LG G4 Review

A worthy contender for best Android phone?

I've had the G3 for just under a year now, and have to say the experience with it has been excellent, especially considering the price. For me the G3 put LG in the spotlight for contender of best android flagship phone, and it was really the first LG phone that I'd even taken a moment to notice. The G3 stood out for its simplistic design and the fact that it managed to fit the huge screen into such a manageable device by using very thin bezels.

So does the G4 live up to the hype as its successor? And should you buy the phone if you are considering a new device or switching to Android? Let's find out.

I've littered this post with images from the camera rather than of the handset itself, because I think this feature deserves to be shown off, and quite frankly LG's official handset images are far better than mine.

The LG G4 camera handles low light night shots very well indeed. 

The LG G4 camera handles low light night shots very well indeed. 

Design/Hardware

I'll just start by saying one thing: the back of the phone comes off.

Where the majority of manufacturers have swayed to producing flagship smartphones with enclosed batteries, LG have managed to stick with one of (in my opinion) the most valuable features of their phones. Or in fact any smartphone really. Having a removable back means you can change the battery of the phone if needed, as well as add micro SD storage. It's a real shame that the majority of manufacturers swing away from this, I wince every time my girlfriend says she's run out of storage space on her iPhone 6.

Of course this comes at a price of not having a metal design like other flagships such as HTC, Samsung and Apple, but the solid build and sleek looks of the G4 hold up well against the competition. I will say that this is quite a 'manly' looking phone in black, although the colour-ways like gold and white do change this.

Screen

The screen is 5.5inches of pure bliss. It's huge, it's bright, and the resolution is crazy (effectively 2k) the highest on any smartphone at the moment. LG have made huge improvements in the ability to view the screen in direct sunlight, and the G4 is great in this respect. If you leave auto brightness on, it has a kind of 'sunlight mode' where the contrast is really white and the text emphasised a lot, making it easy to read on when exposed to direct sunlight.

Close up shots are brilliant quality.

Close up shots are brilliant quality.

Software

When first using the phone after the G3, It's immediately apparent that the firmware of the G4 is designed with Material (Android Lollipop) in mind. It's sleek, boldly coloured and gives a great sensation that you can 'feel' every touch of the screen.

The software is also much faster than almost any non-stock Android phone I've used, and is etremely minimal. Everything from the keyboard to the settings menu has been redesigned with a material look.

That being said, I still much prefer the stock Android experience, and I think LG could benefit with just getting rid of their own efforts and concentrating on the hardware.

Performance

There's 3gb of ram on the phone, as well as a Snapdragon 301, which isn't as high as the latest Samsung handsets but is still a very high end processor.

The performance on the phone is excellent, and some of the added transitions made by LG as mentioned above make the phone just that extra bit sleek. App performance is some of the fastest I've seen on an Android device, and in general performance is very high. No complaints here.

Camera

Ok here's where it gets interesting. The camera on the G4 is absolutely incredible.

There's essentially full manual controls including focus (amazing for close up shots), as well as the ability to shoot in RAW format. The camera is 16 megapixels, nothing new, but the quality just blows anything else I've seen out of the competition.

All the images spread throughout this review are from the back camera, unedited, no filters etc. It even handles low light images with ease, and the flash is by far the most natural I've seen on a smartphone, producing images you actually want to share.

The only niggle is the same one that's been around forever on Android, and one thing I just can't believe no manufacturers have addressed, and that's the speed. The speed of the G4 camera is amazing, don't get me wrong, but it's still not as fast as the iPhone 6 Plus.

This relates directly to my point on software above - it would be amazing if LG could just bite the bullet with their own customisations of Android and put more effort into making simply the best phone for taking pictures. Android is great as it is, we don't need a new coloured menu or 'smart notice' features, just get the camera perfect.

Shots in the sun are of course excellent.

Shots in the sun are of course excellent.

Front Facing Camera

The front facing camera is 8 megapixels, which is pretty crazy. I thought I'd mention it, as the quality is definitely noticeable, particularly the wide angle of the front camera. If you're obsessed with selfies, this is something you'll love, although I didn't find it to be much of a deal breaker myself.

Stunning wide angle front-facing camera shots.

Stunning wide angle front-facing camera shots.

Battery Life

I've been very impressed with the battery life, easily getting a full day of use out the handset even with high brightness and using a bluetooth headset all day. And if you need assurance it'll last the entire day, just grab a spare battery off eBay and you're winning. There's nothing like saying 'I've still got 200% spare battery' with a smug face whilst all your friend's batteries die off around 7pm.

