LG G4 Review: A Competent, Capable Android Alternative

User Experience and Software

As with most every other major Android phone this year, the G4 ships with Lollipop (v5.1 in our testing). It's undoubtedly the most refined, robust version of Android yet, but as has become customary, LG has its own layer of tweaks atop Google's base. Generally speaking, we aren't fans of overlays. Pure Android, which ships on Nexus devices, feels the most natural and unmolested, and oftentimes leads to better performance due to the lack of bolt-on code slowing things down. HTC has Sense, Samsung has TouchWiz, and LG has UX -- the company's homegrown Android overlay which puts its own spin on Google's mobile OS. With the introduction of the LG G4, the UX overlay is hitting version 4.0. The main features here are a robust manual camera mode, a simplified user interface, a reduction of redundant configuration steps, the ability to access the camera from anywhere by double-tapping the home button, and a new Smart Bulletin feature that "automatically aggregates vital information from multiple apps on the same page."

LG G4 Custom Home Screen

With the GS6 and GS6 Edge, we found ourselves pleasantly surprised with how toned-down Samsung's TouchWiz overlay was. The same cannot be said for LG's skin, however. While it doesn't go so far as to diminish the underlying experience of using Android Lollipop, the graphical elements of LG's additions look out-of-sync with Google's Material Design theme. LG's elements look as if they haven't been updated in a few years, and many of LG's homegrown apps are ones that we truly believe the masses simply won't use and will not wish to find in their way. That's tough for a company to hear, but when it comes to Android, cleaner is usually better.

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For example, the sounds that come enabled out of the box are too cartoonish and grating, and when your first instinct when unboxing a phone is to rush to the mute setting... well, it's not the greatest first impression.

LG G4 Web Browser

Beyond that, however, performance is satisfying. Using the G4, things feel very responsive and transitions are quick. Swiping from window to window is instantaneous, and our taps and gestures were recognized flawlessly. Put simply, speed isn't an issue when it comes to day-to-day use, and though LG's overlay may look burdensome, we didn't feel it dragging anything down from a resource standpoint.

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The new camera offers three user modes (Simple, Basic and Manual), and the built-in calendar app enables users to select and organize individual events posted in social media accounts by simply dragging and dropping appointments. For power users, there's QSlide, which allows multiple apps to be used at once in a windowed view. This is fairly handy for having the weather or a calendar open while also viewing an email or a browser window. LG's pull-down menus are also highly customizable, enabling you to put the settings and menu icons that matter most to you within reach. 

Other than these additional utilities, there really aren't many unique elements to the software worth pointing out beyond what traditionally ships within Android Lollipop, but those who appreciate digging into files on a microSD slot do indeed have the opportunity to do that here.

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