Stitching Things Up – LG’s G4 is here

On Wednesday, LG unveiled the eagerly anticipated G4 flagship smartphone at the Singapore ArtScience Museum. Twenty First Tech was invited to the launch event and we have had our hands-on with the device. Here are our thoughts, along with specs, prices, and availability.

Specifications

LG G4
Display  5.5-inch Quad HD 4000R Curved IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440 pixels / 538 ppi)
Camera 16.0 MP 1/2.6” sensor OIS 2.0, Laser Auto Focus, Colour Sensor, F1.8 / Front 8.0 MP with F2.0 Aperture
Video Recording 2160p/4K
Processing Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 808 processor with X10 LTE
GPU Adreno 418
RAM 3GB LPDDR3 RAM
Storage 32GB, microSD card (up to 2TB)
Battery 3,000mAh (Removable)
Other Manual Mode / Gesture Interval Shot / Quick Shot / Genuine Leather Backing with slight Curve

Comfortable and Elegant Design

LG took a risk with the design of the LG G4, needing to respond to the Galaxy S6 where Samsung seriously upped its game in the design department. However, it is my opinion that the risk has paid off, even though many will disagree.

The two main design features are as follows: A slight curve and a leather backing.LG G4_Genuine Leather3

The slight curve clearly takes cues from the highly successful G Flex 2, but is subtle enough to remain solidly in the mainstream. I totally dig it and think it improves handling without making your phone look like it prematurely came out of a 3D printer. In fact, LG claims that the ‘Slim Arc’ offers 20% better durability than a flat smartphone in face-down drops while giving the smartphone a more comfortable and secure feel in hand. I am, however, concerned about how the phone will respond to Knock Code on a flat surface, as one of the things I love about the G3 (which I use as my daily driver) is the ability to wake it up from a flat surface without having to touch any power button. In the adverts, the phone already wobbles significantly as it is placed down.

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The leather backing is something else entirely. Unlike Galaxy Note 3’s faux leather backing, this is genuine handcrafted, full grain leather that will be available in three unique colours: Black, ‘Saddle’ Brown, and ‘Burgundy’ Red. (The adjectives quotations are my personal descriptions, not official names). They aren’t the most natural of colours and some would certainly say they are overly gaudy, but I personally dig it, particularly in ‘saddle’ brown.  Leather is to me the perfect material, it has high grip, it is premium, and it looks good. That stitch that draws attention to the now characteristic home button? Totally sealed it.

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Cutting No Corners Here

It is clear LG went to great pains to making these leather backings, apparently only choosing cows that live 1500m above sea level, and is vegetable tanned such that it is environmentally friendly. So precious are these backings that they will not be sold separately, but included with the phone at a price premium. The sales executive whom I spoke to about this claimed that this helps preserve the exclusivity and uniqueness of each piece, a sort of personal touch that ages and matures into an even more artisanal cloth (point of note: all colours have slightly different textures). In plainspeak? It seems marketing talk for wear and tear, and I’d really want the option to replace the cover as it takes the beatings of life, so we will see how things go.

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The normal plastic backed G4 pales in comparison, and is oddly patterned. But, to preserve the durability of the leather one, I appreciate that a plastic backing is included with all G4s.

Great Visual Experience

LG’s main innovations this time are with the camera and screen, a wise move because these are the two key hardware components that can’t be easily augmented or swapped.

LG G4_Genuine Leather2

The new 16MP camera in the LG G4 captures great images, as shown below. These are photos captured by professional photographer Colby Brown, however they were no doubt shot in RAW format and then painstakingly edited in Lightroom (click for full size). What that means is the default JPGs will not even come anywhere close to this quality, and the only way to do so would be to shoot and edit the RAW files yourselves. Regardless, do feast your eyes.

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Part of the reason for this is the newly included manual mode, which amongst other things, allows one to shoot in RAW, control shutter speed, ISO, exposure, and white balance. While third party software has had such features for a long time, the nature of cameras means that the native app is usually better due to optimization, and this manual mode is certainly welcome.

On the hardware side, LG has also made headways. It features a wide F1.8 aperture lens that allows 80% more light for a much larger sensor over the G3. (LG was quick to point out in the launch event how this has Samsung beat, as F1.8 is 11% wider than the S6’s F1.9). Along with that, OIS 2.0 introduces stabilization along a third axis, and compensates for 2 degrees of movement. This should be a life-saver for anyone intending to exploit up to 30 seconds of exposure included with manual mode. (Advice: You’d need a tripod for anything longer than a second.)

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The comparison is hard to make through a photograph (taken by a G3 no less) so you will just have to take our word for it. The colour here is indeed more accurate.

The display might seem similar on paper, but it is a world of difference. The Quantum Display tech that nobody really understands has created 20% greater color reproduction, 25% improvement in brightness, and 50% greater contrast. Coupled with the full Quad HD resolution of 1440p, and this is a phenomenal display at least on par with Samsung’s Galaxy S6 model. At the launch event, however, the G4 was conclusively seen to have the far more accurate display, leading me to say, shockingly, that the record-shattering Galaxy S6 display has been beat. Of course, this is a premature conclusion.

Do look out for our full review when it comes for our more substantiated and balanced thoughts.

Conclusion and Availability

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In the meanwhile, LG’s changes to the G4 have met if not surpassed the very high bars already set in 2015’s Android race. Coupled with a few innovative UX features, an improved Smart Notice that changes colour corresponding, double-tapping the volume down button to launch the camera in 0.6s, and even 100GB of Google Drive storage free for two years, and the LG G4 is a device you do not want to miss. Particularly as it has avoided the Samsung path of sealing the battery, and ditching the external microSD card. Way to stitch things up…

The LG G4 will be available at the end of May, retailing for S$998 (Genuine Leather) and S$928 (Metallic) from M1, Singtel, StarHub and authorized LG Mobile retailers. Customers will receive an additional LG G4 battery and battery charger worth S$126 when they purchase an LG G4*. Consumers can register their interest at the websites of the respective telecommunication companies from 15 May 2015 to 24 May 2015.

*while stocks last

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