[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are two big dogs so far this year when it comes to flagships — the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6 (with an honourable and very notable mention to the Huawei P10). With Samsung battling brand reliability issues post-Note 7 fiasco, this is LG’s big chance to make some inroads into the stranglehold that Samsung have on the Android market.
After a few days with the LG G6 my opinion was “fantastic hardware, average software”. Now after nearly two weeks with the phone and using it as I would a daily driver I have some definite opinions and thoughts on it. Read on to find out if my first impressions were the same as my feelings a couple of weeks later.
LG G6: Design
One of the best things about the LG is it’s dimensions. At 148.9 x 71.9 x 7.9 mm it feels smaller than what it actually is. It is smaller than the Pixel XL but with a taller display. I wasn’t sure what I would think about it but I now believe that 18:9 displays are the way of the future.
The phone, owing to the fact that it has chambered edges and is 18:9 format sits comfortably in the hand and is easy to hold. If the Pixel XL MkII is this shape I will be very happy.
The back of the LG G6 is pure bling. The review unit is platinum in colour and with the added Gorilla Glass 5 on the back surface it sparkles. Some people have complained about the back surface being a fingerprint magnet but they aren’t as visible on the platinum surface as they are the black.
What I did not like about the platinum was that LG included platinum bezels on the front — all the way around the display. While they aren’t massive, to me it makes the phone look cheap. I much prefer the full black face on phones. There is always the black version if you are the same as me.
As I said in the first impressions post the front of this phone is all about the display. The front display only have Gorilla Glass 3 on it which is a strange decision considering 4 and 5 were both improvements in various ways over 3. Only thing I can think of is cost cutting but now is not the time for LG to be doing that. The Galaxy S8 has Gorilla Glass 5 on all surfaces. Opportunity missed by LG.
LG have placed the fingerprint sensor, which doubles as the power button, on the back of the phone. It is easy to reach but hard to find. As for the V20 LG have used a relatively small fingerprint sensor that nearly sits flush with the back of the device. If you are not using a case (which would negate all the cool bling and GG5 they placed on the back) it is difficult to consistently and quickly locate the sensor. I found myself missing it quite often — sometimes I didn’t know if my finger was on it or not and if it was just not reading it properly.
The sensor itself, when found was slow and failed often. Very different to the Huawei and Pixel sensors although this could be a software issue. When it did work occasionally the display would go black (no more “Always on”) and it would take a while to open the phone. By “a while” I mean a few seconds. Not great.
The LG G6 is waterproof which so many phones have these days. It is nice not having to worry about a small splash of water onto the device rendering it useless. In saying that I will not be testing it out by using it in the shower or swimming with it. If you want to see that there are plenty of crazy folk on YouTube who love to test these features on their phones.
LG G6: Hardware
The build quality is really good and for a high-end phone such as this it is expected. It feels solid in the hand and not at all fragile. The addition of the glass to the back added to the curvature of the phone allowing it to sit comfortably in the hand.
The front display sits flush with the sides of the phone which makes it easier to apply a tempered glass screen protector (the plastic one that is pre-installed by LG is junk — plastic screen protectors were surpassed by tempered glass protectors a long time ago). The display sitting flat and flush with the sides makes the experience of using the display without a screen protector with curved edges (or a display that is curved) not very pleasant.
LG have always included decent hardware in their flagships and the G6 is no different. The processor is a Qualcomm MSM8996 Snapdragon 821, a slightly upgraded version of the processor in the Pixel phones. Combined with 4GB of RAM it should be enough to power the device at lightning speeds. Unfortunately I did not experience this. The more I used the phone the slower it got.
For example, using the stopwatch in the clock app at the gym it lagged and slowed such that when I tried to pause it it would not pause for several seconds, by which time I thought I had missed the button so had pressed it again. Eventually it caught up with the taps. The same for the time displayed — it was sloooow and then all of a sudden sped through the time to catch up.
The processor is essentially the same as that in the Pixel XL, except the one in the G6 is clocked at higher speeds. The OnePlus 3T has the same processor as the G6. Yet, by all reports (I am yet to use a OnePlus 3T), only one of the three phones mentioned above lags.
