The rumors were right: the new LG G6 uses a Snapdragon 821 and not a Snapdragon 835. The majority of potential buyers won’t pay that much attention to this, but savvier technophiles may wonder why LG did not integrate the latest Snapdragon 835 which was officially unveiled recently. There are multiple reasons, and here is our take based on some information gleaned from LG, and what we can gather elsewhere.
Schedule and volume availability
There’s no official data on this, but the only known phone to feature Snapdragon 835 slated to be released soon is the Galaxy S8 (~April). Other handset makers have told Ubergizmo that 835-based handsets were coming, but many won’t be available before the summer. It is likely that the production schedule of Snapdragon 835 could only satisfy Samsung’s needs, or that Samsung somehow got exclusive access to the chip for one quarter (3 months).
In any case, if LG had selected Snapdragon 821, the G6 product could have been delayed until the summer, just when the next V-Series handset (the LG V30?) would be scheduled to show up. This does not seem like such a good idea.
When we discussed with the Korean team that worked on the LG G6, they pointed out that Snapdragon 821 has been around long enough that software is extremely stable and very optimized. Using Snapdragon 835 would require some “ramp up” time, and in the end, LG deemed that 821 was the platform that resonated most with the LG G6 theme of reliability and value because engineers (from both Qualcomm and LG )had time to optimize all aspects of the phone.
As you may recall, LG is not afraid shy of using the latest and greatest and it was the first to integrate Snapdragon 810 with the LG G Flex 2. But that episode showed that having the latest SoC does not guarantee a commercial success for your product.
While Snapdragon 835 would provide a performance boost thanks to a more powerful hardware, Snapdragon 821 is now used close to its full potential. Like any other processor, it will take some time for engineers to fully exploit the new chip. If you look at game consoles, code optimizations keep coming, even years after their original release.
LG has worked on software optimizations, but it has also improved the G6 thermal management by adding heat pipes to the G6 design (heat pipes use tiny amount of water to draw heat during the evaporation of water). As a result, it claims that it got a 10% performance boost while reducing heat during peak loads, making performance more sustainable.
Unconfirmed rumors place the price of a handset Snapdragon processor as high as $70, and it is just about certain that Snapdragon 821 will be more affordable than Snapdragon 835. Because the LG G6 wants to be a premium phone, without going into “specs war” territory (that also means “spending war”), using a Snapdragon 821 yields a better “bang for the buck,” potentially for both LG and LG customers. We will know more when prices will stabilize over the next few weeks and months, but there is a logic to it.
Of course, there are value “premium phones” with high-end processors, many Chinese companies have tried this. But to achieve that “top processor” check-mark, they need to make sacrifice something on industrial design, screen quality and camera performance. As a result, some have carved a niche for themselves, but none has achieved broad success (at the level LG wants it) with this strategy. That is because the processor choice does not allow those OEMs to differentiate sufficiently with something that resonates with customers.
Even though there are Snapdragon 821 optimizations, we still expect a Snapdragon 835 handset to outperform a Snapdragon 821 in benchmarks – by how much remains to be seen, and we will soon have an answer… For LG G6 lovers who wanted “the best” of everything, there’s a dilemma because we expect Snapdragon 835 to do particularly well in benchmarks.
For those who don’t use heavy apps or play 3D games, the difference won’t be as noticeable. Maybe there is a lost opportunity to connect to more advanced LTE networks that Snapdragon 835 has access to, thanks to its more advanced modem. However, those networks are not yet deployed for the majority of potential customers.
While Snapdragon 835 does bring significant advances, it is logical that, from a performance/value perspective, Snapdragon 821 is a choice that works, even though it won’t please everyone (what does?). Given the schedule and the overall positioning of LG G and V Series handsets, Snapdragon 835 will probably be in the LG V30.
LG Will get some criticism from pundits, but would a consumer backlash actually happen? LG’s product team has done its homework and thinks that this was the right strategy. We’ll see what the data says.