LG G6 – one month with LG’s flagship

After using the G6 as a daily driver, how is it faring after a month?

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It’s been just over a month since my brand new LG G6 arrived, and so it’s time to look a little deeper into how the phone is holding up after plenty of daily use. The G6 is a beautiful device, for starters. The version I have is the silver one, and the brushed effect on the back looks very stylish under its sheet of Gorilla Glass. The front of the device is also something to behold. Gone is the sweeping curved glass I’ve been spoiled with on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, the BlackBerry Priv and the Nokia Lumia range from years past, and instead, we have a flat sheet of Gorilla Glass. But I’m not pining for those 2.5D edges pioneered by Nokia with their N9 handset from 2011. I’m actually enjoying not having the curved glass for a change; manufacturers such as Samsung seem to have focused on form over function with their edge designs, and so I’m glad the G6 won’t make me look at the device disdainfully as text and photos slide off into the edges, providing a not-quite-enjoyable experience. Nokia really nailed it with their designs, but LG have stuck to the tried and true flat screen, allowing a perfectly enjoyable experience when reading text or watching movies.

The curves around the edge of the phone itself are also a big plus. Over the past few weeks I’ve been doing a great deal of reading on the G6, both via news websites (there’s so much going on right now!) and on Amazon’s Kindle app. Not once have I felt that the G6 was uncomfortable or awkward to hold for long periods, something that again I haven’t been able to say to myself since using the Priv with its extra-grippy back. Indeed, the G6 doesn’t necessarily have a super-grippy back, (it’s just glass after all) but LG have managed to make their phone quite “grippable” and I never feel as if I’m going to drop it, or have it slip from my fingers like a bar of soap. In fact, when I first opened up the G6’s box I spent quite a while trying in vain to remove – what I thought to be – a plastic screen-protector from the back of the phone, it felt almost “too grippy” to be just glass. Maybe LG put some kind of coating on top of the Gorilla Glass to help to grip… I don’t know. But what I can tell you is, even though I do have my G6 in a slim protective case, I am not worried about it not being in a case. Well, as far as dropping it is concerned. In all honesty, the reason I have cased up my G6 is simply because I do not wholly trust the glass on the back to hold up to months and months of being put down onto various surfaces and for it not to pick up at least a couple of hairline scratches or scuffs here and there. Heaven forbid they appeared on the camera lenses too. And I’m being realistic, and I know that sooner or later, maybe in late-2017 or early 2018, I’ll be selling this device and moving on to what is next (will there be an LG V30 to whet our appetites in 2017?) so I want it to be in as pristine condition as possible. And thankfully the Qi wireless charging works while it’s wearing the case, so that’s an added bonus.

 

LG have managed to do something really special with their latest flagship; the phone never feels big, and yet its 5.7 inch screen completely belies the actual feel in the hand. I never feel like I’m carrying around a “big” phone, and I certainly did feel that way with the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and the BlackBerry Priv. Those phones had smaller screen sizes than the G6, and yet, the G6 feels like a “mini” version of a bigger phone, as if LG had, in fact, released a flagship “G6 XL” and the G6 was the sibling “mini version”. Except it isn’t. This is the big phone. Amazing really.

Day-to-day usage has been, on the whole, rather excellent. I’ve been eager to try out new launchers with this device, and Microsoft’s Arrow Launcher has been a good experience, as well as my current favourite go-to, which is the very popular Nova Launcher. Why not the standard LG launcher? I think I just like more options and tweaks and gestures that Nova provides. There’s nothing particularly wrong with LG’s launcher, and perhaps I should give it more of a whizz because if there’s one thing I can gripe about with the G6, it’s the battery.

The LG G5 came with a 2800mAh Lithium-Ion battery and it hardly lasted me through a normal day. Its successor, the G6 comes with better specs on paper: a 3300mAh Lithium-Polymer battery. However, if I’m being honest, the experience is very much like it was with the G5, meaning if I know I’m going to be busy with it during a day out, I’m definitely going to take along a portable charger just in case. Screen-on-time in various tests on the internet have shown it can last for over 6 hours, but I am doubtful that mine would last that long from my own experience.

