What to Expect from the LG G6

LG unveiled their latest flagship at the “G6 Unpack Event” at MWC in Barcelona, Spain, February 27th.   The G6 appears to have checked off most of the requirements for an early 2017 flagship.  Clearly, it was a lot of work for LG’s R&D teams which scrapped its modular design and accessories offering from just one year ago.  It is definitely a safer route as carriers reported high incidences of returns due to problems with water ingress (due to its modular design), problems with the hinge which exposed the replaceable battery, and other hardware related problems.   ‘

The key question–how will the G6 do?

US carriers are rooting for Android players to level the playing field which has drastically shifted to Apple-Samsung over the years.  To help, holiday-like promos will ring the G6 into the market with big marketing dollars spent by carriers & LG.  A few of these massive promos:

Verizon: $200 with a trade-in flagship, free 43” LG Smart TV, a free Google Home

Sprint: free 49” LG HDTV, a free Google Home

AT&T: A 2nd G6 free with a activated line, a free Google Home, LG Sport Watch for $49

These promos will definitely help LG get out the gate and leaves little doubt the G6 will surpass G5 volumes in the US market.  Some more wind at LG’s back includes:

  • The G6 will have a 2-3 week head start on the Samsung GS8 with no other major drive slots running in the major carriers. A 3-week head start helped Samsung immensely last year.  It will not give the same bump to LG, but it will help.
  • These massive credits for up to $650 for trade-in / new lines are very similar to old-fashioned subsidies. It is a slippery slope for carriers, but may be the new norm.  LG is in pole position to take advantage of the marketing dollar flow.
  • Google Assistant is supported natively in the G6 similarly to the Google Pixel and the new Nokia smartphones. We suspect Google is using Assistant as a carrot to reward OEMs that adopt a full plain Android implementation path.
  • Genius move to bundle a “Google Home” with the launch. These “Assistants” were top sellers during the holidays.  It is possible Google is helping with the promo.  For Google, it is a much more powerful promo than marketing money as it will help with the fight against AI installed bases vs. Amazon Echo, Siri & others.  We strongly doubt Google Home will be bundled with the Samsung GS8.
  • Other key hardware marketing brags:
    • 5.7” full vision display with 80% body to screen ratio
    • Camera: 125 degree wide angle lens will get the marketing focus. Dual 13MP camera will check the box, but the dual camera may be void of new applications.
    • IP68 water / dust proof. The device will function after being dunked for 30 minutes.  Massive improvement over the G5!

Despite the improvements, do not look for the G6 to put much fear into Apple or Samsung flagship forecasts.  6m is probably an attainable goal for 2017 volumes.  Higher will be tough as the G6 must fight to overcome the shortcomings of the G5 and it modular design.  In addition, let’s not expect the marketing madness to continue or have the longevity that Samsung & Apple enjoys.

Other concerns include:

  • The device does run the Snapdragon 821 CPU at 4GB DRAM. Samsung & other Android flagships launching later in the spring will probably run the Snapdragon 835.  It may prove to be the better move that LG went with the Snapdragon 821 and have a slight headstart vs. Android flagships as it remains to be seen the performance delta in the wild.  However, it will matter to the reps selling the device who are there to show the deltas of showroom devices.
  • If performance and cost are relatively on par with Samsung and others, look for many consumers to opt for the sleekness and feel-in-hand advantages of curved displays expected in the Samsung GS8 and other upcoming flagships in 2017. Devices with curved displays and removal of a home button will make the LG G6 form factor look old very quickly.

Look for the G6 to improve LG’s status — especially in the US market.  The G6 will help build a halo over the K-series, which remains a go-to device within prepaid channels.  However, the G6 will not do much to undo the stranglehold Apple and Samsung have on the premium segment of the US market.