The LG V20, six months later

The LG V20 came to Canada slightly over six months ago, billed as the ultimate multimedia device due to its dual-camera setup and 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC (digital to analog converter). It debuted at Videotron and Freedom Mobile — where it was the one and only device compatible with the carrier’s new LTE network at launch — and has since broadened its reach to Bell, Rogers and Fido.

In my first review, I painted a conflicted view of the LG V20 — it was good, but not good enough to compete with the greats (its top competitors at the time being the iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 7). My sentiments were shared, in many ways, by other reviewers, but it’s important to note that most reviewers, including myself, spent the majority of their time with a ‘pre-production’ model of the LG V20 — so a revisit after spending significant time with the production model was long overdue.

A lot has changed since then, however. The Note 7 exploded (literally), Apple users lamented ‘the dongle life,’ the Google Pixel launched, Samsung is preparing to rollout its redemption flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S8, and LG debuted its newest flagship, the LG G6. So where does this leave the LG V20? I’ll address that question in this revisit, as well as provide my insights based on three weeks of use with the in-market device.

The first thing I noticed switching from the Google Pixel to the LG V20 was the astonishing level of audio quality provided by its 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC (digital-to-analog converter). I spoke highly of the V20’s audio in my review — but I’m not sure I properly gushed. So allow me to now: the quality of sound when listening to music through the Bang & Olufsen BEOPLAY H3 earbuds (provided to me by LG) is astonishing.

The clear articulation and immersive quality of the sound turns listening to music into an experience all its own. I have literally sat at home, doing nothing but listening to music with the LG V20. If you’re an audiophile, you won’t get better than the LG V20 and even if you aren’t, you’ll still notice the difference.

That brings us to the other main value proposition of this multimedia device, its extensive camera package. When stacking the LG V20’s camera up against other premium devices, I still question whether it can compete — though at least there’s been no more crashing.

From a hardware perspective, LG did everything right with its rear-facing camera setup. It has a 16 megapixel rear camera with f/1.8 aperture and OIS (75-degree lens), as well as 8-megapixel rear camera with f/2.4 aperture (135-degree lens), allowing for wide-angle shots that let you to capture more than your eye can physically see. This is an incredibly handy feature, as often when I’m taking snaps I envision the picture being bigger than what a regular mobile camera generally frames.

Where the camera strays from excellence is in its indoor and low-light photography. With limited or indoor lighting, photos come out in soft definition and with poor colour saturation. This is particularly true when not using wide-angle mode — the same situation comes out with much less colour saturation. I’ve managed to take some great photos in ideal lighting, but I often find myself in situations where I’m in mediocre indoor light and regret that I don’t have the LG V20 and not the Google Pixel or a premium Samsung or Apple device on me.

From a design perspective, I’m always proud to tote the V20. Its minimal, all-metal and the secondary display adds a bit of flash (more on that later). One important thing to note, however, is that it features a wide at 78.1mm. If you have short thumbs, you’ll have a difficult time reaching to the other edge of the device, often necessitating two-handed use or leading to dangerous drops. As a side note, I’d also like to mention that the V20 tough and looks a lot better after drops than the Google Pixel does.

I didn’t experience the same issue when testing out the 68.1mm-wide Samsung Galaxy S8, which still manages to offer a bigger display than the V20; 5.8-inches to the V20’s 5.7-inches. The LG G6 offers an improvement — though more minor than Samsung’s — in that category as well, with a 71.9mm width and 5.7-inch display. At 67.1mm wide, the iPhone 7 is far reduced from the V20 and even the iPhone 7 Plus comes in at a smaller 77.9mm.

As for the double screen, I’m backtracking on its usefulness. Throughout the two weeks I’ve spent using the LG V20, I’ve never once found an instance in which I’ve found it added to the phone’s experience. When I want to see the time, my natural instinct is to wake my phone, which is easily done with two taps on the display. When it comes to quick-launching apps, the little screen is too small for my fingers to reliably tap the correct app, so instead I tend to avoid the lineup in favour of my regular browsing habits.

LG V20 on table

Beyond all that, the second screen is too high up to easily reach while using the V20 in one hand. When I was working hard to use the feature at the beginning of my time with the V20, I saw potential, but now that I’m deeper into daily use I just can’t see the point.

In my original review when I spoke about performance I noted that most of the time it ran superbly on its Snapdragon 820 chipset and 4GB of RAM, but then sometimes, often randomly, apps would crash. That issue has persisted, with the same apps that I noted before: Apple Music and Google Maps, as well as the Google Play Store. Additionally, I’ve run into several instances where apps haven’t loaded properly or took a long time to load. I should specify, this isn’t a rampant issue, but it does happen more than most other Android flagships I’ve tried with the Snapdragon 820 chipset, including the Samsung Galaxy S7 and HTC 10.

