As posted on LG G6 is a beautiful phone with a supremely fun dual camera
The LG G6 is sitting pretty.
This year, smartphones are expected to become little more than big, bezel-less screens, and LG’s new flagship has a head start on Samsung’s Galaxy S8, which will launch in late March, and is way ahead of Apple, whose new iPhone is expected in September.
I’ve been using the G6 for the past several days, and it’s a beautiful smartphone, quite possibly the nicest LG has ever built. It has a huge 5.7-inch, QHD+ screen with a taller-than-usual 18:9 aspect ratio and a very compact body. It’s covered with a glass surface on both front and back. And it has an innovative, fun-to-use dual camera on the back that’s different — in a good way — from the cameras on its competitors.
It’s not without drawbacks: Some of the specs could be better, and software (which admittedly wasn’t finalized on the phone I’ve used) was sometimes quirky. But it’s the best phone LG has built in a long, long time.
I’ve spent more than a week with a pre-production unit of the G6, but I didn’t mind turning it into my daily phone while I tried it out. This thing is handsome, and it worked well despite the early software.
LG’s got a looker
The G6’s design feels new, but it was a logical step for LG. The company has been pushing ultra-wide screen ratios on its TVs and monitors for a while. And its previous flagship phone, the ill-fated modular G5, already had the fingerprint sensor (which doubles as a power button) on its back.
Apple and Samsung may make a drastic change, and move the home button/fingerprint sensor from the front to the back for their upcoming phones, but for LG this was an evolutionary step. The G6 improves on the G5’s design by making the screen taller, with tiny bezels on the side, and just enough space on top for the camera, sensors and speaker.
The design works well. The phone is simple-looking: A huge screen in the front, with rounded corners that should prevent damage in case of fall, but are also a very nice visual differentiator from other flagships out there. I did notice, however, that when looked upon closely, the rounded screen corners look imperfectly cut and have a slightly different curvature than the bezels.
Even better — there are no camera bumps!
On the back, the uniformity of the shiny Gorilla Glass 5 surface is only broken by two, symmetrically placed rear cameras, the flash and an unobtrusive fingerprint sensor.
Even better — there are no camera bumps! All of those components sit flush with the phone’s back.
The device comes in black, silver and white. I checked out the silver (Ice Platinum, as LG calls it) variant, and in my opinion it’s the best looking of the three. The aluminum-under-glass design of this version subtly changes color from grey to blueish, depending on the viewing angle, and reflects its surroundings in a fancy, but not overly shiny way.
The phone’s aluminum frame is comfortable to hold and has pretty much all the features you’d expect: volume buttons on the left side, a headphone jack on top, and a USB-C slot, as well as a speaker grille on the bottom.
The whole package feels solid; much more so than some of LG’s previous phones (especially the flimsy, modular G5). Plus, it’s water- and dust-resistant up to IP68 specifications, which is pretty much the standard among flagships these days. If you do get one, I strongly suggest you get a case for it, as the phone’s glass back will scratch (and, possibly, break) if you leave it unprotected.
Great specs with some exceptions
The LG G6 comes with some standout specs, including the 5.7-inch, 2,880 x 1,440 pixel LCD screen and the dual 13-megapixel cameras on the back.
Other specs are what you’d expect from a flagship these days: 4GB of RAM, 32/64GB of storage (depending on the region; thankfully, you can upgrade that with a microSD card), a 3,300mAh non-removable battery (with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 support) and Android 7.0 Nougat.
The system-on-a-chip powering the phone is a Snapdragon 821. It’s a powerful chip, but a slight disappointment given that Qualcomm will soon launch a new flagship chip, the Snapdragon 835. Also, the selfie camera is just a 5-megapixel sensor, which is underwhelming now that 8-megapixel selfie cams are the norm.
Finally, some features will only be available in certain markets. The phone will have wireless charging in the U.S., but not the 32-bit Quad DAC (digital-to-analog converter) audio chip. That particular feature will be reserved for a handful of Asian markets, including Korea, but there the phone won’t have wireless charging. Europeans get neither, and while these features aren’t deal breakers for many, it still hurts to get a worse deal for the same (or higher) price.
That crazy screen
The screen on the LG G6 deserves a closer look. Its unique, 18:9 (or 2:1 if you will) aspect ratio means there’s more space for apps such as the camera than on a conventional screen. To prove its usefulness, LG included a special Square Camera app that takes full advantage of the elongated screen; you can, for example, take a 1:1 photo and immediately see its preview in a box below; then, you can take another pic and compare the two.
The screen should, ideally, be better for watching video content and playing games, though you’ll have to find a way to convert most videos to an 18:9 aspect ratio to use every pixel on the screen. It supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision standards, meaning videos in those formats will look more vivid — if you can find them.
Due to lack of HDR content — Amazon and Netflix offer some, but not for smartphones at the moment — I doubt many users will care about HDR support. And I doubt even more that app makers will create special apps to take advantage of LG G6’s screen (they might, however, do that if other manufacturers follow suit with displays that support HDR, and LG said it’s counting on it).
But even if you don’t really care about the aspect ratio, it’s a beautiful screen, with tons of pixels for clarity and solid brightness in direct sunlight. More importantly, it’s huge without being huge; LG actually removed the one-handed operation features from its software and was right to do so, as the phone is much more small hand-friendly than some of the 5.5+ inches phablets I’ve used.
