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Hands-On With The LG V50 And LG G8

Remember last year when LG’s vice chairman Jo Seong-jin announced that the company would no longer release phones by a cyclical schedule, instead releasing a phone “only when there is need?” Tech sites immediately took that as news that LG was all but bowing out of the mobile space. Well turns out we were all wrong. LG has instead ramped up its release schedule and pumped out more phones.

Just now at the Mobile World Congress LG announced two flagship phones. The first is the LG G8, which we all expected, but the South Korean tech giant also introduced the V50, which caught me by surprise, considering the V40 was only released four months ago.

(In Hong Kong, the V40 actually just went on sale this month. It’s going to be interesting watching LG Hong Kong continue to market the V40 now)

So there are. a lot of similarities with both handsets: they both run on Snapdragon 855; with the same triple camera array that I believe is the same hardware as the LG V40 (I will double check and confirm); and both have this slightly modified design in which the rear glass plate goes over the camera module, resulting in an almost completely smooth back. Both phones still use the notch design, and not even the smaller waterdrop notch, but the larger iPhone-like notch. In all, they’re solid looking phones, if a little uninspiring.

An official product render of the LG G8. Photo: LG

But there’s more than meets the eye. LG has given each device a unique feature that helps them stand out a bit.

V50

Let’s start the V50 — it is a 5G phone. Handling the network duties is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon X50 modem, which is said to deliver peak download speaks of 5Gbps. Of course, this depends on if your city is getting 5G anytime soon. And for many of us, 5G won’t be ready for another year at least.

So instead, what interests me most about the V50 is its second screen attachment, which sticks to the back of the V50 via pogo pins. This set-up turns the V50 into a “folding phone” of sorts, albeit the older kind with two separate display panels instead of the crazy high tech ones Samsung and Huawei have introduced. Truth be told, I’m okay with it. Because as stunning as Huawei’s Mate X looks — and it is very stunning — it is far too expensive for most people, not to mention the software probably isn’t fully there right now. Now I don’t know the pricing of the LG V50 or the second screen attachment, but it should be a lot more affordable. And from my brief time testing the V50 with its second screen attachment, the software worked smoothly.

With the second screen, I can do the obvious such as open two apps side-by-side, or take photos with one screen while viewing the captured image on the other. Another twist is that the second screen can be used as a virtual gamepad. I’ve tried it, and it works fine.

The second screen comes in handy. Photo: LG

Everything else about the V50 feels very similar to the V40, other than the aforementioned Snapdragon chipset boost, 5G capabilities, and a larger battery (now up to 4,000 mAh). I didn’t get to try the camera much, but knowing LG’s history, I think the still cameras will be solid while the video capabilities will be among the best in Android.

G8

At first glance you may think the G8 is just the V50 without the 5G capabilties, but nah, the G8 has a unique hardware piece that changes it functionality drastically. While the V50 has the same dual-selfie camera as the V40 (one normal, one wide-angle), the V50 has a single selfie camera, paired with a TOF (time-of-flight) camera. This is the first front-facing TOF camera in the industry (unless you count the Vivo Nex Diual Display Edition), and LG uses the TOF camera for real 3D face unlock, and also — get this — palm vein unlock.

Yes, it is as weird as it sounds. The G8’s TOF camera can scan the lower part of your palm and identity the pattern of your veins, which is then used as identify authentication, because LG says our palm vein pattern is as unique as our fingerprints. I’m no expert on the human anatomy, so I’ll have to do some research or ask a doctor because I can back LG’s claim up on that. But from my testing, the demo unit of the G8 did unlock when the registered user flash his palm over the screen, and wouldn’t unlock when I did it.

Also, to up the weird factor some more: LG says the phone can tell if your hand is attached to your body and will only work in that scenario. The gist here is that, if someone were to cut your hand off, they wouldn’t be able to use that severed hand to unlock your phone.

Bruh… Anyway, the G8 can also pump sound through the speaker, similar to what the Meizu Zero can do. From my demo, the G8’s speaker is way louder than Meizu’s take, and there is no distortion. This shouldn’t surprise, as LG has been a pioneer in smartphone audio capabilities for years. Yes, the G8, like the V50, has a headphone jack connected to a Quad DAC too.

I’ll have more on these two devices in the coming weeks.