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LG Unveils The LG G4, Its Next Generation Flagship Smartphone (Update: Hands-On Video)

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(Image credit: Alex Davies)

Earlier today, we wrote about what we wanted to see in LG's latest smartphone and what we were expecting to see based on information LG had teased, as well as some helpful leaks. Looking back at what we wrote, it looks like we were pretty spot on with what we were expecting. Sadly, it does look like perhaps a couple of our wishes went unfulfilled.

At this morning's New York City event that was held on the 64th floor of the new World Trade Center (what a view) Jun-Ho Cho, President and CEO / Mobile Communications Company and Frank Lee, Director, Mobile Communications LG mobile USA took us through the highlights of their latest flagship.

Specifications

SoCQualcomm Snapdragon 808 64-bit Processor (2 x Cortex-A57 and 4 x Cortex-A53 CPUs, Adreno 418 GPU) with X10 LTE modem
Display5.5-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440, 538ppi)
Memory32GB eMMC ROM, 3GB LPDDR3 RAM & microSD slot
CameraRear: 16MP with F1.8 aperture & 1/2.6" LG Innotek image sensor / OIS 2.0 / LaserAF / Color Spectrum SensorFront: 8MP with F2.0 aperture with Manual Mode / Gesture Shot / Quick Shot
Battery3,000 mAh (removable)
Operating SystemAndroid 5.1 Lollipop
Size & Weight148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3 - 9.8 mm, 155g
Network4G / Cat 9 LTE / HSPA+ 21 Mbps (3G)
ConnectivityWi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac / Bluetooth 4.1LE / NFC / USB 2.0
Colors(Plastic) Metallic Gray / Ceramic White / (Genuine Leather) Black / Brown
CarriersUS: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular Canada: Bell, Rogers, TELUS, Videotron and WIND Mobile
PricingTBA

Design

As was teased and leaked, the G4 will be available with a genuine leather removable back in six different colors (shown below). At the event, LG stressed that its "premium tanning process" produces a smooth, durable finish, so we'll have to put that to the test. Another unique feature of the leather back is that each one will wear differently over time, making your G4 different from any other. While LG did announce multiple colors, it looks like many of the brighter ones are optional. In the US, the G4 will be available in two different plastic back colors, gray and white, and in two different leather colors, black and brown. Canadians, unfortunately, will only get the G4 in gray plastic and black leather.

Click to enlarge |
(Image credit: Alex Davies)

Another feature we mentioned in our preview was that the G4 was slightly curved. LG is calling this aspect of its design "Slim Arc," and, as can be seen, the curve is extremely subtle and much less pronounced than the G Flex's. LG claimed that this design element makes the phone more comfortable to hold and more durable. If the G4 is dropped on its face, the curve prevents the screen from hitting the ground directly and possibly shattering.

Other than these two new features, the G4 is very similar to the LG G3, with LG's trademark rear volume and power buttons and a high screen-to-body ratio, making for a compact device despite its 5.5-inch screen size. We are disappointed to see that no metal seems to have made its way into the G4's construction.

Click to enlarge |
(Image credit: Alex Davies)

Display

As we predicted, the G4 uses LG's new 5.5-inch IPS Quantum Display, which LG claimed has 20 percent better color reproduction, is 25 percent brighter, and has 50 percent greater contrast than the screen of the G3. We also learned that additional enhancements make this display more power-efficient too, which was one of the G3's display's biggest weaknesses. LG said that its "Graphic RAM" should improve its efficiency by 4 percent, and its improved LCD technology will improve it by 7 percent.

Camera

As was teased, the G4 does have an extremely fast lens f/1.8 in front of its 16MP sensor. The wide aperture of this lens should allow for excellent low-light performance. At the event, LG claimed that the G4's low aperture makes it 80 percent brighter than the average f/2.4 lens found on the average smartphone. It is even 11 percent brighter than the S 6's f/1.9 lens.

Click to enlarge |
(Image credit: Alex Davies)

In conjunction with this class-leading lens, the G4 also has a new larger 16MP sensor. While we were thinking that LG would use a 16MP Sony sensor, since the G3 used a 13MP Sony, at the event we found out that the G4's sensor is in fact made by LG. It is a 1/2.6" sensor made by LG Innotek, and is 40 percent larger than the G3's. LG has also upgraded the OIS (optical image stabilization) on the G4. Its new OIS 2.0 has two degrees of stabilization on the X and Y axis and also adds Z axis stabilization.

