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LG G4: Re-review after 9 months

We re-review the LG G4 nine months after it hit the UK, to see if it’s still worthy of its original five-star review.

We gave the LG G4 a perfect score when we reviewed it back in May 2015, an honour we bestowed on just nine phones last year. This 5.5-inch mobile dared to be different with its suave leather backing, while the G4’s hardware pushed it beyond most other premium flagship smartphones, offering an impressive media experience and a best-in-class camera.

Nine months later, and the LG G5 is about to launch at MWC 2016. But how does the G4 stand up against the current crop of Android mobiles and should you grab it when the price drops? Here’s our full long-term LG G4 review to help you decide.

Read next: LG G4 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Sony Xperia Z5 vs Apple iPhone 6s vs Microsoft Lumia 950

Stitched up

You can snap up the LG G4 in plastic, but the hard shell model is, to be perfectly frank, a little dull. If you’re really intrigued by the G4 we recommend grabbing the leather version.

With its neat (and thankfully wear-resistant) central stitching and debossed logo, that leather rear is both distinctive and surprisingly classy. At least, that’s my opinion – and there are plenty of opposing views out there. I’d recommend checking out the G4 in a store before throwing down your cash, to make sure it suits your personal tastes, but at the very least the textured surface gives the phone decent grip and prevents it from skidding across a desk when knocked.

Another unique feature of the G4 is the removable back, something that’s almost died a death in modern mobiles. That means no fiddly drawers for your SIM and memory cards, which can only be opened if you have a paperclip stashed in your pocket, and a battery that can be pulled out and replaced if needed. Not that you’ll need to very often, as – spoiler alert – the battery life is still great.

The G4 is also a lot more rugged than some rivals such as the Sony Xperia Z5, whose glass rear cracked after just a tiny tumble onto carpet. Given its large build, the G4 is understandably in danger of being fumbled and dropped, but a couple of heart-wrenching floor interactions in the past few months have done the phone no damage and there’s not so much as a scratch or scuff on that gorgeous frame.

Dual wielding

One-handed use isn’t particularly comfortable, simply because of the size of the phone. It’s quite slender and not particularly heavy, but you’ll struggle to stretch your thumb to the top end of the screen unless you have big, flappy hands like Mark Kermode.

Thankfully LG’s rejigged version of Android includes a couple of features to help out, including a shortcut button that sits at the bottom of the screen to help you pull down the notifications bar with just a tap. The keyboard also has a nifty one-handed mode that works well, shunting the board over towards one edge of the phone.

The only time I struggle to use the G4 one-handed is when I use apps, and in those cases it would be useful to shrink the active display, a feature found on the LG G3 (and on Windows 10 mobiles) that strangely seems to be absent here. Here’s hoping the G5 restores one-handed mode or comes up with a fresh new solution.

LG’s Android overlay adds loads of other features as usual, some of which I’ve used regularly in the past nine months and others which I forgot even existed. Split-screen multitasking with two apps is always useful, while conversely the ‘smart settings’ feature (which toggles your profile when you arrive or leave home or starts your favourite music app when you plug in earphones) is pretty much pointless.

And while I like the idea of the Q Slide apps, which can be faded into the background using a slider while you use other apps on top of them, I don’t use it very much at all. It’s most useful when split-screen multi-tasking is too restrictive; for instance, writing a long email while referring to a complex spreadsheet. However, if you’re not using your G4 for business purposes, then you’ll likely never need the Q Slide feature.

Read next: LG G4 tips n’ tricks: the best features you might not know about

Media monster

If you’re after a new phone for enjoying YouTube, Netflix or some other video content on the move, then the G4 is as good a choice as any other phone out there right now.

That 5.5-inch IPS screen is gorgeously crisp with its Quad HD resolution, which means you can press your mug right up to the display and still have no hope of making out an individual pixel. I’m frequently bowled over by the quality of the visuals, especially when returning to the G5 after reviewing an HD device. Colours are richly reproduced without being over-the-top vibrant and viewing angles are nice and wide.

You can actually expand the G4’s 32GB of storage using a microSD card, something that fewer new phones support, so you’ll have no trouble carrying around a massive music or movie collection.

Read next: Sony Xperia Z5 long-term re-review

Longer lasting

Unlike most flagship phones, LG avoided the problematic Snapdragon 810 processor and packed the more energy-efficient Snapdragon 808 into the G4 instead. When we first reviewed the phone, the 808 handled everyday life admirably. We rarely saw any stutters or pauses and our apps ran smoothly, including the latest action-packed games.

As time passed, however, the G4 started to slow down. Perhaps it’s a result of the Android overlay and a lack of optimisation, but there are occasional brief pauses when swapping between apps. Thankfully it’s no more serious than that and the G4 still handles the latest games with ease, but it’s an issue we haven’t seen on the Samsung Galaxy S6 and many other 2015 flagships. Plus, the G4 still heats up relatively quickly when gaming, although not to a worrying degree.

Thankfully the G4’s battery life hasn’t faded with time. I still get a day and a half of life between charges, which isn’t quite as strong as the LG G3’s longevity, but better than many other premium phones. Sadly there’s no fast charge and you can only use wireless charging if you slip the phone into the Quick Circle case.

Hot snap

I still adore the G4’s 16-megapixel camera too, which captures the most standard everyday scene with stunning vibrancy. It’s one of the best low-light snappers around, making it well suited to pub and club shots. And the laser-guided lens locks onto your subject quickly and cleanly, while the super-simple camera app hides away the clutter and allows you to just point and shoot.

Check out the LG G4 vs Sony Xperia Z5 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 vs Motorola Moto X camera supertest for a direct comparison between these awesome smartphone cameras.

Verdict

The LG G5 is just a whisker away, but inevitably will cost around £500 when it hits the UK. If you want a solid LG experience but for less cash, then the LG G4 is a great alternative. You still get the gorgeous screen and a world-class mobile camera, plus impressive battery life, with the only caveat being the slow-down as time slips by. Make sure you keep the phone regularly serviced with a clean-up app and you can limit these issues.

Read next: Features we hope to see in the LG G5

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