LG's V50 ThinkQ is the company's first 5G smartphone, announced this week at the MWC tech show in Barcelona. And in an attempt to satisfy those who desire a foldable-like experience, the phone can support a detachable second screen. But really, the V50 is for those who care about audio quality.
The LG V50 ThinkQ is one of the few phones on the market to sport a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad-DAC, piping through the cleanest possible audio to your connected headphones or speakers. It's not something that the mainstream crowd will care about but it will turn the heads of audiophiles who are tired of carrying their external DACs around with their existing smartphone.
LG has taken a different approach to the big-screen challenge. Rather than going for a folding display, like Samsung, Huawei and Oppo, LG has decided to go for two separate displays that work in tandem. The dual-screen LG V50 is actually a single-screen handset with an optional secondary display that works via a helper case. The display data is transmitted from the main phone to the second display using a very short-range wireless communication method supplied by Keyssa.
For those times when you don't have headphones or an external speaker with you, LG has come up with a clever feature called 'Boombox', which essentially uses the entire body of the phone as a resonance chamber, resulting in better bass and a louder overall sound when placed on a solid surface like a table. Playing music, you can actually feel the back of the phone vibrate. While it isn't loud enough to replace the need for a dedicated Bluetooth speaker, the V50 was noticeably louder than my Huawei Mate20 Pro and iPhone XS Max.
LG is also continuing its support for DTS-X on its smartphones, which attempts to widen the sound field by creating a virtual virtual surround sound effect over the onboard stereo speakers or headphones.
Rounding out the sonic experience is the support for MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) so you can stream hi-res audio audio from supported music streaming services like Tidal.
Many of these features have been included in previous LG phones as well but still, short of buying a dedicated high-end portable music player, the LG V50 is about as good as it gets when it comes to smartphone audio.
The other unique feature about the V50 is its Dual Screen accessory (sold separately), which is essentially a second screen inside a case that you snap on magnetically to the pogo pins on the back of the phone. The secondary display is almost the same size as the main display and it doesn't come with its own battery in the case, so leaving it on will drain your smartphone.
The Dual Screen display is used independently which means that unlike a true foldable, it can't be used as one continuous large display. This means that an app won't spill across both displays when opened. It's really designed for multitasking, so you can display multiple applications at the same time. For instance, you can have a YouTube video playing on one display while you browse the web on the other.
One exception to that rule is for games where you can turn the secondary display into a touch enabled game controller while the game plays on the primary display. The feature works with any game that supports Bluetooth controllers so compatibility for most games shouldn't be an issue.
If you want an app to appear on a specific display, you can simply use a three finger swipe gesture to send it across. While the gesture worked fairly consistently when holding it in portrait mode, it won't work in landscape mode. The home screen also doesn't auto-rotate to landscape which makes navigation feel a bit cumbersome when in Dual Screen mode.
It would have been nice to see some apps take advantage of the Dual Screen setup such as having the secondary display fill up with an onscreen keyboard when sending someone a text or email instead of taking up space on the main display. We were testing out a pre-production unit so it's possible that we might see better app support for the Dual Screen accessory in the final retail units.
LG confirmed that the V50 will be the second 5G smartphone to hit Australia, arriving shortly after the Samsung Galaxy S10 in June. The V50 will be exclusive to Telstra and will retail for $1999, while the Dual Screen accessory will set you back $399.
The author travelled to Barcelona as a guest of Oppo and Huawei.