The last piece of innovative camera technology that LG has incorporated into the G4 is a Color Spectrum Sensor (CSS). The sensor, the first to be found on any smartphone, reads both the RGB light and reflected infrared light in a scene to adjust white balance and flash color for more accurate color representation in pictures. The G4 also still has the super fast LaserAF of the G3.

To control all this new camera hardware, LG has added a full manual mode to the camera software. With it, you can adjust every aspect of the camera – ISO, white balance, exposure and shutter speed. You can even capture images in RAW with it.

Internal Hardware

Again, all the speculation was right. The G4 uses Qualcomm's new Snapdragon 808 SoC. The 808 is a hexacore SoC with 2x Cortex-A57 and 4x Cortex-A53 CPUs. At the event, the clock speed these cores would be running at was not announced, so it's possible that LG and Qualcomm are finalizing what speeds provide the best balance of performance and power consumption on the G4 before formally announcing them. The 808 pairs these CPUs with an Adreno 418 GPU, which, at least on paper, looks to be less powerful than the 430 in the Snapdragon 810 and the 420 in the older 805. Of course, we can't comment on actual performance until we've had a chance to test this new silicon properly.

What is clear is that both Qualcomm and LG must be aware of the troubling heat issues of the 810, and after they saw how that chip performed in the G Flex 2, they prudently decided to take a different path for the G4. It also doesn't hurt that the 808 is probably a cheaper chip for LG to buy, allowing for bigger profit margins on the G4.

Click to enlarge |
(Image credit: Alex Davies)

Like the G3, the G4 has a removable 3,000 mAh battery and a microSD slot, both welcome inclusions when the G4's competition is moving away from these features. Despite the battery being the same size as its predecessor, LG claimed that thanks to various optimizations and the power-efficient 808 SoC that the G4 has 20 percent batter life than the G3. If this proves to be true, then the G4 might be the 2015 flagship phone to beat. Battery life has been the Achilles heel of all of 2015's contenders so far.

The G4 now has the standard 32 GB of internal storage and 3 GB of RAM.

Software

The LG G3 comes with Android Lollipop 5.1 running its new "human-centric" UX 4.0. LG told us today that this new UI will be simpler and more intuitive than that found on the G3, but still includes advanced options for more experienced users. LG is also pre-installing the complete suite of Google office apps on the G4 and is giving G4 buyers an additional 100 GB of Google Drive storage free for two years.

Since the G3, when LG decided to adopt elements of Google's Material design into its UI, LG has had an attractive UX with many useful features. However, its weakness has always been that it is one of, if not the, slowest Android OEM to update its devices. While nothing was mentioned today about improvements in this area, let's hope the G4 is updated to the next version of Android in a reasonable amount of time after Google launches.

Pricing and Availability

The LG G4 will be available "soon" on Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular in the U.S., and in June in Canada on Bell, Rogers, TELUS, Videotron and WIND Mobile. Pricing has not been announced, but we expect it to be similar to other flagship Android devices like the HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S 6.

Update, 4/28/2015, 11:01pm ET: The Snapdragon 808's cores run at the following clock speeds: 2x Cortex-A57 at 1.82 GHz and the 4x Cortex-A53 at 1.44 GHz

Update, 4/30/2015, 3:26am ET: Added hands-on video and additional pictures

Follow Alex Davies @alexbdavies. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

  • Caffeinecarl
    LG... Officially smarter than Samsung.
    Reply
  • dvanburen
    What's with the obsession with metal/glass clad phones? I'll take the microsd slot, removable battery, and plastic case, thank you very much.
    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    LG... Officially smarter than Samsung.

    I wouldn't say so. Samsung created something that common people will drool over. I have an S6 and I can say it feels like a great quality phone and looks great. As well the screen is just beautiful.

    The problem is that most tech savvy people, like ourselves, look into the details of the product and always know what we want when we get it. On the other hand, common folk do not nearly as much. When I go to buy something, even groceries, I know exactly what I will be buying. Most common people don't until they go and look at the items.

