LG’s flagship phones have, for the last few years, pinned their success on standout features. The LG G3 introduced quad-HD displays, the G4 shipped with quirky leather backs, while last year’s G5 went with a modular design. For the G6, LG is focusing on cramming a large display in a small body.
And from my first impressions, it seems like it’ll be a lot more successful than those failed modules.
The first thing you’ll notice about the LG G6 is its peculiar display. Like the Xiaomi MiMix – a China-only phone released in late 2016 – the screen here is stretched to nearly every corner of the device.
Rather than the typical 16:9 aspect ratio almost every smartphone since the original iPhone has utilised, LG has switched to an 18:9 ratio display (basically 2:1) that gives you more screen in a smaller body.
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The 5.7-inch display – a sizeable increase from the 5.2-inch panel used for the G5 – sits inside a body barely bigger than its predecessor and noticeably smaller than the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge.
One side-effect of cramming a bigger screen into a shell of this size is the corners of the panel are now rounded, rather than right angles. It’s an odd jolt from normality and I am not sure I like it. It matches the general curviness of the phone, but it looks strange and is very off putting on both the silver and white models. Hopefully, it’s something I will get used to. LG wouldn’t tell me whether it has actually cut the panel into a rounded shape, or simply used a curved front layer to give the illusion.
To match the stretched display, the resolution here sits at 2880 x 1440 and it’s a lovely panel. Even though it’s not AMOLED, it delivers vivid colours and deep blacks. It’s the first phone with Dolby Vision support and like the dearly-departed Note 7, it’s HDR 10 enabled too. There were a few demo HDR (high dynamic range) videos on my review sample and they looked noticeably brighter and darker scenes were more detailed. LG says HDR content from Amazon and Netflix will work, but you’ll probably have to wait for an app update.
Remember when Apple switched the iPhone from a 4-inch to a 5-inch screen? Well, that lead to months (and years) of apps not fitting the display properly, needing thick black bars at the top and bottom to work. There’s a similar thing happening here, but not quite on the same levels of annoyance.
Videos, for instance, from YouTube and Netflix will display natively at 16:9 with bars making up the rest of the space. LG says there will be an option to stretch the content out, but I can’t yet vouch for just how good that looks.
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Regular apps should be fine – thanks to Android’s native rescaling features – but games will again either need to be updated or played with black bars sitting on the bottom. It’s annoying, but not too distracting.
All of LG’s own apps have been updated; and as the aspect ratio is 2:1, the design theme for the UI is two squares on top of each other. This helps Android 7’s native split-screen multitasking, giving you more space for each app.
LG’s UI design is far from the best, though, and it feels a bit like iOS mashed with Huawei’s EMUI with a dash of TouchWiz thrown in. Some of the icons are weirdly big, some are more rounded than others and by default, there’s no app drawer. It does have the Google Assistant though, the first phone to do so aside from the Pixel.
For the first time I can remember, LG has crafted a phone that looks ‘nice’. The lack of a thick bezel instantly draws the eye, but LG has also ditched that horrid metal sprayed plastic that caused so much controversy on the G5.
There’s a slab of Gorillas Glass 5 on the back (interestingly, it’s only Gorilla Glass 3 on the front) and a metal rim running around the sides that LG claims needs to be there to add some much needed rigidity that is lost with the unorthodox screen.
The standby switch, with a very fast fingerprint tucked inside, is still on the back but unlike many phones that use capacitive pads, this actually depresses and has a nice bit of feedback. Just below the camera is the perfect place for a fingerprint sensor, simply because it’s where my finger naturally rests when I pick up a phone. A major concern I have with the rumoured Samsung Galaxy S8 is the strange placement of the new home button.
While the LG G6 is a nice phone to look at, once you get over the screen – and once that becomes more and more common, which I am sure it will this year – there isn’t much else to help it stand out on crowded shelves. The black, white and silvery blue colours lack imagination and the glass backed with metal sides design has become almost cliche. You’ll find it on everything from budget Honor and Alcatel phones to higher-end ones, but it makes the LG G6 look quite samey.
There also hasn’t been a whole heap of improvements on the inside. As was heavily rumoured, the LG G6 uses last year’s Snapdragon 821 CPU – looks like Samsung did snap up those initial runs of the 835 – with 4GB RAM and 32GB of basic storage. There is a microSD slot, but I would have much preferred to see 64GB as the starting point.
The 821 is a great processor, with plenty of oomph and good efficiency, and we don’t really yet know all the benefits of the 835 in day-to-day use, but it’s still a shame not to see the latest silicon here.
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The cameras haven’t seen a massive improvement either, but there have still been a few nice little tweaks to the already impressive set-up.
Just like the G5, the G6 has two sensors sitting next to each on the back of the device. One is your typical camera; 13-megapixels, OIS, f/1.8 aperture, while the other has a much wider field-of-view.
This gives you that GoPro-like wide angle shot that looks great. LG told me it has found almost 50% of people tend to use just the wide-angle camera (a fact that surprised me) so it’s bumped that from an 8MP sensor to a 13MP version. It lacks OIS though, and has a much narrower f/2.4 aperture so low-light snaps won’t be quite as good. It doesn’t have auto-focus either, but as that focal point is so wide it shouldn’t make a difference.
LG has worked with Qualcomm to pluck some of the dual-camera smarts from the 835 CPU and implemented them in the 821 at play here, this means there’s a much smoother process when switching sensors and it’s meant to feel like it’s just one camera. It sort of works too, but there’s still a noticeable change in colour temperature when you switch.
I didn’t have much time to really test the camera, but LG said it should be much faster than before and I have to agree. Opening the app was quick, as was the shutter, and thanks to the long display you can have a constant view of your photo library even when shooting a picture.
There’s a fairly standard 5MP camera for selfies, and of course 4K video recording is supported.
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If you live in Europe, then prepare to get a bit annoyed. The European and UK version of the LG G6 is missing some really nice features other folks will get. It won’t get wireless charging, as that’s exclusive to the US, nor will it get the HIFi Quad-DAC for improved sound quality. Sadly the latter is only on the Korean model, which is a big shame. Neither of these are vital components, but they’re nice extras that are still quite rare. LG couldn’t offer me a reason why they weren’t coming, but apparently it doesn’t add any extra weight or thickness to include either of these features.
Another missing feature that might annoy some is the battery, which isn’t removable any more. Instead it’s a fixed 3300mAh cell stuck behind the glass. This is hardly a surprise, especially as having a removable battery was one of the main reasons why the G5 struggled to look good. It also lets the G6 finally become water-resistant – a much more useful feature than a swappable battery in my opinion – and it has the same IP68 rating as the Samsung Galaxy S7.
Ditching the modular design was the correct move by LG. It was handled poorly, miscommunicated and failed miserably. With the G6, LG has a phone that I can see being much more successful.
It’s got the bits I liked from the G5 – basically that ace camera setup – but it finally looks good and the near bezel-free design is quite eye-catching. Will the 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio catch on? I really don’t see why not, and if Samsung follows suit I am sure it’ll become the norm come 2018.
There are still a few niggles that have stopped me calling the LG G6 ‘Phone of the Year’ quite yet. Couldn’t it have waited for the Snapdragon 835? I know a CPU isn’t everything, but it instantly puts the G6 on the back foot. The same goes with those missing features in the European model; surely it wouldn’t have been so hard to add in wireless charging and the Quad-DAC?
I’m looking forward to using the G6 more and more over the next few weeks, and I’ll update this with my thoughts as I go along.