The LG G6 is one step forward, but two steps back

The LG G6 needs to restore some faith in the LG smartphone brand, as a faltering couple of years has seen it lose ground on Apple and Samsung.

However, with the former still insisting on iterative updates for its phones and the latter reeling from the Note 7 debacle the door is open for LG to swoop in and win hearts around the world. I’m just not sure LG is ready to step over the threshold in 2017.

In a world of identikit metal and glass slabs LG continues to do its own thing, which I applaud – whether that’s moving buttons to the back, wrapping a phone in the skin of a cow or making a slightly bonkers modular handset. It flies in the face of the norm.

I love it for that, but lately it’s become a bit of an issue.

The leather-clad LG G4 was where we started to see LG getting carried away, as it looked to distance itself from rivals focused on flat glass/metal builds – but the G4’s cowhide covering and annoying curve failed to resonate.

Things were further exacerbated with the LG G5 which promised an exciting, innovative modular design, but fell flat thanks to a lack of modules (we got only two), the price of those modules and a small battery which hampered its usability. 

One step forward

LG needs a rethink for the G6, and design is one of the most important things to get changed. The large, curved frame of the G4 failed to win over consumers and the modular design of the G5 has been kicked firmly to the curb.

While I don’t want it to jump on the metal-slab bandwagon that many have as I would like to see new interpretations that push technology forward, for this year at least it may benefit LG to rein in its design department just a little to ensure its latest flagship broadens its appeal to a wider range of people.

The signs are looking positive too, with the latest LG G6 image leaks showing a sleek black body which is reserved, yet premium. Coupled with LG’s promise of a big screen, smaller frame and waterproof design things are looking up over in Seoul.

The leaked LG G6 image (credit: The Verge)

The leaked LG G6 image (credit: The Verge)

The volume keys are on the side of the phone and there seems to be a solid metal frame and glass front. It’s hardly revolutionary - parallels can be made to other well-known devices - but if accurate we’re looking at a smart, solid smartphone which won’t rock the boat.

It’s like a big, warm hug from a good friend. You know exactly what you’re getting, but you’re more than happy to accept.

Good LG, good. 

Two steps back

But it looks like LG is already following its own, erroneous, path once mode. Mere hours after the G6 image leak hit the web, sources confirmed to TechRadar that the LG G6 wouldn’t have the latest hardware under the hood when it launches at MWC 2017 next month.

Our trusted industry insiders have revealed that the G6 will come with a Snapdragon 821 chipset rather than the latest Snapdragon 835 offering from Qualcomm, which we expect to see make its way into the Samsung Galaxy S8 and HTC 11.

"If people can’t get past the spec sheet it doesn’t matter what LG does with the rest of the phone."

The 821 chip is still a highly accomplished powerhouse - it does a sterling job in the Google Pixel, Pixel XL and OnePlus 3T - but the mobile industry is a dog-eat-dog world and if your 2017 flagship phone has the same grunt as a 2016 device people will overlook it, sometimes without even getting past the spec sheet. It’s not fair, but those are the facts.

If people can’t get past the spec sheet it doesn’t matter what LG does with the rest of the phone. Better battery life and an improved camera are great, and I really hope LG delivers these. But I can’t help but fear it may have shot itself in the foot.

There are workarounds. Apple has shown consistently over the years that you can have a less powerful handset on paper but still make it a winner with clever marketing. This isn’t something LG has ever been strong on, but if it can harness some of the magic from Cook and co. then perhaps it’ll have a chance.

I’m prepared to be proved wrong. I want to be proved wrong. Please prove me wrong, LG and step over the threshold. It’s yours for the taking.

John McCann
Global Managing Editor

John joined TechRadar over a decade ago as Staff Writer for Phones, and over the years has built up a vast knowledge of the tech industry. He's interviewed CEOs from some of the world's biggest tech firms, visited their HQs and has appeared on live TV and radio, including Sky News, BBC News, BBC World News, Al Jazeera, LBC and BBC Radio 4. Originally specializing in phones, tablets and wearables, John is now TechRadar's resident automotive expert, reviewing the latest and greatest EVs and PHEVs on the market. John also looks after the day-to-day running of the site.