The battery life provided via the LG V20’s 3,200mAh unit is, in my use case, a full day — but just by a small margin. Most of the time, when 9pm rolls around, the phone’s about to die or has just died. My usage, I’d say, is medium-high. Multiple hours of music streaming (both on data and Wi-Fi) and two hours or so of data browsing are my most energy consumptive practices.

LG v20 front and back

For most premium smartphone users, a day’s battery life is standard, though, and while other flagships may give you a bit more to run into a long night, typically you’ll be plugging in during the evening either way, so it’s not a big downside. The phone continues to run a little hot when charging, however.

As for the user experience, time has not improved my relationship with LG’s UX 5.0+ skin. I still find it to be too invasive, in both form and function and would prefer a stripped down, near stock Android experience. For instance, I find if unfortunate that you can’t swipe right to get to the Google Now screen from home.

Instead, you either see a stretchy screen animation or can enable ‘Smart Bulletin,’ an LG proprietary feature that shows you your calendar and provides you with access to ‘LG Health,’ ‘QuickRemote,’ ‘Evernote,’ ‘Smart Settings’ and LG’s music app. The feature, as you might be able to tell from its offerings, does little to replicate Google Now’s handy functionalities.

LG V20 ticker display

While I consider that a major downside, if you care little about stock Android — or have never experienced it before — this may not be a point of consideration for you. After all, there’s nothing intrinsically broken about the skin. It just pales in comparison to the simplicity and ease of use that users can experience with an iPhone or Pixel.

In sum, my perspective hasn’t greatly changed. The LG V20 is still a great phone, but not great enough to knock anyone off their pedestals in any category except for audio and, unfortunately for the company, great audio isn’t generally what sells phones. Keep a look out for our LG G6 review, coming soon, to see if the manufacturer can surpass the G5 and V20 to create a compelling all-around premium smartphone package.

Find my original review of the LG V20 here.

Photography contributed by Patrick O’Rourke.

Comments

  • TP

    “It just pales in comparison to the simplicity and ease of use that users can experience with an iPhone or Pixel.”
    I disagree. There are features that are unique, and that make the use of phone much simpler and easier than Pixel: second screen, knock-on display, mini-view are some of them. Since OS itself has been polished and more mature and hardware performance is now at the level enough to overcome the additional resource usage of custom Androids, I don’t see advantages of a stock Android over well-customized version.

    • paulnptld

      I never understand why people fail to address how you can use custom launchers to make the experience pretty much perfect. “The LG skin, blah, blah…” Use Nova or Apex. Customize. Enjoy.

    • Angelbob77

      Yes I absolutely agree I don’t really like the pixel because other than its software there is nothing really impressive about it. And since I could care less about software because I use Nova launcer, I got the v20 due to the removable battery.

  • Tim3Tripp3r

    It seems very odd that you left out the fact that the V20 is MIL-STD-810G transit drop compliance. This means with the LG V20’s MIL-STD-810G rating, it entails drops. More specifically, the V20 survived 26 drops from a height of 4 feet. I find this highly relevant to being included in a review. Being “rugged” is way more important than being waterproof to my use.

    • Greedog

      Why do you find that odd? It’s obvious the goal was to “bad-mouth” the V20.

  • 1messager

    You should made the dimensions comparaison with the same kind of measure.

  • Don Low

    The V20 is a great phone. Second screen is very useful. Try to replace the battery in any of the others, you can’t. Rose Beher is the type that should just stick to the iPhone. Typical Apple Fritter…

    • Her largest criticism was the LG skin instead of stock Android. “Apple Fritter”.

      Typical Mobilesyrup comment.

    • LgV20isbeast

      Any avid android user wouldn’t complain about skin knowing so many good launchers available on play store.

    • Bryan B

      Launchers dont replace the skins man. Custom roms replace skins.

    • K Alcs

      The funny thing about this is that lg has a theme section in settings with over 40 different themes available…..

    • Bryan B

      Yeah I know. I use a V20. Got rid of my pixel xl for it. Haven’t looked back either.

    • LgV20isbeast

      Read the article again. The author is complaining about the functionalities that can be fixed/replaced by launchers. And you’re talking about themes, which again can be changed. LG skin can mean things, depending on context. The point being these can be changed as per user preferences and an android user would know that.

    • Bryan B

      I was merely responding to what you said….people wouldn’t complain about skins with so many good launchers in the play store….but they don’t replace skins. You can use any launcher you want…the skin remains the same. I didn’t bring up themes either..someone else did….in which themes also don’t replace skins…they just modify what they look like.

    • LgV20isbeast

      Again, my reference to “LG skin” is in line with the context in the article.

      As I said, read the article again to get the context. The author complained about features of “LG SKIN” that can be customized and changed using different launchers. “LG SKIN” doesn’t refer to one single thing. It includes appearance and features. Some might need custom roms to be changed, some can be changed merely by icon packs and launchers etc.

