A great idea doesn’t always make something a success. Just look at the LG G5.
While the clever modular smartphone was perhaps the biggest talk of MWC 2016, and our favourite phone of the year with the help of its B&O-tuned Hi-Fi+ DAC, it failed to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Apple’s iPhone 7 when it came to cold hard sales. And that’s never going to fly.
With the announcement of the new LG G6 at MWC 2017, the company has stayed true to its roots by keeping picture and sound quality high on its priority list, but has moved back to a slim metal unibody design once again for flagship mass appeal. It’s still got one or two tricks up its sleeve though, so read on for our first impressions.
LG is no stranger to playing around with aspect ratios (remember the 21:9 LG Chocolate?), and with the LG G6, it has moved away from the standard 16:9 for a more unusual 18:9 display.
LG calls it a 'Full Vision' display, and its dimensions means the 5.7in screen fills 85 per cent of the front of the phone, with very little space wasted to bezels.
It also means you get more screen on a phone that feels no bigger in your hand than the phone’s 5.2in predecessor, making it possible for one-handed use.
With more space to play with, the resolution takes a jump, moving from 2560 x 1440 to 2880 x 1440.
You’ll lose a few of those pixels at the corners though, as the G6’s panel features curved edges that mirror the phone’s curved design – something LG says is a first for mobiles.
The curved edges are likely to divide opinion. Though it looks great from a purely aesthetic point of view, it takes a while to adjust to watching a movie with the pictures rounded off at the edges.
Still, it’s a super sharp display, with a great level of detail and colours that look punchy but natural. The IPS panel at the screen’s heart helps with this, while also offering enough brightness for LG to include support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR content - the first phone to do the latter (albeit on an 8-bit panel).
We only get to see a small amount of HDR demo footage but early impressions are good, with some added vibrancy and improved contrast levels that could challenge the benefits of AMOLED displays.
While HDR content for mobile is lacking right now, Netflix and Amazon will be announcing support for it through their mobile apps at MWC 2017, and we look forward to seeing how it performs in our full review.
There's no need to worry about the new aspect ratio causing letterboxing while watching movies either. LG has added some scaling technology to move between 18:9 and 16:9 that will do away with them.
Design and features
The slightly fiddly, rather geeky design of the LG G5 left a lot of people cold – they wanted something that screamed premium, like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Unsightly seams and extra bulk from the G5’s added modules couldn’t really compete.
The LG G6 is a different story. All metal and glass, its smooth, slim unibody design feels every bit the flagship handset. That means no removable battery of course, as this particular niche concern has made way for mass appeal.
Gorilla Glass coats the front and the back of the phone, which LG claims makes it hardier than its predecessor. An aluminium band curves its way around the outer edges to give you a cool metal feel in the hand.
More after the break
There’s an anti-fingerprint coating on the back too, which helps the glass finish stay looking smart for as long as possible.
The fingerprint sensor and home button sits on the back of the handset as it did on the G5, with no buttons or icons blemishing the front of the phone. There are two physical volume buttons on the left hand side.
The waterproofing we’ve coming to expect from flagship handsets in 2017 is getting a bit of an upgrade in the G6, thanks to IP68 dust and water resistance that now includes sea water.
It can now take on the watery elements to a depth of 1m for up to 30 minutes. Both its USB-C port and headphone jack are completely waterproof, so no need for fiddly protective covers.
It will be available in ice platinum (silver), astro black and mystic white.
Let’s start with the good news – bucking what seems to be a bit of a trend in the mobile world, LG has kept the 3.5mm headphone jack so you can use your favourite headphones with no need for an adapter or an upgrade.
There is aptx HD Bluetooth on board for the best possible wireless sound though, should you wish to cut the cord.
Not such great news is the lack of the superior quad DAC by ESS, which was leaked as being included in the phone. We found out that it is reserved for Asian markets only, and won’t be included on European handsets.
What this means for the sound here will remain to be seen in our full review – we loved the G5’s sound with the B&O-tuned Hi-Fi+ DAC accessory, but were less enthused with the standard built-in offering. Here’s hoping the company has done some work to improve it.
We really enjoyed the LG G5’s dual cameras, with one 16MP snapper in charge of standard shots alongside an 8MP offering for whopping 135° wide-angle pictures.
This year, the twin cameras are back but have been brought into line, both now boasting 13MP sensors and smoother transitions between the two.
LG has also switched from laser autofocus to phase detection as its autofocus tech of choice, claiming improvements in the latter mean it’s now the quicker and more reliable option, especially in low light (though there’s a dual LED flash to help out if you need).
Elsewhere, the front-facing camera takes a step down from its predecessor to 5MP from 8MP, but gains a 100° lens for seriously wide-angled selfies.
The bigger screen helps make the photography experience better too. For example, you can now shoot a square shot on one half of the screen while prepping a shot in the other. The plethora of manual options that we’ve come to expect from an LG phone are also at your fingertips, rather than buried in menus.
As for video, the G6 supports 4K recording at 30fps and 1080p recording at 60fps, both with lossless audio recording to boot.
Performance and specification
The LG G6 certainly doesn’t leave us wanting in the spec department, offering the super powerful Snapdragon 821 chip, 32GB storage (plus a microSD card slot for boosting up to 2TB) and 4GB of RAM.
In our short time with it, we found it to be smooth and fluid, and fast enough to take on a good amount of multitasking and graphic-intense game playing.
That has to be helped by LG’s relatively light-handed touch on the UI that sits over the top of Android 7.0.
LG has made a handful of tweaks to the design, but they’re minimal, leaving it looking clean, unfussy and very close to stock Android.
The G6 also includes Google Assistant, first featured on Google's Pixel phones, making it the first third-party phone to feature the AI voice controlled personal assistant.
As for battery life, the 3300mAh battery (500mAh larger to the G5) should help to support that bigger screen, while Qualcomm’s FastCharge 3.0 is also on board for quicker charging too. There’s no wireless charging here though - for pricing reasons, that’s only available in US models.
We loved the LG G5, but can see why LG has gone back to the drawing board with the G6 – it certainly looks the part to take on its competitors in 2017.
The design is gorgeous, the screen looks stunning, and there’s plenty of power here to take on all the multitasking you can muster, not to mention a pair of intuitive new cameras.
We can’t help but be a little disappointed at the lack of upgraded DAC in the UK version of the phone though, as LG’s standard audio hasn’t always been it’s strong point. In fact, it’s often been the one thing that’s let it down.
One thing’s for sure, in a year of really promising phones, it will need to put up a good fight to hold on to its Product of the Year glory. Only time will tell if it’s done enough.