In 2018 it's hard to make your brand new smartphone stand out from the crowd. They all have basically the same features: big screens, a variety of biometric security solutions, fancy dual-lens cameras, AI of some sort, and more. The truth is, unless you have the words "iPhone" or "Samsung Galaxy" in your name, nobody really cares unless your device is dirt cheap or does something new and exciting. From what I've seen the LG G7 completely fails to draw attention to itself.
I recently got to spend some time with the G7 ahead of launch, and while it wasn't enough time to craft a full review, it gave me an idea of what the new phone is all about. In a nutshell, it's a wholly unremarkable Android phone that fails to stand out. That's not to say it's a bad phone, but rather the features that make it unique are basically inconsequential.
LG G7 Specs
- 6.1-inch LCD QHD+ Display (3120 x 1440) with HDR 10
- SDM 845 2.65GHz Octa-Core CPU
- 8MP Front Camera
- 16MP Dual Lens Rear Camera (f1.6 and f1.9)
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB internal storage
- microSD expansion
- 3,000 mAh battery
- IP68 water and dust resistance
- Finger, face, and voice recognition
- Runs Android 8.0
- 3.5mm headphone jack
- Available in Moroccan Blue, Aurora Black, and Platinum Grey
If you've picked up a high-end Android phone anytime over the past couple of years, then you won't be surprised by the LG G7. Imagine a Samsung Galaxy S9+, but without the curved Edge display and a notch thrown in for good measure. Sorry – second screen, because that's what LG has taken to calling it, claiming the name change is the result of the customisation options, future UI experiences, and the desire to get away from the 'notch' moniker. That's not really how these things work, since the areas surrounding the notch are still part of the main single-panel display, so let's stick to the name everyone already uses, alright?
But likening the phone to the Galaxy S9+ isn't an unfair comparison, because they're almost identical. The G7 even has a dedicated AI button below the volume buttons that can't be reprogrammed, although it uses Google Assistant rather than Bixby. I'm not kidding, if Samsung had made an S9+ without Edge, you'd have a hard time telling these two apart. Yes, the G7 is also very similar to the G6 that came before it, but my point is that there's literally nothing special about the design – other than the fact it's accidentally ripped off another unremarkable-looking handset.
Display-wise we're talking the now-standard 18:5:9 aspect ratio, with an LCD QHD+ display (3120 x 1440) and a screen/body ratio of more than 80 per cent. As mentioned before, LG has followed the trend of adding a notch in the display, as popularised by the iPhone X, thought it has given people the option of customising how it looks. If you want to fill it in black you can, if you want to change the shape of the edges you can. The options aren't endless, but it does give you the option of changing the look of things, which is especially useful for people who despise display notches and everything they stand for. The notch itself doesn't have much to offer, only housing the front camera, ambient light sensor, and speaker.
One of LG's biggest talking points seems to be that the G7 has an AI camera, much like every other high-end phone on the market. As you would imagine, the phone's camera app has a dedicated 'AI Mode' that will analyse the background before you take a shot, and automatically change some settings to ensure that you get the best one possible. According to LG there are 19 different categories it can choose from, and from the looks of things an even larger database of objects it can recognise. Admittedly there are some mixed results, like when it thought a water bottle was a fish and another beard-laden journalist was a baby, but it's one of those things that's going to make phone photography even easier - even though it's not that original.
It's also worth mentioning that there are limits to the AI mode, since the G7 won't let you record 4K video or snap X aspect ratio pictures while the AI is active.
The phone, like many others again, comes with a portrait mode for those shots with the blurry bokeh effect background people seem to love. The key difference is that the G7 actually has a live preview of what the final shot will look like, letting you alter the intensity of the bokeh effect without having to take the photo and fiddle with the settings first. It's a small touch, but if you're into that then it's bound to make things a lot easier.
According to LG's testing, the G7's Super Bright Mode offers superior low-light photography compared to both the Galaxy S9 and the iPhone X, showing off all three phones' attempts to photograph a collection of objects at various levels of zoom. The G7 came out on top, of course, and during my time playing with the camera the photos that came out were very bright. As in you couldn't even tell most of them were taken in a dimly-lit room.The picture quality itself has something to be desired though, and the level of detail that comes out in Super Bright Mode is pretty crap - even compared to the G7 without that setting switched on and my two-year-old Samsung Galaxy S7 that was working without such fancy features.
There are also all the usual features you can expect, including a dedicated slo-mo video mode, a GIF maker, and so on. There's even a voice activated shutter that responds to certain commands, because it's not always possible to hit the right part of the screen (or button) and still get the perfect shot.
