After a few days of playing around with the LG V20 – before we sacrificed it to a drop test – I’m walking away feeling very satisfied. At first glance, I wasn’t a huge fan to see the V10’s rugged styling ditched in favor of the LG G5‘s metal finish, but there’s a lot more to the V20 than its looks. Inside there’s a lot to like, but some V20 features are better than others. With that said, these are my five favorite LG V20 features.
1. Second screen
I never had a LG V10, but I heard plenty of good stuff about its miniature second screen. It’s a weird idea at first, but once you start using it, you’ll quickly adapt and find it indispensable.
Supporting lock screen notifications, a personal signature, recent apps, music playback controls or app shortcuts, the already-useful second screen on the V10 has only been improved on the V20. It needs to be noted that there is still some light bleed from the side where the sensors live though. Personally I think LG should have put an OLED display on the V20 but to each his own.
Display tech aside, the V20’s second screen is way more useful than a full-screen always-on display: less intrusive, less power-hungry, more customizable. On the LG V20, you now have support for a 24 character signature (up from 14 on the V10) with a marquee effect for longer texts.
The V20's second screen is more useful than a full-screen always-on display.
The secondary screen’s brightness has also been bumped up significantly, from 35 nits on the V10 to 68 nits on the V20, making it much more legible in bright daylight. The text and notifications are now larger and have higher contrast.
2. Dat dutton
That’s right. One of the best features of the V20 is a button, but not for what it does, for what it doesn’t do. That button represents a bullet dodged, a sentence commuted, a new chance at life. Despite our renders seeming to indicate the V20 would be modular, with the tell-tale eject button on the side, it turns out that the V20 isn’t modular at all.
The V20 may look a lot like the G5, but it fortunately managed to sidestep the modular curse. That button simply releases the catch mechanism for the removable battery cover, revealing a replaceable battery (that apparently lasts 20% longer) and access to the microSD card slot.
Thankfully, the LG V20 dodged the modular bullet.
Both of these features are great in their own right, but the palpable relief I felt when I first pressed that button and didn’t encounter any modules is easily one of my favorite things about the V20. I think the V20 has a bright future, one it probably wouldn’t have if that button did anything else.
3. Software (yes, software)
LG enjoys a fairly well-deserved reputation for rocking an awful UI. But at the same time as Samsung finally went the whole hog on the Note 7 and made it a skin to envy, LG pulled a rabbit out of its hat and may have even topped Samsung’s clutter-free interface.
Not to mention the LG V20 is the first phone to arrive out of the box running Android 7.0 Nougat, even before the new Pixel phones. But it’s the implementation of Nougat on the V20 that’s even more impressive than the fact it actually has it already.
The implementation of Nougat on the V20 is even more impressive than the fact it already has it.
The Quick Settings and the Settings menu are crisp and clean, notifications are stock, we’ve got quick app switching, split-screen mode and everything just feels…right. Even the straight-up color scheme works well. The icons still suck, but hey, you can’t win ’em all.
More details: LG V20 software feature focus
4. Audio heaven
Without getting in over my head (read Rob Triggs’ excellent breakdown of the V20 DAC and audio file formats for more detailed information), the LG V20 is the smartphone for audiophiles. The V10 already held that honor last year but the V20 has stepped things up considerably.
Even against impressive camera enhancements like focus peaking, stabilized video and tracking focus, the audio side still manages to be the V20’s focal point. The LG V20 supports lossless audio while video recording (24 bit, 48 kHz) as well as HD recording for audio alone (24 bit, 192 kHz).
If you truly love audio, you'll love the LG V20.
But the Quad DAC is the real showstopper here, reducing harmonic distortion by more than half and almost doubling the dynamic range of competitor’s phones. Unfortunately for some, the Bang & Olufsen audio tuning is only headed to Asia though, with other regions getting sound tuned by LG. Either way, if you truly love audio, you’ll love the LG V20.
5. Military grade shock absorbency
Smartphones are a slippery bunch and metal phones are among the slipperiest of them all. Considering just how many metal phones we have nowadays, a little insurance against drops can go a long way. But chunky bumper cases are not everyone’s cup of tea.
This is why the LG V20, like its predecessor, boasts MIL-STD-810G impact resistance, based around an advanced silicon polycarbonate and aircraft-grade aluminum. The phone itself is manufactured to be tough enough to not require a bumper case.
While our drop test did eventually manage to crack the glass, it took an unlikely height to do it – and a fall straight onto the glass face. You’d have to be very unlucky to encounter this in normal usage, but even after all that, the phone still worked with a shattered display.
Even with the abuse we put it through, the body of the LG V20 sustained very little damage.
While there may not be much LG can do about the strength of the Gorilla Glass display on the V20, they’ve done a great job protecting the rest of the phone from drop damage. Even with the abuse we put it through the body of the phone sustained very little damage.
For all the mistakes LG seems to have made with their flagship G5, the V20 seems to get things right. The build quality is spot on, the V20’s ‘gimmick’ is useful and well-implemented and with Nougat’s Doze Mode battery life shouldn’t be a problem (we’ll have to get back to you on that though).
On top of that, the camera and audio performance is outstanding, the software is excellent and it’s both lighter and smaller than its predecessor. There’s a lot to like about the V20, and, given a wider release, it could easily (and justifiably) assume the title of LG’s flagship device. If the LG G6 sticks to its modular guns next year, the V30 might just have its moment worldwide.
What is your favorite V20 feature? What feature would you like to see in the V30?