Review: LG G4 for AT&T
The G4's pre-loaded media apps more or less mirror those of other recent AT&T phones. The phone comes with Google's Play apps for buying and consuming movies, books, TV shows, and magazines. These apps work well. The G4 also has the native YouTube app, as well as a basic music app for playing side-loaded content. The simple music player works well; it's too bad there's no similar app included for your side-loaded video.
If you prefer media services other than Google's, the AT&T Mobile TV app is the only extra. This app streams video clips over the network. It carries a monthly fee and works best over LTE.
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If you want to control your home theater gear, the G4 will let you do just that with the QRemote app that works with the phone's IR port. QRemote is a basic universal-remote app; it doesn't offer a content guide or anything pertaining to actual shows/movies.
Want to share stuff from your phone to other gear? The stand-alone MP3 player has DLNA built in and the tool is dead simple to use. There's an icon at the top of the screen that, when pressed, prompts you to connect to nearby TVs or stereo receivers. Google's apps are all cast-enabled and can push content to any TV with a Chromecast dongle ($35).
The G4 makes some changes to the camera app that LG has used on several other handsets this year, but it isn't completely new. As noted earlier, the G4 doesn't have a physical camera button but you can launch it from the lock screen or with a long press to the down volume button on the back of the handset.
There are three top-level modes in which the camera app operates: simple, auto, and manual.
The simple mode is exactly that. It offers no controls. None at all. Tap the screen to take a picture. Swipe the screen to swap between front and rear cameras. That's it.
Things get more interesting in auto mode, which is the default setting. In auto mode, the camera interface includes controls running down the left and right sides of the screen. Five quick action buttons appear on the left: settings, flash, user-facing camera, modes, and menu. These buttons cannot be customized. The controls float over the viewfinder if you shoot in 16:9 mode. There are separate buttons for the camera and video camera so you can easily snap stills while filming video.
In auto mode, the G4 doesn't offer all that many shooting options. You can shoot in normal, panorama, or dual-camera modes; there are controls for HDR, the flash, and photo size. The dual-camera mode lets you shoot pictures with the back and front cameras at the same time so you can include yourself if you want.
Manual mode is for knowledgeable, creative types who want to make art, not just capture moments. As the name implies, in manual mode you have full control over everything: white balance, focus, brightness, ISO, and shutter speed. You can also set the auto-exposure to lock. What I like best is how LG arranged the controls for these tools. Each has its own slider that lets you, for example, alter the focal point between close and far so you can see how the result will turn out as you adjust the slider. The same goes for the other controls. It gives you some neat insight into how each individual facet may affect the final result. You don't have to use these controls in manual mode; the G4 will still fire off shots if you just mash down the shutter button.
Back in auto mode, if you press and hold the screen the camera will automatically take a burst of shots for as long as you touch the screen. The G4 also include LG's weird Gesture Shot function, which I find works inconsistently. With Gesture Shot, you raise your hand in front of the selfie camera and wait for a box to appear around your hand on the screen. Once the box appears, make a fist and wait three seconds — then the camera will fire off a shot.
I found the G4's camera software to be extraordinarily quick to focus and snap photos. It's fast.
The G4's sensor captures images up to 16 megapixels with an aperture of f/1.8 and has laser-assisted focus. It's a fantastic camera. I was impressed with nearly every shot I took. Focus is excellent, white balance is accurate, and exposure often perfect. LG knocked it out of the park with this camera. It's among the best available in the current market. Bonus: in manual mode you can capture images in RAW format. With the advanced manual controls, you can rely on the G4 for most all your photography needs. The only time you need to tote around your dSLR is when you need real zooming power.
If you want to saturate your eyeballs with pixels, the G4 lets you capture Ultra HD (4K) video — but you won't need to. Recording 1080p HD video will serve you well. The G4 does an excellent job with video. I was very pleased with the results I got from the video camera. It delivered clear focus, good color, and good lighting. I saw very little noise in low-light results. I'd use the G4 to record most important events in my life, like my kids' upcoming piano recital. Only pros need to switch to dedicated gear.
Like many Android handsets these days, the G4 has two picture-managing apps installed: There's an LG-designed app as well as Google's brand-spankin-new Photos app.
LG's app is really nice. I like that you can view the gallery via albums, timelines, memories, favorites, or videos. (Seriously, how often are videos buried in with regular photos?) You can also see images stored in your online accounts, such a Google Drive or OneDrive. Editing and sharing features are robust. It includes the basics (crop, rotate), the advanced (color, light), and the fun (filters, effects). Not only can you share with pretty much every social network on earth, you can also push photos to other nearby devices with ease.
The Google Photos app is also great. First and foremost, it's a great (free) way to backup your photo library. It also happens to include great tools for keeping your library organized and shared.
AT&T is one of the worst offenders when it comes to bloatware. Thank goodness LG allows you to actually delete most of the AT&T junk. In fact, every app that bears AT&T's name can be stricken from the phone. Bravo! Some of those you might wish to abolish include: AT&T Live, Locker, Mail, Mobile Locate, Navigator, Ready2Go, SmartW WiFi, Device Help, Digital Life, DriverMode, Games, Keeper, MobileTV, myAT&T, Uber, Usage Manager, and, yes, the Yellow Pages!
The G4's Bluetooth radio worked flawlessly. It paired with and connected to a range of other devices without issue. Bluetooth 4.1 plays nice with things like smartwatches, fitness bands, PCs, phones, tablets, and of course headsets of all shapes and sizes. I used it to make some calls through a headset. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of Bluetooth calls. Music sounded excellent when blasted through a Bluetooth speaker.
Google's Chrome is a great browser and works well on the G4. It delivered web sites in a flash thanks to AT&T's speedy LTE network and the pages look beautiful on the G4's bright and sharp display. The AT&T G4 also includes the older, generic Android browser and features a custom skin thanks to AT&T's partnership with Yahoo. I find this alternate browser has way too much chrome (button, etc.) that distracts from the web pages it's trying to display. It gets the job done, though, and renders web sites quickly.
Double tap the screen to wake the G4 and check the time. The clock appears in a circular window near the top of the display. I wish the font were thicker and bigger to make it more visible. The lock screen clock cannot be customized.
The GPS radio worked fine and was very quick to pinpoint my location. It functioned well with both Google Maps and AT&T's slew of location-based services. Google Maps is incredibly powerful and the G4 perfectly executed my trip from a hotel in downtown San Francisco to the airport via BART. It even knew there was some congestion at the Colma station. AT&T Navigator is a fine option for driving directions, but it carries a monthly fee. So does AT&T Family Map.
The G4 has LG's dedicated health and fitness app called LG Health. You can use the app to track your activity and fitness pretty easily. I was able to set up a profile in no time and start counting steps and tracking other activities. I like that it works with the new Smart Bulletin feature.
Liveblog of LG's G4 Launch Event
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