Should you buy it?

If you're considering the switch to Android and are looking for the best phone, the LG G4 is a very viable option. I would highly recommend it to anyone, particularly those who need all day battery life due to the removable back, or those with a keen interest in photography.

Source: http://www.lg.com/uk/mobile-phones/g4/gallery.jsp

Source: http://www.lg.com/uk/mobile-phones/g4/gallery.jsp

Gneo - Todo App Review

I've always been a user of Wunderlist for its excellent compatibility and consistency across many operating systems and browsers, but I saw Gneo on the app store at the introductory price of £2.99 and thought I'd give it a try.

Gneo was released October 30th on iPad and iPhone by Keane and Able, and its main selling point is the fact that it is gesture based. As founder Anthony Keane puts it: "we wanted to give people a way to prioritise tasks based on their relative urgency and importance" - which doesn't sound all that special; there are tons of productivity apps that do this, but the gestures and list views are what makes Gneo stand out from the crowd. And during my use, they are proving to be really useful.

the gestures and list views are what makes Gneo stand out from the crowd"

There's three ways of viewing your tasks, by date (which syncs with your calendar too), as a big simple list, or in a priority view which is a kind of grid of importance. I often find that even though I have all my tasks on Wunderlist, I'm always scribbling the days tasks down to keep in front of me at all times. The good thing about Gneo's priority view is that you can drag tasks around in order of importance on the grid, so it's just way easier to see and prioritise a big list of stuff to do. And it really works well, the gestures are awesome, you can drag stuff around all over the place, and little touches like flipping the new task card over to reveal a notes section are excellent. 

Gneo's list view and priority views

Gneo's list view and priority views

But it's early stages with Gneo, and this is why I'm sticking with Wunderlist for now. It's a beautifully designed app on iPad and has 80% of the functionality of Wunderlist, but seems a little less useful on iPhone without so much screen real-estate, and there's no Android version at all. There's also no browser or Mac/Windows client, which is a real shame as I'd much prefer to add tasks on a mac then use my iPad to view and tick it all off. One of the main reasons I bought the app is because it syncs with Evernote, and as a big Evernote user I've always been disappointed with the todo functionality. But the Evernote sync is just annoying, it creates a separate note for each individual task, clogging up your main note feed and creating a load of new notebooks if you have several task lists.

Gneo is a great app, and if you are a heavy iPad user I'd highly recommend it. But for the majority, wait until the service gets better and becomes available on more platforms.

4 Months on With The Samsung Series 3 Chromebook

I’ve had my Chromebook (Samsung Series 3) for over 4 months now, so I thought I’d do a very quick review of the device now that I’ve lived with it properly. Just to make it clear, this is a review of this specific device and not Chrome OS in general, which I think is a superb operating system and way of working.

I have to say straight off that the Samsung Series 3 could not possibly replace my Macbook for work uses, so if you’re thinking of getting this as a main device, I wouldn’t recommend it. Of course I don’t expect a laptop that costs just over 200 quid to be some sort of media powerhouse, but at the same time, there’s no way you can rely on it in meetings, and you can’t install a lot of applications that the majority of workplaces use.

A few main problems I have with the device is trying to play video files (avi, mp4 etc) and Youtube clips; they just end up stuttering like crazy. Also when trying to use Google Music (a service I usually love); as soon as another tab is opened the music stutters. There are several known fixes for these problems, but I’ve tried them all and even a system reboot and still no luck. These are two things that just make the device seem slow and the operating system feel almost incomplete. Using the HDMI port is extremely temperamental too, and it seems to just decide when it wants to work properly, even when using the same TV. However, I know that Google will only improve the OS on this particular device over time, and I’ve no doubt that these problems will be sorted. Let’s hope so.

Now there are plenty of good things too. The device is super light and portable which makes it really good for just chucking in your bag and taking with you without the bulk of a normal laptop. I’d honestly say this is the best part about the device, coupled with the excellent battery life. I absolutely love the keyboard; it just feels amazing to type on. Which brings me to my next point of the device being great for writing. Google Docs and drive do naturally work wonderfully on it, so these in factor with the size and keyboard make it a good choice for writers on the move (yes Google Docs works offline fine).

Overall I’d recommend the Series 3 Chromebook for people looking for a content creation device to complement a home PC. It’s good for a days use on one charge, and very portable, but it doesn’t have the media power of slightly more expensive Windows devices.

