LG’s best phone construction yet • Huge • bright screen • 2018 flagship performance • Handy dedicated Google Assistant button • Still has a headphone jack
Single speaker • Not all apps are optimized for the notch • Battery life could be better • Camera over-processes photos • Super Bright Mode cuts resolution in half
LG’s G7 ThinQ is a good alternative to the Galaxy S9 or iPhone X, but it has nothing outstanding that takes it to new heights.
LG’s new flagship Android phone, the G7 ThinQ, is a very good phone. The G7 (you couldn’t pay me enough to keep appending “ThinQ” to it) refines last year’s G6 design, embraces the smartphone “notch,” upgrades the specs, and drenches it all with a generous helping of AI.
And yet it does nothing but maintain the status quo. The G7 is what happens when a company — one with tremendous resources, no less — is content with following mobile trends instead of defining them.
You’re here to read a full review and you’ll find one below, but the G7 be be summarized with a single meme:
It gives me no pleasure to see a once competitive handset maker like LG fail to rise above its competitors year after year. After all, tough competition is the only thing that keeps everyone on their toes.
Phones plateaued a few years ago and it wasn’t until the most recent crop of devices that brought some excitement back.
The iPhone X and Essential Phone kickstarted the trend toward edge-to-edge screens (and the resulting notches). Samsung’s Galaxy S9 has a camera with a variable aperture. Huawei’s crammed three cameras into its incredible P20 Pro. Vivo’s shipped the X20 with a fingerprint sensor built into the display. Even no-name Chinese brands like Doogee are aiming high — perhaps too ambitiously — with promises of slider and transparent phones.
What’s LG promising with the G7? Incremental improvements. Not that there’s anything wrong with a boring phone that ticks off all the checkboxes, but I wish LG had been a bit more daring with its latest flagship.
Boring without any truly unique features or any other incentive for consumers (like lower prices) is a dangerous game. If LG continues down this path, it’ll find itself in the same boat as HTC: A once great phone maker now desperately fighting back extinction.
Everything’s all here
The G7 has everything a 2018 flagship phone should, including a glass back and metal frame. LG’s smoothed out the edges with subtle curves making the device feel nicer.
The 6.1-inch display, although not OLED, is large, bright (it even dials the brightness up in direct sunlight) and vibrant, HDR-ready, and super crisp. The screen has a 19.5:9 aspect ratio with 3,120 x 1,440 resolution, and the bezels surrounding it are pretty slim. And like it or not, the screen’s got a notch. I’m fine with it; these cutouts no longer bother me.
If you don’t like the notch, though, you can “turn it off” just like on Huawei’s P20 and P20 Pro by turning the pixels next to it black so it’s symmetrical with the “chin” below the screen. LG even lets you decorate these two split status bar “horns” with different colored backgrounds and tweak the curvature for the corners, so you have options. This kind of UI customization is one thing that still makes Android attractive.
Inside’s equally as 2018. The G7 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chip, 4GB of RAM (international models come with 6GB), 64GB of storage, a microSD card slot, and a 3,000 mAh battery that lasts a day.
There’s still a headphone jack. The USB-C port supports fast charging. The phone’s IP68 water- and dust-resistant. It’s got built-in wireless charging. The back’s also got a fingerprint sensor.
The phone has dual 16-megapixel cameras on the back and an 8-megapixel selfie camera on the front.
My review unit came loaded with Android 8.0 Oreo and LG’s own skin. It’s the same story as the G6 and V30: It looks like iOS. The gridded home screens are a little more flexible — you can arrange apps in any spot you want — but there’s no app drawer here, which means the only way to hide apps is to go into the Settings app.
Spec for spec, the G7’s no less less impressive than a Galaxy S9. There are some differences. The G7’s dual cameras work differently; there’s an amped-up Quad DAC for high-res music, and the speaker is louder. And of course, the G7 runs LG’s own skin on top of Android 8.0 Oreo.
These subtle differences, however, probably aren’t compelling enough to get anyone who owns an iPhone or Samsung to switch. And if you’re already using a recent flagship LG phone, they’re not a major leap.
Yes, absolutely it’s great to see both rear cameras bumped up to 16 megapixels and the fisheye distortion straightened out on the 107-degree ultra-wide secondary camera, and “Super Bright Camera” mode for better low-light photos, but will most people even notice?
Super Bright Camera mode works, but it also cuts the 16-megapixel resolution in half. It also makes photos look way more artificial with super saturated colors. I’d much rather take iPhone X’s darker, but sharper photos and edit them myself. Here’s an example:
Dynamic range doesn’t look too great for the G7’s photos, either. Here’s a comparison with the iPhone X, both shot with Auto HDR:
Let’s talk sound. How many people are demanding an audiophile Quad DAC for their high-res music from their phone? I asked a bunch of friends who aren’t tech nerds and none of them even knew what a DAC was. I’m all for cramming as much fidelity into a phone, but even I could care less about this feature on the G7.
