LG G8 can unlock by scanning the veins in your hand

New sensors on the G8's front camera offer a whole new way to interact with your phone.

Lynn La Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones
Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.
Lynn La
4 min read
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LG just announced an upgraded version of the G8 called the LG G8X, which among other features is compatible with a dual screen attachment, similar to the LG V50.      

In addition to introducing its first 5G phone, LG showed off another premium phone, the LG G8 ThinQ, at MWC . The G8 is the company's follow-up to last year's G7 ThinQ and serves as its latest marquee handset. It's one of the high-end Android phones that is set to compete against Samsung's recently unveiled Galaxy S10. As the successor to the G7, the phone shares many of the same features. But LG updated the G8's front-facing camera, which it calls a Z Camera, to include a handful of new tricks -- some of which pave the way for big changes in how users will interact with their phones.

Watch this: LG G8's Z camera serves up some trippy gesture controls

For starters, the 8-megapixel camera has an IR sensor and transmitter for 3D-mapping and motion-captioning purposes. This enables the G8 to use 3D mapping for face unlock, similar to the Apple iPhone's Face ID feature. And because the previous G7 only used 2D facial recognition, face unlock on the G8 is more secure and it can be done in low-light conditions.

The G8 also allows you to unlock the phone by scanning the veins in your hand. (Yes, you read that correctly.) LG calls this new biometric authentication Hand ID. The phone's IR sensor gathers information from the hemoglobin in your blood, and renders a unique image of your veins inside your hand. Hovering your hand over the camera, you won't need to touch your phone at all to unlock it.

LG G8 is a Galaxy S10 alternative, available April 11

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Hand ID builds into another feature called Air Motion. Because the phone's front camera can track and read your hand movements, you can interface with the phone in a whole new, touchless way.

By pinching your fingers and thumbs together (as if making a bird's beak with your hand and pointing it downward over the phone's camera), you can swipe left and right to launch certain apps, pause or play media and even adjust the volume by miming a twist of a jog dial.

Angela Lang/CNET

Back in 2013, Samsung equipped its Galaxy S4 with something similar called Air Gesture. By slowly gliding your whole hand over the phone's camera, you could navigate through, say, photos in the Gallery. It was limited and worked slowly, and the feature never quite took off.

In the G8, Hand ID doesn't work as fast as the face unlock or the fingerprint scanner (which you can also use on the back of the phone), but the idea is pretty cool -- especially if you're in the middle of a task or you just don't want to pick up your phone.

Air Motion doesn't work instantaneously either, and when I took it for a spin the G8 needed a beat or two to recognize my closed-up hands. Not to mention you'll probably attract a lot of looks when you're making a Frankenstein claw to control your phone.

Putting LG's present execution aside for a moment, the G8 has me excited about the future of touchless gesture controls on phones. If this is in the works now, a future where we can freely navigate our phones without tapping the screen seems not too distant. And if we take it one step further, this way of interacting with phones frees up a lot of design constraints; maybe the phone we're waving our hands in front of won't need to look like a black rectangular slab.

Then again, who knows. LG often experiments with new features (like the time it dabbled with modularity and flexible screens with the G5 and G Flex, respectively), only to abandon those endeavors in the next few iterations. If Air Motion doesn't prove to be compelling to the masses, the company could ditch developing on it afterward.

As for the rear cameras, LG has triple- and duo-camera variants. For the dual-rear G8, LG changed it to a 12- and 16-megapixel setup (the G7 had dual 16-megapixel shooters) and added bokeh video recording that mimics the depth-of-field effect of a full-frame camera. For those who already love the blurry background effect for still portrait pictures, this lends the same artsy and dramatic look to videos.

For some quick shots taken with the LG's rear camera, check out the images below.

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Lynn La/CNET
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Lynn La/CNET
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Lynn La/CNET

LG also tweaked the G8's audio. There's no in-ear receiver on the top of the phone anymore. Instead, sound vibrates throughout the display, which generates the audio you hear.  (LG isn't the first to do this; Kyocera used tissue and bone conduction audio tech in its phones for years). I tested the feature out and the phone's audio did sound notably louder when I laid it on a flat surface. The same should happen when you press the phone against your ear for calls (though I didn't check this personally).

Other key features include a 2.8GHz Snapdragon 855 chipset, 128GB of memory (unlike past LG G models, this will be the only storage option), 6GB of RAM and a 3,500mAh battery with wireless charging. And, like the G7, the G8 has a 6.1-inch display, a water-resistant design and expandable storage up to 2TB.

LG hasn't released any availability dates or pricing yet. Though it's safe to assume it'll be at least the same price as the G7 when it first launched, it's likely that it'll be pricier than that. For the US, that means it may cost around $750 or more. Converted, that's about £575 or AU$1,050.

For more on the mobile conference taking place this week, including information about the LG V50 ThinQ 5G, check out CNET's full MWC coverage here.

Watch this: LG’s 5G-rocking V50 ThinQ and G8: Editors react

LG G8 ThinQ and LG V50 ThinQ 5G

LG G8 ThinQLG V50 ThinQ 5G
Display size, resolution 6.1-inch OLED; 3,120x1,440 pixels6.4-inch OLED; 3,120x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 564ppi564ppi
Dimensions (inches) 5.98x2.83x0.33 in.6.26x3.0x0.33 in.
Dimensions (millimeters) 151.9 x 71.8 x 8.4mm159.1 x 76.1x 8.3mm
Weight (ounces, grams) 5.96 oz.; 167g6.46 oz.; 183g
Mobile software Android 9.0Android 9.0
Camera 12-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (wide-angle)12-megapixel (standard), 16-megapixel (wide-angle), 12-megapixel (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 8-megapixel8-megapixel (standard), 5-megapixel (wide)
Video capture 4K4K
Processor 2.84GHz octa-core Snapdragon 855Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Storage 128GB128GB
Expandable storage 2TB2TB
Battery 3,500mAh4,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor BackBack
Connector USB-CUSB-C
Headphone jack YesYes
Special features 3D scanning and motion capture with facial recognition, Air Motion and Hand ID; bone induction receiver; water-resistant (IP68); wireless charging; Quick Charge 3.05G connectivity; water-resistant (IP68); wireless charging, Quick Charge 3.0