LG is going big at Mobile World Congress 2017. At the Barcelona show today, the company announced their 2017 flagship smartphone, the LG G6, and it’s a significant departure from last year’s G5 — a phone that took some risks that, ultimately, didn’t pay off.
The G5’s marquee feature was a battery module that could be ejected, making it possible to replace the battery or slip on a number of add-on modules that LG sold separately. The implementation was rough, and with the G6, it’s become clear that LG has been content to scrap the approach entirely. This year, LG is focusing on maximizing screen size without making the phone too massive — and it looks like they’ve succeeded.
The G6 has a 5.6″ (LG says the area makes it more similar to 5.7″) display, up from the 5.3″ display on the G5. So, it’s a giant of a phone, right? Not exactly — the dimensions of the G5 were 149.4 x 73.9 x 7.7 mm, while the dimensions of the G6 are 148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm. The G6 is a bit thicker, but despite the much larger display, it’s a bit smaller than the G5! That’s mostly due to the very thin bezels on the G6 and a brand new 2880 x 1440 FullVision display with a slightly longer 18:9 aspect ratio (as opposed to the usual 16:9).
That larger display will be put to good use. We usually hear a lot about HDR, HDR10, and Dolby Vision support in televisions, but it looks like it’ll be a big thing in smartphones this year, too. All of the above are different ways achieve improved color contrast during video playback. Dolby Vision, the most advanced technology of the three, can adjust colors while a video is playing without you being any the wiser. The only catch is that you’ll need to be watching content that was made using that HDR tech — otherwise, you won’t notice any difference in video quality.
The larger display enables some cool camera tricks, too. The dual camera array seems promising, employing two 13 MP sensors (one of which has a wide-angle 125-degree f/2.4 lens), but the software will be the star of the show. The camera app will have a split-screen mode, and it’s more useful than it sounds! It’s possible to go through your gallery on one side while keeping the camera active and ready to shoot on the other. Or, you can use the two cameras to take two different pictures at the same time — if you’re not sure which settings will work best for a shot, you can try two different combinations and see what works, or just take a regular and wide-angle shot of the same subject. And, yes, you can even take Instagram-ready square photos.
We’ll have to see how the cameras themselves fare. The G5 also had a dual-camera array, and the wide-angle lens on that phone was actually wider than the one on the G6. But, the wide-angle lens on the G6 is now paired with a 13 MP sensor instead of an 8 MP sensor, so jury’s out on whether or not that’s a good trade. The other sensor has gone down from 16 MP to 13 MP, and still has an f/1.8 lens. Like last year, the cameras also feature optical image stabilization.
Because LG has abandoned the battery module idea, the battery is no longer replaceable — LG was one of the last holdouts, so it seems that the era of replaceable batteries on premium phones is officially over. This year, LG is using a 3,300 mAh battery. That’s quite a bit bigger than the G5’s 2,800 mAh battery, but with the extra screen real estate and the HDR features, the G6 will need it. It’ll be charged using a USB Type-C 2.0 connection (the use of the 2.0 standard will make data transfer a bit slower), and owing to its chipset, the phone works with Qualcomm QuickCharge 3.0. In perhaps a nod to the Note 7 fiasco, LG is also talking up new heat dissipation technology that should keep temperatures down and batteries in one piece.
The loss of a replaceable battery might be disappointing to some, but there’s a silver lining — dropping the module idea has allowed LG to make the G6 IP68 dustproof and waterproof. This phone will survive dips in the pool (or toilet), and happily, LG didn’t even have to get rid of the 3.5 mm audio jack to do it — you can still use your good old wired headphones.
Speaking of those headphones, you might want to use your best. Like the LG V20 from last year, the G6 will have a 32-bit hi-fi quad DAC. That will help to power high resistance headphones and should help improve sound quality noticeably, too.
There’s really only one red flag here, and it’s the chipset. The G6 will run Android 7.0 on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC and 4 GB of RAM. The 821 is only a slight upgrade from the 820 on the G5 — so, why isn’t Qualcomm’s latest and greatest, the 835, on this phone? A Forbes report from January cites sources saying that Samsung has an arrangement that guarantees the upcoming Galaxy S8 will be the first 835 phone to market. We can’t confirm that, but we also can’t imagine any other reason why LG wouldn’t use the 835 in their new flagship.
The G6 will only come with 32 GB of storage, which is also a bit disappointing. Fortunately, there’s still a microSD card slot, and this one can handle cards up to 2 TB in capacity. As per usual for LG, the fingerprint sensor will be on the back. The phone also works with LTE-A three-band carrier aggregation, which means the phone will be able to squeeze the fastest possible speeds out of your carrier. Also expect Bluetooth 4.2 LE, 802.11 ac Wi-Fi, and NFC for use with Android Pay.
On the software side, the big story is the presence of Google Assistant. Debuting last year in the Google Pixel, this is Google’s new voice assistant, which is more conversational and intelligent than Google Now — it’s better at learning your preferences and habits and acting on them, in other words.
LG did a survey of Americans and found that 95 percent of them wanted bigger smartphone displays, so I guess it’s safe to say they took that to heart, too. While it’s unfortunate that the G6 will end up a bit underpowered among high-end phones because of the use of the 821 SoC, it probably won’t make a huge difference to most users. The fantastic display and the updated camera app will probably prove more important. Throw in that quad DAC, and you’ve got a premium Android phone that could be one of the best choices in 2017.
it’s clear LG has knocked it out of the park with a return to practicality and a focus on usability.
The combo aluminum and glass body makes the G6 a super attractive phone. And despite its glass back, the LG G6 feels great to hold and grip in your hands – it’s not slippery. We also like how the 18:9 display works really well to take advantage of the phone’s display real estate, which is something not enough phone manufacturers are doing. We still have a lot more testing to do with the LG G6, but so far it’s clear LG has knocked it out of the park with a return to practicality and a focus on usability.
Of course, a lot of the LG G6’s success will depend on the price. We’re not sure about what that price will be or when the G6 will be available, although it’s safe to say it won’t be cheap. We’ll likely know more soon as information from individual carriers starts rolling in.