Hands on: 24 hours with the LG G4

LG's latest flagship Android phone is turning lots of heads -- and after spending 24 hours with the device, it's easy to see why.

LG G4 Hands On

Another day, another new Android phone. Hang on, though, gang: This is one you'll want to check out. 

Hot on the heels of HTC and Samsung, LG is putting its best foot forward with the launch of its long-discussed 2015 flagship, the LG G4. The G4 builds upon last year's LG G3 with a similar but refined design and improvements all throughout, ranging from an enhanced Quad HD display to a jazzed up camera with plenty of promises.

Of course, every new phone sounds impressive when you hear its manufacturer talk it up (even if they insist on using buzzwords that mean absolutely nothing to most of us, like "Color Spectrum Sensor" technology or an "IPS Quantum Display" with "Advanced In-Cell Touch" that's "calibrated for DCI standards" -- what?!). So forget the specs and the marketing mumbo-jumbo. The true test is what a phone's actually like to use in the real world.

I unwrapped an international G4 review unit and moved into it Monday morning. I won't be doing a full review of the phone until I have a U.S.-specific model in hand -- this version isn't identical to those that'll be designed to work with the U.S. carrier networks, so it wouldn't be fair to use it as a basis for conclusions in areas like connectivity or stamina -- but that doesn't mean we can't talk about some interesting elements of the G4 experience in the meantime.

To start off, here are some initial thoughts and impressions based on my first 24 hours with the device:

Observation #1: The G4 is one sleek-looking phone.

In terms of form, the G4 makes a solid first impression. The phone is big, to be sure, but it doesn't feel outlandishly large. It has a subtly curved back that helps it fit naturally in your hand. And LG's now-trademark "buttons on the back" approach -- which is very much a love-it-or-hate-it sort of thing -- gives the device a super-sleek and almost futuristic vibe.

LG G4 Back

The plastic back on the base model is tastefully done, meanwhile, even if it and the faux-metal trim don't make for the most premium-feeling combination. LG will offer an option for a genuine leather back, too -- a neat touch familiar to anyone who's looked at the Moto X and something that'll provide an option for a more elevated and distinctive design (assuming leather's your thing).

Observation #2: The G4's display is a beaut.

At first glance, at least, this thing is pretty insane. The differences between a "really good" and a "great" smartphone display are fairly subtle at this point, but even after one day, it's clear that LG's latest effort is up there with the best of 'em.

Observation #3: The G4's software isn't its strongest suit.

For all the positive first impressions I've had with the hardware, I can't say I'm blown away initially by LG's software efforts. Things are definitely less bad than what LG has done in the past, but Google has set the bar for UI design pretty high with Lollipop -- and "less bad" is not the same as "superb."

Some of it appears to be the age-old case of trying to do too much and getting in one's own way. And some of it's just plain silliness -- like this little bit of baffling design:

LG G4 Software UI

But there is absolutely some good stuff here -- and 24 hours is by no means long enough to formulate a full impression of a phone's software or to explore its many (and trust me, there are many) nuances. So stay tuned.

Observation #4: The G4's camera could be a high point.

There's much more testing to be done on this front, obviously -- and I'll be doing a thorough exploration soon -- but the first few shots I've taken with the G4 have me feeling pretty optimistic about the phone's imaging capabilities.

A couple quick samples, with many more to come:

LG G4 Camera
LG G4 Camera 2

Two unedited images, taken on the G4's default auto settings (click either image to view at full resolution)

Beyond the first impressions

The real question, of course, is how all the ups and downs add up and what type of overall package the G4 provides -- and that's something that'll take some serious time living with the phone to answer.

We'll cover bits and pieces in the days ahead and then come back for the full review once I have a U.S.-specific model in hand. For now, I can promise you this: There's much more to be said about the LG G4 -- and our real-world analysis is only getting started.

UPDATE: LG G4 review: A fine, but not exceptional, phone

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