Phone review: LG's flagship G4

LG's G4 smartphone (Reuters)
LG's G4 smartphone (Reuters)

LG's newest flagship smartphone, the G4, is an impressive piece of work – with a price tag to match.

Over the past week I rested my recently purchased Moto E and gave the G4 a spin, and though it's undoubtedly the better phone, at six times the price it would be hard to recommend to the budget-conscious user.

But let's start with the good and in places, great. The 16MP camera has controls galore, and the reverse cam at 8MP is better than many other phones' primary lenses.

The latter also comes with what I'm dubbing a 'selfie mode' – not only does it respond to voice commands like "cheese", it has a slider where you can instantly airbrush out your imperfections. On a grizzled, fuzzy face like mine the results were frequently hilarious, but for others it could mean your quick and dirty #nofilter shots look nothing of the sort.

Unlike its top-end rivals the Samsung G6 and iPhone 6, the G4 has a microSD slot, saving time when switching phones and letting you dump an entire music or collection on your device, should you so wish.

Like many other makers of Android phones, LG has baked some of its own software into the G4's OS, but unlike some Samsung and Sony phones I've used, it's mostly relatively unobtrusive and tastefully done. I didn't have much use for the Smart Bulletin service, being quite happy with Android's classic Google Now notifications, but I can see how if you had the phone longer than a week it could come in handy.

One feature I really liked was how it warned me – rather politely – that an app I installed was known to be a big battery drainer, so I should use it sparingly. The battery itself though was pretty great – I forgot to plug the phone in two nights in a row, and it only started to complain on the third day. Nice work, especially when it's powering a 5.5-inch screen. It's not as in-your-face as the AMOLED screens you see on Samsung phones – whether that's good or bad though is up to you.

On opening Google Drive, I found buyers of the G4 get 100GB free for two years, a nice surprise – especially considering the high quality of the photos and videos it takes can quickly fill up what space you have. A 73-second video of my sons riding a mechanical dragon took up 148 megabytes on the G4's default video capture settings, and a photo of them on a see-saw, nine megabytes.

Oh, and it comes with a leather back. While that brings a certain sophistication, over periods longer than a week it could mean having to shell out for replacements as it gets scuffed and discoloured by the sun. But if you're already happy to spend $1200 on a phone, that mightn't be a dealbreaker.

But even at $1200, the G4 isn't perfect – much of that down to the limited documentation. What might seem intuitive to one user won't be to another, I think is how you could sum it up.

For example, we didn't get off to the best start when I couldn't figure out how to put the SIM card and microSD in. After a failed attempt to get it in resulted in the micro SIM inadvertently becoming a nano SIM, I resorted to looking up video instructions on YouTube.

A big music fan, I got annoyed over the first few days of not being able to change the volume of a song without unlocking the phone and finding the software volume control, until about halfway through the week discovering entirely by accident what looked like a pair of speakers on the back of the phone are actually the volume controls.

Better documentation would have solved those from the get-go, so they're no biggies – unlike the phone itself. Maybe I'm just used to smaller phones, but trying to reach across the screen with my thumb often resulted in nothing happening, because my palm was creeping onto the G4's surface.

But if you're in the market for a big phone with a decent camera and want to stick with Android, the G4 could be a good choice. Just keep in mind it's not the cheapest option out there – about $200 more than the Samsung S6 at one major retailer I looked at.

Check out the G4's full specifications at GSM Arena.

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