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Is this smartphone LG's hot potato?

By Himanshu Juneja
June 24, 2015 14:53 IST
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The concerns regarding the leather durability and omissions of the plastic back panel will surely come to haunt LG.

Combine all this with an asking price of Rs ~50,000 and the lurking news of touchscreen issues, LG has pretty much a hot potato on its hands, says Himanshu Juneja about the LG G4

LG is ready with another of its major phone launch in India, and this time it happens to be the LG G4. The new phone has some huge boots to fill since the earlier two editions have left considerable impression on the public.

Seems like that LG has given a good thought for its new flagship, as it will be trying to woo the customers with the old school lure of a removable battery as well as the support for a micro SD card. None of the rival flagships offer these long standing favourite options.

But with the likes of Samsung Galaxy S6 and Apple's iPhone 6, how much of a chance does the LG G4 stands? Time for a closer look at what is the new LG phone all about.

Design

LG G4

At a cursory glance, once can easily mistake the G4 to be the LG G Flex 2. But differences like the G4 possessing a more subtle curve and the sharper corners define the G4 distinctively.

The curved body has its merits, as it reportedly takes the impact upon falls in a more robust way. The curve also allows for a better grip, but the sheer size of the device may pose few problems for people with small hands.

The top of the phone carries the IR blaster, and the bottom edge carries the headphone jack, and the Micro USB port. Rest of the edges have been left undisturbed with the buttons, and have been imparted a faux metal look, which really could have been switched with the real thing.

The signature placement of the volume rocker and the power button at the rear is present here. Both the buttons have been given a distinct look and feel to assist in differentiating the buttons while being used on the fly.

The phone is sturdy and well built. Once held, it gives good premium feel.

Construction

The rear portion of the LG G4 has been rendered in two variations: Leather and good quality plastic, which is made to look like metal.

As of now, LG G4 plans to sell only the leather-clad variant in India and this can prove to be a critical mistake.

Taking nothing away from LG, they have provided premium material for the leather, and the stitching too looks very impressive. But the fact that the leather cover starts losing its sheen within a month's time is not any user would be prepared for.

The corners especially start to wear off, and overall the leather back isn't too resistive either. This is precisely where including a faux metal back cover would have done wonders to G4's chances, allowing users to use the leather case sparingly.

LG has been kind enough to provide three colour choices for the leather cover.

Display

LG G4

LG provided the phone with a Quad HD 5.5-inch, with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 pixels. The pixel density comes around to be 538 ppi.

For protection, the screen has been provided with Gorilla Glass 3 as well as the chemical treatment which according to LG provides 30 per cent more resistance to scuffs and breaking of the panel.

The screen brings up sharp and crisp images, and same goes for the text as well. Colours looked a bit extra worked up which may be not everybody's favourite.

The contrast was very impressive and the screen makes sure that sunlight legibility as well as the viewing angles are among the best in its class.

LG also made sure that they incorporated battery saving technology which basically does away with bothering the CPU while displaying the still images, thus making it 11 per cent more battery efficient.

Overall, the display was very impressive and deserved a flagship device.

Connectivity

LG G4 is a dual SIM mobile phone which enables the users to get on the LTE network via 2300 Mhz band in India. It also possessess the dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 technology as well.

Included in the phone is the GPS and A-GPS technology for navigation and also has NFC connectivity option to communicate with other NFC enabled devices.

For those who would like to turn their mobile phones into a device to control their televisions, the IR blaster at the top will come in handy. There is also the Slimport 4K technology, allowing the phone to play videos up to 4K resolution via a TV or a monitor.

The absence of wireless charging option may be missed by some.

Hardware

LG made the wise move of staying away from the controversial Qualcomm's 810 chipset, which has worried many with its habit of getting overheated and effecting performances.

The phone comes with the 808 chipset, along with Adreno 418 GPU. 3 GB of fast DDR RAM4 completes the configuration. LG brought onboard its power saving Graphic RAM, which is the magic behind the saving up of battery on a still frame.

The phone comes with 32 GB of memory, and it can be further enhanced by 128 GB via microSD card. The presence of the microSD card slot ought to delight many prospective owners out there.

Software

Sporting the LG's custom skin UX 4.0, the underlying OS is Android Lollipop 5.1. LG has tried to get the skin more exciting and inline with Android's latest material design. The effort is clearly visible.

From the animations of the lockscreen, the overall ease of navigation, the shaded settings menu and the icons, user is greeted with a pleasing milieu.

LG seems to have taken inspiration and included the LG Smart bulletin, which is basically HTC's Blink Feed minus the Social Media and News Feed. It provides the LG health app (which is still sketchy), Calendar, Smart settings, QRemote etc.

