slightly above average, and talk time was on point.
Having a removable battery is a boon for power hogs, though, a feature excluded from Galaxy S6. The G4‘s battery will get you through an entire day, however, and doesn‘t need to be attached to a wall socket most of the day like the aforementioned.
The shooter on the G4 was one of the company‘s biggest selling points when the device was announced and spent a lot of time trying to convince us it‘s a great camera phone. It turns out, all they had to do to convince us was to let us try out the camera on the device ourselves!
The 16MP camera delivers beautiful detail and is extremely sharp. The laser focus is second to none and you won‘t find a camera on any smartphone that takes photos quicker than the G4, meaning you‘ll never miss that moment that goes by in a flash. The double tap on the bottom volume button to quick launch the camera app also helps to accomplish great point and shoot accuracy.
The G4’s exposure is great, with a very even balance between the bright and dark areas. The white balance can be slightly thrown sometimes, but more often than not that is not the case.
Optical image stabilisation has been upgraded as well, which works hand in hand with HDR mode to deliver beautiful shots. The G4 has the most detail when viewed at full screen, certainly better than the iPhone 6, which has half the resolution.
LG has also included the ability to save a process RAW image files, which is a great addition for the highly astute photographers out there. The front facing camera is also better than most, as can be seen below.
It is one of the best smartphone cameras you can find anywhere today, and we rate it right up there with the Galaxy S6 camera as the best on Android. Check out the gallery below for more samples.

If you are at the end of your 2 year contract from a LG G2, this is an easy upgrade to make ““ you‘ll feel right at home and love the experience. Users of other smartphones also need to sit up and notice, however.
Compared to the HTC One M9, which is also a great device, we would easily rather recommend the G4. It has a much better camera and a more unique design and is competitively priced. In comparison with the Galaxy S6, it also stacks up favourably, this time by a hair‘s breadth. It has a removable battery and storage, better software and better aesthetics. It is slightly shaved in the camera and screen department, but not by enough to fall short of the S6. It is also cheaper than both the HTC One M9 and the Galaxy S6.
To be completely frank, the only reason I wouldn‘t buy this device if looking for a new Android flagship was if I absolutely needed a fingerprint scanner.
Follow Theunis on Twitter: @Theunis_BWB

  1. Agreed on the last point: I wouldn’t mind a fingerprint scanner.
    BUT! This is THE best device I’ve ever used. It officially makes me feel like Android has leaped in front of iOS by a long shot. I’ve left the Samsung camp (having had the Note1 and Note3), and even though I was a little “nervous” not to be choosing the S6, I am SO relieved I went with the G4.
    Some of my additions to your review:
    – Battery life is a lot better than the Note3’s 3200 mAh battery, though perhaps that’s because it’s still new. As an example, I watched a video podcast at the gym this morning for 30 minutes (after it was unplugged from the charger for 3 hours): 94% still left
    – The focusing in the camera app is incredible. Of course, coming from Samsung, anything would impress me, but seriously, the speed to open, focus and shoot literally needs to be seen to be believed (as you practically said)
    – Anybody scared of the buttons on the back really shouldn’t be. I prefer it now. And knocking the phone’s screen to turn it on, I find myself trying it by mistake on all my other devices
    – The LG UX is awesome. I actually uninstalled Nova when I realised I could do 90% of the things I needed to with the built in launcher app.
    – The LG apps are fantastic looking, and again I’ve found myself uninstalling some of the 3rd party apps I used to use to make up for the Samsung “crapps”. For example, the messaging app, (and again, the launcher app).
    – Speed, speed, speed, SPEED!!! I can’t emphasise this enough! I have never enjoyed using an Android phone as much as I am now. The lack of lag is insane, again, coming from a Samsung background. And using the recent app switcher, that alone shows off the speed and memory improvements that I believe the S6 owners are struggling with.
    Anyway, my 2c worth. I’m a converted man 🙂

    1. Thanks for your comments, I thoroughly agree. I could go on for ages about this phone (but the review would be too long :D).
      I’ve said it on previous LG reviews re the back buttons. They take a couple of days to get used to, but the ease of use is then just better in my opinion.

  2. mmmmm Im not a fan of LG phones due to the UI im big on UI and sex appeal. But somehow im liking the leather feel of this phone. It looks established. It will go very well with a glass of scotch, cuban cigar and an epic man beard….OMG did i just become a hipster!!!! What has become of me?

    1. Yes sir, that would indeed make you a hipster. Although, that image certainly does fit with the leather back phone. 😀

  3. Never had one but like the review will watch this blog before buying my next phone. 10/10

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