The spring smartphone flagship season is upon us, and LG is coming out swinging with their brand new LG G6, the successor to last year’s modular LG G5.
While we quite enjoyed the innovation that the G5 offered, it wasn’t so warmly accepted by consumers. The G5 sold poorly, prompting LG to head back to the drawing board for the G6.
The result is a smartphone unlike anything LG has ever made before, and it’s a real contender for the best smartphone of 2017. Read on to find out exactly what we thought of it, and to enter the competition to win one for yourself!
- Model: LGH870DS
- Price: $670 on Amazon [CDN$769] (correct at the time of writing)
- Dimensions: 148.9mm x 71.9mm x 7.9mm (5.86in x 2.83in x 0.3in)
- Weight: 163g (5.75oz)
- Processor: 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
- RAM: 4GB
- Storage: 64GB (Asia only) or 32GB
- Screen: 5.7″ (2880 x 1440) QHD+ FullVision IPS Quantum Display with an 18:9 aspect ratio
- Cameras: f/1.8 rear-facing 13MP camera with OIS, f/2.4 wide-angle rear-facing 13MP camera, and f/2.2 5MP front-facing 13MP camera
- Speakers: Single speaker along the bottom right
- Battery: 3,300mAh battery, charged using USB Type-C with Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
- Operating System: Android 7.0 Nougat with LG’s custom interface
- Extras: Fingerprint scanner, wireless charging (US only), 32-bit Quad DAC (Asia only), FM radio, Dual-SIM (Asia only), IP68 waterproof rating
Glass and aluminum — that’s all you’re going to find on the G6. The back uses Corning Gorilla Glass 5 while the front only uses Gorilla Glass 3. The sides are a smooth chamfered aluminum that’s relatively similar to the Google Pixel, especially with the antenna lines across the top, bottom, and sides.
It’s certainly a sleek phone, though. It feels extremely sturdy in the hand and the slightly curved edges make it comfortable to hold. There’s a USB Type-C port along the bottom as well as a single speaker (that really doesn’t quite get loud enough).
The volume rocker occupies the left side of the device, but the right side is bare. That’s because LG has once again stuck the power button on the rear of the device, just below the cameras. You can click it to wake the phone or to turn the screen off, and it gives off a very solid clicky feel.
But the fingerprint sensor that’s built into it can unlock the device with the lightest touch, meaning you don’t need to click it if you’re using fingerprint authentication to unlock your phone.
Scanning your fingerprint is super quick and easy, as it is on most flagship smartphones nowadays. The placement of the fingerprint scanner is a subjective preference, but I’m not a huge fan. I much prefer the scanner to be on the front, like on the Moto Z Play or iPhone 7.
But at least this one’s easy to find without looking thanks to its placement well below the camera. The G6’s biggest competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S8, has the camera-shaped fingerprint scanner right next to the camera, which can lead to some accidental camera lens touching.
The backing on the G6 is shiny and reflective — and easy to smudge. If you buy a G6 and don’t use a case, it’s going to be covered in fingerprints really quickly.
The front of the G6 looks a good deal nicer than the back, in my opinion. The slim bezels are amazing, and the screen is gorgeous. It’s a 5.7″ (2880 x 1440) QHD+ FullVision IPS Quantum Display — which basically just means it’s a really nice screen. It’s bright, crisp, and colorful.
With an 18:9 aspect ratio, though, the screen is longer than most Android phones that have a 16:9 aspect ratio. That makes it ideal for browsing web pages or social media posts, but it also means that content will sometimes be letter-boxed, which we’ll delve more into in the next section.
You might also notice that the corners of the screen are curved instead of having sharp right angles. It makes the phone’s screen really stand out from the crowd and look more futuristic than other devices. And don’t worry, there isn’t any content up in those tiny corners that you’re missing out on.