    What's with the obsession with metal/glass clad phones? I'll take the microsd slot, removable battery, and plastic case, thank you very much.

    I used to think the microSD was super important but then again those phones never had a lot of storage space to begin with. MY S4 had 16GB of storage but after the OS and everything was done I had 9GB of free space. Sure I had a 64GB SD card I loaded and even though it was a top of the line Samsung UHS-I playing high bitrate audio or games from it was sluggish.

    As for the battery, same sort of thing. I never had to replace a battery yet and I actually really like the wireless charging. Plus the phone last me from 7AM till at least 7PM most days with pretty decent usage.

    Of course to each their own. Some people will want those features even if they may never truly need them while others will not care.

    The one downside I see to the G4 is the weaker SoC. It is interesting as LG was saying there were no heat issues yet they went with the 808 Hexacore for their flagship instead of the 810 octocore.
    Reply
  • Mac266
    "808 pairs these CPUs with an Adreno 418 CPU"

    I think there's a problem here.
    Reply
  • wildkitten
    "808 pairs these CPUs with an Adreno 418 CPU"

    I think there's a problem here.

    No, the real problem is with the 810. To avoid the overheating the 810 throttles down quite soon and only goes back up in small jumps. Arstechnica has a very good article that talks about the problem. In sustained work the 805, even the 801, beats the 810. Yes, the 418 GPU may not be as good as the 420 in the 805, but the 805 is a 32 bit part and the 808 is 64 bit.

    It will likely turn out that the 808 will leave the 810 far behind in sustained tasks. Will be interesting to see it against the 805.
    Reply
  • wildkitten
    15767262 said:
    LG... Officially smarter than Samsung.

    I wouldn't say so. Samsung created something that common people will drool over. I have an S6 and I can say it feels like a great quality phone and looks great. As well the screen is just beautiful.

    The problem is that most tech savvy people, like ourselves, look into the details of the product and always know what we want when we get it. On the other hand, common folk do not nearly as much. When I go to buy something, even groceries, I know exactly what I will be buying. Most common people don't until they go and look at the items.

    What's with the obsession with metal/glass clad phones? I'll take the microsd slot, removable battery, and plastic case, thank you very much.

    I used to think the microSD was super important but then again those phones never had a lot of storage space to begin with. MY S4 had 16GB of storage but after the OS and everything was done I had 9GB of free space. Sure I had a 64GB SD card I loaded and even though it was a top of the line Samsung UHS-I playing high bitrate audio or games from it was sluggish.

    As for the battery, same sort of thing. I never had to replace a battery yet and I actually really like the wireless charging. Plus the phone last me from 7AM till at least 7PM most days with pretty decent usage.

    Of course to each their own. Some people will want those features even if they may never truly need them while others will not care.

    The one downside I see to the G4 is the weaker SoC. It is interesting as LG was saying there were no heat issues yet they went with the 808 Hexacore for their flagship instead of the 810 octocore.
    You could have had a 32GB or 64GB of the S4 just like you can get the 64GB and the 128GB of the S6. The difference is, the bump in storage was only $50 per tier and is now $100.

    And if you had sluggishness in playing music off the SD card, then your phone has other issues. Even the slowest SD card will play any audio format just fine as the bit rate doesn't come close to what the SD cards are capable of. As for games, of course you saw lag. You never should install apps to SD cards. You should have spent the $50 and gotten the 32GB S4.

    As for the SoC, if you had kept up with it you would know that there is no heat issues per se. The reason is that the 810 throttles down so soon to avoid the heat issues that even the 801 SoC will beat it in benchmarks.

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/04/23/in-depth-with-the-snapdragon-810s-heat-problems/

    The 808 was the perfect stop gap solution since they don't have an in house solution like Samsung does. It will likely outperform every 810 phone out there.

    Reply
  • jimmysmitty
    15767498 said:
    15767262 said:
    LG... Officially smarter than Samsung.

    I wouldn't say so. Samsung created something that common people will drool over. I have an S6 and I can say it feels like a great quality phone and looks great. As well the screen is just beautiful.

    The problem is that most tech savvy people, like ourselves, look into the details of the product and always know what we want when we get it. On the other hand, common folk do not nearly as much. When I go to buy something, even groceries, I know exactly what I will be buying. Most common people don't until they go and look at the items.

