I am a bit surprised to find that when my mobile phone contract came up for renewal I jumped the Windows Phone/Windows 10 Mobile ship and procured an Android LG G4. I have said in the past that I do not think Android is the best operating system for phones, but I had three reasons for choosing this phone:
Firstly, I was finding running a pre-release version of Windows 10 Mobile extremely frustrating. It was so riddled with bugs and so slow on my Lumia 640 XL that I frankly got sick of it. It is undoubtedly an operating system with grand pretentions. Alas, using the pre-release builds showed that Microsoft have a long way to go completing it and making it acceptable for day to day use.
Moreover, Windows Phone 8.1/Windows 10 Mobile suffer from a dearth of apps. It may be that later today (I am writing this at 01:00 on 6 October 2015, the day of Microsoft’s big hardware event) Microsoft release phones that can run Windows 10 Mobile quickly and reliably, but they will still lack first party apps from many major mobile service providers.
For example, there is an official Instagram app for Windows Phone, but it has been in beta since its release over a year ago and has only received one minor update in that time. There are no Google apps for Windows Phone, no Snapchat, no Vine, etc. A fraction of the games I have installed on my LG G4 are available for Windows Phone – and I suspect I have more than an average Android user because I want to continue playing some of the games I had for Windows Phone. Most game developers consider the platform irrelevant.
It is possible, that with Windows 10 Universal apps being able, if written correctly, to run on all Windows 10 platforms including mobile, that this situation may change as Windows 10 games trickle down to Mobile. However, with the small user base of Windows Phone and the, as yet, unproven speed and reliability of the platform makes one wonder how many developers will go to the effort of making their Windows 10 games universal apps.
Which brings me to my second reason for getting an LG G4. It is a fast, reliable, good looking phone (I shall give you more details below) and it has the rich depth of the Android app store available to it. The overwhelming majority major mobile apps – games, social networking, productivity apps, you name it – are released for Android.
As it is a high volume platform with (we are told) one billion potential users to please, major apps are usually written with a high degree of polish. For example, The Sonos controller app for Android looks fantastic and provides a brilliant UX. There is no official Sonos app for Windows Phone, but there is an unreliable third party controller, Phonos, that is as ugly as Diane Abbott sucking piss off a nettle
My final reason for getting an Android phone was articulated by my coblogger-cum-partner and me when we started this blog, and now Satya Nadella has seen fit to explain it to people like Windows Central. That is, it is not really devices that matter, but it is the services you can leverage on them that make them useful.
There is no Android or Apple tablet with the depth of services my Surface Pro 3 tablet can access but, for a phone, my LG G4 has access to all the services I need – including Microsoft ones. I have Word, OneNote, Outlook, Excel, Wunderlist, Office Lens and probably other Microsoft apps installed, plus services like automatic picture upload to, and document storage and sync via, OneDrive. Android gives me all the services I need – both Microsoft services and many that are simply not available for the Windows Phone platform.
Now, let us move onto the LG G4. As it runs Android it has a positively morbific User Interface (as do Apple iPhones) that leave me with a profound sense of dysphoria. The odd widget aside (assuming you want to slow your Launcher to a crawl, both manufacturers offerings sport the antedated grid of frigging icons that were introduced with Windows 3.0.
It is frankly bewildering that the two biggest smartphone operating systems are of such an outmoded paradigm. A pig-ugly grid of icons, at any resolution or in any number of colours, cannot compete with Windows Phone’s elegant and informational live tiles. Other platforms may have Microsoft services, but aesthetically and functionally they are way behind the modern user experience curve that Microsoft alone has flown far beyond.
So my LG G4 has access to great services, but has a user interface dug up by palaeontologists. What about the hardware itself?
When you first look at the screen, in anything but the Launcher, prepare to be gobsmacked. You will need a high resolution screen to display the screenshot of the fractal below because the LG G4 sports a 5.2 inch QHD display – that is 1440×2560 pixels at 538ppi.
Games look fantastic, photos can be viewed in serious detail, hell, I can get a whole page A4 of text on the screen in Word and it is just about readable (click the picture below to zoom in).
I admit such a resolution on a phone, especially one with 5.2inch display, is rather excessive and possibly pointless; but dingoes farts it looks freaking marvellous!
Just above this excessive but glorious display is a wide angle 8mp selfie camera. The quality is quite good as you can see from the example shot of Dani and me below:
Around the back, things range from the hideous, via the acceptable then unusual to brilliant.
Hideous is the choice of back plates your LG G4 can have. The back plate is removable, allowing access to the microSIM, microSD card slot (LG kindly let you install apps to the microSD card, which stretches the 32GB of built in storage no end – make sure you get a fast microSD card like this one) and the battery. Yes, unlike most phones these days you can replace the battery, which I know is a feature some people crave.
But back to the back plate. My phone came with two: the vile black leather one and the metallic look plastic cover. The black leather black plate does not look quite so nauseating in real life, but the leather is so thin and cheap it does not make the phone feel any better. I am using the acceptable alternative of the metallic plastic cover.
Weirdly, LG decided to put the power and volume buttons on the back of the phone under the camera. You eventually almost get used to this, but all too often you find yourself covering the camera with finger prints whilst you try to turn it on our change the phone’s volume.
The brilliant thing on the back is the camera. It is ‘only’ 16mp, but it has laser autofocus, optical image stabilisation, a large sensor and brilliant camera software that loads in a flash.
The camera software has simple, smart and manual shooting modes; I haven’t felt the urge to move out of smart mode as it takes stunning High Dynamic Range pictures with little effort on my part. It will shoot 4K video as well as 1080p video at a variety of frame rates.
Below I have put a little gallery of pictures taken in a variety of environments and, as you can as, they all look great:
It is the best camera I have ever had on a smartphone!
Since Android is such a resource hog, driving the fantastic display and amazing camera require some serious grunt. This comes in the form of a Snapdragon 808 hexacore 64-bit processor paired with 3GB of memory.
These are more than enough to keep the LG G4 snappy and responsive, and even allow multitasking with not all apps being swapped out of RAM as soon as you switch away from them. I have never had to wait several seconds for the icons on the Launcher to appear!
Whether I have jumped the Windows 10 Mobile ship too soon will become more apparent later today, but I think I have made a very good choice of phone. From the front it looks good, and acceptable from the back, it has great cameras and is as fast as a greyhound that has just done a poo. I am very satisfied with my choice, and I can always jump back if there is a Windows Phone renaissance.