Thankfully, all the major Android phone makers seem to have moved away from physical keys along the bottom of their devices. The G6 solely uses software keys, and those can conveniently be rearranged, added, or removed to suit your needs. There’s just a subtle LG logo at the bottom instead.
Camera-wise, the G6 has a really unique setup here. There are two rear-facing cameras, one that’s the main and the other that’s for wide-angle shots. It’s really impressive how much the wide-angle lens can capture. Here’s a photo of an SD card sitting on a chair taken with the regular camera:
And here’s that same photo, taken at the same distance, using the wide-angle camera:
Obviously, the outer edges are going to get a little warped using the wide-angle, but you can capture an impressive amount of space. There’s only one front-facing camera, but it too has a wide-angle option that is fantastic.
The camera interface itself is pretty good. It has a lot more modes and configurations than the stock Android app, which can be good or bad depending on how you use your camera. It has a built-in square mode for Instagram shots and a Pro mode for manually adjusting all your settings.
And that’s all there is to the G6’s externals, but what’s going on inside?
The LG G6 runs Android 7.0 Nougat, but it has a good number of LG-specific tweaks and enhancements. That’s prevalent right from the home screen, where you’ll notice that by default, there’s no app drawer. It’s just like iOS — all your apps are out on your home page.
In the settings, LG actually has an option to bring back the app drawer, and it has an option to switch to an easier, more basic layout. Along the bottom, you’ll see that I had five soft keys set: Back, Home, Recents, QSlide, and Capture+. These are completely customizable; you can just use the three basic Back, Home, and Recents keys, or you can throw in a 4th or 5th key.
The other options for keys are pulling down the notification shade and switching SIM cards (only for the dual-SIM variant). Holding down the Home key, as usual, launches Google Assistant. QSlide is simply a way of quickly accessing certain apps from anywhere, and Capture+ is a fancy screenshot tool.
While regular screenshots capture the navigation bar as well, Capture+ doesn’t. See the phone app screenshots below. The left photo was taken by regular screenshot (pressing the home and volume down buttons simultaneously), and the right photo was taken by tapping on Capture+.
If you don’t want your navigation bar appearing in your screenshots, Capture+ is great. Plus it has a bunch of other features as well, like allowing you to draw on your screenshot and crop it before saving. It’s best feature, though, is allowing you to take long screenshots. You can scroll down a webpage, taking one continuous screenshot rather than a bunch of fractured ones.
It’s also kind of a necessary app, since pressing the power button on the back and the volume down button at the same time is pretty awkward.
Heading into the Settings app, you’ll find all kinds of unique features. LG has built-in call blocking, which means you don’t have to worry with a third-party dialer app. You can also turn on Ringtone ID to allow the G6 to create custom ringtones for your favorite contacts.
For the lock screen, you can add up to five shortcuts, change the screen swipe effect, change the clock position, and turn on weather animations that display when it’s raining or snowing outside.
You can even change the font type, font size, and choose to bold all your text — as well as change the display size of everything else including app icons, the status bar, and the navigation bar. That’s a level of customization that would be welcome on stock Android.
There’s also a built-in blue light filter with three levels of intensity and a black and white mode. And because the screen of the G6 has that elongated 18:9 aspect ratio, there’s actually an app scaling option for choosing how certain apps display. Above is a game using the 18:9 “full screen” aspect ratio, while below is that same game running on the 16:9 “compatibility” aspect ratio.
On the 16:9 image, you can see that there are thick black bars on the left and right sides — this is letterboxing. These save any of your screen from being cut off by the rounded corners, but they also waste precious screen real estate. In the 18:9 image, you can see that some screen elements stretch out to fit the screen (like the bar along the top), but not all of them do (like the shading on the background).
Some apps scale a lot better than others. Games for the most part will work best in the 16:9 aspect ratio, but social media apps are generally more scalable and work just fine at 18:9. The per-app adjustment for this is super useful.
LG also included a feature called “Always-on display” that does pretty much what it describes — the display is always on. When you turn off the screen, it continues to display the time and your notifications very faintly towards the top of the screen.