The Smart setting allows the user to select some pre-defined actions, like toggling on or off certain features depending upon the location. Similarly, the Dual Window feature cannot be overlooked either, as the big screen allows for easy running of more than one application.

LG also included its own spin for quick queries. User can launch search feature by sliding upwards from the soft central home key. The new added toggles in the setting menu also come to aid of the users and enhanced the experience.

LG of course hasn't left behind its other popular features like Knock On, Knock Code, and the Glance View. All these have made good impressions already, especially Knock On, which wakes up the screen via simple taps.

The digital assistant Smart Notice brings up cards for upcoming events and the weather info, apart from missed notifications and long unused app.

Overall, it seemed that LG clearly made efforts to not only get the skin more livelier, they also paid attention to enhance the user experience. This UX 4.0 has to be LG's best effort yet.

Performance

LG G4

The device has the raw power to chug smoothly, and the decision to keep the problematic 810 chipset seems to have paid the dividends.

LG went for a combination of Quad-core 1.44 GHz Cortex-A53 and a Dual-core 1.82 GHz Cortex-A57 processors.

One set of processors is meant for the taxing errands, whereas the other set steps forward to deal with regular tasks. Clearly, the goal is to enhance the crucial battery back up.

The phone goes about its job nicely without showing any lags or stutters. The app launches, exits and switching, all went without any hitch. The HD movies and games played out as expected too.

There were however instances when the phone showed some lags and this happened only immediately after unlocking the screen. Maybe the next software update will fix this, as the phone is quite well equipped.

The speaker performance was pretty good as well. The volume levels were loud enough and sound quality didn't appeared to be shrill, unless the volume level was raised to its highest. Experience of watching the HD content was greatly enhanced.

Camera

LG G4

The phone comes with 16 MP camera, with LED flash and Optical Image Stabilisation. LG G4 comes with the ability to take RAW images, which is a huge boost to its resume, as it allows the users to enhance the photographs as per their wishes later on.

The rear camera has a fast shutter and a wider aperture lens, which allows that much more light exposure thus resulting in better images, and the effect shows.

The photographs taken in good light conditions were rich with accurate colours and magnificent amount of detail as well. The panorama shots looked stunning and that is putting it mildly.

The app took a little while to launch, but the features provided again proved that this looked like a camera for the holiday trips really. The user gets to choose from three modes: Simple, Auto, and Manual. The Simple mode is pretty much like point and shoot option, whereas the Auto allows the user to choose modes like HDR.

The Manual mode is where one gets to tinker the various settings like ISO, White balance, Shutter speed, Aperture, and focus. Users can also long press the volume down button to launch launch the camera, or quickly double press the button to take an instant picture.

Indoor photography was good as well, but the presence of noise couldn't be masked.

The videos captured by the rear camera are pretty too, and the OIS certainly helps. The videos again depicted good colour reproduction and details.

Different modes like UHD, full-HD, HD, and Slo-mo offers good range to choose from. Low light output had little amount of noise, but videos looked more soft as a trade off.

The front facing camera is an 8 MP affair, which does the job nicely. The gesture based command is onboard, and user also gets to take four photos in succession as well.

Battery

The phone comes with a 3000 mAh battery. While it was delightful to see that LG went for a user replaceable version, the users just might need this after all.

On a moderate to heavy usage, the phone just about makes it with 10 hours of battery backup. A phone with stellar appeal, gorgeous screen and a flagship to boot, the battery should have been a little bit more efficient.

The quick charging feature makes the phone go from 0 to 100 per cent charge in a span of 1 hour and 45 minutes flat.

Touchscreen issues

LG G4

LG already had tough competition around, and news started to trickle in that G4's screen has been giving issues. The screen has not been recognising taps, which will be a huge problem. LG's knock codes will be effected majorly as well.

According to company sources, the software update to fix the issue has already been made available, and reports confirm that users have been able to resolve the issue.

Verdict

While the LG G4 is definitely a worthy phone in its line-up, the feeling of being a true flagship from LG falls short. True, it does most of the things very impressively, but for those who already have the G3, they will do well to hold on to it.

The G4's camera is quite good, but still falls short of matching the stellar unit from Samsung Galaxy S6. Battery does the job, but we expected more.

The concerns regarding the leather durability and omissions of the plastic back panel will surely come to haunt LG.

Combine all this with an asking price of Rs ~50,000 and the lurking news of touchscreen issues, LG has pretty much a hot potato on its hands.

LG needs to be proactive here. Use the situation to bring in price cuts as soon as possible and target the early or mid Rs 40k slab. With only a camera and to some extent a screen to boast about, LG really should accept hard realities and win the public over with swift price cuts.

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Himanshu Juneja