Update, 2/21/17: This post has been updated with a press release from LG about the the new camera’s capabilities.
With Mobile World Congress just around the corner, everyone is going to be on the lookout for the hottest new Android phone. This year that won’t be Samsung’s Galaxy S8, as the company has already announced that it won’t be bringing its flagship handset to Barcelona this year, so the attention will be squarely on LG and its G6.
Last year’s G5 made a splash for its quirky modular concept, but after disappointing sales (and an equally flat V20), LG will be looking to capitalize on Samsung’s absence with a major release that gives people a reason to buy one of its handsets again. And based on what we’re hearing, the new G6 might do just that.
No more Friends
New phones are always an improvement over their predecessors, but the G6 is shaping up to be a complete departure from the G5. Last year, LG introduced its modular phone concept, which features a handset and a set of swappable Friends designed to bring added functionality. There was a bigger battery, camera grip, and a digital audio converter, but ultimately the system was too clunky to catch on. Thankfully, LG seems to be scrapping the idea altogether, and from what we’ve heard, the G6 will be a standard handset without any removable parts.
Last year’s G5 was a relatively small phone, with a 5.3-inch, 1440 x 2560 display. With the G6, LG is going bigger. LG Display has already outed the screen for its new flagship handset: a “Full Vision” 5.7-inch LCD screen with a slightly taller than usual ratio of 18:9. The size is a little strange for a phone, but LG says the extra height “will provide users with greater immersion than previous displays and allow consumers to multitask by using (Nougat’s) dual-screen feature.” In addition to the size, LG says the screen will be thinner and more responsive than its previous displays, as well as being easier to see in direct sunlight and more power efficient. The pictures that have been circulating also show a screen with rounded corners, a departure from the right-angle corners we’re used to seeing.
In its official invitation for the Mobile World Congress press release, LG all but confirms the images we’ve seen, showing an image of a completely bezel-less screen with the words “Big Screen” above it. Next to the image is a diagram of a hand holding a schematic of the screen under “That Fits,” with the implication being that the form factor will be somewhat small despite the large display.
The Verge has posted what looks to be a product rendering for the G6, and from what we can see, it’s a beauty. Based on an image of the top half of the device, it has an ultra-skinny bezel and just enough room above the display to fit the camera and sensors. Reportedly, the screen-to-bezel ratio is greater than 90 percent, which should kick off a year full of handsets with edge-to-edge screens.
Images of a leaked prototype published by Droid Life seems to confirm the slim bezels, as well as the existence of a headphone jack at the top of the device. And like the G5, there will be a USB-C port on the bottom and a fingerprint sensor on the back, since there’s nary any room on the front.
LG hasn’t done a very good job with keeping the details of the G6 secret, but it actually outed one of its best features in a teaser video. In a series of interviews describing people’s wish lists for their ideal smartphone, it highlights waterproof alongside big screen, smaller body, and reliability, so it’s a safe bet that the new handset will be able to get wet. However, that likely means the battery won’t be removable, which has been one of the defining characteristics of previous G handsets. We haven’t heard any rumors about how big the battery will be, but we’re hoping it packs enough juice to get that giant screen through a whole day of use.
LG was one of the first phones to introduce a dual-camera system, and it’s not about to downgrade for the G6. The G6 included a 16MP main camera and an 8MP super-wide-angle one, which allowed for images with a 135-degree field of view, along with an f/1.8 aperture and optical image stabilization. Prototype pictures have shown that the G6 will come equipped with a dual-camera setup as well, though we don’t know too much about it. However, we expect that LG will get into the portrait game for depth-of-field images.
The company has confirmed that both rear cameras will be 13MP, with one dedicated to capturing images with a 125-degree angle, slightly smaller than the 135-degree wide-angle lens that was on the G5. Additionally, the front camera will also shoot in a wide 100-degree angle, letting your selfies feel a little roomier without needing to attach your phone to a stick.
LG has also upgraded the camera app in its Nougat-based UX 6.0 to take advantage of the larger screen. According to a press release by LG itself, in addition to a new Food Mode, which “delivers high color quality and saturation,” LG is also building a Square Camera feature into the new OS to take advantage of the G6’s unique proportions. By dividing the screen into two perfect squares, LG explains, “users can shoot images in 1:1 format—a popular format on social media apps such as Instagram—and review them in the adjacent window.”
Chip and OS
While Samsung’s Galaxy S8 is all but confirmed to get the Snapdragon 835 processor, it seems that LG will have to rely on last year’s best chip to power the G6. Qualcomm is reportedly waiting until Samsung’s spring launch to debut its new chip in a smartphone, and a leaked slide published by Android Community all but confirms the 821 as the brawn behind the G6. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the chip is plenty capable inside the Pixel and OnePlus 3T, and beefy enough to run Daydream VR games, but a lot will depend on LG’s interface.
Traditionally, LG has added numerous themes, features, and apps to Android, with varying results, and from what LG has shown us, UX 6.0 will continue in that vein. In a press release, LG has spotlighted its unique spin on multitasking on the G6, utilizing identical side-by-side windows to offer its own spin on Nougat’s multitasking. The 18:9 screen divides the screen into two perfect squares, which LG is touting as a better way to work: “Open a call reception window next to the calendar app or the photo gallery at the same time as the message app. Multiple square photographs can be connected together and viewed as a Collage Wallpaper on the lock screen. Type a memo on one side while surfing the web on the other. Inside the calendar app, turning the G6 horizontally will display the calendar in the left window while a detailed schedule will appear on the right. The combinations are endless.”
While some other handsets have been moving to Bluetooth audio for their audio needs, LG seems to be going all-in on wired audio. For one, the various leaks of the G6 indicate that LG will be keeping the headphone jack around for at least one more year, much to the delight of wired earbud fans everywhere.
But more interesting is the inclusion of an upgraded Quad digital-to-analog converter. According to a press release by LG itself, the DAC, an upgraded version of the one that first made its appearance in last year’s V20, “features fine control of left and right sound, enhancing sound balance and reducing noise. ... The new Quad DACs have increased circuit integration, lowering the negative distortion to 0.0002 percent of the luxury audio level and minimizing the loss of acoustic information. As the loss of information is less, the listener can hear a clean sound close to the original sound.” Clearly, LG will be positioning the G6 as a premium product for traditional audio enthusiasts, and will likely use it as a selling point against the HTC U and other Android phones using USB-C and Bluetooth to handle audio.
Price and availability
LG has announced that it will be showing off the G6 for the first time at noon (3:00 am PST) on Feb. 26 at the Saint Jordi Club in Barcelona. Despite the announcement, however, VentureBeat reports the phones won’t hit U.S. shelves until April 7, which will likely bump up against the anticipated release of the Galaxy S8, which is due to be unveiled in late March. Pricing is likely to be in the range of the $650 G5, though there are conflicting reports on exactly how much it might cost. A report from the Wall Street Journal suggests the price could dip into the $500-$600 range, while another rumor suggests the G6 could have slightly varying prices depending on the market.