Apps were slower to open than on other flagship phones as well. LG may have included top notch hardware in their flagship but it certainly didn’t perform like this.
LG have included only 32GB of onboard storage on this phone which is woefully inadequate. Sure, there is a microSD slot to house a microSD card up to 256GB but that is not a good solution and here’s why — sd cards corrupt. I had a card that I had used for over a week in it. A brand new Sandisk 64GB card, where all my photos etc were stored automatically by the G6. Last Thursday, while the phone was just sitting next to me on the desk while I was Ausdroiding, a notification popped up saying the SD card was not working correctly. The only way to fix it was to format it. Great. Every single photo, and everything else on that card, gone.
For LG to cut corners and only include 32GB makes me wonder who is making their decisions. The cost saving to use 32GB over 64GB is miniscule, especially when they should be going “all-in” on this phone after their disappointing 2016 and Samsungs Note 7 woes. There is a 64GB version circulating with the Harvey Norman version meant to be 64GB but their websites say otherwise.
There is only a single mono-speaker down the bottom which is only just passable. It is not as loud as other speakers and my feelings on bottom firing speakers has not changed — they are in the wrong place as often when playing media and games landscape the speakers are muffled by your hands. The speaker itself is not as loud, nor as crisp as that in the Pixel XL but is acceptable.
The ambient light sensor seems to work but not as smoothly, nor as fast as that in the Mate 9. I found myself continually having to adjust the brightness myself which I have not had to do for a while.
LG have included Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 in the G6, although it seems the charger included in the box is only QC2.0. Either way, the Quick Charge is handy when the battery is low. Interestingly, LG went with Quick Charge instead of the PD of USB Type-C — Google are the only ones using the power delivery? Even more strange was the fact that my Nexus 6P AND the Pixel XL charger were able to charge the G6 just as fast as the Fast Charge charger included in the box. All three went from 10% to 70% in one hour. Not sure how this happened but I tested it quite a few times and am confident in my statement.
Some of the other things LG have done well with the hardware include the headphone jack and a DAC but unfortunately the Telstra version of the G6 comes without DAC and without wireless charging. Surprising and disappointing considering the LG V20 version Australia received last year had the Quad DAC in it (and sounded amazing). JB HiFi and Harvey Norman sell the DAC G6 outright so if you want that you now know where to get it.
LG G6: Display
The display is a 1440 x 2880 pixel (564 ppi) IPS LCD protected by Gorilla Glass 3. The display does not have to vibrant colours of an AMOLED display but seems a lot more natural. Powered by a 3300mAh battery it just manages to last a full day. We have seen some reports from Ausdroid readers saying they had over 6 hours of SOT. I used the always on display and the phone how LG say you should and I experienced nowhere near that but at no time was a careful about how I used it — the G6 was used how I believe a phone should be used. It lasted me all day until I got home from work — that’s enough for me.
The front of the phone is all display. The display is taller than the Pixel XL display, yet the phone is smaller. The display area between the two is very similar but when using it the 18:9 display of the G6 seemed a lot larger. The 18:9 format doesn’t play well with all apps but LG have included some decent software that allows you to stretch the app out to fill the display.
The multi-display as two even squares works really well and came in very handy, although so many apps are not yet optimised for multi-display just yet. LG have done a good job with the software here giving you the option to bring up the icon and stretch the app to fill the display.
The colours of the display were not as vibrant as those on the Mate 9 and LG have not included any software to change the colour levels. You can alter the white balance to several of their presets but there is no way to make the colours more vibrant, which most people prefer. I know it is not true colour reproduction this way but it is something that most manufacturers are including in their software skins these days.
The display is bright and was able to be seen in sunlight without an issue.
LG G6: Camera
The camera on LG phones has been good for several years and this is no exception. Chris did a LG G6 camera shootout with the Pixel and the Huawei P9 and it came out on top. It is easy to see why. Without any frills it just takes good pictures. The exposure performs well in all situations with low light images turning out well exposed and detailed.
