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Review: LG G4 for AT&T

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Jun 15, 2015, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

AT&T's variant of the LG G4 does little more than trade one set of bloatware for another. The performance is about on-par with Verizon's model, which is to say this Android phone does a really good job. Here's Phone Scoop's in-depth report.

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Is It Your Type?

The G4 is a modest update to LG's flagship smartphone line. It bumps up some specs and is available with a leather back cover. Where some phone makers have raised the stakes with artfully crafted designs, LG is happy to improve its premiere device where it matters most: performance. The G4 is for people who don't necessarily care about having a metal-and-glass phone, but still want a full-powered device.

Editor's Note: Since the LG G4 is largely identical across carriers, portions of this review are shared with Phone Scoop's review(s) of other G4 variants. Rest assured, all the AT&T-related aspects have been freshly and thoroughly evaluated for this review.

Body

LG appears to be happy to buck industry trends. Its major competitors — Apple, HTC, Samsung — have all fielded high-end devices made of metal and glass. LG, for its part, is sticking to plastics and — should you care to splurge — leather. If you pit the G4 against the iPhone 6, One M9, and Galaxy S6, the G4 is the least presumptuous of the bunch and yet also the oddest.

The phone carries forward the basic design language from the G2 and G3. It has sharp corners toward the front, a very rounded back panel, and strangely-placed buttons. It has a clean look and adds a very slight curve to front (something LG is convinced consumers want).

The front of the phone is black, no matter which rear cover you select. There's an incredibly slim, chrome-colored rim that encircles the glass. It helps define the edges. Two different plastic shells are available off the shelf (white or gray), as are a handful of leather options. Personally, I am not a fan of the plastic options. The diamond pattern in the plastic is distinctive, but the plastic material drags down the perceived quality. If you can, go with one of the leather panels. Most U.S. carriers are only offering black leather, but there are other shades available online.

Leather gives the G4 a much-needed boost in personality. Motorola was first to break out the leather with last year's Moto X, but leather is still rare in the world of phones. Leather says "bad-ass" in a way plastic and metal can't. I like the leather covers LG designed. Leather has its own problems, though: It can be gouged and marked up, and it will certainly discolor over time, but those signs of use are what's so appealing about leather. Think about how great a good leather jacket or wallet looks and feels after a year of wear.

LG clearly isn't looking to win any awards for the slimmest or sveltest handset. With a 5.5-inch screen, the G4 is tall, wide, and disappointingly thick at 10mm. It's far bigger than the iPhone 6, Galaxy S6, or One M9. The tapered edges help a lot, but they can only do so much thanks to the general curved shape of the phone. The phone is bulky enough that those with small hands may find it too big. I found it to be manageable with just one hand, but only barely. You can cram it into your pockets easily enough, but make sure the screen is facing your body. The curved shape makes for an awkward profile if the phone is in your pocket with the screen facing outwards.

The overall quality of the phone is good, but plastic is plastic. The leather rear cover helps boost the appeal of the phone significantly when it's in your hand, and adds a welcome amount of texture. Otherwise, the materials are construction are decent enough, but not in the same league as LG's metal-clad competitors.

Body  

The G4's front face is sharp. As noted, the chrome rim helps define the edges and the tasteful design choices leave a clean, appealing fit-and-finish. Aside from the rim, the only other non-black element is LG's logo, which is emblazoned below the display. There are no buttons to speak of, and the user-facing camera and earpiece grille blend in well with the face.

You'll find no buttons along the outer edges of the G4. The left and right sides are completely barren of any controls or ports. You'll spot an IR blaster on the top, as well as a small hole for a microphone. The stereo headphone jack and USB port are both on the bottom of the phone.

The volume and screen lock buttons are on the back of the G4, as they are on most LGs now. LG believes this is a more comfortable way to reach the controls based on how your index finger naturally falls on the back surface of the phone. The array is positioned just below the camera sensor. The volume buttons are indented a bit and the screen lock/power button has a raised profile. All three buttons have decent travel and feedback. It takes time to get used to where these buttons are located. There is no dedicated camera button, but the volume keys double as shortcuts to user-defined actions (such as the camera) if you want. Unlike other LG phones with this button configuration, I managed to avoid smearing my fingerprints all over the camera lens cover.

The advantage LG has over Apple, HTC, and Samsung is that the G4's rear cover is removable. The cover peels off, the battery is removable, and the G4 has a memory card slot, too. LG and its carrier partners in the US are offering extra batteries and memory cards to those who order the phone the first few weeks it's available (hurry!). These are must-have features for some people. Oddly, the G4 uses micro, not nano, SIM cards. Most other flagships have adopted the smallest version of the SIM card.

I think LG could have done a better job with the hardware. It's good, but it doesn't necessarily keep pace with the competition. As far as I am concerned there's no point to buying the plastic version. Get the leather rear cover if you're going to buy the G4. It makes a huge difference and helps set the phone apart.

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