If a company wants to release a smartphone towards the end of the year, it had better have something special to stand out among the slew of new smartphones that are typically announced in October.
This month we’re expecting new devices from OnePlus and Google, two phone makers that consistently put out superb devices that are nearly impossible to beat. If the wise are looking for a new smartphone around this time of year, they would usually wait to see what OnePlus and Google have conjured up.
So, what does the new LG V40 “ThinQ” have that could tempt the end-of-year smartphone buyer?
Five cameras. Three in the rear, and two in the front. Normally, phones have two, maybe three cameras total.
I hope this revelation doesn't come across as anti-climactic. LG has done a great thing with the cameras in the LG V40, and it's a good reason to strongly consider LG's newest smartphone over those from OnePlus and Google, which aren't likely to have the versatility that the LG V40 has, at least with their cameras.
Check out the LG V40 "ThinQ" and its five cameras:
The LG V40 is a beautiful device
The LG V40 is closer than most Android smartphones in achieving the edge-to-edge screen design of the iPhone X. I'm not applauding LG for getting closer to an iPhone design, but I am applauding it for reducing the noticeable size of the bezels surrounding the display.
And it has one the largest and best displays on any smartphone while staying slim and compact for its screen size
The V40's 6.4-inch display is the same size as the Samsung Galaxy Note 9's, and yet it's a noticeably smaller phone.
It's also an OLED display like the Galaxy Note 9's, which means the best display experience possible at the moment. You get those total blacks, deep and rich colors, and gorgeous contrast that normal LCD displays can't match.
The glass back of the blue model I've been using is actually nicer than most glass backs on other phones
The glass back on the LG V40 is somehow smoother than most other glass backs on smartphones. The blue model I've been using has a depth and richness that you'd usually only see on phones with ceramic backs, like the Essential Phone.
But like all phones with glass backs, the fingerprints will ruin everything. And if you plan on using a case, the back of the phone won't matter to you, anyway.
It's incredibly light for a smartphone this size, which I love
The LG V40's light weight is a sincerely welcomed feature. It's unquestionably more comfortable to hold and use compared to heavier devices that can be unwieldy to handle. You don't really notice that a phone is too heavy until you pick up a phone as light as the LG V40.
Let's jump to the cameras, since they're the main attraction here
One the LG V40's camera lenses is a regular wide angle camera that every smartphone has
Another one of the lenses is LG's signature ultra-wide angle lens
And the third lens is a zoom lens! It's the most versatile camera system on a smartphone to date
You can even take a photo with all three lenses at the same time, but LG needs to tweak this a bit, as the photos don't look that great. The bright parts of the photo are completely voided of detail
LG's "AI Cam" feature unfortunately falls flat, but that's fine because you don't need to use it
The "ThinQ" in the LG V40's name lets users know that the phone comes with the company's "AI Cam" feature, which is supposed to automatically adjust the camera settings for whatever you're pointing the camera at. It'll automatically recognize flowers, for example, and take a photo with what it thinks are the best camera settings for flowers.
Unfortunately, AI Cam didn't work very well in my initial test. It completely oversaturated the yellow color of the flowers in the photo above, which totally rid them of detail.
I'll be doing more test shoots with LG's AI Cam feature to see if it works better with anything else. But so far, you're better off just sticking to the regular Auto mode for taking pictures.
The LG V40 can also take a "cinematograph" — a still photo with a single moving object.
It's nice, I suppose, but it's likely to become a feature that I forget is in the phone and end up never using.
So how about the two cameras on the front?
One is the usual wide angle lens that most smartphones have
And the other is an ultra-wide angle lens that all smartphones should have, especially for selfies
As for performance, there are no complaints here
The LG V40 runs on the most powerful mobile chip from Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 845. It's to be expected from a premium smartphone these days, and the experience is fast and smooth.
LG's layer of its own interface that runs on top of Android, often called a "skin," isn't too heavy, and it doesn't seem to have much effect on the phone's performance. The same can't be said with other phones, especially Samsung's Galaxy S9 and Note 9 phones. Both of those Samsung phones run on the same chip, but can feel sluggish at times, and the likely culprit is the relatively heavy Samsung skin that runs on top of Android.
One of LG's marquee features remains in the LG V40: The HiFi-quality DAC that makes music sound better than most other Android phones, at least with wired headphones
LG will soon be the latest holdout for the trusty headphone jack. And for those who prefer wired headphones, LG's V40 comes with a treat. LG's premium devices usually come with a higher quality DAC (digital-to-analog converter) than most other smartphones, and music sounds better for it. It's especially noticeable with higher quality headphones, and I'd suspect that most who are still using wired headphones have a high quality pair they're unwilling to part with.
$900 is actually a pretty good price for a phone that comes with more camera versatility — arguably the most used smartphone feature — than any other smartphone
At about $950 depending on your carrier, the LG V40 isn't the most expensive phone out there, but it's not significantly cheaper, either.
With that said, the LG V40's $900+ price tag is in line with the features it comes with and the majority of the premium smartphone offerings out there. The triple-lens camera system is certainly the main "thing" about the LG V40 that helps justify its price tag. It gives you photo-taking versatility that no other smartphone has at the moment. You get the ultra-wide lens that typically comes with LG phones, as well as the zoom lens from the majority of Android phones.
If the price tag isn't to your liking, I'd usually suggest you look at the $530 OnePlus 6, which offers about 90% of the experience of the LG V40. The main differences include a more standard LCD display, a less sharp 1080p resolution, and a dual-lens camera with a dedicated zoom lens. But the OnePlus 6T is rumored to be coming very soon, so if $900 isn't within your budget, I'd wait for OnePlus to announce its new phone. But don't expect the OnePlus 6T to come with a similar triple-lens camera system that's as versatile as the LG V40's.