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LG’s new V60 ThinQ 5G shows steady evolution for a company in need of big change

Are two screens and flagship specs enough to help LG’s mobile business?

As Microsoft’s Surface Duo slowly approaches for release later this year, LG is getting out in front with its third dual-screen smartphone. The trick to LG’s approach, if you’re unfamiliar, is the second display is part of a case that can be separated from the main phone whenever you don’t want the added weight or bulk.

My colleague Sam Byford was impressed by the multitasking powers of LG’s dual-screen G8x ThinQ, and now the company is back with its latest evolution on the idea. The V60 ThinQ 5G — I’ll not be mentioning “ThinQ” anymore beyond this point, thank you — upgrades the internals with Qualcomm’s latest processor, 5G data, an improved camera capable of 8K video, and more. And yes, it still includes the hi-fi headphone jack that’s become a hallmark of LG phones.

But for a mobile division that continues to struggle, the V60 feels a bit iterative — especially in the design department. It’s got a 6.8-inch FHD+ (2460 x 1080) OLED panel. No fancy high refresh rates to be found here — just plain old 60Hz. The screen has a small notch, but it’s surrounded by fairly sizable bezels. And around back, the camera bump has returned after LG managed to keep everything flush in last year’s flagships. There’s still a dedicated Google Assistant shortcut key on the V60 as well. Everything still looks and feels very much like a V-series phone, and I do quite like the “classy blue” and “classy white” finishes. A bolder third option would’ve been nice. LG has given the V60 chamfered aluminum edges with a matte finish, and the divide actually comes right across the USB-C port, which looks a bit peculiar but still feels fine in your hand.

Inside the phone is where the notable upgrades are. The V60 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 chipset and supports 5G connectivity. On most carriers, it’s optimized for Sub-6 5G networks, but there’ll be a (more expensive) model that’s designed for ultra-fast millimeter-wave data speeds. You get 128GB of built-in storage with optional microSD expansion and 8GB of RAM. There’s also Wi-Fi 6 on board, and LG says the V60’s 5,000mAh battery lets it last 30 percent longer than the G8x did. That’s particularly important when you remember that this phone has to drive a secondary display; the Dual Screen case lacks its own battery.

Like before, that second screen is a perfect match for the primary one. It’s the same size and resolution. And yes, it still mimics the notch since LG is using the same panel part to save on costs. You can position its hinge however you want, turning the V60 into a mini laptop of sorts. Previously, only LG’s own apps could utilize both screens at the same time. But with the V60, LG has managed to get Google’s apps — Google Photos, Google Maps, YouTube, etc. — working in the “wide view” mode that spans both displays at once. When the phone is held vertically, this feels a bit silly since the apps literally just stretch across two displays with a big divide in the middle. But switching to landscape lets you use one display as a full-screen keyboard, which could help you jam out emails in Gmail a bit faster and with fewer typos.

By and large, though, the V60’s Dual Screen setup is still best suited for multitasking with different apps on each one. This remains the ultimate Uber / Lyft driver command center. You can watch videos on one screen while messaging or scrolling Instagram on the other. And when playing games, you can use the additional display as a gamepad and customize where all the buttons go. LG hasn’t managed to solve all of its Dual Screen quirks, though. The second screen still gets its own launcher and home screen, which can get annoying to manage on top of the ones on the regular phone. The Dual Screen case still has the small outer display that’ll show you the time and notifications.

But the star of any LG phone, no matter how many screens, is usually the camera. The company’s handsets have built a reputation as powerful content creation tools, offering more manual controls than Android competitors — especially when recording video. The V60 has dual rear cameras; that third lens on the rear is a time-of-flight depth sensor.

LG has given the phone a larger 1/1.7-inch sensor for the primary 64-megapixel f/1.8 camera, which is on par (in size, at least) with recent Huawei phones and Sony’s latest and not too far off from the Galaxy S20. In low light, the camera utilizes pixel binning to produce 16MP images to help combat noise. There’s still also a 13-megapixel ultrawide camera that provides a 117-degree field of view. LG isn’t doing any wild tricks with zoom in the same manner as Huawei and Samsung; the V60 still tops out at 10x.

The V60 has the best video chops of any LG phone yet, as it can capture 8K-resolution recordings. The phone includes four microphones (on the top, bottom, left, and back), allowing it to produce 3D audio alongside your video clips. There’s a new feature called “voice bokeh” that can adjust the audio as it’s being recorded to emphasize voices, and the fun ASMR mode from the G8x is back again. In manual video mode, you can set the V60 to record in HDR10+ for more vibrant colors.

LG hasn’t given up on providing its customers with top-notch audio. The 32-bit hi-fi DAC for wired headphones is still present, and the V60 has balanced stereo speakers, which is something that other flagships have lost as bezels get shaved away. To round out the specs list, there’s an in-display fingerprint sensor, Qualcomm Quick Charge 4.0 (with wireless charging), and the phone ships running Android 10.

The V60 ThinQ 5G has flagship specs in a somewhat uninspired design, but until Microsoft’s Surface Duo arrives this fall, there aren’t many phones that can give you this dual-screen trick. Foldables seem far more futuristic, but they’re also more fragile — and you can detach this second display whenever you want and stick to the traditional slab. Will there be more excitement around Microsoft’s device? Certainly. And I’m not sure the V60 really does anything to move the needle for LG. The company’s fans will still be very into this phone, but other consumers might not be swayed. LG has said it hopes to make its mobile business profitable by 2021 through “wow factor.” Is this supposed to be that? Or is the wow still to come from an eventual G9?

Pricing and availability for the V60 will be announced soon by wireless carriers. It will be released this spring. The G8x sells for an appealing $699 (Dual Screen case included), so if LG can manage to undercut Samsung by a good amount, that can only help the V60’s cause.

Photography by Chris Welch / The Verge