It doesn’t fade away and come back when you move the phone or get near it (like Motorola’s Moto Display) — it’s just always on. I found that distracting, but it could be useful for some folks, and it doesn’t seem to drain a lot of battery. You can even customize it to use a digital clock, analog clock, or a signature. You’re also able to set certain times for it to be deactivated.
But if your device is sitting on a table with its power button against the table, how are you supposed to wake it up? Look no further than the G6’s Knock-on feature. Simply double-tap the screen when it’s off to turn it on. You can also double tap on the status bar at any time to turn the screen off.
LG put in some “Smart settings” that work like IFTTT to perform certain actions when you arrive home or plug-in your headphones. And lastly, you can set shortcuts to apps that are activated by double tapping the volume up or volume down button.
In addition to software customizations, LG also included a few of their own apps. Some of these replace Google’s options (like Gallery replacing Google Photos), while others are supplementary, like Smart Doctor.
Smart Doctor (above, left) is an app for tracking your RAM usage, internal storage, and generally keeping your device healthy. This could be a handy app for checking up on your device, and thankfully, it’s not too much like a task killer.
QuickMemo+ (above, middle) allows your to create little notes and ties in conveniently with Capture+. LG Health (above, right) is LG’s version of Google Fit. There’s also a file manager, an app trash (which holds your deleted apps for 24 hours before deleting them), LG Friends Manager, LG Mobile Switch, LG SmartWorld, LG RemoteCall Service, a custom calendar app, a custom tasks app, and a custom clock app.
All in all, the bloat isn’t too bad, but it might be worse if you buy your phone from a wireless carrier instead of unlocked.
Powered by the Snapdragon 821 processor, lots of people have derided LG for not including the newer Snapdragon 835 like the Galaxy S8. And that’s fair, the 835 is probably a more futureproof processor, but the 821 is perfectly fluid and stable. With 4GB of RAM, I never ran into any multi-tasking issues or lag.
Most variants of the G6 come with 32GB of storage and the option to add storage via a microSD card. However, LG is selling a 64GB version in some Asian markets.
With a 3,3000 mAh battery, the G6 is slightly ahead of its competition. The Google Pixel has a 2,770 mAh battery, and the Galaxy S8 has a 3,000mAh battery.
I found it to be more than enough for a day of medium-heavy usage. I could squeeze over 6 hours of screen on time out of it, which is a win in my book. It won’t be setting any records, but it’s par for its class.
It uses the new USB Type-C plug that replaced the older micro-USB, and it support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0, which means it can fill up in less than a couple hours. The US version even supports wireless charging.
There are a lot of different versions of the G6, and they all have slightly different features. It’s confusing, and I wish LG would just make one phone for all the regions.
The LGH870DS, the one we reviewed, is supposed to be the model for Hong Kong, Russia, and Ukraine — but it seems to be available in a lot of other markets as well from various retailers. We ordered this one off Amazon in the US. Thankfully, it has the right bands to function in the US as well, using 4G LTE.
This version includes the Hi-Fi 32-bit DAC, which offers improved audio quality through headphones, but it lacks the wireless charging that’s only available through American variants. And this version has dual-SIM support, unlike the American version. It also has 64GB of storage unlike many of the other variants, which have 32GB.
Before buying a G6, be sure to look up its exact model number and see which features you will or won’t be getting.
Win an LG G6!
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Should You Buy an LG G6?
The LG G6 is LG’s most refined smartphone yet. It’s a real competitor to the Galaxy S8 and Google Pixel.
The main draws for buying the G6 are the price (slightly cheaper than the Galaxy S8 and Pixel in most markets), the wide-angle cameras, the software tweaks, and the rear-facing power button. If you don’t like the G6’s software or want a traditional power button on the side of the device, look elsewhere.
If you’re in the market for a flagship phone, go for it. It’s simple, sleek, fast, and customizable.
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