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LG is changing things up! And that’s a really good thing, for the most part. Where will you land in this new, stylish brand that finally breaks away from the Vs and the Gs of the world? This is our LG Velvet review.
Like many of you, my excitement over the LG Velvet was due to its skin-deep beauty. It’s not to say that LG has made bad looking phones over the last few years — they just felt so familiar with each passing product. Now with a totally new name and a new look, there’s some excitement about the new branding. The Velvet is a fashion-forward device, complete with a slew of different colors — mine is the Aurora Green, but I have seen that Illusion Sunset popping up for some of our other friends. Green is my jam, but I do feel a little bit of envy for that gradient version.
LG’s commitment to a flashier design continues with the camera module. Thank goodness we don’t have another big rectangle or circle or huge camera hump — it’s just nice to see a company try something different. LG calls this the raindrop camera design and aside from the main sensor it literally doesn’t stick out that much. In a lot of ways, the first glance at the LG Velvet is striking because it is subtler than many other phones we’ve seen in 2020. Instead of going hard in the paint with features, camera sensors, or even size, LG manages to make a phone instantly memorable when the light hits it just right. Granted, the sheen needs a clean from time to time, due to a rather fingerprint prone finish. The entire phone is also meant to be pretty sturdy, as LG has made the Velvet MIL-SPEC certified, which is nice for a style-forward device.
Keeping hold of the LG Velvet isn’t too difficult, however, as a few choices led to an ergonomic handling experience. The 6.8-inch P-OLED Full HD+ display is a bit narrow and a bit tall, making it easier to grip. Though a curve on the screen might not appeal to everyone, there is also a curve on the back, resulting in a really thin device that, to me, is a pretty radical change from the G and V line thickness. But there’s just enough space for LG to continue providing a couple of specific features — there is a headphone jack and a convenient shortcut key that gives easy access to Google Assistant. You can even hold it down and talk to the Assistant walkie-talkie style.
Coming back to the screen, there is one thing LG hasn’t been able to shake, and it’s their notch. Ultimately this is not a huge deal, but it’s worth mentioning because in some apps it still cuts into the content. Overall, the viewing experience is high quality and indicative of what LG has done in years past. This might not be a high refresh rate or high-resolution display, but it’s vibrant and enjoyable for all forms of media.
Clearly, from the outset, LG wanted to turn heads and keep the eyes on their new device. And choices in color, form, and handling all achieve that. But a high style goes beyond just the singular device, as my unboxing of LG’s special package showed. If I can get a little meta for a bit, there are a few more design details I want to share because I think it’s the crux of the LG Velvet’s charm. See, from the phone to the LG Dual Screen to the other accessories came from Korea, and messing around with every bit gave me a taste of a different smartphone culture.
You’re so extra
LG is no stranger to accessorizing — like many of their recent releases, the Velvet came with a few friends. First off, a couple of cases that are overtly fashionable, including this red and black case that has a handle strap on the back. It’s not the kind of case you’d see often here in the States — and having been to Asia often, I know style like this is way more common there. It’s a shame we don’t have more products in the West that are this fashionable; unless you go seeking out the accessories for yourself, most smartphone experiences here are largely utilitarian.
But there’s plenty of use cases for extra tools on the LG Velvet like the included Wacom Bamboo Pen. While it might not nestle its own stylus in the body, the Velvet has full stylus support and the software provides a lot of options. Buttons on the pen can help you write on a quick screenshot, bring you to QMemo to write up a note, or even get you to a coloring app when you just want to pass the time with some zen. The more I peel back the surface layers of the LG Velvet, the more obvious it is that LG is prioritizing functional style.
Which is exactly what this version of the LG Dual Screen is. Think back to my earlier remark that up until now, most LG and, honestly, most smartphone experiences here in North America are largely utilitarian. LG’s Dual Screen has always fit this description. But now with a white version that is sleeker, thinner, and appealing to the eye, a sense of style has finally made this special case one that I’d keep on the phone more often. All of the functions are the same — a second Full HD+ panel complete with the same exact notch gives you room to multitask, get distracted, maybe get a little creative by using the case as a stand, and do some unique gaming with the LG Gamepad. It’s easy to say that none of what we’re looking at is new, but when the look is new, it actually matters. I don’t use this word much in these reviews, but so far you’re seeing how important aesthetic is to the LG Velvet. Bear in mind that everything I just showed you is still coming straight from Korea — this is how general smartphone culture is in Asia: easy on the eyes, fashion-forward, high on style, and all about that first impression.
