A comfortable evolution: LG’s flagship G4 reviewed

And there are finally some of the extra bits and pieces on the LG G4 that round out it as a positive performer, such as the microSD slot, meaning you’re not stuck with the 32GB on-board, which is little bit nicer than what another major competitor *cough*Samsung*cough* did with its recent flagship phone.

That’s especially handy given that a JPEG from this camera tends to hit around 8 to 10MB in size, and means that with music, photos, videos, and more, you can expand the memory considerably. We loaded in a 64GB microSD, but with microSDXC supported, the sky is the limit, and the new 512GB microSD cards would also work. Yowza.

The microSD upgrade option is also handy given that this phone supports 24-bit high-resolution audio, and that means if you’re already into that digital vinyl revolution that is high-res audio, you can play it here, too.

As a point, one of the albums we test regularly for headphones and speakers is a 24-bit 192kHz version of “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis, which comes in at a massive 1.1GB for 50 minutes of audio. That practically perfect recording will play back on this phone, and paired with the right headphones, it is audio bliss. If we didn’t have that microSD card slot, we’d probably have to delete that at the first sign we were running out of memory.

There’s also still a remote control, which will be handy if you use a TV, amp, projector, or air conditioner, with this phone supporting that tech, too.


But beyond this, easily the feature that will get the most look in is the back.

Ah yes, the leather back.

The leather back is an interesting touch simply because it’s a deviation from what we typically regard as “premium”.

For the past few years, it feels like we have been pleading with smartphone makers to take up what many regard as premium materials, things like metal, wood, and glass; materials that feel substantial in your hand and lend themselves not just to a slight degree of heft, but also to strength, because these high-grade materials will always feel better than plastic, especially in a device that you keep with you every day and have to hold frequently.

Apple has been there for quite some time, as has HTC, and we’re finally seeing the other majors pick up on that recently, with Sony bringing in glass and aluminium, as well as Samsung for the S6 an S6 Edge.

But LG has a different approach, and that is to rely on a different sort of premium material, a softer premium material.


For LG, that softer premium material is none other than leather, with a genuine cowhide used for the backing plate that has seen 12 weeks of work to get it soft enough and tanned properly using vegetable tanning, slimmed and skived down to the right thickness, which is so thin and luxe you’ll wonder why LG didn’t apply the same process to the watch band it provides with the G Watch R.

We’re not sure we get why LG had to include stitching all the way up the middle: if we’re being cynical, we have to assume that it’s a not-so-subtle nod to Samsung’s fake leather plastic stitching on the Galaxy Note phones and tablets, with LG basically saying “hey, we’re using real thread, not a plastic imprint of one”.

In any case, this use of leather helps to make the G4 achieve a feeling of premium quality, but it’s still not the same as using a high-grade material, and it’s also not one all users will appreciate.


We can see the vegetarians up in arms already, and for those, there’s a plastic only back included in the box too, or with a plastic-only back variant which can also be found for about $60 less. It’s the same phone, but you get just the plastic back, which has a fragmented diamond-like look, though it’s obvious the back is plastic and just plastic.

There’s no heft of metal, no slickness of glass, and no warmth of wood. The leather is nice, and it’s comfortable to hold and cradle in your hands, but it’s not going to be to everyone’s liking.


And that brings us to the problem of the G4: no matter how nice the leather is, and no matter how unique a texture the diamond-like look gives off, it is leather atop plastic, and just plastic. It’s not even a high grade polycarbonate body like the sort Nokia and HTC once used in smartphones, either. It’s thin plastic, with a hint of rigidity though a slightly feeling of it being flimsy when you take it off, not so dissimilar from the sort that used on LG’s previous flagship, the G3.

In fact, there are elements of this phone — the G4 — that feel like they were extracted from the G3 and left the same, but with some updates applied.

We’ve already touched on this, but the screen is the same size and resolution. It has been improved, though, with more brightness to offer, and it looks like LG’s understanding of displays has also impacted the battery life, because this is better, too.

But if you open up the back of the phone, you start to see the resemblance.

LG G4 on the left, LG G3 on the right.
LG G4 on the left, LG G3 on the right.

For instance, the batteries are almost identical, and yet not. They’re both 3000mAh, but off slightly in dimensions and voltage, and the difference is so marginal, so slim that you can’t actually put the G3 battery in the G4 because it won’t fit.

There’s also the same speaker on the back at the bottom left, and while you get a microSD card slot to expand the memory — which we love — you also have a microSIM slot to use, an older format that we’re surprised LG didn’t upgrade from, because now LG is pretty much the only smartphone maker that doesn’t support the nanoSIM format.

It’s a minor thing, and any Australian telco will change your SIM over for free if you’re a subscriber to their service, but it means if you own a nanoSIM device like the iPhone 5 or iPhone 6, you can’t just take your SIM out and slot it into this with ease.

Even Samsung is on-board with nanoSIM in its flagship products, and it resisted for a year, so you have to wonder why LG is still persisting with an older standard when it could have saved some hardware space and gone with the more modern SIM slot.

The LG G4 (left) and LG G3 (right) look a little similar.
The LG G4 (left) and LG G3 (right) look a little similar.