Some evenings when I’m surfing the news sites or I’m on Twitter, I see the battery drain at an approximate rate of a percentage point per minute. Now I know one has to factor in various other things such as connectivity and the apps I’m actually using and screen brightness, but seriously, I’ve started off an evening’s browsing at 80% or so, and after a couple of hours of off-and-on use, I’m easily down to around 50%. Perhaps someone can tell me that that is actually normal, but I feel like I’ve managed to squeeze more juice out of phones in the past, especially the Nokia Lumia 1520 which had a decent 3400mAh battery and just seemed to never die. (I miss that phone).

Another battery worry I’ve had while using this G6 is during the night while I’m sleeping. It’s as if a ghost creeps into the living room where I left my idle and sleepy G6 on the coffee table, opens up YouTube or some other battery-hungry app and drains the battery in about two hours. Last night I went to bed with the G6 running nothing, with battery percentage at about 65%, and yet in the morning, the phone wouldn’t turn on because it was completely dead. I know other people have experienced this phenomenon on other phones and on other platforms, but it’s no less annoying. The last time it happened to me was on my Maemo-running Nokia N900 back in 2010, and at the time I was relying on it to be my morning alarm clock… lots of frustration and bewilderment later, the ghost seems to be back in a new guise, this time attacking Android phones in my apartment. All very odd, and probably par for the course with smartphones these days; my battery woes are not a major, daily issue, but it’s certainly something I have to think about, especially if I know I could be somewhere without an AC wall plug to top up my languishing battery. Speaking of charging, having QuickCharge 3.0 onboard is fantastic; you can juice up 50% of your G6 in about 20 minutes or so, which is really useful, and somewhat negates the slightly under par battery life situation.

The camera on the LG G6 has not been as stellar as I was hoping. The G5 and the G4 before it produced some truly stunning shots, and so I was hoping the natural progression of things would mean the G6 would give me the best photos I’ve ever been able to take. And this isn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still impressed with its capabilities and I do really enjoy using the camera on the G6, especially in manual mode, but the end result leaves me ever-so-slightly wanting. I understand that my previous experience with smartphones means I have been spoiled with truly crackerjack devices such as the Nokia 808 PureView and the Nokia Lumia 1020, both with their sensational 41MP camera sensor and PureView skills thrown into the mix, but even using the Samsung Galaxy S7 around Christmas time made me think that smartphone cameras had come a long way, enough for me to start forgetting about those older Nokia phones. Indeed, when I switched to an LG G5 in the New Year, I was still very happy about the photos it was producing, and so when the G6 came out I pounced on it. But I feel I have to work harder to get the shot with the G6. The photos are quite often over-saturated and over-sharpened, which leaves me feeling that even if I left a photo alone completely and shared it online, someone would think I had gone to town in Snapseed editing the heck out of it. Zooming in, even on brightly-lit shots, gives me a slight feeling of disappointment as the detail is simply lacking. That said, everyday shots of flowers, people, sunsets, and beers I’ve been happy with overall. But it does make me think that for big days out to botanical gardens or national parks, my Nokia 808 might just have to be dusted off and charged up to do some heavy lifting in the camera department, and there’s nothing so terrible about that, except really, five years after the 808 was released, I should be able to carry around a camera in a phone that comes at least closer to that Nokia experience. Again, I’m not saying the G6’s main camera skills are terrible, not at all, I’m just saying I was hoping to be utterly impressed and I’m not completely amazed. Impressed yes, but not blown over, and this is what I was hoping for. Perhaps some future software updates from LG will nudge the camera app in the right directions.

