If the G5 was the low watermark for LG's mobile division, you might think there was only really up to go for LG in 2017. The G6 can feel like a self-fulfilling prophecy that way: the narrative around the G5 was almost universally negative, and the idea that 2017 would yield a "comeback" product from LG seemed to become a given. After all, it was obvious what LG did wrong last year, so how could they not address these issues?
At the same time, we often find ourselves saying tech companies make a habit of poor product decisions year after year, so it's never quite a sure thing that a new gadget really will check the very-obvious-to-us boxes we've communally decided are so important. With that in mind, LG does seem to have had its ear to the ground with the G6, iterating and changing things that clearly irked or concerned would-be customers.
Waterproofing, a more premium look and feel, upgraded cameras, more efficient use of space (bezels), good battery life - these are things that, to smartphone enthusiasts, sound so terribly obvious as ways to up your product's appeal. They're the areas where LG has focused, I would argue, and the result is a phone that fundamentally is much more palatable than the awkward G5, even if the G6 isn't what I'd call perfect. (In fact, the G6 can be fairly flawed at times.)
But if you were hoping that LG would show up with a competent, modern smartphone in 2017, I think the G6 will do the trick. It's not the kind of phone that immediately strikes you as to why it works, but it does.
|Display||I'm loving the wider (longer?) screen, and LG's IPS LCD looks as good as ever. This works for me.|
|Battery||Good battery life, if not exceptional. If you're in the US, you get the bonus of wireless charging.|
|Ruggedization||LG claims the G6 stands up to a drop pretty well, and it's also IP68 certified for dust and water resistance.|
|Compact||The G6 has a screen equivalent in surface area to a normal 5.5" phone, but it's very noticeably smaller than one.|
|Camera||I think most people will really like the G6's cameras. I wasn't the biggest fan, but there's no denying they produce very social media-friendly results. There are also two of them on the back.|
|Premium||This feels like the "premium" LG phone we've been asking for. It's nice. It looks good in black (but kind of bad in the two other colors, if I'm honest).|
|Battery||While the battery life is solid now, it's not amazing, and I think a screen of this size warrants a bit more battery just as a future-proofing measure. 3500 or 3600mAh would have seemed more appropriate.|
|Storage||64GB should be standard on a $650+ phone in 2017. If OnePlus does it for $200 less than that, LG can do it.|
|Camera||I don't like LG's image processing, it destroys image detail and the photos look bad on large monitors, even if they look great on the phone's screen.|
|Software aesthetic||LG doesn't make Android any harder or more annoying to use, but this is The Ugly Duckling of smartphone themes.|
|Android 7.0||We should be launching with 7.1, please.|
Design and materials
If you're considering the G6, let me save you some time right now on which color to choose: black. Don't like black? Still get the black one. Really want a white phone? Get the black one. Think the silver looks flashy? Buy black.
Only the black G6 really does proper justice to the small bezels around the screen, because it's the only one with black bezels. They just kind of visually wash away when you're holding the phone. The dark gray aluminum frame blends in nicely, and while the glossy black finish on the back is fingerprint-prone, you can always use a case or skin to fix that. It has this sort of "stealth phone" look (thanks for that, Ryan) that really works for me. I also think it does a good job hiding the G6's rather ugly "surprised robot" face on the back of the phone. It's not as bad as it was on the G5 and V20, but, yeah. It's there, and the black version of the phone makes it the least apparent. Buy the black one.
The silver and white versions of the G6 kind of ruin all the magic of that tiny bezel.
The phone's material composition is glass sandwich, with a gently curved glass pane on the back, an anodized aluminum mid-frame, and a flat front glass panel. LG has tried to spin the flat screen as an ergonomic and durability choice, saying curved screens are harder to use (they are) and they're more fragile (they can be). LG even went as far as to say their phone is much less likely to crack from a drop impact than a device with a curved screen, claiming the design allows force to be distributed more evenly in the event of an impact. I'm not sure how much better it really is in that sense than any other flat phone, but hey, maybe there's something to it.
Overall, I like the feel of the G6. With the compact size coupled with the fairly large display, the G6 feels right at home in your hand and your pocket without seeming cramped to actually use. I find it very hard to go back to "normal" 5-inch smartphones anymore, and while the G6's 5.7" screen isn't actually as large as a 16:9 panel with the same diagonal, the added vertical space definitely helps for reading, typing, and web browsing. It's absolutely enough.
