With the LG V20 ($135 at Amazon) rolling out to retailers this week, LG's most expensive phone has its work cut out for it. Not only did the Korean company unveil the V20 hours before Apple took the wraps off its iPhone 7 ($262 at Amazon) and in September, the device is also hitting shelves after Google launched its superb pair of Pixel handsets.
Amid all these competitor announcements and ill-timed releases, however, the V20 does have some things going for it. For one thing, LG hopes the phone is compelling enough to benefit from Samsung's $3 billion 7 recall. It's also packed with high-end specs, like two rear cameras, a removable battery you can swap when power gets low, and a stylish aluminum chassis. And while it lost the novelty of being the "first phone to ship with Android 7.0 Nougat" now that the Pixels have 7.1 out of the box, it's still great that it has a recent version of Android.
Whether or not all these features is enough to bother its rivals (thein particular), remains the question -- and you can check back soon for CNET's full review. For now, here are a few things I like and don't like about the V20 after spending some time with it.
Most promising V20 features
Chock-full of high-end specs and packaged in a sleek, metal body, the V20 is LG's highest-end phone. And while it retains some of its predecessor's most interesting features, the new V20 has a few tricks of its own too.
That secondary, always-on screen
The V20 has a secondary screen that sits on top of its regular display. Compared to the V10 ($136 at Amazon), LG increased its contrast and brightness this time around so it's easier to read. You can choose to have this screen perpetually on (even if your device is sleeping), and it displays your custom signature or text greeting, favorite and recent apps, favorite contacts and notifications.
Audio is huge
LG put a big emphasis on the V20's audio. It equipped the phone with three mics and four digital-to-analog converters (which help to reduce white noise). The V20 can record 24-bit sound (16-bit is common), meaning audio is more accurate and clear.
As a user, you can fine-tune your audio preferences in the Settings menu, like adjusting audio balance. There's an app for HD audio recording as well, and according to LG, the device can handle recordings up to 132 decibels, which is as loud as a sport stadium full of screaming fans.
I was able to hear the audio coming out of the V20 briefly, and it did sound louder and had more breadth than what I commonly hear from phone speakers.
Removable battery and expandable memory
You don't always have to offer the latest technology to keep the people happy. In this case the V20 has a removable battery and expandable memory. It's nothing new, but it's a rarity among flagship phones these days, and many people can't live without one, or both, of these features. Having a replaceable battery is handy when you're out and about -- you can easily swap in a new reserve. It's also useful if you plan to resell the device and are able to promise a brand-new battery. Expandable storage lets you snap and record way more photos and videos, without feeling restricted by the onboard storage.
What gives me pause
Those are the V20's strong points, but I noticed a few drawbacks too. I'll explore each of these in more detail in the coming days, but read on to see what I don't like about the phone so far.
The camera is underwhelming
LG is doubling down on its wide-angle endeavors by putting two wide-angle cameras on both the front and back of the V20. Like the G5, it has two shooters on the back that include a 16-megapixel standard lens and an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens that can capture up to 135 degrees. On the front is a single 5-megapixel camera that can switch between a 120-degree wide-angle setup and a narrower 83-degree frame. The phone also has advanced image stabilization technology, available exclusively from Qualcomm, to make it easier to snap clear photos even when you have an unsteady hand.
Though the wider lens is useful for fitting more content in each frame, photo quality itself was underwhelming, especially when. On the V20, colors looked washed out and flat, and low-light images weren't as clear. Closeup shots weren't as well defined or sharp.
Battery could be bigger
The V20 has a 3,200 mAh battery, which isn't as high as its rivals. In our preliminary tests, it clocked in about 12 and a half hours of continuous video playback on Airplane mode. I'll test this again for final results, but that isn't a very competitive battery time. It's OK, but the Google Pixel XL and Galaxy S7 Edge lasted over 13 and 19 hours, respectively.
It lacks water resistance
Creating a high-end phone that wasn't water resistant was acceptable a few years ago. In fact, if a mainstream handset did happen to be splashproof, it was merely seen as a goodie. But because Sony, Samsung and now Apple all have flagships that can survive being submersed underwater, it's disappointing that the V20 isn't as durable and loses an edge that others have. Check back for my full review soon.
LG V20 Spec Comparison Chart
|LG V20||Google Pixel XL||Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge||Apple iPhone 7 Plus|
|Display size, resolution||5.7-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels||5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels|
|Pixel density||515 ppi||534 ppi||534 ppi||401 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.29x3.01x0.3 inches||6.09x2.98x0.34 inches (at its thickest)||5.9x2.9x0.3 inches||6.23x 3.07x0.29 inches|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||159.7x78.1x7.7 mm||154.72x75.74x8.58 mm (at its thickest)||150.9x72.6x7.7 mm||158.2x77.9x7.3 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.24 oz; 177 g||5.92 oz; 168 g||5.5 oz; 157 g||6.63 oz; 188 g|
|Mobile software||Android 7.0 Nougat||Android 7.1 Nougat||Android 6.0 Marshmallow||Apple iOS 10|
|Camera||16-megapixel, 8-megapixel (wide)||12.3-megapixel||12-megapixel||12-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (wide)|
|Processor||2.15GHz +1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821||2.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapgradon 820 processor||Apple A10 chip (64-bit)|
|Storage||64GB||32GB, 128GB||32GB, 64GB (varies by region)||32GB, 128GB, 256GB|
|Battery||3,200 mAh (removable)||3,450 mAh (nonremovable)||3,600 mAh (nonremovable)||21 hours talk time on 3G, 16 days standby, 13 hours internet use LTE (nonremovable)|
|Fingerprint sensor||Back cover||Back cover||Home button||Home button|
|Special features||Rear cover release key; Both cameras capture wide-angle images; secondary screen on top||Google Assistant built-in; unlimited cloud storage; Daydream VR ready||Water-resistant, wireless charging||Water and dust-resistant, Taptic Home button, dual rear cameras, up to 10x camera zoom, Depth of Field mode|
|Price off-contract (USD)||AT&T: $829; Verizon: $672; T-Mobile: $770; Sprint: TBD; US Cellular: TBD||$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB)||AT&T: $795; Verizon: $792; T-Mobile: $780; Sprint: $750; US Cellular: $780||$769 (32GB); $869 (128GB); $969 (256GB)|
|Price (GBP)||TBD||£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB)||£639||£719 (32GB); £819 (128GB); £919 (256GB)|
|Price (AUD)||TBD||TBD||AU$1,249||AU$1269 (32GB); AU$1419 (128GB); AU$1569 (256GB)|