HTC U11 vs. LG G6: Android heavyweights go head-to-head

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After months of rumors and speculation, HTC has finally made its new flagship official. It’s called the U11, and rather than simply a sleeker, faster version of last year’s HTC 10, the U11 boasts a more distinctive and bold design, as well as a few quirky features that set it apart from the competition.

Among that competition is LG’s G6, which we praised as the best Android smartphone on the market when it launched in April. The release of the Samsung Galaxy S8 in subsequent weeks has complicated that assessment a bit, however, the fact remains that LG’s latest offering is still one of the finest on the market, with a cohesive blend of premium hardware, slick software, and a processor that’s plenty powerful.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a spec comparison to illustrate how HTC’s best matches up against the LG G6. Could Android have a new frontrunner? Read on to find out.

Specs

HTC U11

LG G6

Size 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9 millimeters (6.05 x 2.99 x 0.31 in) 148.9 × 71.9 × 7.9 millimeters (5.86 × 2.83 × 0.31 inches)
Weight 5.96 ounces (169 grams) 5.75 ounces (163 grams)
Screen 5.5-inch IPS LCD touchscreen 5.7-inch IPS LCD touchscreen
Resolution 2,560 x 1,440 pixels 2,880 × 1,440 pixels
OS Android 7.1.1 Nougat Android 7.0 Nougat
Storage 64GB (128GB in select markets) 32 (64GB in select markets)
MicroSD Card Slot Yes Yes
NFC support Yes Yes
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
RAM 4GB (6GB in select markets) 4GB
Connectivity  4G LTE, HSPA+, 802.11ac/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi 4G LTE, HSPA+, 802.11ac/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
Camera 12MP rear with OIS, 16MP front 13MP rear dual with OIS and wide-angle lens, 5MP front
Video 4K 4K
Bluetooth Yes, version 4.2 Yes, version 4.2
Fingerprint sensor Yes Yes
Other sensors Edge Sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, proximity sensor, iris scanner Barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor
Water Resistant Yes, IP67 Yes, IP68
Battery 3,000mAh 3,200mAh
Charger USB Type-C USB Type-C
Quick Charging Yes Yes
Wireless Charging No Yes, Qi and PMA (United States only)
Marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Color offerings Blue, black, silver White, black, platinum
Availability Sprint, Unlocked AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
Price Starting at $650 Starting at $650
DT Review Hands-on 4.5 out of 5 stars

Most of the time, spec comparisons between top-tier Android smartphones don’t answer a whole lot. They’re usually running the same processor and filled with similar hardware components, so it really comes down to software and optimization to determine the real winner.

Of course, straight numbers don’t always provide the full story of user experience. However, this is one of the rare instances where a new flagship is noticeably more powerful than its rival, even if the latter launched just a few weeks prior. The LG G6 packs Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 system-on-chip, while the HTC U11 is driven by the newer, superior Snapdragon 835.

What does this mean when it comes to everyday use? Well, Qualcomm says the 835 can deliver 27-percent better performance across the board compared to its predecessor, which is also found in the Google Pixel and OnePlus 3T.

The 835 first debuted in the Galaxy S8, and benchmarks and real-world testing so far have shown it to be snappier than the outgoing silicon. Qualcomm has also pledged improved energy efficiency, thanks to the 835’s smaller, 10-nanometer construction.

That generational gap is the primary difference between the two phones. The U11 also comes with 64GB of stock storage, which is double what you’ll find in the G6, though both phones allow MicroSD card expansion. In terms of memory, both have 4GB to work with.

It’s also important to point out that audio is a pretty important factor in both phones, though, for different reasons. The U11 benefits from HTC’s BoomSound speakers and Hi-Fi audio certification, along with four microphones designed to record three-dimensional sound. The G6 can’t claim parity with any of those features, however, it does have one thing U11 owners will undoubtedly miss: A 3.5-millimeter headphone jack.

On paper, there’s no contest here. The U11 comes with Qualcomm’s latest-and-greatest chipset, and although the 821 was certainly no slouch, the numbers indicate HTC’s product will be better equipped to keep up with anything you could throw at it.

