The Spring smartphone launch season is under way, and LG made a calculated decision to get out ahead of most phones with a late-February announcement of the G6. Coming in less than a year after the all-but-failed G5 and just a few months beyond the niche market V20, the G6 is what will be advertised as the phone from LG hoping to create a halo for its whole lineup.
Well time flies, and we're no longer talking about our first impressions of the LG G6 or saying how much longer you'll have to wait to buy it. I've been using the phone for a full month now, and it's already on sale in many countries. There's a certain bit of perspective that you get from using a phone for a long time that you don't get from an initial review period, and that's why we continue to use and revisit these great phones to see how they continue to perform.
Here are my thoughts on using the LG G6 for the past month.
LG G6 Hardware
If there's one thing LG accomplishes yearly with its hero phone, it's mixing it up to keep things fresh. Since the original Optimus G we haven't seen an propensity for similar or iterative designs year after year, and the G6 coming from last year's plasticky and modular G5 is a fantastic example of LG continuing its mixed strategy. But unlike last year, I'm quite impressed by the G6's hardware — from a design, materials and execution standpoint.
The G6 signals a return to getting the basics right, kicking the gimmicks aside.
From first glance the G6 is indeed a bit more generic-looking than the often wacky designs LG usually goes with, but that's totally fine with me — it signals a return to getting the basics right. Big claims of reliability aside, the G6 just feels solid with its thick metal frame, considerable heft and precisely inlaid pieces of glass. Yes I know that the back glass will get scratched over time, but that's something I've lived with just fine on the Galaxy S7 and Pixel XL just fine.
And I shouldn't gloss over the fact that LG finally chose to add in IP68 water resistance to its flagship, which is increasingly becoming a must-have feature for smartphone buyers — and one that Samsung constantly hangs its hat on. Of course that all-but-necessitated the move to a sealed battery compartment, but that's a fine trade-off for me.
I'm still appreciating the "large screen in small body" form factor of the G6 as well, particularly after taking a short break to review the hefty HTC U Ultra. It's great to have a relatively compact, narrow phone that I can reach across and manage in one hand when needed. Even with its small bezels it's still a chore to reach that notification shade sometimes, though, but as it stands it hasn't been a bit enough issue for me to resort to that garish notification shade navigation button.
LG fit everything inside that you'd expect — the only pain is regional hardware differences.
This is one of the better smartphone screens I've seen to date, and it's worth reiterating that I'm thankful for the enhanced focus on max brightness from LG this time around. You can see the screen and use it in direct sunlight, even though it still feels a tad more reflective than the AMOLED competition — but of course LG loves its LCD and doesn't seem to be keen on changing. The resolution and color reproduction are top notch as well. The only thing I've picked up about this display that's a potential downside here is the touch response, which seems a bit weaker than phones like the Pixel XL — the first software update to this model did remedy it some, and it's not enough of an issue to make me not want to use the G6, but the tuning still seems a bit off to my fingers.
Up to speed
LG G6 Software and experience
Despite LG offering one of the cleaner non-stock interfaces out there, I didn't last long before switching over to my tried-and-true setup of Google Now Launcher, Google Calendar and Google Keyboard on the G6. It's not that LG's offerings are particularly bad in any way — and I'm sure millions will stick with what's pre-installed — but I just have muscle memory that is best served by Google's apps. Thankfully Android offers you this choice, and the G6 handles all of these apps as defaults with no issue.
The parts of the interface that aren't easily changed, like the lock screen, notification shade and settings, get the job done and do it with a simple white-and-black layout punctuated by subtle pops of color I can appreciate. I like that LG has really reigned things in to follow Google's design guidelines while still having its own feel — that's what Android is all about.
LG has come a long way in software, and I like what I see now.
LG's tweaks to the software don't seem to bog down the system at all either, as performance is still strong on the G6, albeit short of spectacular. I don't get the feeling that I'm using some sort of next-generation mind-blowing device that's so fast it surprises me, but everything works as it should and does so without any crashes or issues — as it turns out, that isn't always a given even on high-end phones. (Part of this may be that touch response I was talking about before as well.) LG has tweaked and tuned as much performance as possible out of the Snapdragon 821 processor, and I don't feel like that's a bottleneck in any way. And looking forward a year, I'm sure it'll continue to work just fine then as well — there's more than enough power for what we do today.
Battery life from the 3300mAh battery has been just fine for me, right in line with what I get out of my Pixel XL and Galaxy S7 edge. I can go through a full day of my typical use with roughly 25% left in the tank, or push it hard and get down to probably 10% at the end of the day. Aside from days when I'm traveling and absolutely hammering the G6, I can't get the battery to die before bedtime — that's a great sign. And again, I'm just not upset about the loss of a removable battery here considering the capacity you're getting in this phone. 3300mAh in the G6 is 500mAh larger than the G5, and even 100mAh larger than the V20.
LG G6 Camera
The LG V20 was my first time really exploring LG's dual camera setup, and I fell in love with it. I think it's such an excellent idea, and I'm glad LG has doubled down (get it?) on the dual camera setup with the G6 by moving to using the same sensor behind both lenses. Beside not being the biggest fan of the V20 as a complete phone, the one really frustrating part about using the wide-angle camera was how much different the photos could look due to its lower resolution and lower-quality sensor. With that fixed, I'm absolutely loving having this wide-angle camera available with a single tap.
It just gives you a unique look that you usually only get from snapping on a cumbersome secondary lens to your phone, and it's always ready to go without any extra accessory. I often find myself shooting with the wide-angle camera first, then tapping to take a standard shot second — it's that good.
I've talked plenty about the surprisingly great quality of the main camera, and it absolutely continues to deserve praise for matching what the Google Pixel XL can do while also raising the bar in some areas. I very rarely take a photo with the LG G6 that isn't up to par, and I'm regularly surprised by the shots I get out of it. It's definitely a bit on the punchier side when it comes to colors, but it's done in a tasteful way; and the HDR mode doesn't go overboard, which I enjoy.
Combine the two experiences and you get a wonderful total camera package that can be a huge deciding factor in how many people buy this phone. It's no wonder that LG was so convinced that it wanted to stick with this dual camera setup — it's a real differentiator in the market, especially on a phone that in so many ways just matches what its biggest competition (Samsung) is offering.
One to consider
LG G6 One month on
With a full month of usage behind me, I've come to most of the same conclusions we found in our original review from back at MWC 2017. LG chose to ditch the gimmicks in 2017 and just make an all-around great phone, matching the competition in terms of hardware, specs, features and capabilities while delivering a top-notch camera as well. This isn't just impressive from the standpoint of being LG's best ever top-end phone, but by being a great overall phone to stand up against anything else out there today.
LG's marketing power and ability to leverage current mind share just can't stand up to the likes of Samsung, and it will rely heavily on carrier partnerships around the world to push the G6. That's just a reality of where the market — and LG's smartphone business — stands right now. But despite the fact that its sales will be far behind the Galaxy S8's no matter what, the G6 is nothing short of a great phone. If LG keeps making G series phones like this, only good things can happen from here.