The audio system is the only thing LG seems to have done that's any different from other phones on the market, clearly not content with just throwing in dual speakers and bunging Dolby Atmos on there like some companies. Not only is the new and improved speaker system 39 per cent louder than the G6, LG has built it in such a way that the G7's body acts as a resonance chamber that drastically improves the overall sound quality. What's more, the phone also has a Boombox feature that improves the volume and depth, though the real magic is the fact that placing it on a table (or some other flat surface) lets you use that surface as a makeshift subwoofer - further enhancing the audio for people who don't use headphones.
For people at home that's going to be a great little tool, though I can see it being abused in public by people who want the best audio possible. Fortunately LG also included two audio features that only work when you have headphones: DTS 3D sound, and Hi-Fi Quad DAC. Admittedly that last one isn't that new, having featured on the LG V30, and only works with wired headphones.
Both features make a difference to the audio you hear, though the 3D audio naturally depends on the content and the headphones you're using. The test model I had did have some 3D-optimised audio which made a big difference to a random video I was watching on YouTube, but the effect was mostly lost with my basic stereo-only headphones. Frankly the 3D effect made standard audio sound plain weird, so I wouldn't recommend it for anything that hasn't been recorded with object orientation in mind. As for the Hi-Fi Quad DAC, well I could barely tell the difference. It sounded different, but my plebeian ears couldn't tell you how.
Finally, the G7 does have a lot of settings for people to fiddle with various bits of audio for themselves, which might make this popular with some audiophiles, but for the majority of people that's going to be wasted. But considering the audio is the only area LG has done anything actually interesting with, it feels it's trying to grab the audiophile community to say, "hey, come buy our stuff and we will give you what other phones won't." It's a bold strategy, and we'll have to see whether it pays off or not.
Other Points of Note
Other things to note are the aforementioned dedicated AI button, which is very similar to Samsung's Bixby button in that it can't be reprogrammed for something more useful. The upside is that LG is using Google Assistant, which has a few years' jump start on Bixby, so it might actually get some use from people who have opted into Google's virtual assistant-led ecosystem. Tapping that button once opens up Assistant, tapping it twice opens up Google Lens, and holding it down activates a walkie talkie mode. LG also made note of the phone's far field voice recognition, which meant it could hear and understand you from up to five metres away - even in a room full of ambient noise.
As usual with new phones there is a range of biometric security solutions, including the standard fingerprint scanner on the rear of the phone. There's also basic facial recognition, and voice recognition. Facial recognition isn't as advanced as the likes of FaceID, seemingly only using the front facing camera to see if you're there, but it is quite quick. There was about a second of delay as it registered my presence, but it worked beautifully. Voice recognition wasn't quite the same. The idea is that you can say an unlock phrase and the phone will recognise your voice and unlock for you. The downside was that setting it up proved to be a huge pain, to the point where one of LG's people couldn't get it to work - simply because the phone kept insisting the repeated unlock phrases didn't match. It has some potential though, for people who might want a change of pace from the usual biometric solutions.
Finally is some bad news. This being LG, it's continuing its irritating tradition of not including an app drawer on the G7. Or at least, it's not there by default. So all the apps are hanging around on the home screen like they would on iOS, Amazon's Fire OS, or something running Huawei's EMUI skin, and completely unlike all other major Android phones. There's no shortage of launcher apps that can bring that functionality back, but it's supremely irritating that a company as big as LG is still doing this Apple-mimicking crap.
The lack of an app drawer also made me notice just how much bloatware is on the G7 test model I got my hands on. There is a lot of random software that can't be uninstalled. None of it seems to come from third parties (barring the usual Google apps they all have), but it's still a massive pain - especially since there were two email and music apps sitting around doing the same thing.
Admittedly I didn't get enough time with the LG G7 to fully test its capabilities as I would for a full review, so there's a chance that it's still hiding a few tricks up its sleeve that LG has been keeping secret to surprise everyone. Maybe that 3,000 mAh battery will last three days, for example. I doubt it, but without being able to properly test what the phone can do there's no way of knowing. But none of that matters when the G7's first impression is so dull. The audio features are nice and interesting, especially for the audiophiles out there, but otherwise it's a really average offering that doesn't stand out from the hundreds of smartphones being pushed out into the market.
It also doesn't help that at the time of writing LG hasn't released any pricing information, which drops it into limbo-like state of not being able to work out if it's worth it for the price alone. If the G7 costs, say, £500, then it's suddenly a lot more appealing than other more expensive handsets with a similar set of features. Then again, if the price is on par with the competition, then it feels like it'll get drowned out in a sea of better-known brands and cheap alternatives from China.