LG V50 hands-on: Five Gs, five cameras, two screens, and so many questions

LG V50 Dual View Laauncher
(Image: © Android Central)

This year's buzzwords are 5G and folding screens, and LG was not about to be left out of that conversation. Alongside the shiny new G8, LG has also revealed the LG V50, which can be best looked at as an evolutionary upgrade to the barely-four-months-old V40, packing in 5G, some new enhanced camera features, and an add-on case that brings a second screen to the party.

This looks... familiar

If you know the LG V40, then the LG V50 ThinQ 5G will look and feel very familiar. The only noticeable change is that it's a sliver thicker and heavier, all to accommodate the larger 4,000mAh battery and heatsink needed for the 5G radio. This increased thickness had the benefit of raising the back glass to the same level as the camera bump, meaning the row of three cameras now sits flush with the rest of the back.

This did have the side effect of dropping the visual frame around the lenses, so with the offset flash window to their right it now looks awkwardly off-center. Apart from that, it looks and feels basically the same — same 6.4-inch OLED display at the same 3120x1440 resolution and the same 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The processor gets a bump, from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 to the Snapdragon 855 (necessary for the 5G when partnered Qualcomm's X50 modem).

The V series has been focused on the cameras from the start. Each generation has tried something new, from the dual front-facing cameras of the V10 to the V40's triple rear cameras. The V50 carries over the same exact imaging setup as the V40: a pair of front-facing cameras (one standard 80º angle 8MP, one 90º 5MP) and a trio on the rear (a 2x 47º zoom lens in front of a 12MP sensor, another 12MP at a more standard 78º angle, and an ultra-wide 107º 16MP shooter).

There's some new software at work here for the camera, in the form of the same artificial depth-of-field blurring for video that is on tap for the LG G8. This works by using either the standard lens with depth data from the wide camera, or the telephoto with depth data added from the standard camera. While LG stressed that this was pre-production software, there's no denying that it's just not good. In fact, it's bad. It could improve with fresh software, but this early implementation of the effect just is not ready for primetime. Someday, but not today.

The other focus of the V-series has high-quality audio, and that continues with the V50. In fact, it's exactly the same as the V40, with a 32-bit quad DAC, stereo speakers, and LG's "Boombox" audio engineering that allows the phone to use a hard, resonant surface as a passive amplifier. It's a neat trick, but mostly a gimmick.

LG's folding phone is a... case?

Samsung has an "innie" folding phone and Huawei decided to make an "outie" folder, but LG decided not to roll with the bendy screen (even if they were the first to make a bendy OLED phone by several years). Instead, LG's entry into the first generation of folding phones is the Dual View case for the LG V50. It's basically a folio case, but instead of a flap of cloth or plastic or leather to cover the screen and hold a few cards, the cover is a 6.2-inch OLED screen.

This case is a little chunky, in large part to give the two-axis hinge for the display something to mount into. The hinge is smartly designed, snapping closed but not requiring much force to open (you wouldn't want that screen just flopping about in your bag), snapping again at 180º open, and snapping once more when folded back behind the phone.

It connects to the phone over a combination of two pogo pins for power, a proprietary short-range high-bandwidth wireless connection to transmit display data to the screen, and a third pogo pin to transfer touch data back to the phone. LG showed off several use cases for the Dual View, including running two apps side-by-side, a game pad (which had to be manually activated every time you opened a game, but is claimed to be compatible with every Google Play Store game).

It also can work with the camera, giving you a second screen to preview all three cameras at once, review your last-shot photo, serve as color-adjustable fill light for selfies, and a full-screen view in video calls of both your video and the other person's video (no word on what video call platform that would work with, though).

