LG's latest flagship contender is officially here. During a global launch event in New York and London, the Korean mobile manufacturer took the wraps off its latest marquee handset, the G4. Equipped with a six-core processor, an improved quad-HD display, and a 16-megapixel camera, the phone serves as a striking alternative to other smartphone frontrunners, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the HTC One M9.
LG also hopes to elevate its branding by outfitting its G4 with an optional leather backing, giving the handset a high-end, premium aesthetic. It will launch in Korea on April 29 and is expected to arrive in other countries by late May or early June.
Like its predecessor, the G4 sports a 5.5-inch LCD display. The quad-HD touchscreen is ultra-sharp, with a 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution and 534 pixels per inch (ppi). That puts it right between its competitors, with the Galaxy S6 featuring 577ppi and the One M9 at 441ppi.
Even though it's the same size, however, the screen isn't just a repeat of last year. LG claims that the G4's display, an IPS Quantum Display that it says is the first of its kind anywhere, is 25 percent brighter (500 nits) and has a 20 percent wider color range than its previous QHD screens on mobile devices. Contrast has improved by 50 percent over last year's G3, up to 1,500:1.
Its color accuracy has also improved, which results in more true-to-life red and blue tones. Though it's not necessarily noticeable when looking at the G4 by itself, it becomes discernible when placed side by side with other rival handsets.
Similar to the G Flex 2, the G4's display is curved. However, the former is arched about four times steeper, and the curved design on the G4 is barely noticeable to the eye.
LG has a number of design options, with three different kinds of material for the back cover. The first is stitched leather over plastic, which LG heavily emphasized during its G4 promo campaigns, and includes light blue, black and tannish brown vegetable-dyed stitched leather. There will be two other plastic backs: one with ceramic paint, and another with metallic elements that feels similar to the G3's faux-metal battery door.
From the front, the handset looks nearly identical to its previous iteration. However, it feels a little slimmer, and the curve fits comfortably in your hand. It's a bit wider than before, at 76mm, with a height of 149mm. Though we weren't particularly blown away with the ceramic and metallic backings, the leather felt quite nice. It feels similar to the ones available for the Motorola Moto X, and LG claims that the leather is supplied by the same source that luxury brands go to for their own leather goods.
The G4 is equipped with a six-core Snapdragon 808 processor from Qualcomm, with 3GB of RAM. Though this sounds like a step down from the G Flex 2's octa-core 810 processor, LG reports that the 808 chip is more optimized for the G4, and works to improve the phone's camera, imaging and display performance.
Inside is a 3,000mAh removable battery. Though LG claims the battery has a longer run time than the Galaxy S6, we'll be able to run our own battery lab tests once we get our hands on the device.
On the back is a 16-megapixel camera -- a jump from the previous 13-megapixel effort. Its f/1.8 aperture helps with taking photos in low-light conditions, plus there's a 40 percent larger sensor, improved optical image stabilization (OIS) and a laser-guided autofocus. With the G4, its OIS mechanisms are stabilized along two axes, while previous devices only used one degree of stabilization. LG also improved its laser autofocus by adding a color sensor underneath the flash for better color representation.
For your selfie and video chatting needs, the phone's front-facing camera has been bumped up from 2.1 to 8 megapixels. And if you take a lot of pictures, don't worry -- the phone also has expandable memory via a microSD card slot, to go with its 32GB of onboard storage.
The G4 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and features LG's latest user interface, UX 4.0. One new built-in feature, known as LG Bulletin, dedicates an entire homescreen page for just your widgets and works similar to HTC's BlinkFeed.
New camera tools include three different types of shooting modes. There's a basic mode; a Normal Shot mode that has all your standard tools; and Manual mode. Manual mode gives you the most control over your photos compared with the other two settings, and you can adjust white balance, focus, brightness and ISO: 51 levels of white balance, 50-2,700 ISO adjustment and an ability to shoot in both raw and JPEG formats. For the front-facing camera, there are gesture-triggered selfie timers.
Because the G4's pricing will be consistent with the G3 when it first launched, you can expect the device to cost about $200 with a carrier contract and about $600 off-contract. In the US, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, and U.S. Cellular will carry the handset, with the latter two announcing a June timeline. Though UK and Australia pricing is unknown at the moment, that converts to about £400 or AU$770 SIM-free, but we expect the final price to be significantly higher. And to entice users, LG is bundling a promotion: 100GB of Google Drive storage for two years, for free.
Judging from what we know and from what we experienced during our hands-on time with the phone, the G4 has the makings of a solid flagship: an ultra-crisp display, a nimble camera and a powerful processor.
But while it faces stiff competition from its Android rivals, there are a number of ways it can rise to the top. For example, if its battery lasts longer than the Galaxy S6's, or if its camera takes better photos than the One M9's less-than-stellar shooter. Of course, we'll know more when we get a review unit in, but until then, we have high hopes for the G4.