Compared to the 5.5" Google Pixel XL, the G6 is much more one-handed use friendly - though it is a fair bit more slippery.
Despite having screens of near identical surface area, the G6 is much more compact than the Pixel XL.
This is a phone that has a premium quality to it, and I think that's a story best told by the minimal bezel on the front - it has a slightly futuristic vibe that gives the G6 a little something beyond your average glass and metal smartphone visually. Again, I maintain this is only true with the black version: I find this phone kind of ghastly in silver. But it feels very well put together and, in that sense, is a complete departure from the disjointed and strange G5.
Waterproofing with an IP68 rating means the G6 doesn't just look the part, it can go for a swim and be no worse for wear. So not only does it look and feel better, it actually is better, too.
I do have some ergonomic complaints. The volume keys sit too high on the body of the phone (which makes camera quick launches harder), and I'd prefer a traditional power key. I like to check my notifications without unlocking the screen. You could make the fingerprint reader key a custom button. Just a suggestion.
LG's IPS panels have been a mixed bag over the years, but what I hear from fans of the brand is that they're generally well-liked despite some technical shortcomings. The G6's screen gets very bright, though in direct sunlight it really fares no better than a modern Super AMOLED panel.
The intensely stark whites of LG's screens have their critics, me included, but some people prefer the more blue-ish whites because they give things a "cleaner," higher-contrast look. Colors are predictably oversaturated, but not annoyingly so, though there is no option to change the profile or white temperature. You can activate the "comfort view" on the lowest setting to get a more natural, albeit slightly yellow, white point. Confusingly, LG's blue light filter (comfort view) doesn't have an option to set automatic on and off times. Really?
The screen has excellent viewing angles and neither of my test units has any appreciable light bleed around the edges (a problem last year on the G5). As to the 18:9 aspect ratio, I don't find it's really impacted the appearance or usability of any apps on the phone. Some very old apps may have an issue with the effective software aspect ratio (16.7:9 - excluding the nav keys), but LG allows you to set them to compatibility mode (16:9) or even extend them to full-screen (18:9) if you want. So that's nice - good thinking, LG.
The screen is a clear focus on the G6, and it works. I like the extra vertical real estate and could definitely see myself buying a phone with a wider aspect ratio display in the future. There's benefit here, ergonomically and visually, and LG has made the case for me.
The G6's 3300mAh battery may not sound like much when you're thinking about a 5.7" device, but you have to remember that the surface area of this panel is actually just a little bit greater than a 5.5" screen with a standard 16:9 aspect ratio like the one on the Pixel XL. So, the battery isn't large given the display's size, but it's not comically small, either. I found the G6's battery life to be above average, but not amazing. LG's automatic brightness is very, very conservative, and that probably helped things a bit.
I reliably and consistently hit over four hours of screen-on time during normal usage, sometimes closing in on five. So, not as good as the Pixel XL, but within shouting distance. It's acceptable, just not remarkable.
Quick Charge 3.0 is on board (LG is including a quick charger in the box), as is wireless charging (only in
North America the USA), if that's something you want. I can understand leveling some criticism at LG for not fitting a larger cell here, though. A 10% boost in capacity would probably push the G6 into the 'very good' battery life column, as opposed to the 'just good' one. It's not what I'd call a deal breaker. The phone lasted long enough for me and I never felt like I was getting shortchanged on the longevity front, as opposed to the rather frustrating experience I had with the HTC U Ultra.
Storage, wireless, and reception
Storage is one place where the G6 falls short for me. Not only does it start at 32GB, that's your only option. There are no 64GB models being made available here in the US, and with rumors saying Samsung's Galaxy S8 will come with 64GB standard, that stings. I really would like to see all major smartphone vendors move to make 64GB the baseline for storage on a flagship phone. OnePlus can offer it at $440 - LG can't at over $200 more?
My Verizon unit came with just over 19GB of room available out of the box. That's not much. There is a microSD slot, so you're not totally without options here. Still, it's one of those flaws I spoke of earlier: LG could have done better.
Wireless performance has been fine for me on both the unlocked preproduction version of the phone I tested as well as the retail Verizon unit I received more recently for testing. Bluetooth reception has been just OK - it's not as bad as it is on the Pixel XL in my car, which will cut out even just sitting in the passenger seat at times - but it's not fantastic, either. For example, I can't keep a steady Bluetooth audio stream if the G6 is in my pocket (to be fair, my leg is resting against the transmission tunnel).
Call quality has been fine and I have no signal issues to report at this time.
