LG Stylo 4 review: Beauty on a budget

While most people focus on the flagship G and V series, LG has been a big player in the low and midrange for as long as they've been making phones. These may not have some of the whizbang features that their more expensive cousins do, but these are still great phones that don't cost an arm and a leg.

Among these is the Stylo line, which is also famous for including an integrated stylus similar to the much more expensive Galaxy Note. In the United States, the Stylo 4 is available on T-Mobile and Metro, or the one I've been using: the Amazon Prime Exclusive version.

The Good

  • Carrier unlocked
  • USB-C for charging
  • Works with all four U.S. carriers
  • Good performance
  • The stylus has a few great features

The Bad

  • No NFC on the Amazon version
  • Lots and lots of Amazon apps

I — Tom Westrick — have been using the Amazon Prime Exclusive LG Stylo 4 as my main phone for the past three weeks. I used Mint Mobile for my cellular service in and around Indianapolis, Indiana. Amazon provided the phone for review.

LG Stylo 4 Different models

As mentioned, the Stylo 4 is also available from T-Mobile and Metro, and if you use either of those carriers, it's worth considering that model. You get 2GB of RAM instead of 3GB, but that model has NFC for mobile payments and better radio support for the magenta network.

LG Stylo 4 What I Like

The best thing the Stylo 4 has going for it is the performance at the price. Mid range phones have been getting better and better as hardware improvements trickle down to the lower prices, and the Stylo 4 continues that trend. The Qualcomm Snapdragon 450 and 3GB of RAM power the phone well, and I had no issues with most apps slowing down. The Facebook app — which is installed out of the box — was slow as molasses, but I'm willing to blame that on Facebook instead of LG.

I'm used to the vanilla software that Google ships on the Pixel line, but I do appreciate some of the additions LG has made. I'm one of those monsters that likes having the back button on the right side, so I'm glad I can rearrange the navigation buttons. Better yet, I'm glad that I can hide the buttons when I'm in an app, so I get more usable screen real estate. The software itself is Android 8.1 Oreo with the June 2018 security patch. You get 32GB of internal storage, which can be expanded with a micro-SD card.

I genuinely like most of LG's software additions.

That screen is a 6.2-inch (15.75 cm) 18:9, 2180x1080 panel. The display gets bright enough for comfortable daytime viewing, and dim enough that I'm not straining my eyes late at night. I've always typed on phones with both of my thumbs, and I had no problems adjusting to typing on this screen.

The phone is well built, though the glossy plastic back picks up smudges easier than I'd like. The buttons are all nice and clicky, though the volume buttons are a bit higher than I'd prefer.

This price point is about what components manufacturers can do away with without harming the experience too much, and the Stylo 4 has most of what you get on a flagship phone. There's a USB-C port for charging, so you may be able to use the same charger that you would with your Chromebook. You also get a fingerprint sensor for secure unlocks, and it's nice and fast. You also get something most flagships lack: a 3.5mm headphone jack. I transitioned to Bluetooth headphones a few years ago, but it's still nice to be able to plug in my gaming headset when I have an important phone call to make and want to make sure the other party can hear me clearly.

The Stylo 4 has almost everything you'd expect in a modern phone.

Speaking of phone calls, I had no problems making and receiving calls when I was in good coverage areas. The cameras also worked well in daytime conditions, and did okay at night. The camera launches quickly, so you shouldn't miss that precious shot. You can double press the volume down button to launch the camera if the screen is off or if you're on the lockscreen, but there isn't any shortcut if you already have the phone unlocked.

On the topic of unlocking things, the Stylo 4 comes carrier unlocked, and works with Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint in the United States. The stylus is easy to get out of its silo on the bottom edge, and when you pop it out, you get quick shortcuts to the stylus tools. You can jot down a quick memo, annotate a screenshot, or just use the stylus for swipe typing. The pen isn't nearly as advanced as the Galaxy Note's, but the basics are all covered well.

LG Stylo 4 What I don't like

While the phone works with T-Mobile, it's missing some of the antenna bands that the version sold by T-Mobile has. In reality, this translates to much lower data speeds than the phone should have. This is the only real bottleneck that comes when I use this phone, so it's a shame that Amazon and LG couldn't have supported more radios.

While this is standard for Prime Exclusive phones, it's worth noting just how many Amazon apps come on the phone. You get:

  • Amazon Alexa
  • Amazon Assistant
  • Amazon Drive
  • Amazon Kindle
  • Amazon Music
  • Amazon Photos
  • Amazon Shopping
  • Amazon Widget
  • Audible
  • Goodreads
  • IMDb
  • Prime Video
  • Prime Now

How many of those are useful will come down to the individual, and I admit I use a few of those on my other phones anyway. But it's a lot to stick a user with when getting the phone set up for the first time. Fortunately, all those apps can be disabled so you never have to be bothered by them again.

While running Oreo isn't terrible, if we look at the history of the Stylo line, there's not much hope for this phone ever getting updated to Pie. Being four months behind on security patches is also bad, no matter what price point the phone is selling at.

The single speaker is just okay, with a good bit of distortion at higher volumes. It's also really easy to muffle the speaker with your finger or palm, especially if you watch a YouTube video in landscape. Finally, the Prime Exclusive version of the Stylo 4 doesn't include an NFC for Google Pay.

LG Stylo 4 Should you buy it?

Maybe. Despite my minor complaints, this is a fantastic phone at $250, and a good phone overall regardless of price. Choose which exact version you get wisely if you're on T-Mobile, but even with some of the tradeoffs — no NFC, extra applications — the Amazon Prime version is a great phone in its own right.

4 out of 5

The only hangup I have is the slow security updates and the lack of OS updates for previous Stylo phones. If those aren't deal breakers, buy away.

Tom Westrick