If you haven’t already soaked up the leaks about it, the new LG V50 introduced today is a souped-up V40 with the new Snapdragon 855 processor, improved cooling, bigger battery, and the futuristic addition of 5G. The V50 is LG’s first 5G phone, in fact, and it’s also the first to be compatible with a new accessory the company is rolling out: an entire second screen.
The LG Dual Screen is essentially a folio case with a second OLED screen in it. The V50 has a 6.4-inch display, however the secondary panel here is limited to a 6.2-inch diagonal measurement, owing to its bigger bezels. I got to try out the Dual Screen system for myself here at Mobile World Congress, and there are both good and bad things to say about it.
Starting with the positive, I’m confident that there’s demand for this kind of extra screen real estate. The more screen manufacturers can squeeze into a pocketable shape, the higher a price they’ll be able to charge. And, indeed, an LG V50 with an LG Dual Screen attached to it is pretty much as pocketable as the LG V50 itself. The added thickness won’t affect whether or not the already large device is a fit for your attire, Also cool is the hinge design on the case, which can rotate a full 360 degrees, allowing you to mirror your screen, which can be handy to show someone you’re photographing how you’re framing the shot.
LG is employing a proprietary Wi-Fi chipset that uses very short-range and high-bandwidth communication to transmit between the V50 and its extra screen. In my testing of the V50 plus Dual Screen combo, I was unable to detect any latency or other communication issues between the two panels in front of me. It worked as smoothly as you might expect when operating two monitors on your desktop.
There are Pogo pins on the back of the V50, which connect to the Dual Screen case and draw power for the auxiliary display from the phone’s battery. There’s no supplementary battery in the second screen, though adding one would probably have bulked it out further than LG was willing to go.
The downsides to LG’s new offering are predictable. Firstly, the two screens are not of identical quality: I notice a slight, but detectable, difference in color temperature and viewing angles between them. I also don’t enjoy the asymmetry in size. LG’s software design for this system isn’t bad, but it does exhibit weird behaviors, such as showing the on-screen keyboard on the left screen when I’m trying to input something on the right. I also had a mighty struggle getting a racing game to recognize the second-screen’s simulated gamepad controller, and it’s those initial glitches and imperfections that put most people off before they’ve even tried a gadget like this properly.
It would be naive for me to conclude this by saying “if LG can only polish its software,” given how many years I’ve been waiting for LG to do just that on a number of other fronts. And yet, I feel like the company’s approach this year has been the most pragmatic and grounded among its competitors. Sure, it’s doing a 5G phone, but LG is refraining from launching any flying porcine foldables to wow people without offering them an attainable thing they can actually buy. The LG Dual Screen is the less glamorous, but far more pragmatic approach to cramming more screens into pockets.
LG tells me it plans to make all of its future 5G devices compatible with a second display of this kind, though I couldn’t get the company to commit to all such devices being compatible with this particular model. In other words, every 5G LG phone will probably have its own Dual Screen variation to offer. Oh, and in unhappy news for US V50 buyers, the Dual Screen option won’t be offered in the American market.
The price for the LG Dual Screen has been left a mystery for now, though we can probably rest assured that a V50 plus Dual Screen will be hundreds of dollars cheaper than the truly extravagant Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X foldables that got unveiled this week.