LG G6 ditches removable battery for water-resistant body

The high-end phone will not get Amazon's Alexa, but will come packing Google Assistant.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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  • SABEW Best in Business 2011 Award for Breaking News Coverage, Eddie Award in 2020 for 5G coverage, runner-up National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Award for culture analysis.
Roger Cheng
3 min read

The LG G6 will shed one of the best-known features of past flagship phones from the company.

LG is looking to play it safe with its next flagship phone.

The company's upcoming G6 phone, which will be unveiled next month at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, will have a sealed battery like the iPhone and Galaxy S phones, according to a person familiar with the company's plans. LG opted to skip the removable battery to make the phone water resistant. This follows confirmation that it will also lose the modular gimmick of the G5.

The decision to ditch the removable battery -- a longstanding feature on its flagship phones and one of the elements that made its devices unique -- underscores how every phone maker is slowly moving to the same place in terms of design. Last year, LG went out on a limb with a design that let you swap out the bottom piece of the G5, an innovative move that turned out to be a commercial failure. This year, it's falling in line with the look and feel of other high-end phones.

There's a lot at stake for LG, which has fallen out of the top five players, with about 3.9 percent of the world's market share over the first nine months of 2016, according to IDC. The company on Wednesday posted an operating loss of 258 billion Korean won, or roughly $220 million, partly due to weak sales of the G5 and marketing expenses for its V20 phone.

The company is squeezed on both ends. At the top of the market, LG can't make much of a dent against Apple or Samsung. Among budget phones, Chinese companies tend to dominate.

"LG has to be known for something in the Android market," said IDC analyst Ramon Llamas. "What is that something? That's an open question."

Not helping is LG's decision to use Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 processor for the G6. The company chose the older chip over the 835 because it didn't want to hold up the launch of the device, the person familiar with the plans said.

Watch this: Watch CNETers struggle with the LG G5

LG would have had to delay the launch of the G6 to April in order to use the Snapdragon 835. Samsung is widely believed to be the first company to use the 835, which is expected to go into the upcoming Galaxy S8. The decision does allow LG to launch its phone ahead of Samsung, which isn't expected to have a large presence at MWC.

As previously reported, the G6 will feature a thin frame around the body and rounded edges on the glass display. (The image above was obtained by CNET.) The G6 follows the Xiaomi Mi Mix, which also introduced a similar looking phone that's virtually all glass on the front.

This will likely be a trend in phones this year. Apple is widely believed to be introducing a new iPhone with rounded edges on its glass display and smaller frame. Samsung will also trim the area on the top and bottom of its phone while keeping the side edge feature that's become a marquee part of its Galaxy lineup.

Cozying up to Google, Amazon

The G6 will follow in the footsteps of Google's Pixel and Pixel XL and come with Google Assistant.

It will be just the second phone to get Google Assistant, which can answer your questions and give you updates on daily appointments like meetings or flight schedules.

LG's elegant and unorthodox G5 (pictures)

See all photos

LG isn't just working with Google. It has a strong partnership with Amazon and actually intended to put its Alexa digital assistant into the G6. But it shelved the plan because it didn't feel ready just yet, the person said. Alexa will likely arrive in LG phones later this year.

Alexa already appears in a number of LG products, including its flagship refrigerator shown off at CES earlier this month. LG even had Mike George, the head of Amazon's Alexa and Appstore business, on stage at its CES press conference to talk about the partnership between the two companies.

Updated at 9:31 a.m. PT: To include a comment from analyst.

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