Audio and speakers
Most G6s sold across the globe will not feature LG's "Hi-Fi" Quad DAC and amplifier, but the standard Aqstic part from Qualcomm, which is fine. While not as powerful as the third-party solution LG will be using in some Asian countries, this really only matters if you're trying to drive very big or very high-impedance headphones, and shouldn't impact most people. I maintain that the audio from Qualcomm's DAC and amplifier combination hub is perfectly good, though I wouldn't mind a little more output for those times when I would like to wear my big over-ears. Quality-wise, though, it's still excellent.
The G6's bottom-firing speaker is reasonably loud but pretty tinny, not quite as balanced as the speaker on my Pixel XL. It is noticeably more powerful - and loudness tends to be king on phone speakers. I still don't love the direction it's facing, as I don't on any phone with this configuration, but it's passable and by no means bad.
Oh, and the G6 has a headphone jack, because LG doesn't hate you.
I have a feeling my sentiments about the G6's cameras will not echo many other reviewers. I don't like the G6's rear-facing cameras very much. Don't get me wrong, they can produce some very striking images with incredible contrast... but it's not real. LG's processing is so aggressive that when you zoom into full crop it's like somebody oil-painted your photo. This makes framing adjustments a real bear: you can't crop too close, otherwise the oil-painting effect becomes obvious, especially in low light. The photos also just don't look good on big screens a lot of the time because the processing becomes so much more apparent on a 27" monitor.
Some people, though, love the cameras on this phone. They produce images that are instantly ready for social media, because they almost look a little filtered right out of the gallery. And when you're looking on a 5-6" smartphone screen, you're not going to notice the processing nearly as much. Take this shot of the beach taken with the wide angle camera. Looks solid, right?
Take a peek at a slightly less forgiving crop.
The rocks actually look like they were painted onto the picture. Come on. The HDR algorithm also halos like crazy around buildings, making photos look like they were run through the Snapseed gauntlet. It's just not to my taste.
The G6's cameras, then, really depend on what your priorities are. For me? I'm still taking the Pixel every single day of the week over the G6 for the camera. Not even close in my book.
The other party trick is obviously the wide-angle lens that allows you to capture a scene from a much different perspective than the standard camera. LG talks about its "zoom" feature but really that's kind of a load of crap - you're just digital zooming on the wide angle sensor until it effectively hits the point at which the narrow-angle lens sees from. LG says it's smoother and more natural than it was on the G5 and V20, and I guess it kind of is, but not enough that I'm really impressed by it at all. I just switch between the two cameras with the toggle - the zooming is nice for grandma, but not for anyone who knows to avoid digital zoom like the plague.
Launch speed of the camera from sleep is good, about on par with the Pixel, in my experience - just double-tap the volume key and you're off. I do wish switching between the sensors was faster, though. The issue is that the phone remembers whichever one you were last using, and launches with that one selected. That's fine, but if I want to switch to the normal, narrow-angle lens camera, I'm wasting an extra few seconds to find the button, hit it, and then wait for the switch to happen. It's definitely a usability issue, and I know it's not one with an easy solution, but there it is.
Performance and stability
While I would hesitate to say the G6 is Google Pixel levels of smooth or consistent, it's still a very quick phone. It doesn't have the almost manic rapidness of the OnePlus 3T, and the animations hang consistently more often than on the Pixel, but it's fast. I can definitely tell I'm not using a Samsung phone, I'll say that much.
So, let's talk about that Snapdragon 821. It's not an 835. The Galaxy S8 will almost certainly have a Snapdragon 835. The G6 does not. This will upset people on the internet who tend to become upset about such things. If you are liable to be upset about this, by all means, rant. But it's not like LG had much choice in the matter unless they wanted to delay the G6's launch by several months, and it's not like the Snapdragon 821 is at all a bad chipset. We quite like it in the Google Pixel and OnePlus 3T. And let's not forget: the Pixel XL, which I still heartily recommend to almost everyone, is substantially pricier than the G6.
If you have to have the newest processor, you're not going to buy this phone anyway, so it's kind of a moot point. If you don't care about that, I don't think the Snapdragon 821 in any way makes the G6 a worse product.
Bug-wise, I haven't encountered any major issues, or really any minor ones that come to mind, either. The phone feels stable and I've not had any strange problems.
