The G6 is a return to form for LG's smartphone ambitions, and is an excellent value, gimmick free flagship that just so happens to look hot as hell. Or alternatively, one might even say it's fly …much like a G6.
Outright Cost: From $1008
What Is It?
The LG G6 is LG's flagship smartphone for 2017, touting a 5.7-inch extra tall "FullVision" display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. Even though a 5.7-inch screen is distinctly phablet territory, the G6's lack of bezel and the screen's added height mean the phone is just slightly larger than a 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Essentially, it's small enough to still hold and use in one.
Initially, I was quite sceptical about the G6's FullVision display. I prefer my phones on the smaller side, and the iPhone SE and the 4.7-inch iPhone 7 have been the last two devices I've used as my main daily drivers. Some hands-on time following the phone's launch at Mobile World Congress quickly dispelled my concerns, and I've really come to love the form-factor after using the G6 as my main device during this review.
The G6 is easy and comfortable to grip with one hand, and for most part, to use. Reaching the letter 'Q' when typing can be a bit of a stretch, and you'll need a second if you want to touch the top of the screen, but I found I could typically operate the G6 with one hand. Which is a hell of an achievement. LG has really delivered on the big screen in a small body promise.
The G6 also feels great to hold. It sits well in the hand thanks to the curved Gorilla Glass 5 back, and has no sharp edges. Oddly, the front is older Gorilla Glass 3 though, presumably to save costs. While the phone isn't heavy, it has a reassuring heft to it. Despite the predominantly glass build, the G6 doesn't feel overly slippery, and is pretty good at masking fingerprints. The lack of a camera bump is also a plus.
While LG has cut down on bezel, the G6 doesn't have a true edge-to-edge display. There's still a sliver of bezel on either side of the screen, although oddly, the only phone to have actually achieved this feat so far is Sony's budget Xperia XA. Samsung's Galaxy S8 creates the illusion of edge-to-edge through the use of a curved display, but there's still bezel separating the display from the aluminium chamfer.
Most of the bezel LG's cut off has come from the top and bottom; there's just enough at the top to accommodate a speaker and selfie camera, and just enough at the bottom to plonk down a logo. As such, you'll be using software buttons for navigating the G6, but this is par the course for LG smartphones.
Once again, LG has brought back the rear-facing fingerprint reader, which also doubles as a power and sleep button.
From a practical perspective, the taller 18:9 display doesn't feel too different from using a regular smartphone, but the extra real-estate could end up being quite useful if apps take advantage of it. For example, in the camera app, LG uses the space to show your most recent shots while still getting a full viewfinder.
All in all, the biggest benefits of the G6's extra tall display are really just having a little bit of extra space for reading websites, scrolling social media, and watching videos. It's not necessarily game changing, it's just nice to have a larger screen in a smaller form factor, especially one that looks as good as the G6.
You might notice that some of your apps end up running in a 16:9 aspect ratio due to the increased height, but there's also a settings menu that lets you change how an app is displayed, on a per-app basis. So if you really want your favourite game to take up the entire display, you can force it to. Fortunately, given that Samsung is also moving toward taller displays, these sorts of issues will get better over the time.
It helps that the display is lovely too; after a weird misstep with last year's G5 where the screen was washed out, had poor viewing angles, and wasn't bright enough, the G6 is a return to form. All three issues have been addressed, and the G6 display is bright enough for comfortable use in strong outdoor light.
The display is also capable of playing Dolby Vision HDR video content, and the LG G6 is in fact the first smartphone to make that claim. However, almost no content is available other than some demo reals from LG, so I haven't been able to actually properly test this yet. The Netflix and Amazon Prime Video Android apps will both support Dolby Vision HDR content shortly, but for the time being, Dolby Vision is mostly a nice little bit of future-proofing that should resulting in a prettier streaming experience for select titles.
It's worth noting that the G6 is powered by a Snapdragon 821, which is technically last year's processor, and can be found in devices such as the Pixel and Pixel XL. While Qualcomm has announced the 835, it won't show up in Australia until a little later this year, and even midrange devices with less powerful processors than the 821 are delivering standout performance. It's really a much of a muchness; I didn't encounter a single hitch on the G6 through my testing.