It's a really neat concept, but like many of LG's accessories, it's a neat concept that's lacking in marketable execution (looking at you, LG G5 modules). Though we don't yet have pricing, the LG V50 will not be a cheap phone, nor do we expect this case to be cheap. Though it's a unique take on the folding phone, and likely thinner and more durable than the true foldables, it offers questionable value.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy Fold or the Huawei Mate X, you have to open the Dual View case to get any use out of the phone, nor can you use the two screens as one continuous surface. Once again, it's a neat concept, but unlikely to catch on with consumers. And few consumers will be able to even buy the Dual View case — it won't be coming to the United States, and V-series availability outside of the US and Korea has been rather limited.

LG, what are you doing?

It's been four months since the V40 landed on this world, and now we've got the V50. It seems like LG felt it had to release 5G and folding devices at MWC 2019, because that's what Samsung and Huawei and others were doing. The 5G part makes some sense; it's what the carriers want and they'll put whatever 5G devices they can get on the shelves once their networks are ready, even if none of the manufacturers seem particularly excited by it.

But the Dual View case, despite its hardware and software integration with the V50, feels cobbled together in reaction to competitors getting their folding phones out earlier than LG had expected. And just like these true folding phones, there's not much of a justifiable reason to get one yet.

If you want a phone with excellent cameras and audio, you might be better served by the LG V40. If 5G really gets you jazzed up, then maybe spring for the V50 — it's coming first to Sprint (with a light-up 5G logo on the back!), with a millimeter wave version for Verizon 5G due next, and AT&T and T-Mobile variants down the pike. And if you really want all of that plus a second screen folio case, maybe wait for generation two.

Derek Kessler is Special Projects Manager for Mobile Nations. He's been writing about tech since 2009, has far more phones than is considered humane, still carries a torch for Palm (the old one), and got a Tesla because it was the biggest gadget he could find. You can follow him on Twitter at @derekakessler.