I still take issue with some of LG's aesthetic modifications. Their UI is inconsistent visually, though they did finally drop that awful sea green teal color. But, that aside, they really don't mess with Android in many ways I'd call annoying. You have your standard quick settings titles, Nougat's bundled notifications, a comprehensible settings menu, and not too many unnecessary bloat apps (from LG, at least) or legacy features (Samsung) crowding things up. Once you throw on a custom launcher and ditch LG's not-good keyboard, you won't find that LG's changes to the software are going to come up too often. And that's a good thing.
While not as light a hand as you'd find with something like Motorola's UI these days, LG's additions can be genuinely useful, allowing you to customize the theme, navigation bar, the aforementioned aspect ratio scaling for apps, and double-tap to wake the screen. There aren't nearly as many features as you'd find on a Samsung phone, but that's not necessarily bad - LG keeps the clutter relatively low.
There really isn't that much to say about the software, if I'm honest, and I mean that in a positive sense. It feels like Android 7.0, albeit with some aesthetic and a few functional modifications here and there. Sure, you'll want to replace the launcher and the keyboard, but that's true of almost any smartphone not made by Google or Motorola these days, and it's hardly what I'd call a "problem."
LG has gone out of its way to talk up a few apps that it has "enhanced" for the new aspect ratio, but I can't recall a single time I ever noticed one - aside from the photo roll in the camera app. But there really haven't been any major changes made for the screen's new shape, that was definitely more marketing than substance. I mean, unless you count the rounded corners. Those are a thing.
The one real complaint I do have about the software is the Android version: 7.0, at least on my US Verizon unit. LG told me, though there may have been some confusion around this, that the phone would launch with Android 7.1 by the time it went to retail. My retail unit is decidedly not running Android 7.1. I've asked LG about this and will update if I get a response. To be fair, LG is generally much quicker than Samsung about OS updates, so maybe we'll see a 7.1 update soon.
The G6 will cost anywhere from around $650 to a little over $700 here in the US depending on your carrier or retailer, pretty much in line with the G5 last year. If you're going to pull the OnePlus 3T out, as I know some of you are dying to, obviously the G6 doesn't come out of a value analysis as the best smartphone bang for your buck. But that's true of essentially every $600+ smartphone, including Google's Pixels.
Most people in the US buy their phones using installment plans now, and by that metric, the G6 costs a Very Average High-End Smartphone Amount of Money. Is it worth it?
I think you'll need to consider your priorities. First, compared to what I'd call the benchmark high-end Android phone right now (Pixel XL), the G6 obviously has a few advantages. It's more ergonomic, it's actually waterproof, it costs less money, and it's going to be much more readily available (an area where Google is seriously dropping the ball). Dual cameras may be an advantage, if you really care, and while it's US-specific, wireless charging is something to consider.
If you're looking a bit further out to smartphones yet-to-be-announced, that's a harder question. We don't know how much the Galaxy S8 will cost or exactly when it will launch, and we also don't know for sure just what all the changes are yet. I will admit, it's hard for me to see LG coming out of such a comparison on top, but I guess it could happen.
You may be thinking "That's it? That's the whole review?" (OK, maybe you aren't, but this one felt short to me when I was writing it.)
But I think it's a good sort of 'that's it.' The G6 isn't the most exciting phone we're going to see in 2017, but it's a reassuringly competent improvement on the smartphone formula, at least for most people. You get more screen in a smaller package, two cameras on the back instead of one, respectable battery life, and software that doesn't make you want to tear your hair out. I remember when we would have been excited to have just one of these things (sorry, I don't mean to dig the "in my day" trope up), and even in 2017, I think we'll still see a handful of phones that don't get all of this right.
Where could the G6 improve? I would have liked a larger battery, as we all know decent battery life today does not necessarily mean decent battery life one major Android platform update down the road. And batteries age. I still don't like LG's camera processing techniques, but realize I may be in the minority here. The software is not visually appealing, even if it doesn't do much to functionally impede the user experience. I'm also not a fan of the power button being the fingerprint reader; I'd prefer a separate power key on the side so I can check my notifications without unlocking the phone and thus having to hit the power key again to put it back to sleep. 64GB of storage should have been standard. And my last gripe is really to America's carriers, not LG: Stop changing the software just to change it (Verizon, I'm glaring at you in particular).
Overall, though, there are few fundamental changes I would make to the G6. I think the constituent pieces are there: this is a good smartphone. I'm also naming it one of our editor's choice "Most Wanted" smartphones - LG did a lot right with the G6, and it's refreshing to see them build the kind of product I think we all knew they could.