LG continues to fly under the radar, but its partially due to its continued lack of timely updates and inclusion of gratuitous unreliable gimmicks that simply distract from other features that distinguish its phones from others. After spending a couple of weeks with the LG G8 ThinQ it’s compelling in many ways and the $620 price from T-Mobile definitely makes it one of the best flagship deals available today.
LG’s website promotes silly functions like Hand ID and Air Motion while its standout features are the Quad DAC audio, MIL-STD 810G shock resistance, Google Assistant key with LG specific functions, and capable video recording features. In many ways the LG G8 has deep Google integration (embedded Google Lens into the camera), but it also is missing some key features (Digital Wellbeing) found in Android.
The gimmicky features can be ignored, it’s what I did after the first few days, and the rest of the phone competes well with Samsung’s S10 series, Google Pixel 3 devices, and the OnePlus 6T. At the MSRP of $830, I would look to the S10 or S10e, but at $620 there is not much that competes with the LG G8 in terms of specifications, capability, and features.
CNET LG G8 ThinQ review: LG’s flagship phone can’t catch a break
As a phone reviewer and smartphone enthusiast, I have more than a dozen modern phones at my disposal. However, I keep putting my primary T-Mobile SIM back into the LG G8 for the following reasons:
- Design, fit, and finish: The LG G8 is not the thinnest phone, but it feels great in my hand and pocket. The rear fingerprint sensor is lightning fast and its built to withstand minor bumps and bruises. The Carmine Red color is also gorgeous and regular readers know how much I love color on a phone.
- Clean front panel: There is no headset speaker or any other opening on the front of the phone. The Crystal Sound OLED works well and is a marvel of engineering.
- Google Assistant button: I use it all day to launch Google Assistant and also like that I can double press it to launch my day information.
- Haptics: This may be inconsequential for some, but LG continues to lead everyone in haptics performance. You can customize the strength and pattern of the vibration on the phone and Android Central’s Hayato Huseman believes LG does the best of all Android makers when it comes to vibration technology.
- Battery life: So far I am seeing longer battery life on the G8 than I saw on the G7. I’m able to go a full day and it’s easy to top it off wirelessly too.
The LG G8 is a solid successor to the LG G7 and fans of LG phones are sure to like it. The LG UI is getting long in the tooth, which is made even more apparent when we see Samsung roll out its One UI that cleans up Touch Wiz for the better. LG’s UI needs to be updated and an apparent lack of attention is obvious on the LG G8. I also cannot stand the application launcher, which is not an area of the phone that you should be annoyed at every time you open it up.
Also: One month with the LG G7: As competition stumbles, the G7 rises to the occasion
LG G8 ThinQ specifications
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 octa-core
- Display: 6.1 inch, 3120 x 1440 pixels resolution OLED 19.5:9 aspect ratio (564 ppi)
- Operating system: Android 9.0 Pie
- RAM: 6GB
- Storage: 128 internal with microSD expansion card slot
- Cameras: 16 megapixel super wide (107 degrees) f/1.9 and 12 megapixel rear f/1.5 cameras. 8 megapixel f/1.9 front-facing camera with time-of-flight (TOF) sensor
- Water resistance: IP68 water and dust rating
- Shock resistance: MIL-STD 810G
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5.0 BLE, GPS, NFC
- Battery: 3,500 mAh non-removable with fast wireless charging 2.0 and Wireless PowerShare
- Dimensions: 151.9 x 71.9 x 8.4 mm and 167 grams
- Colors: Aurora Black, Moroccan Blue, Carmine Red
Compared to the G7 from last year, we see an OLED display instead of LCD, new Snapdragon 855 processor, 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, 500mAh more battery capacity, and five grams more weight. The dual rear cameras are flush mounted and are aligned horizontally on the G8. It has Android 9 Pie out of the box with the April 2019 security update so it is current at launch.
Also: T-Mobile LG G7 ThinQ review: Average battery life and high price overshadow excellent audio performance
The LG G8 ThinQ has a gorgeous OLED screen, first use of OLED in a G-series phone, with a higher pixel density than the Galaxy S10 (564 vs 550 ppi) with a central notch for the front-facing camera and sensors. I prefer this notch approach to the Samsung hole punch offset design and even like to use the option to color this notch area.
A 3,500 mAh battery gets me through a full busy day, which is one area that kept me from using the G7 as a reliable daily driver. This is 500 mAh more than the G7 and is 100 mAh more than what Samsung offers on the S10 too. Quick Charge 3.0 fast charging and wireless charging are also present so battery life should not be a concern with the G8.
LG was the first to launch dual cameras with a wide-angle lens and it continues with a dual camera setup on the back. One aspect of this rear camera setup that stands out from the pack is that these two cameras are designed so there is no protrusion from the rear and the back glass panel also serves to cover the camera lenses. Some competitors now have three rear cameras, but I personally feel the utility of 2x or 3x telephoto lenses is limited compared to ultra-wide angle cameras.