The software is good but in my opinion does not take advantage of the dual cameras on the LG G6. There are some great fine grain manual control for taking photos but there is little in the way of what some people would call gimmicks but most people seem to like. Bokeh, adjusting focus distance after taking a photo etc – the LG G6 has dual cameras and LG could have done so much more to leverage their quality.
The widescreen is very useful for capturing that extra piece of information while taking some shots but in most cases it is not required. I have included a couple of examples below.
One thing I have to make note of is saving to the sd card. The camera will ask you to save images to the sd card. Even though the phone will most likely only have 32GB I have to say don’t do it. I have a high quality 64GB Sandisk Class 10 XC1 microSD card and not only did it become corrupted by the G6 at one stage but at others the phone struggled while trying to save images to the microSD card. I took some great shots of my kids on their scooters but the camera stopped while trying to save the images to the microSD card. I could not take any more shots while it was doing this. Eventually the app crashed and I lost every single one of those images. When using internal storage these issues were not apparent. Why oh why did LG only put 32GB in this phone?
LG G6: Connectivity
The LG G6 includes all the usual connectivity options including dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth v4.2 with aptX HD. There is A-GPS, GLONASS and BDS, NFC and an FM radio. The big disappointment here is the version of Bluetooth. Version 5.0 has been out for a while now and brings a lot of new changes to the Bluetooth stack so to include it in a phone that is meant to eat into Samsung’s market is very disappointing because guess what, the Samsung Galaxy S8 includes version 5.0.
There is VoLTE included when used on the Telstra network which is the first time I have used it. Was nice to have but did it really make that much difference? Not to me.
As I said in my first impressions post, the LG phones in the past have had a sketchy connection when connecting to Android Auto. This one was the same. I managed to connect every single other phone I have in my drawer with no issues at all but not the LG G6. I went and tested it on a different Pioneer headunit and eventually it worked after reconnecting a couple of times, same with the VW car I tested it in and the Pioneer at JB Hifi. The problem was though that it ONLY worked with the LG cable and not any of the aftermarket cables I have (and I only use the expensive good cables for Android Auto). LG really need to look into these issues because while it eventually worked (using the LG cable) it was a battle — and it shouldn’t be.
LG G6: Software — skin
LG have never been great at software. Their skin has always been an eyesore and slowed the device down to throw-against-the-wall levels. In 2017 LG have ever so slightly improved how their skin looks but it is still a drag on the system resources resulting in a device that lags when it really should not.
The settings menu, while I have gotten used to the layout is still ugly, as is the quick settings panel. I’m not sure why these manufacturers continue to do this with their skins. It does amaze me that none of them offer a Material Design alternative when they do offer so many ugly themes you can apply.
Although LG continue to butcher the beauty that is Matias Duarte’s Android in 2017, they do offer a solution through themes. While the themes are not as extensive as what Huawei offer with EMUI 5.0 it can make the device a lot more enjoyable to use. LG offer many themes through their LG Smartworld but they are all fairly average. There are so many more on the Play Store that are so much better. My two favourites were Pixel UX and Pixel Dark. You can see them in comparison to LG’s theme below.
LG’s UX changes very little the function of Android which is good and bad. I like the way Android functions but if a manufacturer is going to skin their device at least make it worthwhile by adding useful tweaks and functionality. LG skin the device a lot but offer very little in added functionality. The only useful additions were “App scaling” (necessary for 18:9 display at this stage), “Always on display” and double tap volume down button to launch camera. Not much in return for the attack on the visual senses that LG UX is.
Can I live with it? Probably. It has grown on me — without the themes, definitely not. In the past few days, since I have started writing this I have noticed many times when the UI would slow down. The phone taking several seconds to turn on after recognising fingerprint, the phone hanging for a while, apps taking a while to open, open apps lagging behind presses. LG have done an amazing job with the hardware but the severe lack of optimisation in their software is extremely disappointing. I was beginning to think this may just be my next but now, not so much.
LG G6: Software — Stock Apps
LG have spent a lot of time designing their own stock apps and I really have no idea why. Their apps, aside from being ugly as sin, don’t seem to offer any additional functionality over Google’s apps. I assume it is because they don’t want to have too much reliance on Google that they don’t use Google’s apps but they’ve shown time and again that they don’t “get” software. Maybe they should defer to someone who does.