I’ll give LG credit for making the speaker louder, but the company stopped short at blowing away phones like the Razer Phone by not making it stereo. The IPhone X, Galaxy S9, Pixel 2 — all of these have stereo speakers, and at least one of them is front-firing. LG put so much effort into audio quality and loudness and somehow missed the front-firing speaker trend? It seems like a major oversight to me.
Sprinkling AI everywhere
If you listen to enough tech company spiel, one thing jumps out: AI will be everywhere. And phone makers are diving head first to inject as much AI into their devices.
LG’s G7 reminds you about that every time you use it. It’s in the name — technically, the “ThinQ” brand is supposed to be the AI-driven connecting tissue through all of LG’s products.
Nowhere is AI more visible than two places: the dedicated Google Assistant button on the left side of the G7 and the AI Cam inside of the camera app.
It’s not the first time a phone maker has added a button just for a digital assistant. Samsung has put a Bixby button on all of its flagship phones since the Galaxy S8, but it is the first phone with a button that’s just for launching the Google Assistant.
Press and hold the button and it’ll call up the Assistant. This is the same Assistant you know and love on any other Android phone, but with a few extra tricks specific to the G7’s hardware. For example, you can tell the Assistant to “take a portrait selfie” and it’ll open the 8-megapixel front-facing camera in portrait mode. Or you can say something like “record a slow-mo video” and it’ll launch the right mode for that, too.
The G7-specific Assistant commands are pretty limited and a mixed bag, so it’s still kind of a gimmick. Like, you can’t tell it to “turn off the new second display” (LG’s name for the notch) or “turn on the always display.” But things like “turn brightness to 100 percent” or “turn battery saver mode on” work. At the end of the day, it’s all trial and error to see what the Assistant can and can’t do.
Double-click the Assistant button and the G7 launches into Google Lens mode. It’s still a work in progress so it’s not the most intelligent at identifying things, but I was still amazed when it did. A physical shortcut key to Lens is a lot faster than opening the Assistant or Google Photos and then tapping on the Lens feature. As a result of this convenience, I ended up saving a lot of photos and using Google’s note-taking app, Keep. LG’s definitely on to something here and I’m positive it’s only a matter of time before other phones copy it (maybe this is a hint at what’s to come for the Pixel 3?).
I said last year the best AI is invisible and the G7’s Assistant button is a perfect example of this intuitiveness. My only complaint about the Assistant button is that you can’t remap it (you can disable it so that it does nothing when pressed). Personally, that’s not an issue for me, but I could see diehard Android fans not liking this lockdown.
And on the topic of the Assistant, LG’s also impressively increased the far-field microphone’s range allowing for the G7 to hear “OK Google” voice commands from up to 16 feet away. Most phones have far-field mic ranges of around six feet.
Where I’m less convinced of AI’s benefit to the G7 is the camera. Like the LG V30 ThinQ, has an AI Cam mode that’s able to detect objects and scenes. Once it detects what it’s looking at, it’ll switch to an appropriate mode (i.e. food mode or sky or city modes) and take a photo.
For example, if it sees a sky, the camera will saturate the blues or if it detects a face with a certain distance, it’ll switch to portrait mode. LG’s doubled the amount of scenes and objects the AI Cam recognizes from 8 to 18 and in each mode the software also suggests four different types of filters.
I’m not a fan of AI in the camera for deciding how photos look mostly because I prefer to shoot and then edit them to get a desired look that I want. But I can see its appeal for less photography-savvy users. But be warned, it’s no fun when you scroll through your camera roll and a bunch of similar-looking sky photos.
Flying under the radar
In case it wasn’t obvious, I like the LG G7. It’s everything the G5 and G6 and V30 should have been, only arriving late.
If only LG had a time machine and could teleport back two years and release this phone before everyone else. That would have really set the G7 apart and I bet LG’s phone division would be in much better shape.
But releasing the G7 in 2018, it’s just another me-too phone and nothing groundbreaking.
The G7 needed to be substantially better than its competitors, but it’s just more of the same thing.
I’ve got few complaints (the cameras just aren’t that good), but even so the G7’s unlikely to restore LG to it’s former glory days. LG has lost a lot of momentum after faltering with the G5. The G7 needed to be substantially better than its competitors, but it’s just more of the same thing.
We also still have no idea how much it’ll cost. LG says it’ll cost around the same as the G6, which was about $720. But I have my doubts. The LG V30 ThinQ’s launching in the U.S. for $930 and the G7’s better in practically every way. Is LG really going to sell a superior phone for less than V30S ThinQ? Oh, and AT&T’s not gonna carry it.
One thing we know for sure: The G7 won’t have pricing that’s as attractive as OnePlus’ flagships. I’m not saying LG should sell its premium phones at hundreds less than Samsung or Apple, but looking at the company’s current situation, maybe that might be the only way to mount a comeback.