      I understand what you’re pointing at (and not saying you’re wrong) but try and understand the context of comment.

      “As for the user experience, time has not improved my relationship
      with LG’s UX 5.0+ skin. I still find it to be too invasive, in both form
      and function and would prefer a stripped down, near stock Android
      experience. For instance, I find if unfortunate that you can’t swipe
      right to get to the Google Now screen from home.

      Instead, you
      either see a stretchy screen animation or can enable ‘Smart Bulletin,’
      an LG proprietary feature that shows you your calendar and provides you
      with access to ‘LG Health,’ ‘QuickRemote,’ ‘Evernote,’ ‘Smart Settings’
      and LG’s music app. The feature, as you might be able to tell from its
      offerings, does little to replicate Google Now’s handy functionalities.”

    • K Alcs

      Or… you know… you could hold your home button

    • Wonderful Blessings

      Try spelling her name right, muppet.

  • Barry Plunkett

    I love my LG V20! Great battery life never over heats but the main reason I bought it was for the removable battery and Great Pictures. Try that in the other phone’s! LOL! Never worry about running out of power I keep a spare battery with me at all times.

  • James Watt

    I am also a medium-high (probably on the high end) user and notice the battery life issue, especially on days I’m using the camera. However, it’s a great camera. I bought a battery charger that can last me longer than 2 days. Is it a large external battery? Sure, but the battery is also removable so I have options. I’d rather have enough power than not enough.

    Another feature I use is the HD audio recorder. It’s better than headphones for recording so I’ll take it. My job doesn’t need high quality microphones but this works perfectly. I’m a niche market there but I appreciate it.

  • Phone_Addiction

    Why would you compare the i7 instead of the i7 plus with the v20? It makes no sense at all.

    • JD

      Because even while handicapped the smaller iPhone still managed to steal the show in 2016. If only the Note 7 didn’t fail.

  • Greedog

    What a useless and very bias article. And so wrong about the lowlight picture quality. I smell an Apple fan girl. Maybe I’m wrong but LG would be wise to exclude you from any and all future gadget reviews.

    And maybe LG had no intention on “replicating Google Now’s functionality”. I know I don’t use it. Wow! So narrow minded.

    If your view hasn’t changed about the phone then why write the article?

    Honestly.. I can’t wait to get a V20 of my own. It has virtually everything I’m looking for in a phone. Great cameras (if you know what you’re doing or even if you don’t). Removable battery. Sound quality second to none in both recording and playback. IR blaster. SD support. And on it goes.

    • Wonderful Blessings

      M-M-Mommy? She’s coming, sonny…

    • Greedog

      Would you care to expound, Apostle Paul?

    • Beautiful Blessings

      You debate with the cunning of the prophets of old and I am undone, alas…

  • Whome

    I really like the V20. I’m interested to see what LG has in store for the V30 though. I think the fact that the V20 comes with 64gb deserved more than a casual mention plus expandable memory and a removable battery. Iphone and pixel neither have expandable memory or a removable battery.

  • Lee Fox

    I’m lucky to make it to lunch on my battery. Phone is only a month old. LG ALWAYS has the WORST battery life.

    • Beautiful Blessings

      What do you have for your lunch, oh sufferer of poor battery life?

  • cantbanthisguy

    Want Google Now? You could always dl this app I’ve heard about called the “Google Now Launcher”. OR… you could always hit the Google Now app icon and BOOM! Google NOW!

    Want better low light photos? There is this option called “HDR” in the camera settings that takes great low light photos. Even the auto setting switches to HDR when it feels the need to make life easier.

    Maybe Rose forgot that Android is still very customizable.

  • gcforreal

    I’m an Android phone enthusiast. I’ve own most of the flagships from 2016. I tried out the v20 for two weeks and just could not deal with it . My biggest complaint definitely battery life and the software would sometimes bug out or just plain lag.i know someone will chime in and say I had a bad unit but I didn’t because I got the first exchanged. Lg needs to improve battery life , focus on bug free smoother software and perhaps use AMOLED displays (personal preference). Overall it’s an ok phone just not what I was expecting from LG ,hopefully the g6 is better.

  • Don Low

    That’s the first & last article I read from some dumb chick on a no name website. Mobilesyrup? really?

    • Dimitri

      No one told u to come here and post and no one told you to come here and read any articles. Unlike you, many like coming here to read the articles. Mobilesyrup is a Canadian tech site which offers Canadians information.

      No one forced you to come here and read her post. She makes some excellent posts. If you do not like it, please do all of us a favour and don’t come back.

      Take care!

    • Wonderful Blessings

      Cry moar, Donny.

  • Nathan Jenkins

    You can install Google Now launcher from the play store if you want Google Now on the left screen and a more stock look. The only downside to this is you lose the ability to double-tap the background to put the phone to sleep. However you’re still able to double-tap the notification bar to put it to sleep even with Now launcher.

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