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LG G4 review: A fine, but not exceptional, phone

JR Raphael | June 16, 2015
The G4 checks off all the right boxes but is that enough to make the G4 worth buying?

Since it has a removable back cover, the G4 allows you to access its battery and swap it out for a spare — an increasingly uncommon trait in high-end phones, though one a certain subset of users still values. If you're among those who prefer carrying an extra battery over using a more typical portable charging unit, this may be a feature worth noting.

The G4 supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge standard, too, which means you can power up the phone very quickly — going from near-empty to about 60% in as little as 30 minutes. The charger LG ships with the phone isn't Quick Charge-enabled, though, so you'll have to buy your own Quick Charge adapter if you want to take advantage of that capability.

If you want support for wireless charging, meanwhile, you'll have to pony up 60 bucks for one of LG's Wireless Charging Folio Cases. That case snaps onto the phone's back in place of its regular back panel and is only available in plastic — so if you were hoping for the leather look, you're out of luck.

The G4 gives you 32GB of local storage, just under 22GB of which is actually available for use. The phone also has a micro SD card slot under its back panel, and LG is bundling in 100GB of cloud-based Google Drive storage for two years — a value of almost $50.

Last but not least on the hardware front, camera quality is a strong point for the G4. The phone isn't as consistent as the Galaxy S6 — the device I'd crown the current Android photography leader — but if you're willing to put in a little effort, the G4's 16-megapixel shooter can produce some incredible images. And its camera app provides an impressive balance of simplicity and flexibility, with the option to access a wide range of advanced manual controls.

For a detailed look at the G4 camera experience, including an extensive array of real-world photo samples, see my separate LG G4 camera analysis.

The software

LG's software has been subtly improving over the years, but the same basic problems that have held the company back in the past continue to be present on the G4. In short, LG just tries to do way too much, both visually and in terms of feature bloat. Less is often more, and that's a lesson many Android manufacturers still have a tough time grasping.

On the visual side of things, LG falls into the all-too-common trap of making arbitrary changes to the Android interface — things like re-skinning system icons, overcomplicating the phone's notification panel and turning the system settings menu into a baffling design disaster. The Android Lollipop (5.1) operating system on which LG's software is based has been praised almost universally for its polished and cohesive UI design; LG's misguided efforts at altering it merely for the sake of "differentiation" provide no user-facing benefit and serve only to introduce inconsistency and confusion.

 

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