  • Can't say it like it. I hope this fad goes away
  • Lost me at 6.4-inch. I'm sick and tired of every phone being a huge phone. I just want something I can use comfortably in one hand, like the G3 from years ago. 5.5" is plenty screen. I wish the G series would go back to being the moderately sized LG flagship. Looks like I'm stuck with the V30 because I refuse to go bigger when I want smaller. Props to LG for including a bigger battery, though. Finally.
  • I miss my 5.5 inch phones. My V30 is a great device (still!) and I haven't felt the need from a technology standpoint to upgrade yet. That said, I was in the t-mobile store last week and the G7 felt really a lot better in my hand than even the V30 for single handed use. I think what makes the current G series nice is that they have that slightly extra wide screen. I'm looking forward to holding the G8, or perhaps picking up a G7 on sale...
  • Agree. They should use the bezel less phones to give us a larger screen in the same form factor not make the phones bigger at every opportunity. Phones shouldn't be that big that you can't fit them in your jeans pocket.
  • Oooohhhh... I like this! Okay LG, I see you. I'd buy this over the Samsung Fold or the Huawei X. I'm already imagining playing a game while chatting about it on the other screen. This looks great, but I'm not sure anyone is going to buy it. Why are Android fans so pissy over everything!
  • Much better than the Samsung fold.
  • That folding case thing is the jankiest thing I think I've ever seen LG being to market.
  • Better than the Samsung fold which has a glaringly large bezel.
  • Neither is appealing to be honest. At least the Fold actually looks consumer-facing.
  • Nope, not even that.
  • LG: "Hold my beer."
  • No, just no. Dated design, yet another notch, and worst of all, the same hideous UI. FFS, LG, you have the absolute best audio set up on any smartphone and this is how you showcase it? At least Samsung listens to their customer base! They added a larger battery; they added a wide angle camera; they refreshed the UI to make it easier for one handed use; they've allowed Bixby remap. Wtf are you doing? And btw, your radios suck, too, considering it was the main reason I sold the V30 I had for all of two weeks. Seriously, if Samsung had LG's quad DAC set up for the headphone jack, I'd be in smartphone heaven.
  • Wtf are you talking about? The notch on the V40 and the G7 doesn't at all interfere with the functionality of the device. Videos and games don't go near it. The radios in the V40 were found to be the best in class over all flagships last fall. The folding screen on the Samsung fold is a bigger design fail than anything.
  • I'll take a notch that can be disabled over a hideous punch hole that cannot! I know I so want to play games or watch video on the Samsung S10+ with a distorted view! Yep, Samsung sure listens to their customer base! If the Note 10 has the punch hole, my S8+ will be my last Samsung device.
  • That case is actually ridiculous
  • Even more ridiculous is the abnormally large bezel on the Samsung fold.
  • Didn't know Nintendo had an all touch DS.
  • Love the dual view case and wish I could get one for my phone
  • Well it's a two screen phone and NOT a foldable screen phone to begin with.
    I can see it being useful but for a different audience than Samsung's true foldable screen phone/device.
    Price will be interesting but also if the 2nd display will just be an optional accessory or part of the whole package
  • LG is always so quick to be a step behind..
  • When are you reviewers going to give LG a break? They put 5 cameras on a phone and it's meh. Samsung out 5 cameras on a phone and they're pioneering the phone space. Samsung give us the clunky Galaxy fold and tell us how great it is at running 3 apps at the same time. Will I am guessing the second screen will be just as good if you are running more than one app at the same time. The camera app probably won't crash 3 times in an 80 minute livesteam like EazyComputer's S8 did either.
  • Amen. Finally, someone is calling out these ridiculous reviewers for hating on LG. The V50 looks marvelous. If you hate the notch, hide the notch. There you go solved. If you hate the second screen, get a regular case. Solved. This phone has everything my V35 has and more, and my V35 is the perfect phone. The V50 has a bigger screen, bigger battery, 2 front cameras, and 3 cameras on the rear. But the lack of a camera bezel made the cameras look off center??? Rear cameras are now flush with the body, solved. But this reviewer and so many more make LG's solutions into more imagined problems. It is as if they are being paid to try to drive consumers away from LG and toward Samsung. Ridiculous. I got last year's V35 on eBay for 299. I will repeat this when the V50 drops in price as well. Case with a second screen is genius.
  • « in reaction to competitors getting their folding phones out earlier than LG had expected«  This second screen case may be a better idea than the not tet readu fokdable phones who have plastic displays and less than flagship screen quality (which few sites are talking about...)
  • I don't get what the reporter is all down on the second screen case concept for. It's actually a great idea. Not only do you only have the second screen when you want it, but if it breaks it is more easily and cheaply replaced. Break a Samsung Fold and you are out an entire phone. Break the LG case, you go buy another while your phone is otherwise unaffected. Seems smart to me.
  • I own a Samsung 10+ and I love the phone. I've owned LG many times in the past. To be honest with you, this phone looks amazing to me. All of my Samsung phones slow down over time, not right away, but within six to nine months it starts to slow down to a crawl and I have to reinstall to get my performance back. Samsung's UI in the past was slow, it is better with my 10 plus. LG's software despite what others say, is great as far as I'm concerned. It's fast, it does the job, it's stable and it doesn't slow down over time. I know androidcentral and androidauthority are probably compensated well by Samsung to make their products appear to be the hottest thing on the market. But when it really boils down to it, LG is not that far behind as well as about half a dozen other manufacturers. This review is biased beyond belief. Go ahead and flame all you want, don't care.
  • Finally somebody agrees with me that they hate on devices that are absolutely beautiful in their own ways. I currently own a LG V40 and got it for $450, before that I was thinking on getting the V35 for 300 on Amazon but how in the hell are you going to hate on prices such as those. Like these reviewers need to talk about how cheap they get after release. Samsung and iPhone prices don't drop for at least twice if not three times the time after LG drops their prices. LG phones honestly rock and I truly don't understand why people hate on the launcher. Even a carrier locked T-MOBILE V40 didn't have but 4 bloatware apps. How much ******* different is that than Samsung's. Plus the notch is hideable, not so much on punch-hole displays