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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?

Similarly, LG has baked in several apps and services that duplicate superior Google offerings already available on the device. These include a weird LG app store, two different superfluous voice command systems and a "virtual assistant" that has done little more than tell me the weather and give me basic "getting started"-style tips.

If you're moderately tech-savvy and willing to take the time to dig through the phone's labyrinth of options, you can disable enough of the redundant elements and bad design decisions to make the G4 reasonably pleasant to use. But the vast majority of consumers aren't going to do that — and out of the box, LG's software just doesn't provide a great user experience.

To its credit, LG has added in some genuinely useful features amidst all the silliness. There's a Dual Window mode for viewing two apps on screen side-by-side simultaneously, for instance; it's somewhat limited in the breadth of apps it supports, but enough basics are included that it could potentially be useful on occasion.

The G4 also has a Smart Settings feature that makes it easy to automate certain tasks — like turning on your phone's Wi-Fi when you're home and then turning it back off when you're out. More advanced users may turn to complex apps like Tasker to perform those same sorts of functions, but the simplicity and accessibility of LG's approach could be beneficial to the more casual smartphone owner.

Bottom line

The problem is that for most of us these days, smartphones are becoming more about the sum of their parts than the individual pieces. In order for a phone to move from being "fine" to "exceptional," it needs to offer something that goes beyond what everyone else is doing — something that creates an overall user experience that stands out in some meaningful way.

And that's ultimately why it's hard to get excited about the G4: Despite its progress from year to year, LG hasn't figured out how to pull together individual pieces into something that feels cohesive and special. With the level of choice available on Android today, that extra "X factor" is critical for a phone to succeed. Without it, any given device is just another slab on the shelf.

I wouldn't talk anyone out of buying the G4, because it really is a fine phone with some impressive elements — like a gorgeous display, solid performance and a commendable camera. But other phones, like the Galaxy S6 and Sony's Xperia flagships, offer those same elements along with the addition of something special — be it more inspired hardware design, more restrained software design or that ever-elusive outstanding overall user experience.

 

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