Winner: HTC U11

Design

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The U11 and G6 feel similar to hold, thanks to all-glass construction and glossy finishes that easily pick up fingerprints. In just about every other respect, however, these phones look very different.

The LG G6 resembles little else on the market, thanks to its minimal bezels, rounded corners, and 18:9 aspect ratio. In many respects, it’s the direction smartphones appear to be headed in the future. The G6 makes maximal use of its surface area by filling it almost entirely with screen, forcing the fingerprint sensor to the back.

HTC’s flagship, on the other hand, is less forward-thinking in its design. The bezels at the top and bottom are pretty thick, and exceptionally chunky along the sides, too. The display is of the conventional 16:9 variety, which will look and feel even narrower thanks to the surrounding real estate. With the front-facing home button and fingerprint sensor, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at an iPhone 7 at first glance.

Around the back, however, the story is a little different. HTC’s U series is marked by vibrant, loud colors and a deep metallic finish that blankets the rear. It looked nice on the U Ultra, if not for the fact that it made the phone one of the worst fingerprint magnets on the market. The G6 is just as clean, but certainly not as striking. Here’s where your sense of style will make all the difference.

Overall, however, we have to give the nod to the G6. There’s no disputing the value of that wider screen dominating the chassis, and with companies such as LG and Samsung cutting down on bezels as much as they have, the U11 simply feels dated. So long as you don’t mind using your index finger to unlock your phone, the G6 wins this round.

Winner: LG G6

Display

Lg G6
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Although the U11 and G6 are similar in size, the G6’s screen is noticeably larger at 5.7 inches. The U11’s is 5.5 inches. Both are Quad HD LCD panels, though, thanks to the LG’s wider aspect ratio, you’ll get more pixels on the G6 (2,880 x 1,440 on the G6 vs. 2,560 x 1,440 on the U11).

We came away very impressed with the G6’s display when we reviewed the device in April, and found it to be as excellent an LCD screen as we’ve ever seen in a smartphone. LG also outfitted the panel with support for Dolby Vision and HDR 10, allowing for more vibrant colors, improved contrast, and expanded viewing angles. The company also optimized all its apps for the 18:9 form factor.

The U11’s display, though perfectly fine, doesn’t boast either of those enhancements, nor is its display as roomy. Although 18:9 content isn’t commonplace by any means, watching videos that are appropriately sized for the G6’s screen is a sight to behold, and U11 owners will miss out on that experience. For that reason, the G6 wins this bout.

Winner: LG G6

Battery life, camera, and software

Battery life

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The G6’s 3,200mAh battery delivers solid, if a little unimpressive, battery life. A software update pushed to devices shortly after the launch of LG’s flagship somewhat improved things, but the fact remains that the G6 won’t break any records in terms of longevity. That said, the phone does support Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 technology, as well as Qi and PMA wireless charging on U.S. models.

The battery in the U11 pales in comparison, both in terms of capacity and features. It’s slightly smaller than the G6’s at 3,000mAh, and although the phone also supports quick charging, it lacks the ability to charge wirelessly.

Having a smaller battery doesn’t necessarily mean the U11 will exhibit poor battery life, however. It’s even possible HTC’s optimizations have made the phone more efficient than LG’s flagship, especially given that HTC is providing U11 users with two power-saving modes. Nonetheless, it’s too early to tell if that’s the case and, at least on paper, the G6 wins this battle.

Winner: LG G6

Camera

The U11 puts HTC’s UltraPixel tech in a 12-megapixel shooter with an f/1.7 aperture. It offers strong low-light performance and speedy autofocus. It has received DxO Mark’s top smartphone camera rating with a score of 90, higher than the Pixel, iPhone 7, and the S8. We’ll need some time with it to see what it can really do, but there’s definite potential here.

