First look: The new LG G6 brings with it a new aspect (ratio)

The new Android smartphone comes with high-end components, solid construction, and an unusual 18:9 aspect ratio. (With video review.)

lg g6 on bench
Credit: IDG/Barbara Krasnoff

As the owner, for over a year, of a Nexus 6P, I have to say that while I enjoy having a nice big screen, it does present a problem when I'm trying to shove the smartphone in a pocket or tap out a quick text message with one hand. The quandary of how to combine a large smartphone display with one-handed ease of use has been vexing vendors for a while now. Now it turns out that LG's solution is to change the aspect ratio of the display -- a solution that could work very well, or blow up in the company's face.

This is not an unusual move on the part of LG -- the company seems intent on trying interesting ways to distinguish itself from its competitors. For example, last year's LG G5 offered modules that could be attached at the bottom of the phone -- an approach which the company has now abandoned.

This time, instead of the standard 16:9 -- which is the typical "widescreen" HD aspect ratio that most of today's screens adhere to --the upcoming LG G6 adheres to a slimmer 18:9. This has an interesting effect on both the physical feel of the phone and the look on its QHD+ (2880 x 1440) display.

But before I get into that, let's go through the basics: The LG G6 is a 5.7-in. Android 7.0 smartphone that measures 5.8 x 2.8 x 0.3 in.; according to an LG rep, it's "a 5.7-in. screen in a 5.2-in. body." It is also meant to be durable; it rates IP68 on water/dust resistance; has curved corners that, according to the company, spreads the force of any impact; and sports a narrow bezel rather than an edge-to-edge display (because, again according to LG, full-screen designs are more fragile).

The LG G6 comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 32GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, a 3,300mAh battery (which, unlike that of its predecessor, is not swappable), wireless charging (both Qi and PMA), a USB-C port and an SD-card slot.

It offers wide-angle cameras on both the front and back. The front 5-megapixel camera has a range of up to 100 degrees. Of the two 13-megapixel rear cameras, one offers up to a 135-degree angle, the other 71-125 degrees. According to the company, the LG G6 offers optical zoom enablement for a smoother transition from an optical to digital zoom, and electronic image stabilization.

So how does all that work out?

I was able to try out a pre-production unit, and I have to say, based on that, I was impressed. What with the slimmer form factor and the curved rear cover, it was very comfortable to hold and to use with one hand.

Images on the display looked really good, bright with a full color spectrum. I watched a couple of short videos on it; again, I was impressed with the smooth action and rich colors. The sound from the single speaker was acceptable; unlike some other phone manufacturers, LG apparently still believes in including an audio jack, so you can always plug in a good pair of headphones.

The different aspect ratio is interesting; it brings with it both positives and negatives -- and these depend largely on whether the application its using is tweaked to work with 18:9.

For example, it works very well with the camera's interface. For example, when you see a photo you have just taken, there is an onscreen gallery right next to it with thumbnails of the most recently taken photos, which I would find very useful -- it would allow me, for example, to know how the last few shots came out (and help me decide whether more are needed). 

lg g6 two squares IDG/Barbara Krasnoff

Using LG's Square Camera app, you can see the photo you just took in the bottom half of the screen while you prepare the next photo using the top half.

It also allows apps to offer two squares of information, one on top of the other (assuming you're holding the phone vertically). So, for example, the address book can have a photo ID on top and the info on the bottom. Or you can see the photo you just took in the bottom square, and compare it to the one you're about to take in the top.

However, what happens if an app has not been optimized for the new aspect ratio? Users are given the choice of scaling the app to either 16:9, 16.7:9 or 18:9; sometimes, that means either that you lose some of the edges of the app (for the last) or that a dark strip appears near the bottom (for the first).

At the time of this writing, information on ship dates, carriers and prices was not yet available. 

The new LG G6 is certainly a phone with a difference. How well that difference will turn out -- and how it will compare to the other new phones being introduced at Mobile World Congress -- is yet to be seen.

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