It might have had something to do with my wife getting a new phone (Galaxy S6) so I started researching phones. My phone for years has been a Galaxy SIII and while it performs admirably, it was getting long in the tooth. Plus it started to get busy doing Stuff but wouldn't let me know what kind of Stuff it was busy doing; instead it would ring but not answer when I told it to.
After much research, I decided on the LG G4. There are many reviews, almost all positve, and the negatives were things I didn't care about. The main thrust of the decision was actually that my phone be bigger than my wife's. And faster. This is difficult to do with the S6 but the G4 has a slight edge. In fact, the S6 fits in the display area of the G4, a fact that dismayed the wife. My job was complete.
I was going to get a top of the line phone because I keep them for years, so why not get good equipment at the start? This pretty much left me deciding between the S6 and the G4. One of the main points in favor of the G4 is that the S6's battery cannot be removed and you cannot add a memory card. Battery life was also a concern, with a few people complaining about the S6's inability to go a full day without recharging. Same in some cases for the G4. What I discovered is that both phones will go for a day, assuming you're not a heavy user. The G4 is much better than advertised but this might have something to do with me turning off most of the battery hogs (more later).
The first thing I noticed was that in its Otter case, the thing looks like an additional appendage, hanging from my pocket on a clip. It's built like a tank, only better protected. The reviews were all atwitter over the many different-colored leather backs available. The sales guy apparently didn't know about these, as he didn't try to sell me one. No matter - I wouldn't have purchased one... I'm not that kinda guy. The hard plastic back performs very well. The phone is very comfortable in my hand, which I didn't expect, due to its size.
The display was quite dim, which I didn't expect. I believe this is because the Otter case partially blocks the sensor, so I took the brightness off automatic. Now it's as bright as it needs to be.
The good news is my battery is lasting way longer than expected. My second full weekday with the phone left me with 87% after work. This is a small miracle, as the place where I work gets almost no signal. My old phone spent every minute trying to find a signal and ate its battery alive. This bodes well.
I'm a simple guy and I like a simple, non-blingy, non-battery-wasting display. This Material Design thing is total crap. I noticed it on my wife's phone and mine is the same. I normally don't have much to say about design, but this is excrement. I turned off the live wallpapers and audio bonging for every touch.
My favorite replacement launcher is Nova. It's great software for simple guys and bling people, available at the Google Play store. You can set up your phone any way you want; with labels, drawers, icons, wallpapers (I like black) and all sorts of other interesting options. It uses less power than the stock launcher and I don't hate it (this is a compliment).
You can add buttons to the bottom, where Back, Main and Recent buttons live. This is a useful trick.
One major design change is that the phone buttons are on the rear of the phone. I wasn't sure I was going to get along with this but it worked out well. When I used my other phone, I was always hitting one of the buttons and causing myself much grief. You can also program Notes and Camera to come right up with a double-tap of the Volume Up or Volume Down buttons. The headphone jack is on the bottom of the phone, next to the charging jack (the usual micro-usb). If you get the Otter case, there are flaps that flip up to reveal these two items.
The camera is said to be phenominal. It's got Many Megapixels. The front camera has more megapixels than the rear camera on my SIII. I'm not a photographer but all of the reviews give it enthusiastic thumbs up. The few pictures and videos I've taken have come out quite well.
I can sum this up by saying This Phone Sounds Good. The speaker is not stereo but who cares?
It works well. It's quite snappy. It makes and receives clear phone calls. It has not disappointed me at all. It plays my audio and video files wonderfully. I have yet to give it the Bounce Test.
i just plain don't like the Gmail and email apps, due to lack of configureability, so I install K9 mail. This allows as many accounts as you like (Gmail, Pop, IMAP, etc) and more options. Try a Calendar widget if you need a bit of help in the organization department (I can use all the help I can get).
ES File Explorer is a great app for looking at your file system and moving necessary things around. I got a wireless widget, which helps a lot, since I use wireless at home and not anywhere else.
I don't like most sound playing apps, especially the ones that come stock. It really bothers me that the players HAVE TO go out and find every single piece of audio or video on the phone. It took a while but I found a player that will play ONLY the directory I select. It's called DeadBeef. No, really. And for the phone, home computer, tablet on most operating systems, VLC is the best player for my money (free). It runs on almost everything and plays almost everything. But it will go out and index all of your media. Google apps/books/music/magazines/movies all phone home, which doesn't work for me.
If you're a guitar or similar player. GStrings is an excellent tuner.
I use Verizon because it's got the best signal here, period. However, there are a few things that are downright sneaky about their version of Android (each phone is customized by the carrier). When you select Voicemail, you're asked to sign up for an enhanced voicemail service that will transcribe some of the voicemail and send it to you. There is no normal voicemail option but I eventually discovered that you dial #86. Put it in your contacts and put a shortcut on the main menu.