LG's flagship smartphones have typically had pretty good cameras, and the G6 is no exception. In addition to performing well in daylight and being able to achieve a lovely shallow depth of field, it also lowlight photography. As with most smartphones, getting a perfect low light shot might take one or two tries, but when you get ir right, they turn out incredibly sharp and quite detailed. I took photos of burgers and shot glasses in very dim bars, but the resulting images look like they were taken in a much brighter environment. Some lowlight images - especially outdoors - are quite noisy when you zoom in, but not at the expense of detail.
The G6 also as a secondary camera module designed to replicate a wide-angle lens. The wide-angle lens is great for getting shots you normally couldn't - it's often much harder to move away from something than it is to get closer. No, that's not a country music metaphor for life, I'm still talking about photography. You do however get a touch of fisheye distortion in the resulting images. Distortion aside, the wide-angle images are almost on par with the quality you get from the primary lens. You'll miss you on a bit of detail (which is understandable), but there's no issues with odd exposure or colour balance.
You can swap between the cameras by either pinching to zoom or tapping a button. Both cameras are similarly quick to open, focus, and shoot.
The G6 is also LG's first water-resistant flagship smartphone, and is rated IP68. This has come at the cost of a removable battery, but I for one am happy to make that sacrifice. Especially because the G6's battery life is pretty solid. I found myself finishing most days with a 30% to 40% buffer, which should be more than enough for leeway when you're pushing the phone a little harder. Or when you stay out to 5am dancing.
What's Not So Good?
By default, LG's made a few changes to the Android operating system, but none of these are overly dramatic thankfully. The biggest issue for long-term Android faithful will be the lack of an app draw, but you can either download a version of the LG Home Screen that includes an app draw, or download an alternative like the Pixel Launcher or Nova Launcher.
There's a bit of superfluous software preinstalled on the phone that can't be removed, which is a shame. There's apps like Evernote, LG Friends, LG Health, and Smartworld that you simply can't delete, whether or not you have any LG Friends to call on. In addition, there's double ups with Google's core apps, so you end up with two email clients, two contacts apps, three note-taking apps, and so forth. It doesn't overly hurt the user experience, but it's kinda dumb.
There's a few other small issues with the G6, but they're mostly just nit-picking: The phone isn't enabled for Google Daydream virtual reality experiences, it starts with 32GB of expandable storage rather than 64GB, and — this might rate as my nit-pickiest nit-pick of the year — the display's corners aren't perfectly rounded (they look a pixel or two off).
One other issue is the G6's front-facing selfie camera. 5MP is quite a low resolution for a front-facing camera these days, results in images lacking detail and contrast. Selfies can also end up quite grainy, even in well-lit environments.
Who Is It For?
Are you after a flagship smartphone, but want to spend ever so slightly less than everyone else is asking without sacrificing much at all? Well the LG G6 is for you. It's an excellent value, gimmick-free smartphone that does a very good job at being a smartphone.
There's not much I can fault LG on this year. Despite undercutting the competition, the compromises you make the 32GB storage starting point, the lack of Daydream support, and the low-quality selfie camera. Everything else is there, from great rear-facing cameras to water-resistance.
And if you want a free TV and are okay with getting the G6 on a contract, a couple of Telstra plans are offering just that if you buy the phone for May 9. I'm not saying you should buy this phone for a free TV, but if you do, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
What Else Can I Buy?
Samsung Galaxy S8
The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ are the other two smartphones getting in on the whole extra-tall display thing, and are definitely worth considering if you're a Samsung fan. We still haven't gotten our hands on either, so it's hard to make a recommendation as we're not 100% sure about details like battery life, but the phones do look promising on paper.
iPhone 7 Plus
Want a two-camera setup that zooms in rather than zooms out? Well the iPhone 7 Plus is the phone for you, provided you're happy to choose iOS over Android. You don't get the slick extra tall display, but you're still getting a great device.
If you'd prefer a slightly cleaner take on Android and support for Google Daydream, the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL are your best options. There's no water-resistance, they're slightly more expensive, and don't have expandable storage, but they're impressive phones in their own right, and you'll be the first in line for software and security updates.