 

The G6 camera is slow starter as well. When the Lumia 950 came out, most of the complaints about its camera were regarding the speed with which it started up, the speed it processed photos and the time it took for it to be “ready” for the next shot. It was absolutely terrible. So slow! Many software updates later and it’s become much more bearable, but in all honesty, once you’ve experience the easy and slick move of the double-tap on the Samsung S7/S8’s home button to launch the camera no matter what you’re doing, everything else feels like it’s being powered by snails. The G6’s quick launch option is a double-tap on the lower volume button when the screen is off, but you can forget about using that if the screen is on, or you’re playing any sort of media in the background, because any input on that volume button will simply reduce the volume. And if you’re not playing any media but the screen is on, pressing that button will reduce your ringtone volume. This does make sense if you’re playing music or watching a video, or you want to reduce your ringtone volume. But it also means that any quick launch option for the camera is removed completely, and you have to go to the home screen and launch the camera app using the icon. Which, I think, is a shame when other phones have such useful options that negate the requirement to go back to the home screen every time. Perhaps LG can shamelessly copy Samsung and program in a double tap on the power button to launch their camera as well? Here’s hoping. Here’s hoping too that LG can tweak their software over the coming months to speed up their camera app, as launching can take around 3 entirely long and annoying seconds to be all set before you can snap a photo. Memories of the excruciatingly-slow Nokia Lumia 1020 prevail. And while we’re asking the genie in the lamp for wishes, how about a photo-tweaking software update to bring the shots a little more into line with LG’s excellent processing from their older G4 and G5 devices. I feel that any amount of zooming in on a G6 shot is going to make even the non-geeks cringe at the over-sharpening and mass of digital artifacts in the picture.

All that being said, the overall experience with the LG G6 is more than satisfying. I haven’t had the device stumble on me once (no “X app stopped working” error messages) and it has just zipped along with all I throw at it during an average day. Well… perhaps “zipped along” is being a bit generous when it comes to the camera app. But there’s hope: friends of mine in the UK who obtained G6s either imported from South Korea or bought in a UK store have informed me that they have received three big updates which have sped up the camera app and even added some features.  One noticeable change is the volume buttons being reprogrammed to control camera zoom, as opposed to working as shutter buttons which is their job when the phone is fresh out of the box, or sans updates, which our US versions seem to be at the moment.

 

There are some things that I think LG got right with the G6 when it’s compared to the current competition out there, namely, the Samsung Galaxy S8, which, on its own is an amazing device, but LG managed to stick with tried and true aspects of previous phones, such as a totally reliable fingerprint sensor, and one that is on the back, as opposed to the front. This, I think, was a smart move because a large home button (with integrated fingerprint sensor) always takes up lots of space on the front, which is possibly why Apple are rumoured to be looking into having their next phone’s fingerprint sensor under the glass on the front as opposed to sitting underneath it as part of a large, and mostly useless “chin”. The S8 fingerprint sensor, as is well observed by the geek world, has been placed right next to the camera lens, and this is just daft. At some point, there will be a fingerprint on that lens, and a shot will be spoiled. The G6’s fingerprint scanner is well placed in the middle of the back of the phone, and for those who complained about this positioning with LG’s G4 model, I agree with you. It was fiddly to have to pick up the phone to do anything, because even with the inclusion of double-tap-to-wake, that feature was rather hit-and-miss on the G4, and so picking up the device was almost imperative. The G5 came along, and double-tap-to-wake was improved and, as with the G6, there was no need at all to physically pick up the phone to check for messages or to interact with the device. So, while some may complain about having the fingerprint scanner on the back, I really feel that this is negated by the fact that you don’t have to pick it up if you don’t want to, and I’m happy to report that I’ve had absolutely no issues with either the fingerprint scanner reading my fingerprints (and opening things up on the screen with satisfying immediacy) nor the have I double-tapped and have had nothing happen. Very nice.

 

Having the useful “Glance screen” feature is great, and eliminates the need for a flashing LED indicator, as seen on the G5. Qi wireless charging is a bonus, and the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack is a reassuring nudge that even new phones in 2017 don’t have to follow Apple’s lead. I think Bluetooth headphones are great, but just having the option to plug some in is a plus.

 

The G6 has been in my pocket and in my hand for a while now, and it surprises me a little that I have no desire to change phones right now. I can easily see myself using this device for months to come, and with some software updates coming down the pipeline (we hope) things should just get even better. The G6 is an excellent choice of phone in 2017 for those who want something that is a bit different, but can perform well and reliably, and look just superb.

 

 

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