If LG’s G7 ThinQ falls, it’s not between 2 stools
I’M NOT in the habit of doling out my dwindling stock of empathy to tech titans, but if I were, I’d send some LG’s way.
Despite producing a string of solid smartphones and more than its fair share of innovations – the partially bendable G Flex and modular G5 are two examples – the South Korean multinational’s handsets have never enjoyed the popularity of compatriot Samsung’s.
So, it’s perhaps understandable that with its latest flagship, the G7 ThinQ, LG has opted for a more conventional design aesthetic. Of course, this comes with its own perils and cynics are branding it a blatant copy of either Samsung’s S9, thanks to a slightly curved, near bezel-free display, or Apple’s iPhone X, thanks to the notch atop that screen.
It’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Step outside the box and you’re hammered for being gimmicky, go for a crowd pleaser and you’re a copycat.
What these critics either don’t know or choose to ignore is today’s “gimmicks” are tomorrow’s mainstream. The ww G Flex, for example, was the trailblazer for the fully bendable displays LG is trialling in labs. And the prototype roll-up 65-inch TV it demoed at the CES tech expo in January is a tantalising pointer to a “scroll phone” future.
As for the copycat criticism, there are only so many ways to assemble what’s essentially two slabs of glass and a steel frame into a smartphone without resorting to “gimmicks”.
It was against this background, that I recently took delivery of a G7 ThinQ review unit. I decided I would evaluate it as best as I could purely on its merits, both aesthetic and functional.
So, when I opened the box and powered up the phone, I did my best to ignore the fact that it really does look like the love child of a Samsung S9 and iPhone X and focus on the fact that this makes it extremely easy on the eye.
Granted, the tall and narrow 6.1-inch screen is an IPS LCD, rather than OLED, but with 3 120x1 440 resolution, it’s both detailed and vibrant enough to make watching videos, playing games or browsing the web a pleasure, even in bright lighting conditions.
Yes, there’s a notch, which houses the front-facing camera and various light sensors, but if the Apple resemblance irks you, there’s an option to flatten it out into a more conventional, if ever-so-slightly thicker bezel. I suspect you’d be in the minority though and, unlike on the iPhone X, the notch doesn’t protrude into videos and other content.
Thanks to its tall, narrow dimensions and subtly curved glass back, the ThinQ nestled comfortably in my mediumsized hands and slipped into even smallish pockets with ease. On the negative side, a careless slip could see you breaking both the front and rear panels, so I’d definitely invest in a protective case.
With the build quality and looks boxes ticked decisively in the new LG’s favour, I turned to one of the ThinQ’s primary selling points as suggested by its name, it’s artificial intelligence (AI) smarts.
LG has placed an AI shortcut key below the volume buttons on the left side, the same spot that Samsung put its Bixby button on Galaxy devices. Thankfully, this calls up the much more knowledgeable Google Assistant, giving you one touch access even when the phone is asleep.
The G7 is no slouch in the performance department either, packing a beefy Snapdragon 845 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of onboard storage, with a 6GB of RAM and 128GB storage model also available. It runs a recent version of Google’s Android operating system, 8.0 Oreo.
Battery life from the 3 000mAh battery was so-so, delivering a full working day’s use under medium use, pretty much on par with the Samsung S9, but nowhere near as good as the Huawei P20. If you do need a top-up, this can be accomplished quickly thanks to Qualcomm Quick Charge technology or, at a more leisurely pace, via wireless charging – I popped it on to my Samsung S8 charging pad and it worked perfectly.
LG’s pleasing focus on audio continues, with the Hi-Fi Quad-DAC audio system, that so impressed me on the V30+ last year, making a welcome return on the G7. This, coupled with virtual surround sound, produces the kind of purity and power that puts it on par with dedicated music players.
Those wanting to make a case for retaining the headphone jack in smartphones need look no further than the V30+ and, now, the G7 ThinQ.
Turning to the camera, I’m pleased to report that LG has finally upgraded its front-facing camera to 8 megapixels with portrait mode, great news for selfie aficionados.
On the rear, the LG’s signature standard and wide-angle dual lens combo is back, although both sensors are now 16 megapixels, which means there’s no longer a loss in resolution when switching sensors. The results are excellent, with the wide angle feature particularly useful when attempting to cram large objects into shots – without having to back up perilously close to busy streets or precipitous drops.
Less impressive for me were the new AI cam features, which are meant to recognise objects and automatically adjust the camera settings to best capture their specific attributes. Quite frankly, I more often than not preferred the results from the camera’s regular auto mode, but perhaps that was just me.
My quibbles with AI features aside, it’s a solid camera, if not quite on par with the likes of the Samsung S9, iPhone X or Huawei p20.
Throw in IP68 dust and water resistance, a microSD slot for extra storage and a fairly competitive price for a flagship phone – R13 999 prepaid and R649 per month on contract – and you’ve got a pretty attractive package.
If you’re in the market for a high-end android smartphone, be sure to check out the LG ThinQ, particularly if you consider yourself a bit of an audiophile.
Follow Cooper on Twitter @alanqcooper.
LG has opted for a more conventional design Sound quality puts it on par with dedicated music players