LG has officially released details about its latest premium smartphone, the V30, a device it expects to win over some consumers with its refreshing take on photography and videography.
In the mobile space, LG has long been in the shadow of its Korean rival, Samsung, and has been trying to methodically gain traction by improving performance, user experience and camera output. I got some hands-on time with it in a pre-briefing in New York City to gauge some of the newest features.
The V20 was unique in that it was equipped with a separate display strip at the top of the main screen to act as a contextual shortcut. LG has all but abandoned that design for the new V30, and gone with a floating touchbar that's accessible anywhere on the longer 6" QHD+ OLED display using an 18:9 aspect ratio.
A renewed design philosophy also sticks out with the V30. The V20 was a large device, by any measure, but in cutting the second screen, reducing the bezels and curving the display into the metal frame, LG made the V30 as svelte as anything else on the market.
It will be water-resistant and have a 3,300mAh battery that also supports wireless charging. It will run on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. LG says it has Android 7.1.2 Nougat, but with 8.0 Oreo already arriving on supported Pixel and Nexus devices, it's unclear what the device will run on out of the box.
The upgrade to LG's UX 6.0+ is hard to read without further use. Software and user experience have been the enduring bugaboos with LG's smartphones, and no major overhaul has fully occurred yet. LG tweaked things here, but how much bloat was cut to reduce its footprint over Android remains to be seen.
Camera tweaks figure prominently, starting with the crystal clear lens and f/1.6 aperture, currently the widest on any phone to date. LG claims it has improved image clarity by 4% and widened dynamic range. With such a wide aperture, the camera should be a solid shooter at night and in low-light, especially in Manual mode.
LG is hoping to spur more manual shooting through a new platform it calls Graphy, where pro photographers can showcase photos shot with LG phones. Selecting a photo will then import the manual settings the photographer used to shoot that image to one the user wants to capture at that moment. Initially aimed at professionals, LG says it is considering opening up the platform to submissions from everyday LG users who shoot in manual.
The same dual-lens setup applies on the rear: a main 16MP camera and a wide 120-degree lens shooting at 13MPs. The front camera is less impressive, with a 5MP sensor and 90-degree wide-angle lens.
The focus on video recording is admirable, if only because manual controls on a manufacturer's native camera app are uncommon. LG introduced these last year in the V20, and has expanded on them here.
A new Cine Effects setting is the standout because of its purpose, which is to apply filmmaking styles and hues to real-time recording. There will be 16 presets, like Summer Blockbuster, Noir, and Melodrama. LG claims these are far more than simple filters, but rather intricate colour balances that can create photos that look the way their settings intended.
One caveat I noted, however, was that I couldn't change the frame rate to shoot in 24fps, the standard for films and TV shows, when using Cine Effects. The manual controls allowed it under the regular Manual Video setting, but not being able to do it with these cinematic modes felt like something was missing.
It stood out even more in light of another addition called Point Zoom, which allows the shooter to pan and zoom on a subject that isn't situated in the middle of the frame. Bearing in mind this is digital, rather than optical zoom at work, the feature worked surprisingly well when the phone was stationary on a tripod.
Then there's the enhanced audio recording inherent in the device, a carryover from the V30's predecessor. The phone's microphones can pick up sound clearer and louder than competing phones, which helps when shooting video.
Playing around with it for an hour made one thing clear: the V30 has a dramatically different look and feel from its predecessor. Physically, it's more than an incremental change. Aesthetically, it's much nicer to hold and look at. Camera performance should expand on what was already one of the best in the category. The wild card is whether the software can modernize and lighten the load enough to feel like it meshes with the rest of the package.
LG hasn't confirmed pricing or availability for the V30 in Canada yet, but expect it to launch with carriers soon.