LG apparently couldn’t help itself and decided to move up launch plans for its latest V-series flagship smartphone. Though V-series phones are typically released in the fall, the company has just announced the V50 ThinQ just five months after the LG V40 ThinQ released. It shares many of the same qualities with its very recent predecessor, but there’s an unconventional addition that can turn it into a foldable phone, and the highlight is its ability to connect to 5G networks.
Didn’t LG just launch another flagship smartphone? Yes, at MWC 2019, the company took the wraps off the LG G8 ThinQ, a follow-up to last year’s LG G7 ThinQ. The new V50 carries a few of the same features as the new phone as well, and you can read more about the G-series phone in our hands-on review. But here’s what the V50 ThinQ is all about.
The V50 ThinQ’s marquee feature is the Qualcomm X50 modem inside the Snapdragon 855 processor, which means it can connect to 5G networks. That attribute is highlighted by the gaudy 5G logo on the back of the phone, which lights up in yellow (presumably because this phone will be launching on Sprint first).
The LG G8 ThinQ and several other Android phones use the Snapdragon 855 processor as well, but the X50 modem — which enables 5G connectivity — is an opt-in feature, so most manufacturers are offering a second phone with it instead to promote their 5G readiness. Samsung’s latest Galaxy S10e, S10, and S10 Plus can’t connect to 5G networks, for example, but the Galaxy S10 5G can. The problem? 5G networks are still in their infancy, so don’t expect any kind of nationwide coverage for the next few years. If you buy a 5G phone this year, there’s a good chance you’re going to be using 4G LTE during most of its lifetime.
There’s also the question of how much 5G service will cost from carriers. No pricing details have been announced to date, making it difficult to speculate whether 5G service will cost a good deal more than the unlimited 4G LTE plan you pay for now.
Similar to the V40
LG’s proud to say the V50 ThinQ brings 5G capabilities in a body that’s nearly identical to the V40 ThinQ. Why is this a big deal? Early speculation suggested 5G phones would be bulky and thick devices (just look at Motorola’s 5G mod for the Moto Z3), but like the Galaxy S10 5G, LG’s option looks quite ordinary.
We weren’t allowed to take photos of the V50 ThinQ (you may see some floating around) but it looks and feels exactly like the V40 ThinQ. It’s comfortable to hold thanks to the rounded edges, and the 6.4-inch OLED screen is expansive with its 19.5:9 aspect ratio. There’s also a QHD+ screen resolution, so everything looks sharp.
The triple camera setup on the back makes a return. It’s a standard 12-megapixel lens with a f/1.5 aperture and optical image stabilization paired with a wide-angle 16-megapixel lens with a f/1.9 aperture, as well as a 12-megapixel telephoto lens with a f/2.4 aperture, which offers 2x optical zoom. It’s a versatile system, and it’s one several other smartphones mimic including the Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Samsung’s new Galaxy S10. In our V40 review, we liked the five-camera system on the phone, but found it still lagged behind the competition. That’s likely unchanged here.
Over on the front in the notch cutout are two selfie cameras — an 8-megapixel lens with a f/1.9 aperture and a wide-angle 5-megapixel lens with a f/2.2 aperture. The second lens is better-suited to capturing group selfies.
There’s 6GB of RAM, just like before, but storage space has been bumped from 64GB to 128GB. A MicroSD card slot is available if you need more space. Like the Galaxy S10 Plus, there’s a Vapor Chamber cooling system to help dissipate heat during intensive tasks like gaming.
The phone is a little thicker, but it’s not a difference that’s quickly noticeable. It’s because the battery capacity has been expanded greatly — the V40 had a 3,300mAh but the V50 has a massive 4,000mAh capacity. This is likely to ensure connecting to 5G networks doesn’t cause any kind of significant battery drain, but it also could be simply to keep the new secondary screen accessory juiced up (more on that below).
It can fold! With another accessory
Yes, the LG V50 ThinQ also can be a foldable phone — but you need to buy an accessory. This second screen is like a smartphone cover case, but instead of a cover it’s an additional 6.2-inch OLED screen. The secondary screen can be used independently, so you can watch a Netflix movie on one screen while messaging someone else on the other.
As soon as the second screen is attached, an icon will appear on the V50 ThinQ’s main screen which lets you tap it to power on the secondary display, or you can use it to seamless swap between the two screens. There is a multi-window mode that will divide each screen in two, and some games will let you use the secondary screen as a game controller, not unlike a Nintendo 3DS (but with a touchscreen controller).
The whole getup can be positioned to 104 or 180 degrees, and LG said you won’t need to charge the second screen as it’s powered by the V50 ThinQ.
One of the few features the V50 ThinQ steals from the new LG G8 ThinQ is Video Portraits. Most smartphones today have a Portrait Mode feature that applies a blue or bokeh effect behind a subject, creating a highly desirable DSLR-like portrait effect. Now, LG is adding this to videos.
As soon as you start recording, you’ll see a slider that lets you increase (or turn off) the blur behind humans and objects. It mimics professional lenses that offer shallow depth of fields, though it’s simply using software to recognize the outline of the subject and apply a blur in the background.
Price and availability
The LG V40 ThinQ launched with a price tag of $900. LG hasn’t announced pricing for the V50 ThinQ yet, but it’s safe to assume it will be a higher — likely $1,000 or more. In terms of when you can get one, the company said the phone will launch in the spring on Sprint’s network. Verizon will be soon to follow in the summer, but LG also said it will partner with 8 other “major carriers in markets where 5G service will be launched this year,” including the U.S., South Korea, Australia, and other European countries.
We don’t know how much the second screen accessory will cost, but we’ll be updating this story as we learn more.