Fast performance, OK battery life
The LG G6 doesn’t have over-the-top specs, but it does have good specs compared to any phone that came out in the last six months, and it never felt slow.
My one fear was battery life. I use a lot of different phones, but the only ones that last me more than a day are the phablets with huge batteries. Switching to a comparably small phone made me reach for my battery pack, and I did need it, as the LG G6’s battery was just barely enough for a heavy user like me.
On one occasion, with Wi-Fi tethering on and several devices connected to it, the G6’s battery drained in a few hours. But that’s a rare use case; most of the time, it just barely made it through an entire day. This can be alleviated by using the “battery saver” icon, available from the notifications menu that appears when you slide your finger down from the top of the screen. Then, however, the phone gets a lot less smart.
I can’t provide any benchmarks for either battery life or performance, as LG didn’t allow me to benchmark this pre-production unit. Generally, from experience, the G6 performs exactly how its spec sheet suggests, but don’t expect miracles from that 3,300mAh battery.
Software tailored to a 2:1 screen
LG’s UX 6.0 user interface is not vastly different from stock Android, but there are differences. For example, the LG G6 comes without an app drawer by default, but you can enable it in the settings if you like (it’s not easy to find: Go to Settings > Apps, tap the three dots in the upper right corner, select Configure Apps, tap Home and choose Home & app drawer).
In general usage — finding a particular setting, making a call, sending a text — the G6 took some getting used to, but never to the point of annoyance. But LG’s UX user interface does change things quite a bit when it comes to built-in apps.
Some of them, like Camera and Music, take advantage of the screen’s 2:1 ratio, either by splitting nicely in the middle or by adding more options on the side. I don’t see any of it as a huge advantage, but it’s a nice touch that makes the phone a bit different from your run-of-the-mill Android.
The G6 also comes with a special feature, so far reserved only for Google-branded phones: Google Assistant. We’ve covered the feature at length; it’s not at all different from the version that comes with the Pixel, but is definitely a welcome addition to the G6’s feature set.
I’ve experienced bugs here and there. For example, I couldn’t get the time on the “always on” display to work properly, and I couldn’t get file transfer to work when I connected the phone to my MacBook Air. But once again, the phone was running pre-production software. With a bit of polishing — unless you absolutely must have stock Android — using the G6 should be a fine, unobtrusive experience.
The dual cameras are now in sync
LG’s last flagship, the G5, had dual cameras that did a nifty trick; one was a regular camera, while the other had a wide-angle lens (great for those shots in crammed spaces), and you could seamlessly switch between the two. But the main camera had a far superior, 16-megapixel sensor, and switching to the secondary, 8-megapixel shooter yielded significantly worse photos.
The LG G6 fixes this. The phone has two 13-megapixel cameras, and switching between the two is faster. They’re not exactly the same; the main, 71-degree lens has a far better, f/1.8 aperture, while the wide, 125-degree lens has an f/2.4 aperture with no optical image stabilization. But in many cases, you’ll be able to switch between the two with no huge difference in quality.
In practice, I was pleased with how the LG G6’s cameras performed. Both were reasonably fast, if not the fastest I’ve seen. The UI is cluttered with tons of options, but you’ll get used to them — or switch to “simple view,” which eliminates all but a few key features.
As for quality, the photos I’ve gotten on sunny days were great, but that’s not surprising for any phone camera these days. On a rainy day, the photos weren’t as good; the colors were vivid but the contrast was too strong and details were smudgy, likely the result of too much post-processing. Check out a photo I’ve taken on one such day.
However, the G6 shined where most smartphones stumble: in those dark, indoor shots. While I didn’t have time to do a detailed comparison, the photos were brighter than those taken by an assortment of other Android phones I had lying around, and the usually unavoidable yellow tint was barely there. I assume there’s a lot of post-processing magic making these photos so great, but I’m not complaining.
You’ll want to use the main camera for darker shots, as they’ll be much grainier if you shoot with the wide lens sensor. However, that 125-degree angle is very useful for taking a photo of a group of people in a small space.
Would I have preferred to have 16- or 20-megapixel cameras instead of 13-megapixel ones? Sure. But the photos the G6 took were mostly great, and I’d rather have good photos in a lower resolution than shoddy photos with tons of (ugly) pixels.
If you’re shooting video, you can do it in the 18:9 or the more standard 16:9 aspect ratio, but you won’t get a bigger resolution than 2,160 x 1,080 pixels on the former. In other words, you won’t be able to take a video that will fully take advantage of the phone’s screen, which is a pity.
Finally, the selfie cam also has a wide-angle lens, which is good, and takes bright photos even in poorly lit rooms, but the overall quality is mediocre at best.
A winner with some (minor) caveats
If you need a phone with an exceptional battery life, the G6 might not be for you. Or if you’re hell-bent on having a phone with all the best specs, including the upcoming Snapdragon 835 chip.
But in nearly every other case, I can easily recommend the LG G6. The phone is gorgeous, with a huge screen in a compact body, an innovative take on the dual camera trend, and more than enough extras and cool features to make it stand out in the crowd.
Gone are the modular gimmicks of the G5; gone are the wildly unnecessary features such as the second screen on the LG V20. The tradeoff is a good one: The LG G6 is a surprisingly solid and simple phone that somehow manages to be the most interesting flagship you can buy right now.
Of course, the price has to be right for me to give a full recommendation, and we don’t know it at this point. And yes, a very big competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S8, is coming fairly soon. But if LG prices the G6 reasonably, it could be a great choice for a lot of people.