What makes a decent flagship smartphone? Is it the look of its hardware, the size of its bezels, or the specifications under the hood? Or is it simply that it's a balanced merger of all these things — a conservative cornucopia of smartphone features you'd be most likely to use and capabilities you won't realize you've ever lived without.
LG hasn't exactly struck gold with this kind of flagship. The past few years have been sort of dull, what with the confusedly modular G5 and leather-heavy G4. However, things feel different with the LG G6; it's an exceptionally good smartphone, and not once in the past two weeks of wielding it have I been frustrated by something it doesn't do well.
Do I think the G6 could help regain momentum lost on its predecessor? Not entirely — at least not without a cohesive, competitive and exhaustive marketing campaign. But I do find myself changing my mind about what I'd suggest to a friend if she were in the market for an Android device. And with this year's protracted launch of Samsung's next-generation Galaxy flagship, it really feels like it's LG's time to show off its smartphone-making abilities.
Seriously stylin' hardware
I've had the privilege of watching LG's flagship design evolve over the years, beginning with the launch of the LG Optimus G. I really liked that phone. Its crystal and glass construction, as it were, felt truly premium against the backdrop of plasticky Android smartphones storming the seas at the time.
Obviously, we've come a long way since then, but I can't help but feel like the G6 hearkens back to that particular era of smartphone design. The G6's candy bar look and masculine metallics are seriously cool and I like that LG is finally showing some design prowess of its own. Also, while its rounded corners are definitely a gimmick, they're cute, and I like that they add a bit of flair to the device — that's so LG.
I found the G6 to be a tad soft, despite Gorilla Glass front and back.
Perhaps the G6's only major design flaw is that despite its various levels of Gorilla Glass covering — Gorilla Glass 3 on the display and camera, Gorilla Glass 5 on the back — it's a bit soft. I managed to ding up my review unit with a light drop from a few inches on a garden path.
I'm also glad to see the G6 maintain the volume button layout from the G5. Some of my peers enjoyed the volume buttons on the back of the G3 and G4, but I wasn't a fan. I like that the G6's configuration is usable even if I have my eyes closed; I don't constantly confuse the power button for the volume buttons. It's easier to take a screenshot, too.
About the screen aspect ratio
If you haven't already heard, the G6 offers up an 18:9 aspect ratio on its 5.7-inch display. At present, the smartphone is one of the "tallest" of the Android bunch, and though its aspect ratio effectively narrows out your screen space — a 16:9 display at 5.7-inches is drastically different from an 18:9 display at the same screen size — you may find that the elongated screen makes it easier to use the interface one-handed.
I appreciated the extra space afforded for the on-screen navigation buttons. Though this is a generation where we're often comparing screen sizes, I don't think a massively wide smartphone for the sake of the viewing experience is particularly user-friendly, anyway. I'd rather have something that's easier to wield.
Two cameras for the price of one
One of the more intriguing features of the LG G6 is its dual camera setup, which is similar to its cousin, the LG V20. (I compared the shooting capabilities of both devices, if you're interested.) The hardware includes two 13-megapixel rear-facing cameras, one of which shoots at 71-degrees with an aperture of f/1.8, while the other snaps at a wide angle of 125-degrees with an aperture at f/2.4.
Unlike the regular 13-megapixel sensor, the secondary camera isn't equipped with OIS, though that's a non-issue unless you're shooting in the deepest darks. The wide-angle lens is certainly useful and wonderful to have, but I don't really see it becoming my primary shooter — at least not for most types of photos.
I usually shoot with a Pixel, but over the past few weeks I have barely picked it up.
I love anywhere there is scenery. I plan most of my day trips, extended stays, and even my morning walks based on where there are beautiful things to gawk at — the world is simply a wondrous place! Most of the time, I'm shooting with the Pixel XL, but over the past few weeks, I've barely picked it up. (We also compared those two.)
The LG G6 is more than capable enough, and I appreciated the ability to quickly switch camera modes, or turn on the wide-angle lens to capture a sunset. The G6 works well in low-light situations, too, and I was pleased with the amount of detail it managed to capture with simply a candle offered as the light source.
Overall, the G6's camera abilities are a major improvement over its predecessors. Photos came out relatively well-balanced and easy to edit, and I didn't feel the need to "over filter" in an attempt to hide the camera's inabilities. My one gripe about the G6's wide-angle camera, however, is that I can't use it in third-party apps. I would love to utilize it in Snapchat, for instance, or inside a video messaging app.
Some of the G6's extra camera abilities feel like added fluff in an attempt sell the world on a "feature-filled" camera app. Like other Android smartphones, LG offers panoramic, slow-motion, and time-lapse shooting modes, which are legitimately useful features to have baked inside the native camera application.
But as I discovered features like the ability to shoot a square-sized photo and built-in vintage filters, I started to feel a bit of interface claustrophobia. Does anyone need that many adjustments before shooting a selfie? I know the answer, but my point is that this is precisely what third-party apps are for.
The software is fine otherwise
I'm not adverse to trying out whatever a manufacturer's idea of the Android interface is like. If anything, it gives me a bit of insight into the brand and whether there is an actual consistency to the design. And if I don't like it, I can swap out most elements using a simple custom launcher.
LG's theming engine is spectacular.
Thankfully, with the LG G6, I don't feel I need to swap things out, because LG's theming engine for its interface is spectacular. I like the preloaded themes that are offered, and if you're crazy about an icon pack on the Play Store but you don't want to go gaga with a theming app, you can easily change app icons from the G6's setting menu. Having the choice is nice!
In the G6's case, the best part about its software is that it comes preloaded with Google Assistant, though that's not a reason to buy it. If anything, it's just nice to know that Android's best parts are being distributed among the masses, at least in minor increments for now.
The bottom line
The LG G6 is definitely the company's return to form: It's equipped with stellar hardware, it's water resistant, it's stylish, and it's certifiably unique in its own right — this is what is looks like when LG has a hit on its hands! The only bummer is that with Samsung readying to storm onto the scene with its own flagship smartphone, it's a wonder if the G6 will manage to compete. At the very least, it's good to see LG get the cart back on track. And if the price is right, we could see LG officially mark its comeback.