LG’s flagship G line of smartphones has always boasted high-end specs and components, but it’s also consistently suffered from a serious case of “buuut…” The G2 and G3 packed high-end Qualcomm chips, beautiful big displays, plenty of battery life, and solid cameras.
Buuut… with each phone, LG veered away from stock Android with its own software features. Some were good, like the resizeable keyboard and “knock to wake.”. Others didn’t really help. The build quality was always a bit plasticky, and you had to get used to the power and volume buttons being on the back of the phone. None of those features were deal-breakers, but they made the otherwise excellent hardware a little frustrating.
Has LG cracked the code with the brand-new G4? At first pick-up, the new phone reduces the “buuuts” dramatically. It still does things a bit differently with its back-facing buttons and slightly curved display, but LG Corporation President and CEO Juno Cho says that’s sort of the point.
“Now every phone looks the same,” Cho explained at the LG G4 launch event in New York City today. “How can we give a smartphone some character? What actual value would this provide to consumers… (beyond) a hunk of metal and glass?”
As with previous G phones, strong components lurk within that hunk of metal and glass. The company’s new flagship phone runs Android 5.1 and is built around a six-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 system-on-a-chip with 3GB RAM. It should be plenty zippy.
LG is touting the phone’s display, with a 5.5-inch 2560×1440 IPS screen and a robust 538ppi pixel density, as one of the best in the game. The company says it has reengineered the IPS LCD panel on the phone to produce better brightness and contrast than competing technologies like AMOLED and quantum dot. The G4 has 32GB storage on board, with the ability to expand it via the phone’s MicroSD slot. There’s also a swappable 3000mAh battery, which LG claims can last more than a day on a charge.
Perhaps the biggest upgrade lurks within the main camera, which will put it among the upper echelon of smartphone shooters. The rear-facing 16-megapixel camera has a bigger sensor than most smartphone cameras on the market, matching the Samsung Galaxy S5 (and many point-and-shoots) with a 1/2.6-inch-type imager. It backs that big sensor up with a wide F1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization, a manual focus slider, RAW+JPEG capture, 4K video capture, and manual controls over ISO, white balance, and shutter speed. The result of all that, Cho says, is “the closest (a smartphone has) come to emulating what we see with our naked eye.”
The camera is quick to boot, too, thanks to the ability to double-tap on the down-volume key and have the camera launch, focus, and capture a shot within a second. That’s just a great, well-rounded set of controls and specs for a smartphone camera. The screen-side second camera is also no slouch, with an 8-megapixel sensor and an F2.0 aperture, so your selfies should look hype.
LG is certainly trying to take the G4 into “premium phone” territory with its build materials, which also get a boost. There are two design variations of the G4: One with a leather-swathed back, available in six colors, with a nice raised seam running down the middle. Finally, you can get a full-grain leather phone without forking over six figures for a Vertu Signature Touch. There’s another variation with a patterned, ceramic-like backing on the phone. It certainly feels better than the light-and-plasticky builds of previous G-series handsets.
Buuut… well, there aren’t many buts this time around. The buttons are still around the back, and the G4’s screen is slightly curved. The company claims this makes the phone less prone to damage when it’s dropped face-down. And while LG still is building its own hit-or-miss software into the G4’s UI, a few of them seem genuinely useful this time around. You can drag-and-drop items from your email and other applications into the phone’s calendar, get alerts to kill zombie apps that run in the background and drain your battery, and organize photos in several ways on the phone without having to upload them to the cloud. Just for buying the phone, LG says you’ll also get a free 100GB on Google Drive for two years.
The prices aren’t out yet. The LG G4 is slated to be available on all major carriers in early June, and it’s surely LG’s most polished phone yet. It certainly won’t be enough to dethrone the iPhones and Galaxys of the world, but the camera on this thing looks like a winner.