It’s widely acknowledged that LG are, so far, having a great year. Earlier in 2015, the company launched a brand new G-Flex 2 which we quite enjoyed, and then followed through to release its 2015 flagship, the LG G4, to much aplomb. Our editor, Theunis van Rensburg, went so far as to dub the G4’s camera as one of the best Android contenders.
While LG’s flagships might certainly get their time in the sun, LG took centre stage on Thursday to reveal another smartphone under the G4 banner entirely.
In June last year, LG released a surprising companion to its newest flagship, the G3, in the form of the G3 Beat (or, in some territories, the G3 S.) The G3 Beat was proposed as a ‘little sister’ companion to the G3 – less powerful, slightly smaller, and a great deal more affordable.
The G3 Beat, however, wasn’t as widely acclaimed as its older brother. Lacking the same QHD screen, powerful Snapdragon 800-series internals and equipped with a lacklustre 8 megapixel main camera, the Beat received mixed reactions. I briefly owned one myself, before becoming frustrated and moving to my present daily driver, and Xperia Z1.
It was with enormous interest then that I set out to the Protea Fire & Ice Hotel in Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, to see what improvements LG had bequeathed to the G4’s smaller companion.
Alongside other journalists, I was ushered in to the hotel’s bespoke boardroom, where we were greeted by the general manager of marketing at LG Electronics South Africa, Thomas van der Linde, as well as Eric Woo, LG’s Mobile Product Director in South Africa.
Linde and Woo presented the G4 Beat as one of two new entries into the G4 range; with the G4 as the father product, LG has introduced the Beat as the more affordable mid-range sister product, alongside the G4 Stylus – a larger 5.7″ phablet.
Linde and Woo delivered their keynote addresses, billing the G4 Beat as a product that offered a premium design at an affordable price point, that offered accessible yet powerful features for a brand new market segment which the G4 will likely take years to reach.
I was pleased, at first listen, to see the Beat marketed in this manner, is it resonated directly with why I grew so discontent with the 2014’s G3 Beat.
For the average consumer, the G3 Beat is a decent phone, best bought as a deal, that performs simple tasks well. However, I felt it was badly let down by a build quality reserved for the cheapest of Android phones – hardly a compelling aspect of a near R5000 smartphone. Between the occasional spot of interface lag or call-dropping issues that persisted until the day I put it down, the G3 Beat was a phone that frustrated me to greater extents as I attempted to make larger uses of it.
Largely, I was frustrated because I felt the G3 Beat represented a model that had inherent potential. Sony have made great strides in developing compact flagship smartphones in the form of the Z Compact series – most recently the Z3 Compact – and I felt that LG could have greatly benefitted from this approach had they aligned the Beat and the flagship G3 more carefully.
It was a great suprise to hold the G4 Beat in my hand, then – my first impression of the handset was an enormously positive one, on the simple basis that LG have worked proactively to distill the G4’s design into a more affordable format that looses little of its premium feel.
In hand, the G4 Beat is extremely light – weighing in at just 139 grams – and arrives in stock with the dimpled faux-metallic backing that adorns half of the present G4 lineup. On bootup, the Beat runs a nimble version of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop that – at least in the short period I was able to use it – suffered from none of the sluggishness that plagued the more pervasive parts of Android on the prior G3 Beat.
The G4 Beat takes strides over the mediocre specifications offered by its predecessor, and is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 chip, and is accompanied by 1.5GBs of RAM alongside 8GBs of expandable storage.
Both Linde and Woo made special mention of the G4 Beat’s camera – a primary 8 megapixel snapper which is accompanied by a 5 megapixel front-facing camera for selfie enthusiasts. The Beat’s camera brings with it the same Manual mode the G4 possesses, and allows users to configure shots up to a shutter speed of 1/30. The Beat further brings a 423ppi 1080p display to the party – a happy upgrade from last year’s rather dismal 294ppi 720p display.
In use, I was impressed with the improvements LG had brought to the Beat’s camera. In the relative low-light of the boardroom, the G4 Beat offered crisp results and processed captured images quickly – a far cry from the laborious process the G3 Beat’s camera quickly devolved into. Of great interest to photographers and hardcore users alike, the G4 Beat will be able to shoot 20 megabyte RAW images – a treat for those who enjoy a good bout of post-processing in the likes of Photoshop or Lightroom.
In fact, LG are so confident in the G4 range’s camera system that the company gave away 100 seats on a Smartphone Photography course offered by Vega Brand Communications – a clear indication that LG intend to be at the forefront of the mobile photography movement.
Further, the G4 Beat arrives alongside another incentive to purchase – the handset arrives with a free extra 100GBs of Google Drive storage above the standard 15GBs granted for signing up for the service.
For consumers that desire the premium leather back-cover that’s supplied with the G4, LG have produced a range of leather back-covers for the G4 Beat that can be purchased separately from LG’s online store or the company’s flagship store at Canal Walk, Cape Town.
I left the G4 Beat launch greatly impressed – LG’s ability to listen has netted the firm a vastly improved device that should – to my mind, after a short interaction – compete ably against Samsung’s affordable and capable Galaxy A line.
The bequeathal of premium end design aesthetics and features into the G4 Beat looks to be a compelling buy in an increasingly busy market-space; the Beat will retail locally for a figure around the R5000 mark. Until we’re able to get our hands on the Beat for a longer review, first impressions – as they say – are good.