How do you beat the metal and glass smartphones of today? With a different tactic, as LG tries its hand at softer materials for its next-gen mobile.
We’ve seen new handsets from almost all of the majors in 2015, but one we haven’t heard from has taken the time this week to launch in six places, with LG taking to London, Paris, Singapore, Istanbul, New York City, and Seoul for the follow-up to its G3 phone, the G4.
This time around, LG has taken the template for its G3 and applied some updates to both the inside and outside, keeping the back-middle control scheme and the overall design the same. Most of the updates appear to be evolutionary, though, and so you’ll find 32GB storage, 3GB RAM, and a switch from a quad-core Snapdragon 801 last year to a hexa-core (6-core) Snapdragon 808, the first phone to use the chip which could end up delivering speeds not far off the eight-core 810 we’ve seen in some devices, but without the heat and battery issues.
We’ll know when we get one in our hands and play with it, but the makers of the Snapdragon processor certainly believe the G4 could be a great showcase of its processors, with Qualcomm’s Dr. Paul E. Jacobs saying that “LG and Qualcomm Technologies collaborated from the initial stage of the Snapdragon 808 introduction to expertly tune the technologies and make several of the LG G4’s unique features possible. The resulting G4 smartphone is an ideal example of how the best optimised technologies come together to meet consumers’ needs.”
Connections for the handset are all standard for a flagship phone, and you’ll find 4G LTE, WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1 with LE, Near-Field Communication, and microUSB of course, but there’s also a microSD slot if you need to expand the storage, something rival manufacturer Samsung let go of with the S6 and S6 Edge.
LG is also bringing the latest version of Android to this handset, with 5.1 “Lollipop” being made available here, working with LG’s UX 4.0, which is apparently going to be even easier to understand and more intuitive than the previous generation.
The screen is very similar, also, with a 5.5 inch Quad HD IPS display, delivering 2560×1440 with 538 pixels per inch, much like last time, though the technology is different. Instead of the same panel, LG has gone with a new screen that it calls a “Quantum Display”.
We’ve yet to find out if this is reliant on the same quantum dot technology of nano-crystals that LG is using in its 2015 TVs, but what we do know is that the screen is calibrated for the Digital Cinema Initiatives standard for colour, meaning it should deliver more accurate colour for cinema reproduction, useful if you’re watching a movie and don’t want those colours to blend together and be drowned out.
The camera has definitely grabbed our attention, though, with LG looking to really make an impression here, and given how stiff the competition is with the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, not to mention the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, we can see why.
As such, you’ll find a 16 megapixel camera included here, matching what Samsung’s S6 offers, but painted with a wide F1.8 aperture lens, a feature that will likely improve low-light performance, but also possibly offer better depth, and possibly some softness behind portraits when you get up close to people.
Also assisting the low-light is a new generation of optical image stabilisation (OIS), now at 2.0 and countering for movements when you accidentally shake the phone in either up, down, let, right, or in and out directions.
A new colour sensor is also going to be included, called the “Colour Spectrum Sensor” or CSS, which reads colour values from ambient light in a scene as well as infrared, and uses this information to adjust white balance and flash colour to create more accurate photos.
And LG is hoping grab at the attention of those of you who like photography (which includes us) with some manual control, including focus adjustments, shutter speed, exposure compensation, ISO values, white balance, and even RAW support. We’re not sure if there will be much of a difference between RAW and JPEG on this phone, but the support is interesting, that’s for sure.
The front camera also takes a change, jumping up to 8 megapixels and including the same gesture shot technology so you can fire a selfie simply by balling a fist. This time, that concept has been updated with the camera taking four shots two seconds apart, making it more likely you’ll have a photo you can use, rather than three where you keep blinking.
Finally, there’s the look, and that’s a little different from what we saw in the G3, because while the shape is roughly the same, the materials are not.
Instead of just more plastic with a metallic paint job, the G4 will offer up options for customers, with a ceramic back ranging to a leather back.
And yes, that’s real leather.
LG even points that out to us, telling us that this is handcrafted full-grain leather that is made with vegetable tanning, meaning no harsh chemicals.
We’re unsure on this one, and the office is divided on whether this looks good. Certainly, some of the colours of leather we’re seeing are fashionable to our eyes, such as the brown and black, though with six leather options, you may have an interesting time picking the leather colour back.
Most interestingly, though, this appears to be a play for the case market, because why would you buy a case to protect the leather back when the leather is doing it for you? With this back, LG can probably not worry about cases altogether, and at least it’s not using fake leather and fake stitching like some other phones have.
As for availability and pricing, none of that has been announced yet, with LG telling us pricing and release details will be send once these are confirmed, but if we had to bet, we’d say that you can expect the LG G4 some time in May or June.