It has been a strange few years for LG. The company seemed to have broken into the upper echelons of smartphones a few years ago, riding high on the success of devices like the Nexus 4 and 5 and the G2 and G3. It also won accolades for its innovative with the likes of the bend-y Flex range.
And then it all kind of went eerily quiet.
Back to big time for LG?
The last couple of years has actually seen LG looking a bit lost in the smartphone wars. It is not as if the company has stopped making good devices – the G3, G4, G5 and the V20 came with some very good hardware and software touches, even if their design seemed a tad predictable. However, they were overshadowed by the “budget flagship” brigade from China (headed by the likes of Xiaomi and OnePlus) and seemingly superior (read “more high-profile” and “better marketed”) phones from Google, Huawei and LG’s arch nemesis, Samsung. And while the fortunes of the mobile side of the brand are not quite in the states in which its counterparts in HTC and Sony are, there has been a sense of all not being well in the mobileland of LG.
It is in this scenario that the G6 has joined the smartphone wars, 2017 edition.
And to be honest, while it was easily one of the most impressive devices on display at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, it has had to deal with the long shadow of the Samsung Galaxy S8, which seems to have already aced it in terms of design and display, if some reviews are to be believed. Having received the unit a day ago and spent some time with it, however, I have a feeling that LG has got a few things right this time around, and noble though the S8 is, it is not quite the runaway winner over the LG flagship that some are making it out to be.
Memories of a Nexus 5 day!
We have got the black edition of the G6, and we will be upfront about it and say that it gives us that very pleasant Nexus 5 feels. We were hit by the same “is it actually just THAT big” feeling when we held the G6 that we had when we got the super compact Nexus 5. No, LG has not indulged in the sort of bezel bashing that Xiaomi and Samsung have with the Mix and the S8, respectively – the G6 does have visible bezels on the sides of its display – but that does not change the fact that it is an incredibly compact phone. In spite of packing in a 5.7-inch display, it is a mere 148.9 mm long (the iPhone 7 Plus for instance is 158.2 mm long in spite of having a smaller 5.5-inch display and even the 5.5-inch display sporting Pixel XL has a 154.7 mm length), 71.9 mm wide and a reasonably slim 7.9 mm. At 163 grams it is relatively lightweight as well. This is one of the biggest displays that we think can be managed relatively easily with a single hand (provided it is not too dainty). Shades of the Nexus 5, eh?
However, similarities with that worthy cease when you clap eyes on the G6’s person. While the Nexus 5 was in best Small Wonder tradition ‘fantastic, built of plastic,” the G6 is a very contrary beast, with a Corning Gorilla Glass 5 front and rear with a metal frame in the middle. The spaces above and below the 5.7-inch display are relatively small, keeping the form factor compact (the navigation buttons are onscreen). There are a few eccentricities on the sides – the volume buttons are on the left side, while the dual SIM card try comes out from the right. The fingerprint scanner which also doubles as the home button is on the back. One can get used to it, I guess.The company has placed the 3.5 mm jack right at the top of the device and the USB Type-C port at the base, flanked by a single speaker. The back is glossy (though not iPhone Jet Black or HTC U Ultra Glossy) and apart from the fingerprint scanner has dual 13.0-megapixel cameras (one with a f/1.8 aperture and another with a f/2.4 aperture)with a dual LED flash. It is one of those devices that looks a trifle dull in gray but looks very striking in black! We would say this is perhaps the best looking LG device since the G2 (which incidentally kicked off the bezel-killing war, if you remember).
The phone is water and dust resistant and packs in some very good hardware – the 5.7 inch display is quad HD and has a rather different-from-routine 18:9 aspect ratio, those dual cameras have a number of tricks up their sleeves including 2X optical zoom, the phone packs in 4 GB RAM and 64 GB storage (expandable if you use the hybrid SIM slot) and seems to be carrying forward the V20’s tradition of delivering very good sound (why no dual speakers, though?) and has pretty much every connectivity base covered – 4G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS and even NFC. All topped off with Android Nougat out of the box. If there are Achilles Heels, they exist in the fact that the chip powering all this (the Snapdragon 821) is now seen as a notch below the Snapdragon 835 which is likely to drive most of Android flagships this year (and already powers the Galaxy S8, but not in India), and that the front facing 5.0-megapixel camera seems a tad modest in front of those with much higher megapixel counts from the competition. Opinions are mixed about the 3300 mAh battery, which some are considering too small to run a relatively large quad HD display, but we can comment on that only after having used the device extensively (what better place to plug our forthcoming review? Stay tuned, stay tuned).
Taking on the “THAT DISPLAY” phone
The biggest question that the G6 will have to answer, however, is whether all those specs and what they churn out can justify what is, in this day age, a premium price tag. Yes, LG has undercut the price of the Galaxy S8, which starts at Rs 57,900, but the Samsung flagship seems to have stolen a small march, given all the hoopla around the Infinity Display (honestly, it does not look VERY different from the S7 Edge, but that is just me) which has succeeded in camouflaging the fact that the company has not released the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 edition of the device in India. Go beyond the “OH MY GOD THAT DISPLAY” screaming, however, and the G6 does seem to have a few aces up its slim sleeves. The most significant of those is likely to be that dual camera setup, especially given the fact that the S8 did not perceptibly up the camera ante from its predecessor. Sound is another department where LG has been stealing a march on Samsung, although its inability to highlight this has stopped it from leveraging it to the fullest (the V20 had fantastic audio capabilities and the G6 seems to have taken a few leaves from that audio book!).
And it is essential for LG that the G6 outslug the S8. No, it is not just a matter of rivalry, but the simple fact that given the arrival of devices like the OnePlus 3T, the Nubia Z11, the Moto Z and the Mi 5 (all of whose successors are incidentally set to be unleashed shortly), the number of people willing to shell out more than Rs 50,000 for a phone is diminishing. That leaves the likes of Sony, HTC, Samsung, LG and (surprise, surprise) even Google slugging it out for a relatively smaller piece of the smartphone market pie. There no longer is room enough for all at the top of the premium smartphone pile.
At the end of it all, I suspect the 2017 edition of the LG vs Samsung flagship wars is going to be all about cameras clashing against displays. Just how that one plays out remains to be seen. Our initial take of the LG G6 – the black looks gorgeous, the spec sheet respectable, the display brilliant, and the form factor very compact. Now, for those cameras, on whose shoulders lies the responsibility of matching up to THAT display. Time for one more plug? Okay then!
(Images by Akriti Rana)