The G6 is LG’s attempt after the modular G5 was considered a flop. If you recall, the G5 involved pulling apart sections of the phone to add other components like a camera attachment, hifi, battery etc. While the company were doing things differently, it appears the market wasn’t ready for it. The G6 is essentially everything the G5 was not. The handset went on sale in South Africa earlier this month for R14 629. That is indeed a lot of money for a smartphone these days. I’ve been using it for a while now, so here’s my review.
DESIGN AND SCREEN
LG’s 2017 flagship, the G6 is more premium in design than last year’s not-so-successful modular G5. But the more talked about feature is the narrow bezel of the screen, packing in more screen into an even smaller body. To give you an indication, it’s only a tiny 4.8mm difference in width and 1.6cm in height when compared to my iPhone 7. Yet the G6 has a 5.7-inch screen and the i7 has a 4.7-inch screen. Last year’s G5 had a 5.3-inch screen in a similar sized body. The 5.7-inch screen has an aspect ratio of 18:9, and a resolution of 2880×1440 pixels.
I must admit, I prefer a bigger screen in a compact body and the iPhone wastes a lot space at the top and bottom. It’s easy to hold and sits comfortably in my hand where it doesn’t feel like my fingers are stretched against the back. LG has the finger-print sensor and power button in one, at the back of the device; something they’ve been doing for years. I always reach for the back to unlock it because I know this from experience, but when it comes to powering it, I still fumble for a physical button on the side before I remember it’s actually at the back. The downside of playing with a whole bunch of phones.
Speaking of buttons, there are none, except on the left for a volume up and down key; that’s it. It has a clean design with a slight curve on the edges and the matte back ensures it won’t just slip out of your hand. Unless you’re clumsy. And, as is the case with most Android phones of late, the new charging port is USB-C; and the 3.5mm headphone jack is located on top. The speaker is at the bottom (mono). The (nano) SIM and microSD card tray is on the top right.
Oh, now would be a good time to mention that the G6 is waterproof, dustproof and shock resistant (IP68 rating), and thus, no more removable battery. So if you ended up buying a G5 and other components from its modular design, sorry. That design unfortunately (fortunately?) had to go. I quite like what LG did with the G6. Big on screen, less on size. No pulling apart of components.
UNDER THE HOOD
The G6 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chip (quad-core), Adreno 530 graphics processor, 4GB of RAM, 32GB on-board storage with a maximum of ~21GB available to the user. You can expand the storage with a microSD card up to a maximum 2TB. Connectivity options include LTE, Bluetooth, USB-C, GPS, NFC, WiFi and mobile hotspot. The handset has an accelerometer, haptic feedback (when you tap it for an action and it vibrates a little), HDR, scratch-resistant glass, light sensor, and proximity sensor. It has a dual 13MP camera with F1.8 aperture, and a 125-degree angle on the second one (F2.4), and a 5MP front-facing camera (wide angle). Battery capacity is a decent 3,300mAh. The G6 runs on Android 7.0 Nougat.
The G6 ships with the latest version of Android 7.0 Nougat, and is the first non-Pixel device to ship with the brand new OS. I haven’t had a chance to explore Nougat’s features extensively but I like the split screen mode for apps. You just long press the ‘recent apps’ button and other apps will pop up, which you can scroll through and see which supports this feature (like Chrome and Twitter). You can then drag the position of the split screen to suit you best. Also, you can finally set a wallpaper for the lock screen and homescreen, which hadn’t been possible until now (been on iOS for a while though). You can also clear all recent apps now. I used to previously do it on LG handsets by clearing the memory.
The dual 13MP cameras with wide angle is handy if you care to get more into a single shot. I’m just not sure if I want to get that much, I mean, it may work for the odd occasion. I personally don’t like the stretched out edges look you end up with. I imagine it would work out great if you’re traveling and want to capture as much from a particular sightseeing spot. Again, I would rather get a little more creative on the standard view instead of a wide angle. That said, if the sky is going to make up a lot of those edges, then maybe it won’t look ‘stretched’.
