LG has been snowed under in recent years by the violence of the larger smartphone manufacturers. Still, the high-end phones the company has released haven’t been bad. The problem is that in today’s overcrowded smartphone market, you have to show exceptional things or be relatively cheap to sell your phones.
With the G7 ThinQ, battery life wasn’t great and camera consistency was mediocre. As a result, the device has also fallen into oblivion with us. Nevertheless, we sometimes recommend the high-end LG devices of recent years if they have been out for six months or a year, because the prices of these smartphones often fall even more sharply than those of Samsung phones.
We don’t want to spoil the fun right away, but the G8 ThinQ isn’t the most interesting thing we’ll see at Mobile World Congress either. That does not mean that it is not a fascinating device and that it lacks special functions. The G8 ThinQ has a time-of-flight camera on the front and can do a number of tricks with it.
Control without touching
One of the uses of the tof camera is that it should help with the portrait mode of the front camera. The tof sensor measures the time it takes for a photon to travel from the phone to an object and bounce back. So, simply put, it measures how long it takes for the light to travel and therefore has precise depth information. It’s quite disappointing, then, that the portrait selfies we’ve taken with the G8 were rather disappointing, as you can see below. The foreground is not well separated from the background, which surprises us when using the depth information. According to LG, that is the case. However, the software is not quite finished yet, so who knows, it might improve. Also interesting is the function where artificial background blur is created when filming.
Where the tof camera does play an interesting role is the operation of the G8 ThinQ with gestures. That works as follows. If you hold your hand fairly close to the screen notch, gesture mode will kick in. You then have to hold your hand a little further away from the device, as if you were holding a rotary knob with all your fingers at the same time, such as the one on your amplifier, for example.
Two shortcuts appear on the home screen when you make this gesture. You can then move left or right with your hand to launch the left or right app. In the settings you can specify which apps these should be. You can also take a screenshot by pinching your fingers closer together.
With the music app or YouTube in the foreground, you can rotate your hand to adjust the volume, as if you were actually holding the knob on your amplifier. You can also control music or videos by moving left or right.
This operation with gestures takes some getting used to at first, because you have to realize at what distance you have to make the gestures. After a few minutes we got the hang of it and the steering went quite smoothly. Of course, we’ve only had limited time to try out the features, but we can imagine using the gestures will become quite natural. However, you will probably only use the gestures in specific situations. When you’re holding the phone, it’s always much easier to use the volume buttons or the display.
There are two situations we can think of where the gestures can be practical. The first is when you are cooking and your phone is on the counter, for example. You can then control your phone without it getting dirty. A second obvious place to use it, which LG also mentions, is in the car. If you want to control music or a podcast, or launch your navigation app, we can imagine it’s useful. To be honest, we also doubt whether it works well in practice, because you still have to see how far you keep your hand from the phone and although it doesn’t have to be extremely precise, there is of course only a limited area for that. In addition, it is of course still the question of whether it is safe. It is conceivable that it is safer than touching the screen, because the gestures are less precise. Still, not controlling your phone is of course the safest thing to do.
Unlocking and hardware
The cool camera has another function, in combination with the infrared sensor, which is also housed in the notch. You can unlock the G8 ThinQ with your palm. LG calls this, quite uninspired: Hand ID. Fortunately, the technology behind it is inspiring. Your veins are mapped with this palm recognition and according to LG it is safer than fingerprint security. That would be because the vein structure of a hand is more unique than a fingerprint.
Unfortunately, we didn’t actually get to try this unlock. All G8s were set to unlock when they saw a random piece of human flesh. The speed was now quite acceptable, although a fast fingerprint scanner is faster. Fortunately, it also has it on the back and you also have the choice to use face unlock. It will probably be quite safe, because the tof sensor can see 3d, but it was also blocked on the demo phones.
One thing we noticed positively in the hands-on was haptic feedback. It’s hard to explain, but we’ll do our best. With a somewhat more luxurious haptic feedback, you can get a powerful short ‘tap’ if, for example, you pull a slider in the settings. With this G8 you feel a tap and then a short soft buzz, while the slider is pulled. That is a surprisingly fine detail with this smartphone; after all, it is sometimes about the details with high-end devices.
The G8 is equipped with the Snapdragon 855-soc, but does not have a 5g modem, as the V50 ThinQ has.
There is good news in the field of screen technology. The G series has finally switched to OLED technology. We were somewhat surprised that LG did not do it last year, since LG Display already supplied OLED screens to Google for the Pixel phones. Perhaps LG wanted to wait out the teething troubles first. Anyway, the 6.1″ OLED screen of the G8 looks beautiful and of course rich in contrast.
The difference between the G8 and the G8s is that the OLED screen of the latter is slightly larger at 6.2″ and has a lower resolution of 1080×2248 pixels. That is still above 400ppi and in principle sharp enough, although we still have to see, of course. It also has a 3550mAh battery, which is marginally more than the G8 ThinQ. Another difference is the camera. The ultra-wide-angle camera is one of thirteen instead of sixteen megapixels. Whether that is a decline, we do not know. So the primary camera and the telephoto camera are the same.
|Camera||LG G8 ThinQ|
|Primary||12MP, f/1.5, 27mm, 1.4µm, PDAF and laser autofocus, OIS|
|Wide angle||16MP, f/1.9, 16mm (ultrawide), 1/3.1″, 1.0µm, no autofocus (G8s 13MP, further specs unknown)|
|Tele||12MP, 52mm, f/2.4, 1.0µm, 2x optical zoom, PDAF, OIS|
We shot with the G8 in wide, regular and telephoto modes, and sent a few to ourselves. You can see them below.
Without comparison material, with only one photographed situation and with software that is probably not quite finished yet, there is not much to say about the camera quality. What is striking is that the photo on the right seems to have been taken with the regular camera and digital zoom if we look at the exif data. That’s probably because there wasn’t enough light and the G8 then switches to the regular camera. After all, the camera with telephoto lens is not as bright as the regular one.
It is also striking that the white balance estimate of the camera is different in the middle photo than in the left one. We’ve seen that before with LG’s dual cameras and we had hoped it would have been resolved by now. Furthermore, we will wait with our judgment until the review.
Something the G8s lacks compared to the G8 is that the screen acts as a second speaker. The G8s simply has a speaker in the notch and therefore also has stereo sound. LG sticks to the high-end audio features and a well-known part of that is a high-quality 32-bit quad-dac from Sabre. Fortunately, there is a 3.5mm port on the G8. The Boombox function is also back, where the phone transmits vibrations well to the surface it is lying on. For example, if the G8 is on a wooden table, it amplifies the phone’s bass tones quite a bit. This was also apparent during the hands-on.
LG has again done its best to create a smartphone with the G8 that brings something new. The manufacturer does this more often and we can absolutely appreciate that. Just think of the modular G5 with its wide-angle lens where other manufacturers often opted for a telephoto lens. A number of high-end phones now have a telephoto and a wide-angle lens, including the G8(s). And there are other features, such as the audio functions, that give LG phones their own character.
Still, we wonder if the gesture controls will be a big hit. We’re afraid it’s a feature that, while the idea and technique are interesting, most users ignore. We want to test it as soon as possible, because we secretly hope that we will use it every day, because it can be useful, for example in the car. However, the new unlocking methods of the G8 may be more practical, although that depends, among other things, on its speed, which we have not yet been able to test. The OLED screen is also a great upgrade, but whether the G8 is advisable largely depends on the final price, which has not yet been announced.