Getting underneath it all, LG has put together a spec list that we haven’t seen too much of yet in 2020 — starting with the Snapdragon 765G, the 5G enabled middle-tier processor that still brings some great performance. Speaking strictly about gaming, I was still able to get some high settings enabled in Call of Duty: Mobile, so this is still a high-performance chipset. 6GB of RAM and 128GB of expandable storage round out the performance stats. I haven’t experienced any hiccups with my own device and it’s clear to me that this overall configuration is really good for daily usage and the occasional heavy use day. After all, when you get extra with the accessories, you might be asking a little more of this phone than is intended — the Velvet is not a super high tier flagship.
And that is no more apparent than in some of the other parts LG had to dial back on. LG touts a 3D audio speaker experience, which actually doesn’t sound too bad, but I wanted to focus on the headphone jack. See, while LG is finding new areas of brand identity and marquee features, the Quad-DAC got put on the chopping block. This might make some sense because audiophiles will have to go to LG’s flagships to enjoy high fidelity audio — ultimately, it’s still nice that there’s a headphone jack at all. But one thing I do like is that LDAC and aptX HD are supported, meaning your more everyday media listener will get some good quality sound anyway.
A quick word on the software — I know it’s a point of contention for some. LG’s UI has come a long way and really my problem with it is skin deep. I’d just like some new icon designs, some updated animations, and just an overall tightening of the interface. The feature set is still high, but most of those options are tucked away neatly in their own page in the settings — the days when LG’s software used to throw tutorials galore in your face are largely behind us.
A 4300 mAh battery is also pretty middle of the road, but it does a decent job of getting the LG Velvet to a full day of use. That is if you aren’t going crazy with the Dual Screen case. Obviously, powering two screens at once will significantly reduce the total screen on time. My main problem is, well, I already misplaced the little magnetic connector for charging the phone and case together. Thankfully, wireless charging still works even when the Dual Screen case is on.
Rain drop, or tear drops?
Which brings us, finally to the cameras, and unfortunately this is where LG has departed from their previous releases the most. You need only look at the camera menu to see that a lot of different options you might expect are missing: Manual Video, in particular. Speaking strictly about the specs, the main sensor is a 48MP shooter backed by an 8MP wide-angle and a 5MP depth sensor. The front-facing camera is a 16MP shooter capable of 4K video recording despite having a really narrow field of view.
Feature inclusions like ASMR audio recording and 3D stickers paint a specific picture — the cameras are here for when the casual user needs to either capture some quick memories or have a little bit of fun. But when taking the cameras at their base quality, we’re just not seeing anywhere near the quality we’ve come to expect from even LG themselves. The main energy was put into the selfie shooter and the main sensor, which makes sense — for the main cameras, zooming is obviously not ideal but then the wide-angle camera doesn’t put out very high-resolution results either. It’s as if the ultrawide was just put there in case you need it, but you should never rely on it. After all, you can’t even record 4K with it — many of the main features are saved for the main sensor. You could get some decent results in bright conditions, like with most phones, but that quickly falls apart in lower light situations and the Night View mode doesn’t really help as much as it should.
It’s easy to say we have high hopes for the Velvet to be an all-around great time — and in designing the cameras the way they did, we’d hope the quality matched the beauty. But this isn’t a creator’s phone, like many of the G and V line smartphones were positioned. Instead, this is a design-forward device meant to look memorable, not to capture memories.
So it’s clear how LG is positioning the Velvet — it’s one of the best looking phones a casual everyday user can have. It has capabilities that aren’t necessarily new, but they are way more accessible now because LG put their design hats on and made them way more appealing. The problem is, corners had to be cut for the sake of making this phone something casual users could afford. And by upping the feature set, they had to skimp out somewhere. One important thing I learned is that maybe we’ve been thinking of the Snapdragon 765G incorrectly this whole time — it’s just under flagship-level performance, making it an upper-middle tier spec. And as a 5G enabled chipset, it might be incorrect to think it would drive the price down that much.
This is the hard part — we don’t know if this phone will be available in more places outside of Asia, but even if it was, the phone still comes in at the equivalent of $750. That doesn’t sound like an affordable mid-range phone, and that’s because it isn’t. For all the Velvet provides, this is actually a really useful phone. The problem is, the one part that might be important to some of you is what LG cut down the most. It’s the easiest phone to photograph, but it isn’t easy to photograph with. And if that matters to you, maybe the LG Velvet’s beauty is only skin deep.