Saturday, 7 July 2018

LG G6

I thought it was about time I got a 2:1 screened phone in to see what difference it made to general usage. It was a coin-spin between a Samsung Galaxy S8 and the LG G6. I landed on the latter purely on cost. Well, maybe not purely! We won't go there.

My short appraisal is that I think these manufacturers have done it right. The tall-narrow thing just works brilliantly in the hand. You can get all the benefits of the big-screened monsters, this one being 5.7", but by shifting the dimensions, it makes it so much more pocketable and for better handling. There's an App Scaling mode if you want to push content that's not 2:1-ready out to the edge of the screen. But the 2:1 screen is not the whole story.

The cost of the LG G6 is coming down. Clove have an offer on just now for £480 including an LG Watch Style, if that's your thing, which makes it feel even less money (particularly if you can sell the watch on). The Samsung models are creeping down too, but not at the same rate.

There's talk about the device's Snapdragon 821 being very 'last year' but I honestly can't see what the fuss is about. I think we've got to the stage now where unless you're a really heavy gamer, anything Snapdragon 625 and above seems perfectly capable of running anything Android can throw at it smoothly - particularly, as here, with 4GB RAM. This unit has got 32GB storage, though other models for other markets have various amounts.

The G6 is very similar to the Nexus 5X they made in terms of overall feel and dimensions, but of course with better specs and much less bezel, making way for almost all of the front being a display. For 'tis the trend. The body of the device is surprisingly light in the hand at 163g, back and front covered in gorgeous Gorilla Glass held together by a classy metal surround travelling around the edge. Compared to the Samsung, it's kind of 'chunky' and 'square' in profile round the sides, not slippery-slope tapered. And I prefer that. It feels substantial and not like you're going to drop it. It's IP68 certified for dust and water (1.5meter/30minutes).

The volume buttons and SIM Tray are made well and of the same metal and feel classy. Inside, the SIM Tray is plastic, but I wanted to mention it because the Nano SIM Card and MicroSD Card fit into the slots perfectly. So often cards just fall out of these trays and you end up having to use gravity as your friend! So anyway, you can enjoy the look and feel of the gorgeous build for a good 5-10 minutes before you, by necessity, case-it for life! If you don't, you will break the glass! I'm pleased to say that Cruzerlite have made a Bugdroid Circuit for the G6 and it fits, as usual, like a glove.

Talking of bezels, I think LG have got it right and maybe Samsung have not. They've pushed the screen almost out to the edges but left the glass 'flat' and allowed a little space all-round for actually holding it and not touching the screen. It'll be a personal thing, but I think it's nail on the head time for me.

What they didn't get right is the choice of an LCD screen, which needs to have the brightness wound right up as a baseline, thereby drinking in more of the (not huge) battery. I function quite happily with my Moto Z on 10% battery in normal use, seriously, it's that bright, and with this I need 60% - at least.

The battery is 3300mAh which, you'd think was OK and it seems to easily get me through a day, but if I started pounding it, out and about like a tourist might, for example, I don't think it would make it to supper time. But I guess you cold say that for most modern phones. USB-C is employed with fast charging (50% in 30mins) via Quick Charge 3.0.

The fingerprint sensor, again a personal thing, is just wrong - being on the back. I'm continually frustrated having to pick it up off the desk to power on the screen (or double-tapping it, then putting in my pattern-unlock) which invariably ends up with the screen in my hand in landscape (yes, I know, I could turn that off) and then having to hold it upright for 1-2 seconds to allow the orientation to fix itself back to portrait before getting to what I want to do. There's enough space on the bottom bezel for a Moto Z-sized fingerprint scanner. But anyway, the sensor works very well when touched and doubles up as the power button (with a press-in). It's all a bit of an odd arrangement really, but I guess if you've got this phone on a two-year contract, you'll adjust and not whinge, like me!

On a more positive note, there's an always-on display if you choose to use it which can be customised to show notifications, date, time, clock (analogue or digital) or signature. Not sure why you'd want your signature instead of a clock, but clearly someone was playing about in the design team! The LCD screen will, again, drink from the battery with this facility - but you can turn it off (or the brightness down). Which would be a shame.

I'm sad to report that the single mono speaker firing out of the base of the phone is fairly rubbish. Not only for volume but also quality. You really need to fire the sound off to something else for anything other than alerts and ring tones to avoid wincing and sharp intakes of breath! Fortunately the G6 has a 3.5mm headphone socket and of course BlueTooth (4.2) to open up the options. Incidentally, this unit is the UK version, so has no Quad. DAC. Or Qi Charging. But having rationalised those two points, I've learned to live without wireless charging now - it was so 2012(!) - and I rarely use headphones with a phone now. So, it doesn't bother me - but it may others.

I'm also sad to report that LG have bloated the device up (in a Sony-type way, though stopping short of an Honor deluge!) with all sorts of Apps. pre-installed and needing stopping, uninstalling or killing. Shame. As soon as it gets a sniff of a Vodafone SIM Card it's off, auto-installing (no choice - except to let it and then uninstall after) a load of junk Vodafone Apps. that I'm sure nobody would want. As well as Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Friends Manager, LG Health, Gallery, Documents, Cloud services interface, Calendar and Clock - all 'bloated' onto your device with no need. I'll let them off with the FM radio(!) which works well, though there's no record function.

The icon set remains child-like in my view, as do the 'ice cream van' sounds that seem to have been chosen for 12 year-olds. Of course they can all be changed, but it could annoy out of the box.

The G6 arrived with Android 7.0 on board and slowly marched thorough, month-by-month, security updates from March 2017 to July 2017. I'm not sure if I have confidence in LG keeping up with the programme on that, but we'll see. Google Assistant is working out of the box and with the Google Now Launcher installed you seem to be able to get rid of the four-tab Settings UI, Samsung/LG-style. If you stick with LG's Launcher, you can adjust the buttons at the foot of the screen, swapping around six of them and also either make them black or white.

Turning back to the screen for a minute, it has this Dolby Vision thing going on which makes the screen emit "an image quality that comes closer to what the human eye can see. This means videos will be brighter, with a better contrast between light and dark, and with a wider colour gamut." Well, I didn't notice. I'd rather have Dolby Audio, personally!

I don't usually bother with camera appraisal but as it has a particular trick up its sleeve, I thought I'd mention it. On the back there's two cameras - an 'ordinary' view 13MP f1.8 with OIS and a second 'wide angle' 13MP f2.4 version. The wide view is actually very interesting and I have found myself using it by preference most of the time. Of course, you wouldn't want to use it with faces close-up or any other situation where the wide angle distortion would make things look daft. But it's good to have the choice. There's also a 5MP f2.2 'selfie' camera around the front. There's also plenty of other stuff to play with in the camera including a 'square' mode which lets you (amongst other things) take a square shot, shuffle it across to the right whilst you can take the next shot on the left. Toys? Maybe.

Anyway, these were just my thoughts. There's plenty of commentary out there on the LG G6 (and I'm sure you've seen it) which covers much more of the device's capability in finer detail and compares things with the Samsung Galaxy S8. What I came here to say, before I got carried away, is that I think they've done the 2:1 thing right. It makes a huge difference to consumption of media, handling, carrying and one-handed use. I think it's sure to be the way forward.

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