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Another note: get a case for it! It scratches

really

easily. 

Google Keep Initial Impressions

So Keep is official and launched. It looks really great, I love the idea of quickly colouring your notes, and the interface is much cleaner than Evernote or even Wunderlist, and certainly a hell of a lot cooler than Scratchpad. In fact, the browser based interface https://drive.google.com/keep/ just looks amazing. Simple, immediately understandable and very fast.

But what first strikes me is that this product seems to be best for Google users only. I realise that Google will eventually release it everywhere (as they are planning to do with a lot of products i.e Google Now) but how long will it take them? People are so used to Evernote that it'll be hard to switch, which will be made much worse if the users of Evernote are on iOS devices or a phone with a version of Android lower than 4.0.

I would love to start using this app regularly, especially considering it runs so quickly on my Chromebook (compared to Evernote which is extremely sluggish) but I feel like it's another burden on my already fragmented

productivity apps.

Hopefully it'll get better and more compatible quickly. But for now, I'll stick with Evernote. I hope you're listening Google.

Google Keep

Google Keep

Why I love Google+

The past few weeks has seen me pretty much turn back into a Google fanboy again.

I strayed away from their products and services when I got my Macbook Pro and iPhone, as I was using the inbuilt email clients instead. But let’s face it, the native Apple mail can’t compete with Gmail, and the iPhone app looks

gorgeous

. With this I started using Google+ again, and joined some great communities.

These communities are essentially like every other forum/social network ‘group’, but with a few added features. However it’s not really the functionality of the groups that’s great; it’s the level of engagement. Ask a question on the Chromebooks group and there’s an answer in minutes. Drop into the Nexus group and see a bunch of geeky guys positing their awesome homescreen layouts, with a ton of comments to follow. There’s no spam, no (serious) trolling, no fake accounts, just a bunch of people with the same interests, genuinely engaging in interesting conversation.

I would say Google+ is the only social network available with this level of quality engagement. I use Twitter a lot, and still think it’s great, but the conversation isn't quite as complex due to the character limitations, and there are a ton of people who are just collecting followers and are totally disengaged. I only really use Facebook when I want to see fountains of shit spewing from my news feed, it’s a joke how bad it’s become.

So get on Google+, search for your interests on the ‘Communities’ section and start chatting, or even set up your own community.

google-plus-icons.jpg

Update: in one day, this post has 7 shares, over 20 comments and 54 +1's (and counting) from Google+. Twitter and Facebook have had no engagement.

My Initial Impressions of the Samsung Chromebook

I recently purchased a Samsung Series 3 Chromebook. The hype round the Pixel and the general love for the devices from the Chromebook G+ community encouraged me, and they're only £230. I've been using it for a week now, for work and play, so here are my initial impressions.

The screen is just lovely. I use a Macbook Pro most the time, so coming from that glossy display was strange at first; I was sort of thinking 'what the hell is this matte piece of crap??' when I turned the Chromebook on, but it's actually a much nicer viewing experience when using it in bright environments and for long periods of time.

The search button is glorious! Why don't all computers have this dedicated key? I don't miss caps lock at all (and you can alt + search for caps anyways).

It's ridiculously simple. Obviously I knew this before I bought it, but it isn't until you start using a Chromebook that your realise just how stripped down everything is. In a good way. This is certainly the future of computers, I know it would be much easier for most people to use, no messing around, just get on with what you have to do in the browser.

It takes ages to bring up the wifi login screens. Most the wifi networks I use outside of home need to launch a page in the browser first to login. My Mac, iPhone and Nexus devices just bring this up right after you connect. The Chromebook has, for me, taken up to a minute to load this - really annoying.

The touchpad is pretty naff. It scrolls really nicely with 2 fingers, but the accuracy of it is noticeably poor. 2 finger touch is right click though, a nice feature from Mac which works well.

The keyboard is just brilliant. It is seriously the nicest keyboard I've ever used. It feels a little cheap at first, but the sound it makes and the way the keys feel is just perfect. Maybe it has something to do with the layout or size, I'm not sure really, but it just seems like the only keyboard I ever want to type on ever again.

It's fast, really fast. Some apps are terrible compared to their native Windows and Mac versions (Evernote for instance) so you do get slowed down now and again, but in general it's lightning quick. 7 second boot? Yes please.

The sound is crazy loud for a device this size. It's actually louder than my Macbook Pro, although not as good quality.

That's it for now, I'll be posting a proper review once I've gotten some use out of it.