The main rear dual cameras offer optical image stabilisation (OIS), autofocus and a 125-degree angle on one camera, and a 71-degree on the other standard one. Regarding the screen when the camera is open, the one thing that bothered me is what it looks like. I don’t know if it’s related to the review unit I received but the screen in viewfinder mode shows a view that is not as crisp as any other phone. I tested this against the Samsung S8 Plus and iPhone 7. The G6 view was sort of ‘fuzzy’. Now I don’t know if this was just my unit or the fact that it has dual cameras. Anyway, I also took pics with all three cameras to compare, all in HDR, unedited.
Here are two sample shots showing standard shots vs wide angle, taken at the same spots. Just scroll through them with the slider or drag your finger across (depending what device you are reading this post on). Notice the curve of the wall on the first pic on wide angle; and the grass sloping in the second pic.
The camera itself doesn’t feel ‘snappy’, when you hit the soft shutter button on the screen, there is lag. But, if you want to take burst shots in auto mode (doesn’t work in manual), just press and hold the shutter button. Videos on the main camera can be recorded in 4K, if this matters to you. Don’t forget to dump these videos onto another drive because they take up a lot of space. I’m not that big on video so I didn’t make videos (just cat ones on Instagram Stories, duh).
There are many different options within the camera that have been added, but I don’t know how useful it will be; or if one would remember all the options. There’s a pop-out feature that’s meant to blur the surroundings and let you focus on a select size, the result is too harsh against each other despite options like blur, black & white, vignette and fish eye. Other modes are square which you can preview immediately, ‘match shot’ to put two pics together (like what other photo editing apps do), and grid shots.
The front-facing camera is 5MP and also has a wide angle selfie mode.
I set up the phone using a completely different, clean (non-curly) font and it’s amazing what a difference it made, for something so insignificant. I prefer smaller fonts so this particular one was smaller by default, despite being on medium. Depending on which app I was in, it made use of the system font. Fonts can make or break an experience (comic sans, anyone?)
I loaded my usual apps onto the phone and started using them as normal. Unfortunately, some don’t offer the same experience as I’m familiar with on iOS but it was alright (like Apple Music). I also streamed content via Netflix and found that due to the screen ratio being different to other phones, the video didn’t sit full screen or central, which bothered the OCD part of me. The G6 has soft touch keys at the bottom and that section was excluded from the ‘full screen’ mode of certain apps I made use of, but it was an irritation to my eye. I know in time the G6 will get the correct app support for its screen ratio (or, at least I hope).
The default speakers are mono, and I would have expected stereo speakers on a premium smartphone in 2017, for the videos I watch that pop up on my feed daily. However, for episodes from Showmax or Netflix, I still use earphones. Depending on the bulk of content type you consume, this will matter to you.
Standby time is great on the phone, also more so when you turn it on airplane mode. Which is what I did while I was asleep. I was getting about 1.5 days of battery life, which is fine by my standards (I don’t expect any premium smartphone to last 2 full days, let’s be real). The more you use your handset, the more the battery depletes, so if you constantly have issues with your battery, it’s cos you use your phone a lot. And for those wondering, the handset does not overheat when in use. I’ve been playing a few games daily and this did not heat up the handset at all. This is due to the handset having a specific built-in cooling system.
I like the build of the G6 (waterproof ftw), love the narrow bezel because you’re getting such a big screen on a smaller body, and the finger print/power button combo you’re either going to love or hate (I’ve gotten used to it over the years) and I’m a big fan of the ‘knock on’ feature to check notifications when the phone is lying flat. I wish all phones had this. What bothered me was the fuzzy screen when the camera was open.
As mentioned earlier, the G6 is priced at R12 099. If you’re brand loyal and currently using the G4 (or any previous-gen), then the G6 makes sense as an upgrade. I find this to be a norm now, we’re already into 6th/7th/8th generations of handsets, so by now you should know what you’re a fan of. If you ended up with the G5, you may want to wait for your next cycle (if we’re going by the standard 2 year contract). That said, the Galaxy S8 is the real competitor to the G6, as far as 2017 Android flagships go, which is roughly a ~R2400 difference, with next-gen chipsets. I think it comes down to brand loyalty at this point.
EDIT: 8 May – price drop of G6 from R14 629 to R12 099.