The LG G6 boasts everything we want in a phone, but is it enough?

LG's latest flagship would appear to deliver on design, durability, and battery life—but without any exciting features, it might struggle against other Android heavyweights.

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Michael Simon

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If there was ever a company that needed to return to the basics, it’s LG. Last year’s G5 was a concept wrapped in flagship clothing, and as such, its family of snap-on attachments never really caught on.

So this time around, LG went to the people to see what they wanted in a flagship phone. Somewhat surprisingly, the results weren’t wild, pie-in-the-sky features. They were actually fairly pedestrian: a big screen, small body, durability, waterproofing, and all-day battery life. And the G6 checks off all these boxes.

With a svelte frame, dual cameras, and an all-glass body, the G6 is certainly the phone of the moment. Stack it up against the Pixel, Galaxy S7, or even HTC’s yet-to-be-released U Ultra, and it more than holds its own, based on specs and features. But the question remains: Is a practical phone that delivers everything we need good enough?

Screen test

The G6 could well be LG’s best phone in years, but it’s also its safest. Pick one up, and you won’t find any gimmicks you have to try. Sure, the 18:9 screen is interesting, but the difference between it and a standard 16:9 one is fairly nominal, and most people won’t even realize that it’s proportionally bigger at first.

lg g6 hdr fixed Michael Simon

The G6’s 18:9 screen is its main selling point, but most people aren’t going to get what the big deal is.

LG has played up the usefulness of having a screen that can be divided into two perfect squares, but the majority of buyers will just see another phone with a big screen packed into a small frame. Granted, the 5.7-inch G6 is comfortable enough to use with one hand, and it’s quite impressive how much screen LG has packed into its body. But even there, its bezels aren’t quite as striking as the ones on the Xiaomi’s Mi Mix or even the Galaxy S7 Edge. They’re thin, but not to the point where you need to see the G6 to believe it.

The screen also supports Dolby Vision and HDR content, but like Sony’s 4K Xperia XZ Premium, it’s kind of overkill on a screen so small. Yes, the colors are much more vibrant when watching HDR-enabled videos, but watching movies on a phone is more about convenience than getting a theater-quality experience. HDR seems much more suited to a tablet or a television than a screen small enough to fit in one hand.

Die-hard dilemma

The G6 is in a much more difficult place than the upcoming S8 or the Pixel 2. It needs to give people an incentive to switch to a new brand of Android phone, not just upgrade from an older LG handset. The company has admitted that sales of the G5 and V20 were less than stellar, so it needs to convince people to join its fold.

lg g6 side Michael Simon

The G6 is a great-looking phone, but is it enough to lure Samsung or Huawei buyers away?

That’s a tall order. By the time the G6 hits U.S. shelves, that Galaxy S8 will likely be days away from its unveiling, and unless the G6 is priced several hundred dollars less (which seems unlikely), its launch is going to be seriously muted by the Samsung hype train. But even once the initial excitement dies down, the Galaxy S8 is going to be a sales monster, and any phone is going to have a hard time competing with it.

That’s why LG is trying to get a jump-start on sales, but an extra week or two of orders might not be enough to do it. From what we’ve heard, the S8 has a lot going for it, most notably the newest generation of Snapdragon chip. It was a calculated decision for LG to utilize the soon-to-be-outdated 821 processor rather than wait for the 835, but it’s going to be a hard sell convincing Android die-hards who see through the ruse. The 835 might not offer tremendous gains over the 821, but not having the latest chip is going to make the LG G6 seem outdated far sooner than it should.

lg g6 inside fixed Michael Simon

That’s a Snapdragon 821 in there, not the 835.

And the battery is going to turn off a section of its enthusiast buyers as well. Not its capacity—at 3,200mAh, it should be plenty big to get through the majority of most days—but its inability to be swapped out. Even before it entered the modular game, LG was the one of the last holdouts with a removable battery, and that fact alone likely attracted at least some buyers. Neither of these things are deal-breakers for the average buyer, but Android die-hards care about minutiae, and they aren’t likely to drop $600 or $700 for last year’s chip and an enclosed battery.

Angling for an advantage

One of the best selling points of any phone is the camera, and the G6 looks to have a fantastic one. Coupled with the unique proportions of the display and a user-friendly app that strikes a perfect balance between professional and consumer features, the G6 should be more than capable of capturing stunning shots.

lg g6 camera fixed Michael Simon

The G6’s camera app splits the screen into two perfect squares to help with shooting.

But even with a dual camera system, it’s missing a key feature. Once again, LG has chosen usefulness over coolness here, and its 13MP shooters are able to take wide-angle shots with a 125-degree field of view. It’s a neat feature for sure and will result in excellent landscape shots, but most other dual camera phones are used to mimic bokeh effects for portraits, a feature that’s quickly becoming de rigueur for smartphones.

It’s the kind of thing people show off to their friends, and it’s strange that LG wouldn’t include it. The ability to take wide-angle photos is certainly useful, but much like the screen, it doesn’t seem like reason enough for people to rush to buy a G6.

And that’s kind of the story with the G6. LG needed to hit a home run, but instead it made solid contact, getting the essential things right. There’s nothing gimmicky about it, which, after last year’s modular misstep, is probably a good thing, but there’s also nothing particularly compelling.

And with the Galaxy S8 looming around the corner, nailing the basics might not be enough.

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