The LG keyboard is possibly the worst I have ever tried — basically every single aftermarket keyboard is much better. Once again it astounds me why more manufacturers don’t include aftermarket keyboards as stock – OnePlus 3T has Swiftkey, Huawei Mate 9 has Swype.
The LG Launcher is better than in previous years but you need to download the launcher with the app drawer (well, after a factory reset you do) if you want to use something useful. The launcher is still not great with no extra functionality over a very basic stock AOSP launcher. The Huawei launcher at least had some good additional features that I wish were included in Nova. I think it is high time that some of these manufacturers do something about this launcher situation — buy Nova, buy Apex, buy Action Launcher, whatever, just stop giving us this half-baked effort. LG have a Google Now type home screen called Smart Bulletin. LG, no one is going to use your Smart Bulletin if the launcher is not up to snuff. Smart Bulletin is also fairly average with very little useful information — it seems not finished.
Once Nova, Swiftkey and a theme were installed it was a totally different device but the lagging still featured in a day to day use of the phone.
I really wanted to like this phone. I even gave it one more try after writing most of this review but after having it continually not turn on while at my nephew’s 21st it became apparent that there are some serious software gremlins at work here. The phone seems to reboot without booting — when the screen goes black and hangs for an extended period of time the usual press and hold the power button for 10 seconds does seem to reboot it, without a boot animation. The clock just appears all of a sudden, with a sort of boot screen square around it. It hangs here for around 30 seconds until it finally becomes functional again. Maybe I got a dud but can only report and review on the device I have in hand.
LG G6: Conclusion
I had high hopes for the LG G6. I love a big display and to have a device with a big display that also fits nicely in the hand sounded too good to be true. Add in the high end specs that match and better the Pixel XL so yes, I had very high hopes for the G6. Unfortunately the software experience let me down. It let the decent hardware down. It let the well-designed phone down.
At first the device was relatively fast but after about 7-10 days it slowed, a lot. There were times I wasn’t sure if it was turning on or not. A couple of times I had to wait in inordinate amount of time before it unlocked. The apps opened slowly at times and some of the apps just ground to a halt while using them. A stopwatch app should not lose time — it is digital — but it did. And then it found it and sped up and then down again. You get the picture.
These software issues were not present every single time I used the phone but at least a few times a day they reared their ugly heads. After using a Pixel XL for so long the lag really got to me — it is certainly not something I am used to. When we review phones we look for things that are wrong with it. Things that may prevent people from buying it, things that they may dislike about the phone. I found the software to be not a great experience on this phone and it is a pity. Form factor and hardware are near perfect.
The form factor is nearly perfect in my opinion. Even though it lacks onboard storage– a flagship with only 32GB of onboard storage in 2017 is not up to scratch, the hardware is really top notch. You can buy the 64GB version with DAC outright from Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi but unfortunately it still comes with the same version of Android and the same LG UX skin.
Hopefully LG will optimise the software a lot more when it brings 7.1.1 to the G6 — apparently when it launches in the States in the next week or 2 it is meant to be launching with 7.1.1. At the moment I am struggling to find it hard to recommend it to anyone. The hardware inside this device could (and should) make it fly but unfortunately LG miss where they have so often missed — software.
If you feel this device could be for you you can purchase a version with 64GB and DAC outright from Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi for $1199 or you can buy the single SIM, 32GB, no DAC, no wireless charging version on contract from Telstra starting at $82 per month for only 1GB of data. For plans on or above the $95+ Go Mobile Plus Mobile Plan Telstra and LG are offering a bonus LG 43″ Smart TV.
Editors note: We have contacted LG Australia to seek their comments on the slow and inconsistent performance issues we’ve noticed with our supplied review unit, and at the time of publishing, they’ve not come back to us with a substantive response. We’ve decided to publish this review with the unit as supplied.
If LG come back to us with substantive information about anything they’re doing to address performance issues with the LG G6, we’ll publish that information separately.