This tactic is also employed with texting. When you hit the existing texting button, you're asked to sign up for a premium texting app. No-go, Verizon. The real texting app is in your apps - just drag the icon to a desktop. I'm also receiving offers for a 'free trial of VZW Name...' something. It came up as a text and I can't remove it from the taskbar. This doesn't kill me but it bothers me.
Speaking of Verizon, I got screwed royally. Almost a year ago, I ordered service via the phone. Last week I discovered I had a multi-line plan (I have one phone) and was paying for insurance. I did not order a multi-line plan or insurance. I strongly advise getting insurance but my phone was so old that it wasn't worth it (would you get collision insurance on an old car?). While the nice folks in the store got it fixed going forward, I have to contact Verizon for a retroactive refund.
That aside, Verizon has been taking customer service lessons. The folks in the store were more than friendly and very helpful. I got follow up phone calls and emails. Verizon sent me a few Getting Started emails. I approve.
TIN FOIL TIME
I've beaten this horse well past death. My tin foil hat is on order, so you know my views as you're reading this. I don't want to hear about social media, location, GPS or the CLOUD. As a result, I turned off all of the aforementioned services. If you'd like to order your own tin foil helmet, go into APPS and turn off everything you don't need. Cloud backup, GPS, location services, Put a lock on the main screen and encrypt the device (all available under Settings). If you turn off location services, you won't be able to locate a lost or stolen phone but I'm not planning on losing mine. Back your phone up to your computer. Avoid the Cloud - if you can't touch your data, it's no longer yours.
There's a free firewall called No Root Firewall. If you install this, you an control any program's access to the internet. There's no reason for notepads, local games and file managers to access the internet, while it's kind of important for an internet browser.
Do NOT install software from anywhere but Google Play, unless you are positive that the software is clean. This is the most common way to get viruses or malware. Having said that, I recommend F-Droid's software [fdroid.org]. It's open source, free, free of crapware and doesn't Phone Home.
DO NOT USE WIFI outside of your house or people you know unless you have a VPN. If you ask what a VPN is, DO NOT USE WIFI outside of your house. Everything you do can be intercepted. You can connect to a fake access point. Your pets could die. I'm warning you. There's a great pair of programs called Wifi Warning and Safe Areas. They let me know when I'm out of my own wireless range and lock the phone. When I'm in wireless range, I can just swipe to open. This will work with more than one wifi access point.
Your mileage will definitely vary. Nobody is as crazy as me with customizations and privacy. The battery won't last as long and it won't be as secure. It will also be much more attractive than mine, regardless of what you do to it.
I can say that after a few days, I like this phone. With two weeks to return it, I don't anticipate making that trip. Ask questions if you have them.
I still like the phone. It's snappy and I don't scream at it and wonder why it can't perform its singular function of making phone calls. I get great coverage (except at work, but hell, it's only eight very important hours of my day), but I work in a Dead Zone, into which no carrier's signal penetrates.
I still hate the Material Design or whatever the hell they call it, even though I've managed to eradicate most of it. The update to Android 6 will come later this year, bringing many improvements, including more granular control of permissions.
I love the popup incoming text messages, which can be answered or ignored with one touch.
The rear-facing buttons, which I initially wondered about, turned out to be fantastic, especially for someone who never failed to accidentally push the side buttons on his last phone, causing random hangups and fart-in-church volume increases. I read that it would be very easy to locate the volume buttons, due to the patterns in them, although mine didn't seem to have any. This was immediately solved by removing the plastic on the volume buttons (who says I am not the smartest pup in the litter?).
I encrypted both the device's storage and the additional SD card. What the manual (such as it is) neglected to tell me was that when you encrypt, you have no choice but to accept the login code/PIN/pattern all the time, including using it in safe areas. So every time my phone indicates something, I have to unlock it. It's a PITA but it's certainly safer.
I finally managed to make the text message tone different from other tones (my fault again).
The only serious complaint I have is that the horizontal keyboard is no bigger than the vertical keyboard. It's downright stupid (unless it's another obvious function that I missed, but I doubt it). I have no patience for texting, especially when it involves ADD and Typing Dyslexia.
Because Google keeps a record of everything you say, I disabled voice commands. Some are available in Dolphin Browser, although I'm trying to determine the security issues. Yes, voice operation is a wonderful gee-whiz option but I'm not giving up that much data at this point.
NOTE TO VERIZON USERS:
All carriers are supplied with a basic Android phone. Then they proceed to add or subtract bloatware or useful functions. Verizon removed the blocklist and ability to set texting tones for each contact. I can't find a single good reason for this although Verizon has some ridiculous official statement on it.