2020 has been an interesting year for not only smartphones but also for LG specifically. The company kicked off the year with the more-traditionally designed LG V60. Despite seeing solid feedback for the V60, LG then began a pivot and announced that a new design language was on the way.
As Samsung has continued to churn out new and innovative devices, with intuitive and useful features, LG has largely stagnated. That all began to change with the announcement of the LG Velvet.
Instead of trying to take Samsung and Apple on head-to-head, LG opted to pivot to the mid-to-upper range of the smartphone market. Forget about the Snapdragon 865 or 865+ with the fastest mobile processor on Android, the Velvet sports the Snapdragon 765G. This has been paired with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, expandable via microSD.
LG Velvet Specifications
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
- RAM: 6GB / 8GB
- Storage: 128GB (expandable via microSD)
- Display: 6.8-inch P-OLED, 2460×1080, 60Hz
- Cameras: 48MP (wide), 8MP (ultrawide), 5MP (depth), 16MP (selfie)
- Battery: 4,300 mAh with 25W Fast charging, 9W fast wireless charging
LG has had a rough go of it in recent years, but the company is attempting to “reset”. The Velvet is the first device with the company’s new design language, and it’s rather an interesting one. But there’s more to the Velvet than a new case.
Kicking things off, we’ve already touched on the design, and truthfully, it’s been a breath of fresh air. At least when it comes to previous LG handsets. Taking the Velvet out of its box and you are instantly greeted with a sleek and slender design, albeit a bit tall. But that’s just fine.
The buttons are all in the right places, including a dedicated Google Assistant button which is rather useful for those coming from something like the Pixel 4 and its squeeze gestures. On the back, there is no enormous and annoying camera hump. Instead, just a little bump for the primary sensor which wobbles just a tiny bit when placed on a flat surface.
Dual Screen Case
In an effort to provide a unique experience without sacrificing its design, LG introduced the LG Dual Screen Case in 2019. This makes it easy to throw your phone in a case, while getting all of the benefits of having a second display. There’s easy access to the headphone jack, while providing a few software perks to enhance the experience. These include the ability to keep your most used apps open on the second screen, use the display as a live viewfinder when taking pictures, or LG Game Pad for mobile gaming.
Not everything is perfect about the Dual Screen Case when used in conjunction with the Velvet. Notably, this case is massive so make sure that your pants pockets are big enough to accommodate it. Another annoyance rears its head when it’s time charge your Velvet. LG includes a magnetic adapter which attaches to the bottom of the case, but this has a tendency of getting disconnected from time to time. Plus, you’ll need to make sure to keep the adapter in a safe place, as it’s small and easy to misplace.
Great audio playback
If you’ve ready any of my other reviews here at Phandroid, you’ll know by now that I’m not much of an audiophile. I just rather enjoy having a great pair of headphones with me all of the time. But something that LG has prided itself on in recent years is not only to be one of the few remaining OEM’s to keep the headphone jack, but to also include a Quad DAC.
While the former still remains true with the Velvet, LG opted to not include its world-class DAC in this sleek device. Whether it’s because the design change forced the company to get rid of it for the sake of space, or if LG just wanted to change something up, it’s a disappointing loss. This might actually spell the end of an era for LG in more ways than one.
The Not So Good
On the whole, the LG Velvet is a solid phone that has a lot going for it. But the same annoyances from previous device launches continue to rear their ugly heads with the Velvet.
Software can be frustrating
In the company’s continued battles with the stiff competition of the Android flagship market, there’s one area that LG always seems to fall short – software. Unfortunately, we don’t have anything exciting to report on here, as the Velvet’s software is still loaded with bloat, even without considering the additional downloads from your carrier.
There are some nifty features, such as the integration with the aforementioned Dual Screen, but that’s pretty much it. The software is stale, has a tendency of being a bit choppy at random times, and it’s clear that the company has not properly optimized the software to match the internals. And none of this has anything to do with the fact that Android 11 has still not arrived for this device yet.
Gone are the days where LG was butting up against Samsung and Apple by providing almost fanatic camera systems. The Velvet doesn’t take potato pictures, by any means, but even when using Auto Mode and quickly snapping a picture, the results are disappointing.
You can definitely get better results when firing up Manual Mode, or tweaking everything in post, but the resounding images are just meh. But hey, there are three rear cameras, so you can at least take meh pictures or record videos in up to 4K resolution.
Where’s the refresh rate?
We mentioned that the Velvet features a display that is stunning to look at, but if you’re coming from a device with a 90Hz or 120Hz refresh rate, you may need to brace. The shock of a 60Hz display after looking at higher refresh rates is frustrating, and we would have liked to see even a 90Hz option available.
Sure, there are ways to cut costs, but with devices like Pixel 5 coming in the same price bracket equipped with a 90Hz display, there’s really no excuse to be made. At least the P-OLED display is pretty to look at once your eyes readjust to the lower refresh rate.
Perhaps the most frustrating aspect about the LG Velvet has nothing to do with the design, cameras, or software. Nope. It’s that there are three different versions of the same hardware, depending on which carrier you are using.
The AT&T and Verizon models are identically the same, powered by the Snapdragon 765G and 6GB of RAM. The only difference is that you’ll have to spend an extra $100 to have access to Verizon’s 5G mmWave network, compared to AT&T’s standard 5G network.
Then, the T-Mobile version is completely different from the others. Arriving after the initial wave, LG and T-Mobile decided to use the MediaTek Dimensity 1000C chipset, instead of the 765G. This still provides 5G connectivity, but it’s you may be sacrificing a bit in performance for a device that tends to stutter with the Snapdragon 765G. Perhaps the best explanation for this has to do with the hardware decoding provided by the 1000C, which will help save some data for video streaming.
It’s still quite a head-scratching decision.
I’ve been trying throughout this whole review to hold my tongue on pricing for the Velvet. However, all of this brings us to just that. There are three different prices, depending on the carrier you are using:
- AT&T: $599
- Verizon: $699
- T-Mobile: $588
Even with using a different processor, it seems that T-Mobile just undercut AT&T for the sake of saying it offers a cheaper price. Verizon’s more expensive because mmWave is supposedly the future, but it’s not ready for primetime and is next to impossible to find.
But the truth is, when you look at a phone like the Pixel 4a 5G or the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, it’s really tough to give the LG Velvet a good shake. Both of those handsets arrived after the Velvet, which was supposed to give LG a leg up. However, it doesn’t seem like the Velvet even made a dent in the market, and it’s not going to be swamped and forgotten soon enough.
As someone who used to be a bit of an LG fanboy (owning the G3, G5, G6, and G7), I was excited to see what LG was going to do with the Velvet. But I was left simply unsatisfied and always looking for more. It’s clear that LG wanted to change things up in the design department, but there are just too many sacrifices elsewhere.
LG Velvet Rating: star_fullstar_fullstar_fullstar_50star_empty (3.5/ 5)
- Attractive Design
- Dual Screen case available
- 3.5mm headphone jack still here
- Frustrating software experience
- Middling cameras
- 60Hz refresh rate
- Too many versions
The Bottom Line
There are too many sacrifices in the LG Velvet to really make a run at the best mid-range device of 2020. And now, there are too many devices that provide a much better experience at the same, or lower, prices.