Over the years, LG has consistently been king of bad timing and bad pricing. They’ve also mainly been bested by their Korean competitor in the U.S. market, with most consumers going for a Samsung phone or even testing the waters with Huawei or Xiaomi devices. Still, LG continues to soldier on, averaging about 15% market share in U.S. smartphone shipments since 2016. Seeing the clear challenges in the never-ending battle with Samsung and Apple, LG has valiantly tried to do things their own way in an effort to stand out. Does the LG G8 ThinQ create a league of its own?
What’s in the box?
The G8 ThinQ arrived in a no-frills, black cardboard box with a simple “G8 ThinQ” logo emblazoned on the font. Inside my package was the phone (in a black), complete with branded plastic body wrap, a white LG Fast Charge power brick, and USB Type-C cable, wired earbuds (3.5mm connection) along with additional ear-gel sizes, and black and clear phone covers. While the phone supports wireless charging you’re going to have to pay separately for that. My only complaint was that the earbuds were terrible fitting and despite switching out the ear-gels, which was a ridiculously monumental task that took two people to complete; they fell out my ears every time. So I can’t tell you anything useful about the sound quality or if the earbuds even matter.
What does the G8 ThinQ look like?
The phone itself has a standard form factor; your typical candy-bar shape with rounded edges. It’s comfortably thin at 8.5mm and taller than wide with an approximately 6″ height. The power button is on the right, the volume rocker on the left, and right below that key, a dedicated Google Assistant button. While the phone felt comfortable and secure in my hand (one I had the phone cover on), the height was a problem as my thumb could not reach the top third of the phone. The only way to get there was for me to awkwardly slide the phone down in my palm. While this wasn’t the biggest deal during the beginning of testing, in the last few days it became annoying to have to constantly re-adjust my grip just to do things like review the notifications bar or reach icons in the upper quadrant. Of course, using two hands alleviated that issue, but like most people I typically need to be productive on the phone with one hand.
The G8’s finish is shiny and smooth as both the front and back of the phone is covered in Gorilla Glass 5 and 6, respectively. The phone is rated IP68 dust and water resistant which means it can survive submersion in 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes. The G8 definitely gives off a premium device feel while not being too conspicuous. On the front when the screen is off or dimmed it looks like an edge to edge slab, but upon awakening, you notice The Notch(TM) at the top of the display which houses the G8’s Time-of-Flight sensor and front-facing cam. There’s also about a millimeter or so of black “framing” around the perimeter of the screen. So while it’s not truly an edge-to-edge display its still plenty of viewing space.
The rear of the phone features two cameras, one 12MP standard and a 16MP super wide-angle, and the flash. All three are horizontally aligned, with the fingerprint sensor just a few inches below. While I’ve personally never been a fan of rear-facing fingerprint scanners, there’s lots of precedence for the average user not to be confused by its placement.
How’s the hardware?
The LG G8 ThinQ engine is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, boasting 6 GB RAM, and a Qualcomm Adreno 640 GPU. All of this translated to smooth, fast handling between lots of CPU intensive apps running (streaming apps, social media, etc.), without lag or interruption. There is 128 GB of internal storage with the option of adding more space with a microSD. The onboard speakers are great and the sound travels evenly throughout the device, offering booming audio. The OLED display provides super vibrant colors and deep pigmentation. The screen can get super bright which is smartly adjusted by using either the True View setting which matches the screen color to the ambient light, Comfort View which reduces the amount of blue light on the screen, or by simply bringing the brightness setting down a few notches. The battery is a mid-range 3500 mAh size which, if you’re not using the cellular radio like in my case–can get you through the day. Though, once you start activating Wi-Fi, GPS, and start getting obsessive with your daily bouts of online FOMO, the battery discharges faster than you can say “I need a portable battery“.
How’s the software?
Thankfully LG doesn’t pour it on too thick with their skins, opting instead for a simple customizable launcher. There’s a floating bar option which you can move around to any side of the screen at will, which houses shortcuts and quick actions like accessing your contacts, taking a screencap, or controlling music. This was useful to me since I had to tackle with the limited reach I had towards the top of the screen and also doubled as an accessibility option. The LG keyboard is kind of poor as it was slow on the uptake; so I immediately replaced it with GBoard. Since most of my essential apps are within the Google ecosystem I made Google productivity apps the default versus LG’s versions. And finally, the G8 ThinQ runs Android 9 Pie right out the box which is great as its one less thing you have to worry about since you’ll be on the latest operating system.
What about security?
Like any good device worth its salt these days, the G8 comes with a plethora of options to secure and wake the phone. From the biometrics side of things, it has the fingerprint scanner on the back, a Face Unlock, and a Hand ID unlock option. Old school security options include a pattern unlock, a password unlock, a numeric pin unlock, and a knock code (not to be confused with knock to wake). A knock code if you’re wondering, is literally a pattern of taps on the display which can be used to both wake and unlock the screen.
