LG Wing Hands-on Preview: Who said phones are boring?
It didn’t seem that long ago that tech writers were lamenting that phones had gotten boring—”everything is a glass sandwich slab,” we said. Turns out, we spoke too soon. LG’s latest smartphone, a quirky swivel phone named the LG Wing, is the third device this month—following shortly after the Microsoft Surface Duo and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2—that comes in a form factor that’s going to attract eyeballs in public.
I’ve only spent about 24 hours with the Wing at the time of this writing, so while that’s not enough time to draw any final conclusions about the device, I can comment on design, build quality, and go over some of its key features. I do know this: Even if this swivel form factor —which sees the front screen spin clockwise 90-degrees to a landscape position—ends up being a gimmick that doesn’t bring much to the table, I still respect LG for trying something different, because let’s face it, the smartphones released in the first half of 2020, while mostly great, were all very similar.
LG Wing: Specifications
|Specification||LG Wing 5G|
|Dimensions & Weight||
|RAM & Storage||
|Battery & Charging||
|Fingerprint sensor||In-Display Fingerprint Sensor|
|Front Camera||32MP, f/1.9, pop-up camera|
|Android Version||LG UX based on Android 10|
Note: I received the LG Wing from LG on September 15. LG did not have any inputs in this article.
Packaging and First Impressions
Let’s start with the unboxing. LG’s packaging in recent years has been quite no-frills, so normally I wouldn’t bother documenting the unboxing, but the Wing’s box has one nice touch: The top half housing the phone swivels, just like the Wing itself.
The bottom half of the box has a pull-out part housing a 25W charging brick, a USB-C cable, and a USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. Despite its mid-range specs and moving parts, the LG Wing looks like a premium smartphone out of the box. However, due to the nature of the two-part design with moving parts, there is a subtle give if you press on certain parts of the screen, and there is a sliver of a gap between the front and back panels if you look at it sideways and up close. Overall, though, I’d say the construction is good.
Those coming from the LG Velvet or a typical Android glass slab will likely feel the Wing’s extra heft—it weighs 260g and measures 10.9mm thick—but for me, coming from a Galaxy Z Fold 2, it felt normal to me.
Even before I tried the T-shaped “Swivel Mode” (that’s LG’s official name for the form), I already found the Wing to be the best-looking LG device in years, even more so than the LG Velvet, whose looks many had loved but I had thought was just okay. I think it was the notch that turned me off. There’s no notch here on the LG Wing; the slight forehead and chin bezels are symmetrical and much more aesthetically pleasing to my eyes. The selfie camera is of the pop-up variety, like the OnePlus 7 Pro‘s.
I adore the light blue color with a touch of gradient flourishes on my LG Wing unit, and the camera module, although very similar to the OPPO Reno4 and Galaxy Note 20‘s layout, looks mature and clean.
The LG Wing’s main 6.8-inch P-OLED screen curves on the left and right sides but tapers off fast due to the fact that the front panel is a thin piece that moves. I actually like this as I found the LG Velvet’s curves too drastic, resulting in sharper sides. The sides of the Wing are relatively flat in comparison. The screen is just a 60Hz panel, however, but sharpness, colors, and viewing angles look good.
Spinning the LG Wing open
As mentioned earlier, a push on the lower right side of the screen (do not press straight on the screen, but rather push from the side) will begin the swivel action. I’m not sure if it’s just my unit, but the swivel action was not as swift and snappy as I was hoping for; near the end of its rotation, it slows down and pauses for a split second before locking into a T-shape with an audible click. This is likely a nitpick on my end—if the mechanism spins too fast, it could actually injure fingers if they happen to be in the wrong spot.
Once the phone locks into “Swivel Mode”, the main screen UI—if it had been on the home screen before—transitions to an enlarged carousel as seen in the photo above. If you already have an app open, then the app stays on the main screen; while some apps will adjust their orientations to stay “upright”, other apps like Instagram will just stay sideways. But this is by design because you can easily tilt the phone sideways and have the main screen be in vertical orientation again, with the bottom second screen now sticking out from the right side.
You can flip it upside down, too, although the UI is slightly slow at switching orientation. There’s a quarter-second wait after you’ve spun the phone sideways or upside-down before the UI catches up. It’s worth noting this is a pre-production unit, so the software could be cleaned up by the time the phone reaches the hands of consumers.
The obvious benefit of this Wing design is the ability to run two apps at the same time. This is an idea LG has been exploring for a couple of years, and I have generally been a fan as I multitask often. Curiously, lots of highly popular apps like Slack, WhatsApp and Instagram by default can’t run on the smaller screen unless you manually whitelist them in settings. But once you do that, any app can run on the smaller screen, albeit some will feel very cramped. The large screen can run any app as normal, of course.
Note: In an earlier version of this article, we wrote that some apps wouldn’t open on the smaller screen. That has been amended once we realized they can open, they just needed whitelisting.
The LG Wing has a triple camera system on the back consisting of a 64-megapixel main camera (middle), 13-megapixel ultra wide-angle camera (bottom), and a 12-megapixel gimbal camera (top). The latter’s tech seems to resemble the Vivo X50 Pro‘s, meaning the camera has extra range of movement in the x- and y-axes. LG built a clever software trick to use this gimbal camera—when the phone is in swivel mode and the camera is enabled, the bottom screen shows a digital joystick that will be familiar to anyone who’s used a real gimbal before. You can control panning or tilting directly with the joystick, or you can let the gimbal follow your movement.
The footage actually looks quite smooth—during the day with good sunlight, at least. In low light situations, video captured with the gimbal camera is very noisy and choppy, bordering on unusable. If you’re shooting at night, you have to use the main camera without the gimbal instead. See the video sample below for all of the gimbal camera footage I captured with the LG Wing.
The main camera captures sharp photos with fast focus during the day while the ultra wide-angle and selfie cameras are solid. Keep in mind, this is a pre-production unit so the camera software is not final.
We’ll be sure to test the cameras more in the full review.
Bring back exciting form factors!
Whether or not the LG Wing’s “one large screen, one small screen” multitasking setup works for you will depend on who you are. I am someone who does a lot of word-based work—reading, writing, editing—on my phone, and I find any extra screen real estate useful.
But even if you find the swivel and the second small screen a gimmick, the good news is the Wing works fine as a traditional slab phone—albeit slightly thicker and heavier. You don’t have to flip it open if you don’t want, and it’s not like you’re paying a premium for this design, as the phone should be priced lower than other dual screen/foldable flagships (official pricing has not been announced).
In a sea of similar smartphones, I’m just glad there are companies like LG trying something different. The Wing has been very fun to use so far.