2019 has been the year of the unreleased foldable.
During a tumultuous time that has been rife with broken devices and delayed launches, LG rose from the glitched ranks to offer its own alternative - a detachable dual-screen 5G phone.
A faux foldable was a bold move, and one that has unfortunately failed to pay off.
Just The Specs, Please
The V50 has a 6.4-inch QHD+ OLED FullVision Display with 19.5:9 aspect ratio. In terms of weight it comes in at 183 grams.
At the rear you'll find dual cameras - a 12MP and a 16MP wide-angle. On the front you'll find another pair of cameras - a 8MP main and 5MP wide-angle.
In terms of biometric security it has facial recognition and a rear fingerprint scanner.
Under the hood there is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, X50 5G modem with Wi-Fi 6 support, 6GB RAM, 128GB storage and a 4,000mAh battery.
If some of these specs seem familiar, it's because they're largely reminiscent of last year's V40. However, the processor, battery and storage have all gotten an upgrade.
And there's that second screen, of course.
What's Good About It?
While 5G isn't widely available or as good as promised yet, it's great to see LG adopt it.
You're going to bear witness to some strong opinions on the functionality of the dual-screen on this thing. However, if you do happen to like the idea of it, at least it's free and also acts as a cover I guess.
Armed with a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 855 processor, the V50 handled heavy duty usage as well as the best of them. Mobile gaming was smooth as butter, even with the settings maxed out and it handled day-to-day apps without a hitch.
When it came to the 4,000mAh battery results varied. While utilising Wi-Fi and 4G without the second screen attached it would last a day without any issues. While it didn't last as long as the Oppo Reno 5G or Huawei P30 Pro, it was about equal to the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G.
Due to the patchy nature of 5G at the present time, the battery life took more of a beating on days it was flitting between 4G and 5G. So if you're in an area where 5G is being rolled out this will have an impact. But to be fair, that's going to happen to any 5G phone right now.
Where the battery really fell over was with the second screen attached. It would clock a quarter of a day at best, which isn't great for anyone who wants to use it for work and general multi-tasking on the reg.
Sure, you can take it off but that in itself is fiddly and resulted in a few broken nails.
On the plus side, the V5 5G does offer Qi wireless charging as well as fast charging.
What's Not So Good?
Typing like this was awful.
The second screen
It's probably a good thing that this was a free inclusion because it means you won't feel as guilty when the urge to fling it off the balcony becomes too strong to resist.
I wanted to like this thing. Hell, it almost tricked me into liking it.
The idea of a second screen for multi-tasking is brilliant. It's why everyone is frothing the idea of a foldable device. Well that and because it invokes a childlike sense of wonderment even in the most cynical of us.
This seems okay...
I have two screens for both my home and office PC set ups because it makes work easier. Also, I like to game and watch trash simultaneously.
I'm the target market for a dual screen phone. I even got excited when I loaded Gmail and Twitter up side-by-side.
And it was fine. Until I had to, you know, do anything.
Typing with both screens open is incredibly uncomfortable. You can't hold the device like you normally would, so your fingers are forced onto the digital keyboard at an odd angle.
You can see it in action here:
The same goes for when you want to use the camera, especially horizontally. You can't fold the screen back because it will block the lenses, so you're left with the excess dangling beneath the primary screen, again getting in the way of your hands.
Typing with the screen folded back isn't much better thanks to how thick it makes the entire device.
Other gripes include how badly having the second screen attached sucks the life out of the battery, which was detailed above.
It also renders the entire device incredibly heavy and thick when you fold the screen back. You also wind up with grubby fingerprints on the second screen when you fold it away.
Folding the screen back invites fingerprints... and awkward finger placement if you're a weirdo like me
I understand the theory behind this endeavour, especially in regards to gaming and streaming content.
In fact, I respect LG for trying something bold and new in market. It's a genuinely great idea, but the execution is severely lacking.
It's so difficult and uncomfortable to use that I question how it got past quality assurance testing.
To put it plainly, utilising the dual-screen functionality on the V50 made for the worst phone experience of my life, and that's a damn shame.
Watching Netflix and browsing the web is very cool in theory, but even when a website justifies horizontally it doesn't make for the most convenient reading experience.
The V50 5G has a triple rear camera array (16MP ultra-wide, 12MP telephoto and 12MP regular lenses), as well as a dual setup at the front.
While this is one of the best camera setups LG has offered in awhile, the resulting photos are relatively unremarkable when compared to other phones in market - including cheaper mid-range options like the Google Pixel 3a.
The V50 photos certainly aren't bad, far from it, but it feels like they should be better for the price tag.
While the colour reproduction on the V50 is pretty darn good, it feels like once again the hardware is two steps behind.
Regular point and click shots were fine (you can also shoot manually), some even being quite lovely. While not the best in market, I was happy with how the portrait mode shots in particular turned out.
The same goes for the front-facing selfie shots - which look good and have a nice bokeh effect.
When it came to landscapes the photos were a little less impressive, even with the wide angle lens in play. Not bad, but nothing to get excited over either.
Low light shots were again just okay. Again, it's an improvement compared to previous models in the series, but overshadowed by the capabilities of the Samsung S10 5G, Google Pixel 3a and the pure magic woven by the Huawei P30 Pro.
One point I will give in favour of the dual screen - when you take a photo it will appear on the second display, while keeping the camera ready to shoot again on the first. Handy and appreciated.
If you don't care too much about your phone camera, the V50 will definitely suffice. But if its performance is one of your key buying considerations, you can get better options for cheaper.
Once you remove the second screen from the device you're left with is a run-of-the-mill LG phone.
Sure it has 5G, and props to LG for prioritising new mobile technology. But due to no fault of the company, the new network isn't particularly impressive yet.
The performance, camera and batteries are all adequate, but also squashed by an unrealistic price point.
Once you remove the one thing that makes it interesting, you're left with little more than another okay black phone.
When it comes down to it, 5G phones are expensive. You're going to pay a premium for these devices, regardless of the brand.
It's currently only available on a contract with EE, where the cheapest plan (10GB) is going to cost you £64 a month with a £50 upfront phone cost.
The V50 isn't a terrible phone once you burn the second screen and sage the room, but none of its regular features make it worthy of its price tag.
The Oppo Reno does a better job across the board and it's at least £15 a month cheaper.
Should You Buy It?
With the premium pricing being whacked on 5G phones at the moment, it's been difficult to recommend any of them.
Not because they are bad phones, but because the speeds just aren't worth it yet. Plus, some of them have non-5G models with largely similar features and specs.
LG doesn't currently have a regular 4G model of the V50. In fact, its similar to last year's V40, but with a newer processor, increased storage and larger battery.
There are other 5G phones more worthy of consideration, such as the Oppo Reno 5G and Samsung S10 5G. If you're a huge LG fan or think that I'm wrong about the dual-screen, this could be the right phone for you. Everyone is different and there are bound to be some consumers who will enjoy the V50. But considering that it's a device containing some of last year's specs and its most interesting feature impedes its use, I would recommend shopping around.
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