While all of these options are interesting (or expected) in their own rite, the Hand ID was a head-scratcher. Similar to letting the front-facing camera scan your face, instead you scan the palm of your hand. Considering that generally, everyone has a unique vein pattern on their palms it offers an unexpected way to secure your phone. For the record, Hand ID actually worked very well in registering my hand print and worked just as fast as Face Unlock. Still, it seemed gimmicky as I couldn’t think of a good occasion where I’d prefer to use it. Nor could I think of a scenario where reduced mobility or lack of access to any of the other security options would be a factor. That said, I opted to primarily use Face Unlock and Fingerprint. Both of these options were easy to set up, worked as intended, and unlocked the G8 super fast. What I liked most about the Face Unlock was that during setup, it encourages you to scan your face while wearing things like glasses, shades, presenting your face in different lighting and even with different facial hair–all in an effort to improve recognition efforts.
What makes the G8 different from other phones?
LG is continuing to do its Minority Report thing with its Air Motion gesture system. While I think it’s a cool option to play around with a bit, it increasingly became a complete waste of my time. I didn’t see how it made me interact with the phone any easier or made things more convenient when it consistently did the opposite. No amount of troubleshooting or watching tutorials ever helped to get me past the Air Motion activation stage. Despite mimicking the hand motions of the tutorials in the settings and changing the speed of my movements, I was never able to execute an action. I’ve seen it work for other people which is great, but the point still remains that while its a clever thought; Air Motion is a niche feature versus something you’d use on a regular basis.
The G8 ThinQ dual-camera system is pretty good and the underlying software truly maximizes what you can do with the hardware. However the sheer amount of options and camera features, some buried deep within menus, may scare off some people. Nevertheless, it’s the AI Cam option that’s going to work best with most users. It dynamically optimizes the camera settings based on factors such as lighting conditions and distance to the target object. The Time-of-Flight sensor allows you to adjust the field of depth and thus play with the bokeh (or blurring) effect that’s become popular over the last few years. When adjusting blur it has the propensity to create a weird hazy effect around the subject if you go too hard with the setting. I also played around with the Studio options which allows you to do things like drop out all background information and leave just the main subject of the shot. You are then able to replace the background with color.
What was a nice touch was if the AI camera saw a mainly dark/black view it gives you an option of further adjusting for low light or a “Night Sky” option that presumably helps you get those elusive celestial shots. LG’s favorite thing is gimmicks it seems, as I noticed there was a Cheese Shutter option–which allows you to take a photo by saying “Cheese”, “Smile”, “Whiskey”, “Kimchi” or “LG”. I tried all of the phrases and they worked, snapping a photo without me having to physically press any triggers. There’s also a pretty creepy Cine Shot feature where you record a video while keeping the camera still. After you can paint anywhere over the image to introduce movement. So imagine an image where your dog is sitting perfectly still but only it’s head is moving side to side (I tried it and it’s freaky). That aside, overall the cameras are powerful but I encountered many occasions where the sensors overprocessed images and presented me with images that skewed cool instead of more warm–which resulted in a lot of blue-tinged photos. Still, a romp around the settings, or just simply switching the camera type resolved things.
From a video perspective, you have the option of utilizing either the standard or wide lens camera, as well as up to 8x digital zoom. The general recording experience was a pretty standard though I had to get used to the fact that recording started as soon as you selected record. The stabilization was good, there’s an object tracking feature, and there are a plethora of recording formats, allowing you to record up to UHD 16:9 at 60fps.
So is the LG G8 ThinQ any good?
Do keep in mind that the features that LG touts as the most interesting are sometimes the most unnecessary, and any levels of cool that emanate from those feature will wear off after a couple of days. Features such as Air Motion can be a struggle and you may strain to actually find any usefulness to it.
However there’s plenty of wins. The G8 still has a 3.5mm headphone jack which will bring joy to many and supports storage expansion, which are both welcomed considering how most competitors have dropped these options altogether. Priced at $819.99 for the unlocked retail version, the G8 comes in Black, Grey, or Red colors. While the G8 ThinQ’s pricing is not quite in the iPhone stratosphere, it also isn’t a budget phone by any means. Sprint and Verizon have the phone priced at $840, while AT&T’s goes for $829.99. In an almost petty way, T-Mobile has priced theirs at a cut-rate $619.99 since customers get $200 off MSRP plus additional trade-in discounts.
If you’re looking for a flagship Android phone that affords you tons of camera and video options with some great hardware and a straightforward experience–you’ll like the G8 ThinQ.
LG G8 ThinQ$819.99 (Retail, Unlocked)
- Time-of-Flight Sensor
- Face Unlock/Multiple Security Options
- Camera Features
- 3.5mm Jack
- Air Motion
- Some camera issues
- Height of phone may be an issue for those with smaller hands
- Shorter than expected battery life