The setup on the G6 is very different. There are two 13-megapixel lenses on the back of LG’s handset: A 71-degree shooter with optical image stabilization and an f/1.8 aperture, and a wide-angle, 125-degree lens with an f/2.4 aperture. That wide-angle camera lends itself to scenarios and photo opportunities other smartphones simply can’t take advantage of.

In general, we found the G6’s camera to be among the most capable on the market, at times beating out the iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel XL’s output — two of the most highly-regarded phones for photography currently on the market. That’s a tall order, and for that reason, the G6 is our pick here.

Winner: LG G6

Software

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Here is where HTC can make up some ground. The U11’s custom interface atop Android 7.1.1 Nougat is slick, attractive, and unobtrusive, unlike the company’s Sense interface. HTC deserves props for keeping the bloatware to a minimum and adding some useful enhancements to stock Android. Among these are two primary features: Sense Companion, and this phone’s party piece, Edge Sense.

First, Sense Companion. Yes, it’s a virtual assistant. But before you groan in agony over yet another AI servant attempting to do what Google Assistant already handles quite well, you should know that Sense Companion isn’t exactly like Bixby or Siri. For one, it doesn’t take the place of Google Assistant, which is still present on the device. Next, rather than operating via voice and answering your queries, what it actually does is tap into contextual data — i.e., battery life, location, calendar events — to make discreet, insightful suggestions. For example, it’ll remind you to wear a jacket on a rainy day, or tell you to charge your phone in anticipation of a long journey.

Additionally, if you’re an Alexa user, the U11 will support Amazon’s assistant out of the box in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.

But what about Edge Sense? It’s been one of HTC’s most-advertised features in the run up to this phone, and was rumored as far back as last year. It simply allows you to access additional controls and options by squeezing either side of the low end of the device, underneath the power button. This gives you the ability to quickly turn Wi-Fi on and off, access the flashlight, or make use of the apps you use the most. It’s a useful feature, but will likely require some self-training to really get the most out of it.

That’s the U11, so how does the G6 compare? LG’s custom Android 7.0 skin is also light on resources and keeps things humming along quite smoothly. Most of its enhancements lie in apps that use the phone’s 18:9 screen in creative ways. For example, multi-window mode on the G6 results in two apps situated vertically as perfect squares, and the Square Camera app allows you to take multiple photos arranged in a grid, and share the resulting collage easily via Facebook or Twitter.

Neither phone struggles in the user experience department, but we think HTC’s rendition of Android boasts more useful enhancements and keeps things stock where it should. Perhaps most importantly, HTC has a respectable track record when it comes to updating devices in a timely manner, and has been transparent with owners every step of the way.

Winner: HTC U11

Durability and pricing

Durability

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There isn’t a whole lot separating these two phones in the durability department. Both are clad in Gorilla Glass 5 on both sides and feature sealed battery compartments, as is the norm today. Both also benefit from water resistance. The U11 is IP67-rated, meaning it can withstand being submerged in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. The G6 fares a little better with an IP68 rating, which means it can handle 1.5 meters of water over the same period of time.

The glossy, glass construction on both of these phones means you’ll probably have to put it in a case no matter which you buy.

Winner: Tie

Pricing and availability

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The U11 is now up for pre-order in the United States, and HTC will begin shipping in June. Sprint is the only carrier that will sell the phone directly at launch, and it’s available for $696, or $29 a month across 24 months. You can also snag an unlocked version that will work on Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile from both HTC’s website and Amazon. That variant runs a bit cheaper, at $650.

Conversely, the G6 is available on all four major networks, starting at $650 from T-Mobile. Other wireless providers offer it for more, and we’re still waiting for LG to make unlocked ones available for prepaid and off-contract users.

Winner: Tie

Overall winner: LG G6

As solid as HTC’s newest flagship is, the LG G6 bests it in more categories. The display is much larger, despite the fact that the phone is actually smaller, and we love the wide angle lens on the camera. It also supports wireless charging, has a larger battery, and works with old-fashioned headphones without the need for an annoying dongle. The U11 certainly has a leg up in one significant respect — processing muscle — and we like the software, but the G6 is powerful enough and stronger in other areas, so it scores the win.

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