Opinion: The LG V20 Offers One of the Best Year-on-Year Improvements of 2016
On September 6, LG unveiled their latest flagship device, the V20. A few months back we wrote about the V20, discussing how important this device is for LG. Given LG’s declining sales and increasingly lackluster offerings, many were hoping LG would provide a solid flagship option with this device.
Now that the V20 has been officially announced, and has been making its rounds in the blogosphere, we can see if it is the device LG needs. The V20 was presented as being the device to “trim the fat” from devices past. During the launch event, LG stated that they listened to customer feedback while designing the V20, and used the feedback when deciding what features to keep and remove. It is important to note that this is not the XDA LG V20 review, and there won’t be a review for the time being given none of our in-depth reviewers currently have a V20. This article is meant to be a reflection on the released specs, features and UX improvements of the V20, how it is different from the rest of LG’s flagships and how it improves upon the V10. Most importantly, we’ll look at what makes the V20 an improvement over the V10 to see if LG stayed true to its word.
“In developing the V20, we looked at the consumers who are fans of the V series. We wanted to really examine what they liked about it, what they needed — and so we looked at popular aspects of it, and we built upon [them]. So you get more of everything you love, and less of everything you didn’t need.”
Starting off we’ll look at the changes from the V10 to the V20. The most obvious is the decision to move from a rubberized back to a metal back. This will add to the premium feel of the device, and has done so without leaving the MIL-STD-810G certification behind. Having a metal back this time around will eliminate the peeling issues many V10 owners faced, myself included. It does not appear to be the same faux metal that was found in the G5 as well, meaning there is no false sense of premium.
Seeing a return from the G5 instead of the V10 is the set of dual rear cameras. The dual cameras were introduced on the V10 in the form of front facing cameras, and served a similar purpose as those on the G5’s back. The main shooter acts like a regular camera, and the second camera is used to increase the range on the optical zoom. The V10 introduced manual controls for video, aimed to cater to content creators looking to make the best movies possible. The V20 sees the return of manual video controls, with the same amount of control offered in the V10.
For what seems like the first time ever, LG released a phone in the second half of the year with an up to date Android Version right out of the box. Last year’s V10 was launched with Android Lollipop, a month or so after the release of Android Marshmallow. This year, the V20 is releasing with the most current version of the OS. This is something that is a rarity in the Flagship-level world sometimes even in Q4. Samsung, Motorola, Sony, LG, and many others usually wait until months later to release devices on the latest platform. Another OEM that has done this is HTC with their A9 offering, which fell just short of the ‘flagship’ category, and also on its promises of receiving timely updates. Until now each version of Android is debuted on a Nexus device, this year the device to debut Android Nougat is the LG V20.
Not only being up to date, the software seems to break the mold of LG UX of years past. This year LG has focused on marketing the features of Android Nougat, instead of promoting their UX suite. Google has even used the LG V20 to showcase some of Android Nougat’s new features, as well as promoting it on the Android Nougat website. The V20 also debuted one of Google’s new features: In Apps Search, which will use Google to search through your apps for information.
Something LG built on from the V10 to the V20 is the audio. The V20 is the first phone to feature a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC. This means that any Audio coming from high-quality devices will sound significantly better than most other phones, as the phone is able to drive more-premium headphones. The V10 DAC was very highly praised, and current impressions from the blogosphere are showing that the V20 outperforms the V10 in headphone quality. The speakers on the V10 were very lackluster, and the majority of early users of the V20 have claimed that the speakers perform much better.
LG also boasts a robust HD Audio Recording ability as part of the “built with the storytellers in mind” theme of the device. The V20 has beefed up the microphones, allowing for 15 extra decibels of audio intake over the V10. The V20 now also includes a feature packed audio recording app to take full control of its three microphones, something not available on the V10. Previous LG phones have gotten a bad rap for having lackluster microphone performance, but so far impressions from various owners of the V20 have shown that said tend is over. This phone is being heavily marketed to content creators, and it appears that it can live up to its promise of extraordinary capturing abilities.
The V20 may have plenty in common with the G5, but it still holds plenty in common with it’s older brother the V10. For starters, the touted Second Screen has made a return. This was a huge talking point on the V10, and came with quite a bit of backlash. It was written off quite early for causing display light bleeding issues, alongside claims of being a ‘gimmick’ for only offering redundant functionality.
I’ve used the V10’s second screen for the better part of a year, and have found a new level of functionality most week long reviews overlooked. As it stands, the way in which I use my V10 is completely different than how I use any other Android phone. I utilize the features offered on the second screen in a way that allows me to rarely interact with the navigation bar. Setting a shortcut to my launcher in the app shortcuts screen negates the need for a home button, and the recent tasks screen negates the need for a recents button.
Quick contacts and music controls eliminate the need for me to have to leave whatever I’m doing to text a friend or change songs. The V20 added onto this functionality, this time around all notifications are going through the Second Screen, and interacting with them will open the Quick Reply Feature of Android Nougat. The quick settings widget that was only available when the V10’s screen was off is now available at any time when the V20 is powered on. It also seems that it is now possible to place shortcut widgets on the apps shortcut panel, with Google In Apps search being the main example.
The V20 also retains LG’s signature feature (and a rare breed these days), a removable battery. Up until now, there hasn’t been a flagship phone with a metal removable back — metal bodies and removable backs were deemed incompatible. The G5 showed that it was possible to have a metal phone with a removable battery, but through a pop out slot on the bottom of the phone. Poor build quality with the G5’s pop out slot showed that it was an unsuccessful attempt, and the device ultimately failed to sell its modularity. The slot rarely sat flush with the phone, and provided an awkward experience for changing batteries. The V20’s take at a metal phone with a removable battery shows that sometimes the classic approach is the best, even if it takes plenty of engineering to bring it up to speed with current trends.
While all the features and additions are great, this isn’t everything that is needed to produce a hit phone. Marketing plays a huge factor in how a phone is sold, and so far LG has been dropping the ball on marketing the V20. The launch event was streamed through Facebook, and was announced the day before Apple’s iPhone 7 announcement. LG has announced phones months ahead of launch before, but planning the day before a large competitor’s announcement is peculiar. It could be reasoned that LG was attempting to topple the hype behind the new iPhone, however it appears to not have worked with many consumers almost flat out forgetting the V20 was launched. On top of that, no one knew when the phone would officially launch, with multiple dates going around as to when you can even order the phone. This issue with early announcements and delayed releases has hurt many products before, including LG’s G5.
This marketing hiccup will surely hinder the V20 sales, but an unfortunate recall of another top OEM flagship will certainly help. We wrote on how this OEM’s recall will leave a gap to be filled by other OEMs, discussing the gravity in which the recall is affecting their brand. The V20 appears to be a worthy successor to last year’s V10, improving on what was needed, and not making sacrifices to get there. It’s a no holds barred, flagship-level device that sports a robust amount of features not available anywhere else. It doesn’t come with the latest Snapdragon 821 processor, nor the the most RAM, but it’s another phone designed for life that improves upon its predecessor in every way that counts, with no compromises sticking out like a sore thumb. LG will need to strike a homerun with this device if they hope to pull mobile sales back from a continuous decline. But by the looks of it, this phone has the punch it takes… now it’s just a matter of seeing where LG takes it.Check out XDA’s LG V20 Forums! >>