    What's with the obsession with metal/glass clad phones? I'll take the microsd slot, removable battery, and plastic case, thank you very much.

    I used to think the microSD was super important but then again those phones never had a lot of storage space to begin with. MY S4 had 16GB of storage but after the OS and everything was done I had 9GB of free space. Sure I had a 64GB SD card I loaded and even though it was a top of the line Samsung UHS-I playing high bitrate audio or games from it was sluggish.

    As for the battery, same sort of thing. I never had to replace a battery yet and I actually really like the wireless charging. Plus the phone last me from 7AM till at least 7PM most days with pretty decent usage.

    Of course to each their own. Some people will want those features even if they may never truly need them while others will not care.

    The one downside I see to the G4 is the weaker SoC. It is interesting as LG was saying there were no heat issues yet they went with the 808 Hexacore for their flagship instead of the 810 octocore.
    You could have had a 32GB or 64GB of the S4 just like you can get the 64GB and the 128GB of the S6. The difference is, the bump in storage was only $50 per tier and is now $100.

    And if you had sluggishness in playing music off the SD card, then your phone has other issues. Even the slowest SD card will play any audio format just fine as the bit rate doesn't come close to what the SD cards are capable of. As for games, of course you saw lag. You never should install apps to SD cards. You should have spent the $50 and gotten the 32GB S4.

    As for the SoC, if you had kept up with it you would know that there is no heat issues per se. The reason is that the 810 throttles down so soon to avoid the heat issues that even the 801 SoC will beat it in benchmarks.

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2015/04/23/in-depth-with-the-snapdragon-810s-heat-problems/

    The 808 was the perfect stop gap solution since they don't have an in house solution like Samsung does. It will likely outperform every 810 phone out there.

    Actually at the time, and when a lot of people, I got the S4 there was only the 16GB. The 32GB and 64GB came later on and I was in a 2 year contract (this was before the Edge program and such).

    As for the SD card, it was an issue with the phone and/or the SD card. The only songs that had issues were my lossless FLAC songs. My MP3s didn't have any issues.

    I didn't want to install apps on the SD card, however that is something people are saying they want the SD card for. Some of the apps these days are getting pretty big and when a 16GB (14GB formatted) phone only gives you 9GB to install apps with, it gets annoying to uninstall and reinstall apps. The purpose of expandable storage is to be able to install apps to it, use it for music and pictures.

    The 810 is having heat issues. That is the only reason to throttle it. In fact the Exynos 7 is the same configuration of cores as the 810 with a big.LITTLE config of A53 and A57 cores yet it doesn't throttle nearly as badly or as often.

    To me that says there is something wrong in the 810. It could be their process or some configuration that is having issues.

    And again, the SD card is all preference. I don't miss it nor will I probably. If they add it back into my next phone, possibly a Galaxy S7 or who knows, I wont hate it.
    Reply
  • salimbest83
    now thats look like we have the smartphone everyone shud buy for 2015.
    Reply
  • falchard
    Why do people even bother mentioning the camera on these as exciting or leading? Are they 41 MP? No? Nuff-said.
    Reply
  • alextheblue
    Samsung created something that common people will drool over. I have an S6 and I can say it feels like a great quality phone and looks great. As well the screen is just beautiful.
    ...
    I used to think the microSD was super important but then again those phones never had a lot of storage space to begin with.
    ...
    As for the battery, same sort of thing. I never had to replace a battery yet and I actually really like the wireless charging. Plus the phone last me from 7AM till at least 7PM most days with pretty decent usage.

    Spoken like a good Apple, err, Samsung fanboy. :P Sorry I get them mixed up a lot lately, since the S6 really captures the iPhone design elements. I even see the same arguments. "It's a beautiful design with the best display and everyone wants one. Who needs an SD card, I've got enough storage. My battery works fine, why would I want a replaceable one? Plus it's got the latest most processy processor."

    The G3 was great, the G4 looks to be awesome. Better all-around than Sammy's iPhone 6- I mean S6. No doubt diehards will clutch to the SoC specs tightly to fend off critics. But frankly I can't think of any real-world situations in which the SD 808 would be an issue. Even the last gen SoCs will be more than enough for the forseeable future. Regardless the removable battery and SD card, along with that camera are all big selling points.
    Reply