FOX11, Los Angeles - The LG G line of phones earned a place in my home. I even purchased one for my daughter for her birthday one year. Since its inception, it’s been a solid contender with features that are well thought out and a robust build quality, despite some QC issues with the charge port. After a previous gen modular device which didn’t quite take off, LG is back to basics. And it works. Well.
What you get when you unbox the LG G6 is a solid performing phone which feels small compared to some of its competitors but feels great in hand. It was the first to market with the 18:9 aspect ratio on its 5.7” screen, touting Gorilla Glass 3 on the front and Gorilla Glass 5 on back. The screen ratio for the G6 is actually well suited for everything it does, which we’ll go into in more detail about, later in the article.
The phone “feels” or looks a tad chubby when viewing it from the side though it is still a nice looking device, to be sure. In this case though, that extra bit of girth makes for a delightful user experience. Unlike some thinner phones, the chamfered edges and size of the LG G6 leave you with a reassuring grasp on the device which doesn’t feel like it’s going to slip out of your hands if you readjust. Along those chamfered sides you’ll get your volume rocker (it’s no longer integrated into the rear), SIM/micro SD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, microphones, USB-C and a lone speaker at the bottom.
Besides the display on the front of the phone, you’ll also get the usual array of sensors, along with a front facing camera which has some cool tricks. The 5 megapixel camera has a wide-angle lens (100*) with an f-stop of 2.2 which will do okay for low lighting on its own but is helped out by the Selfie Light feature which will essentially turn the display itself into a fill light. There is also Auto Shot which detects faces and fires, as well as Gesture Shot which allows you to use a hand gesture to fire the photo. And, if you want your selfie more focused, you have the option to narrow the shot by switching to the 82* option. Groupie to selfie in a click! Now, I don’t know if it’s the beard obscuring the outline of my face, but I found that Auto Shot didn’t work consistently for me. This isn’t an isolated incident as Face Unlock on the Galaxy S8 didn’t work well for me either.
The back of the phone is where you’ll find the dual camera system. I’ll keep this real simple. You get two cameras in one package. One that takes wide angle shots (125*) and isn’t quite as adept at handling low light conditions, while the other shooter gets you 71* of imaging and does pretty well under low light. You can see the gallery above for the difference in low light shots taken with the G6, as well as the difference between wide and standard angle images. One of the biggest things you’ll notice going between the two is the level of noise in the former. Under solid lighting they both look great and you get the added benefit of a wider field of vision with the ease of tapping an on-screen button. One of the places that the LG G6’s camera really shines is in the video department. I used the G6 one weekend to shoot an automotive review of the Chevy Impala, inside the car, and it handled it exceptionally well. The footage, as I looked at it on my laptop in Adobe Premiere Pro, looked almost as good at 1080P/60 frames, as that which came out of my Samsung NX1 mirrorless camera (shot in 4K 60fps). In a moving car, the optical image stabilization did an exceptional job of helping to produce video which looked smooth and steady despite the fact that the phone was handheld and not attached to any kind of tripod or gimbal-type rig. I must say that I was quite impressed with the video quality! But, that doesn’t come without some caveats. If you’re going to use the wide-angle lens then you will need to know that it will be noisy indoors under poor lighting. For example, if you’re shooting some video inside your home on an overcast day, that video will look a bit dark and grainy. Shoot before noon on a sunny day with light streaming in through your windows and the results will be much improved. Check out some of the camera samples in the photo gallery at the top of this article.
Internally, the LG G6 has been ruggedized and comes with an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance. It utilizes the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor with 4GB of RAM to keep things peppy. The base model comes with 32GB of storage but that shouldn’t be an issue with microSD storage available to users. Of that 32GB of onboard storage, just a quick note. System files will take up around 10GB worth of space, so you’re really getting only 20 something GB of storage before you throw in that microSD card. That beautiful display we talked about earlier, also has some internal tricks up its sleeve. It’s been certified for Dolby Vision and is HDR 10 ready, which is good news as Netflix recently began rolling out version 5 of its Android app, which it says will support HDR on the LG G6 when you update.
Though the battery is only rated at 3,300mAh you’re still going to get solid use out of the phone. It’s on par with most current devices, so you’ll see roughly 10 hours use out of the LG G6 but 12 hours is not outside the realm of possibility and I did have days where I got that kind of use. Just know that if you’re hammering the phone, taking hundreds of pictures a day and recording videos, marathon conference calls, you will run down that battery quicker. If you do run down in the middle of the day though, you’ll be glad to know that the phone is equipped with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 and this U.S. version also supports wireless charging.
LG actually does a pretty good job of getting out of Android’s way and bringing some solid functionality to the operating system in this 6.0 version of their overlay. Built on top of Android 7.0 Nougat, the 6.0 UX has some neat tweaks which take advantage of the taller screen, as well as some very smart, common sense functionality enhancements.
One of those enhancements is in the soft buttons you’re able to customize at the bottom of the screen. In addition to the usual home, back and recent apps soft buttons, you can add a Capture+, QSlide and a Notifications button to the navigation bar. Of those, the Notifications button is probably going to be one of those options that you’ll wish you had on every Android going forward. It does just what it sounds like, it activates the notification shade, up and down. This is a good thing, having a phone with the 18:9 display which is taller than usual. The other feature, which is among my favorites since it was first introduced on the LG G2 is KnockOn. This feature just makes sense on any device where the fingerprint scanner is on the rear of the device. With the screen off, you simply knock on the screen to wake the display and see your notifications. With the screen on, you can knock on it to put it to sleep.
The tweaks to the software also enhance functionality of the phone and are well thought out, except for one. Kind of. Let’s get to that first. From the lock screen you can see your missed notifications by way of icons, which is cool. Unfortunately, they aren’t actionable. Not cool. Though you have control over which notifications show up on the lock screen, they’re only there as a notification of what you’ve missed and nothing more. You can’t tap on a notification and be taken to the actual item you’re being notified about.
Where LG really hit the nail on the head is with the Square Camera app. The app gives you a few options for taking square photos, perfect for Instagram. One mode allows you to take a picture and see a preview of it immediately below, the next allows for you to take a few pictures or short clips and the camera will stitch them all together automatically, and then there’s a grid shot mode. That mode allows you to make a collage of photos where the camera will do the work of creating that collage for you. The final square camera mode will allow you to recreate a photo you’ve seen elsewhere by allowing you to overlay your camera image over the image you’re trying to copy, this is Guide Shot mode, which makes it easy to recreate the same framing or shot composition.
The other upside to the software is that the G6 was the first device outside of Google’s own, to receive Google Assistant. That’s relevant especially with all of the updates to Assistant that Google just announced at I/O 2017. Now, it’s just a matter of time to see how many of those new features announced actually go live in Google Assistant, and it helps if you also have Google Home in the mix, but it’s still an exciting time to be using the AI technology.
At the end of the day, the LG G6 is a very capable phone. It takes pictures that are as good or better (in some cases) as the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus that I recently reviewed, but for a smaller price. The software is slick, the phone feels great in hand and you get a great display that will have some great media viewing technology once apps like Netflix update to work with Dolby Vision. The LG G6 is definitely a device that won’t leave you feeling like you should’ve purchased a different flagship phone as it holds its own among them. It really all comes down to what exactly you want and how much you’re willing to pay for it. For example, the G6 is almost $280 less than the S8 at Verizon at the time of this writing. Decisions. Decisions.
Disclosure: Verizon provided me with a demo unit for the purpose of this review.