Date:7 November 2016
It’s finally available in South Africa and definitely lives up to the hype. I spent the weekend with LG’s stellar V20 before it hit Vodacom shelves and managed to learn a few things about myself:
1. Internet reviewers miss the point
Early reviews are out and the internet doesn’t like where LG put the second screen. The overwhelming sentiment is that it would be more useful at the bottom, where your fingers are. Well, I rarely use it outside of its function as an always-on closk and notifications screen. And that works better on top.
2. I might become an audiophile in a few years
My editor Anthony Doman is a fully committed audiophile who build his own amps and has a premium Tidal subscription to cater to his lossless file needs. I like listening to music streamed over Bluetooth because convenience trumps quality in my books. The V20, however, breathed new life into my higher quality files with its quad HiFi DAC and the supplied Beoplay H3 earbuds.
Listening to the same music in the car just wasn’t the same.
3. The general public get a better deal than tech journalists
Although I consider myself to be post-cellphone case, I’ve also been using a much smaller phone and the V20 review unit has taken a couple of unintentional tumbles. If you buy a V20 today at Vodacom you’ll get a case in the box, mahala.
4. Camera sensors are important
This is the same 16 MP + 8 MP wide angle rear camera setup from the G5 and it’s definitely in the top 5 smartphone cameras in the world. While the rest of the market has gone to 12 MP, LG retains the extra pixel detail and delivers some great shots.
5. Camera glass can be important-er
That said, the lens of my G5 is quite badly scratched just from everyday use and the artifacts and lens flares on the V20 can get quite pronounced sometimes. It’s a tiny, avoidable flaw that, if addressed, could help LG leapfrog its competition.
6. I should get over my one-hand bias
I love the iPhone SE primarily because I can comfortably use it exclusively with one hand. I do find myself wanting to look at the QHD IPS display of the V20 a lot more though. It’s gorgeous.
7. HDR is amazing
There’s a lot of hype about HDR in both smartphone photography and TVs, and many manufacturers use it as shorthand for over exposure. Not LG. Here the full dynamic range is preserved with shadows lightened without losing contrast.
8. I’m ready for the future
USB type-C is the connector of choice and here I am, veteran of a Huawei P9, Xiaomi Mi 5 and an LG G5 with an army of micro USB to type-C adaptors and type-C cables. All I need is a type-C to type-C cable to connect to the Asus Zenbook 3, MacBook or MacBook Pro.
9. Camera humps should be outlawed
It’s 2016, why are phone manufacturers still prioritising slimness over camera protection? That hump causes problems and adds another point of failure for an accidental drop to ruin your life.
10. I don’t care for “premium” hand feel
While LG didn’t go the full primer route like on the G5, the V20 has a coating over the removable aluminium back cover. I don’t mind this. And I’m very glad it isn’t a glass back. Plus the top and bottom of the phone are made out of shock-absorbing polydimethyl siloxane. Bootom line: I don’t mind plastic if it makes the phone more hardy.
11. There is still room for other Android manufacturers
Samsung’s Galaxy S7 was the least flawed handset of 2016, without question. Google just dropped the Pixel as its vision for the future of Android. I wrote off the smaller manufacturers. I was wrong. Features like manual video control, HD audio recording and a removable battery don’t exist on other premium handsets. If you want that, get the LG V20.
12. I bought into the Pixel hype too quickly
I thought Google’s Assistant is a Pixel exclusive and dismissed the non-Assistant phones as being incomplete representations of Android, but it is turning out to be a tarted up version of Google’s already excellent voice search. I was wrong. Please forgive me.
13. Android 7.0 Nougat is amazing
I don’t care to much for LG’s Optimus UI Android “enhancements” the core functions of Nougat are still intact and are big improvement and refinement for the platform.
14. Maybe the MacBook Pro touch strip isn’t a bad idea
Having a contextually aware dedicated function strip like the second screen of the LG V20 is quite useful for quick or frequently used settings.
15. My phablet sweet spot is 5,5-inch
So after I got over my dislike of using a smartphone with two hands, the poke-out-of-your-pocket qualities of the 5,7-inch screen real estate was the next hurdle. I just prefer a phone to comfortably fit inside the pockets of all my pants. One unintentional drop was from the pocket of a pair of shorts.
16. I’ve outgrown hot-swappable micro SD cards
You’ll never no how much you miss the convenience of a removable battery until you get a device that can fully recharge in the time it takes you to replace the empty battery with a freshly charged one. The downside is that LG decided to go old school with the sim and micro SD card slot as well. And after I reassembled the V20 from one of those drops (it breaks apart like a Nokia 5110), I didn’t put the memory card in properly. Now this wouldn’t have been a problem if I didn’t reach Google Play Music’s draconian 10 authorised device limit and if I could actually figure out how you deauthorise devices. Moral of the story, Google Play Music is the default music player on Android Auto and while it can play locally stored files, when it tries to do that from an incorrectly inserted SD card, it causes some issues. I lost all record of my music library and had to exit Android Auto to get playback over Bluetooth. Android Marshmallow brought back SD card support as adopted storage, not ideal to then have a hot-swappable card.
17. I don’t really need water resistance
Besides for a near mishap while bathing my daughter, no need for submersion ingress protection.
18. All fingerprint readers should be always on
You don’t need to press the power button for the phone to scan your finger and unlock. Touch and go.
19. LG designers and engineers learnt a lot from the G5
Those plastic bits on the top and bottom of the phone I mentioned earlier? It would’ve saved me from a frustrating SmartLab repair experience had it been on the G5 – thankfully LG has moved to WeFix as its repair partner now. Also abandoning the modular system was a very wise move.
20. The G5 is a better phone than you think
Besides for the build quality issues (the bottom chin didn’t fit flush because it catered to the modular idea), that HiFi amp and a few software differences, the G5 is a now much cheaper and more pocketable alternative to the V20. Is the V20 worth its R12 000 pricetag? Yes. But if you can’t afford it or Vodacom (exclusive sellers) doesn’t have stock, the LG G5 is a great second choice.