At Mobile World Congress in February, LG unveiled an intriguing Dual Screen attachment for its first 5G phone, the V50. It wasn't the sleekest, sexiest accessory we've ever seen, but it did transform an otherwise dull phone into a more compelling device. At IFA here in Berlin this week, the Dual Screen is back as a companion for the freshly unveiled LG G8X ThinQ and much improved. That raises the question: Could it prove a viable alternative to a foldable phone for those debating the new design?
Foldable phones have been the subject of much intrigue, but we have yet to see a foldable phone actually go on sale and orders fulfilled by manufacturers. Samsung was forced to delay the release of its Galaxy Fold due to problems with the screen. Even though it's relaunching the phone this week at IFA, the enormous cost of the Fold and the fact that people would be taking a risk on a new form factor could be enough to put off some buyers.
If you're not a mega-keen early adopter who absolutely must have the newest, shiniest, most expensive thing, the LG G8X with Dual Screen could be the perfect stepping stone toward expanding your display area. The LG G8X alone promises to be a solid high-end phone, but with the Dual Screen attachment quickly morphs into a multitasking machine, capable of running two apps side by side, adding a separate (now fully customizable) gamepad to your phone, or providing you with a tilt-screen view for taking photos.
According to Kyle Yoon, senior product manager at LG, the Dual Screen is the only form factor that's new, different and fresh, and at the same time already in the market. It's true it's the only one in the market right now, though it's far from the first dual-screen phone option we've seen -- and its predecessors haven't exactly been major success stories.
Since unveiling the original Dual Screen in February, 500,000 units have been sold in South Korea, said Yoon in a briefing in London last week. Around 30% of users tend to keep it attached at all times (primarily women who carry their phones in a bag rather than a pocket), and others attach it just when they need to take advantage of the Dual Screen features.
In the six months since first unveiling the Dual Screen, LG has introduced a number of improvements that make it a more compelling proposition. First, the overall size of the attachment has shrunk, while the display size has grown to a 4.4-inch OLED. The whole unit is 2 grams lighter with the two sides slightly better balanced, and it now consumes 10% less power.
The hinge mechanism has been replaced so that rather than stopping at three predetermined points, it can now open smoothly and stay put at whatever angle you choose -- more like a laptop screen. The name Dual Screen is a slight misnomer, now that there's also a third display on the front that shows the time and notifications.
But even with the updated design, opting for the Dual Screen over a true foldable does involve some compromises. The attachment will bulk up your phone more than even an average folio phone case, for example. Then there's the small matter of it offering only two smaller screens rather than one large seamless display. It's also just not as handsome and sleek as the foldables we've seen so far. If you're going for the wow factor, the foldables clinch it every time.
Not everyone is convinced that the Dual Screen can compete with the foldables. It's inauspicious timing, according to CCS Insight analyst Ben Wood. "LG should be applauded for trying to innovate with its Dual Screen accessory but I can't help wondering whether it's just too late given the arrival of foldable smartphones with similarly large screens but without the hinge delivering a seamless view," he said over email.
Whether you're seduced by foldables or happy to compromise with LG's Dual Screen option, one thing's for sure: The design of phones is starting to shift for the first time in a long time. If you're not quite ready to take the plunge with a true foldable, the Dual Screen at least offers you the option of dipping your toe in the water for now.