While nearly every flagship today has some level of dust and water resistance, an IP rating, LG is the only one that continues to design and certify that its phones meet some level of drop/shock resistance. This capability is often overlooked, but the MIL-STD 810G certification of the G8 is something to seriously consider when you are in the market for a new smartphone.
LG is also one of the rare brands to offer microSD expansion card support and a standard 3.5mm headset jack. It takes it even further with an integrated Quad DAC for the headphone jack so that you get an optimal audio experience when plugging in a headset. Something is going on with Bluetooth though as the volume from the G8 to a wireless Bluetooth headset is lower than any other phone I have tested.
LG also supports enjoyable audio playback through the speakers on the phone itself with its BoomBox speaker chamber design. The Crystal Sound OLED speaker is a solid option over a traditional top handset speaker and I was pleased with calls. It was louder and clearly than I anticipated and the technology is impressive to me as an engineer.
A dedicated Google Assistant button is on the left side with two volume buttons while a single power button is on the right. The microSD card/SIM card holder is also on the right side. The speaker, headphone jack, and USB-C port are all on the bottom of the G8.
The new ToF (time of flight) camera on the front is used to control the Air Motion and Hand ID, while also helping with depth sensing for portrait mode shots. I setup and used both hand features for a few days, but both were inconsistent and unreliable so I gave up in the first week. I couldn’t come up with a justifiable use case for either, especially given the super fast rear capacitive fingerprint reader and Google Assistant hardware button.
Android 9 Pie is installed by default with the 1 April 2019 Android security patch. LG has a terrible record for major software updates, but even more concerning is the lag in release of the monthly Android security updates. For example, the S7 ThinQ I have on hand has the Android 8.0.0 Oreo software with 1 February 2019 security patch.
If you like to customize your phone to the Nth degree, then you will like using the LG G8. There are more than 75 primary settings options, with more available as you dive into these top-level options. As a detail-oriented person I don’t mind having that many options, but it can easily be overwhelming for the masses. Many of these advanced settings are required for enhanced functions such as the Quad DAC audio system, floating bar, Air Motion, and more.
Out of the box, the G8 comes with the home screen set like the iPhone with all apps present on the home screen. Your Google Discover page is also an option as a home screen panel, which I personally find incredibly useful and use on every Android device I can find that supports this.
As an Android traditionalist, I prefer the home and app drawer setup so quickly switched to this layout. The problem here is that the app drawer is a major disappointment so maybe I should go back to the default. In the app drawer, LG provides a couple select folders and then app shortcuts are placed one after the other as they are installed. There are a few menu options for organizing apps, but even if you select alphabetical that only applies to that moment. Apps installed after accessing the menu appear back in installed order so you have to reorganize again. It’s pretty terrible that you have to so actively manage the app drawer and I look forward to the day LG updates this area of the OS.
Just like Samsung, LG provides some duplicate apps in addition to what is provided within Android. I prefer some of these over what Google offers, such as email (excellent for Exchange accounts), FM radio, file manager, and gallery. However, the rest of the apps seem to offer more confusion than utility, especially when these apps are then updated via LG SmartWorld rather than the Google Play Store. These apps include; QuickMemo+, calendar, music, LG Health, McAfee Security, and messaging.
The camera application is well designed with a simple interface similar to what we see on the iPhone and other modern Android smartphones. Auto mode launches by default with bottom swipe options including studio, portrait, auto, AI Cam, manual camera, and more. More options includes slo-mo, cine shot, manual video, cine video, panorama, flash jump-cut, food, night view, YouTube Live, and AR stickers. You can add, remove, move around on the more page, or move these options into the mode slider. I love the ability to full customize and optimize your camera preferences on the LG G8.
Icons appear on the right side of the viewfinder to switch between the two rear cameras or you can pinch and zoom to move between the wide-angle and standard cameras. Digital zoom up to 8x is supported on the LG G8. Four options are present at the top of the viewfinder that provide access to general camera settings (Google Lens suggestions, HDR, live photo, grid, and more), filters, front/rear camera toggle, and a flash toggle.
Price and availability
You can purchase the LG G8 ThinQ from T-Mobile in Carmine Red or Aurora Black for just $619.99. T-Mobile also offers 50 percent off this phone with a trade-in or if you add a line. At $10 per month to add a line, this might just be the way to pick up a great phone for just over $300.
AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon all have launch deals on the LG G8 so check out your preferred carrier. Best Buy is selling the LG G8 for $599.99 with activation on Sprint, $649.99 with activation on Verizon, $799.99 with activation on AT&T, or $849.99 with no service activation.
Daily experiences and conclusions
For some reason, there is a place in my heart for LG devices. They look great and fit well in my hand and pockets. I’ve been able to count on them for solid performance and the phones do not tend to bog down over time. Updates are a serious concern and I wish LG would stick with its promise made last year to provide timely updates.
With fantastic sound through the headphone jack and solid sound through the BoomBox capability, I’m mystified why Bluetooth audio is very quiet on every headset I have tested with the LG G8. Other phones with those same headsets play music louder and I can’t explain the issue.
Air Motion works about 20 percent of the time and even then it is slower than standard tap interactions. I can’t find a legimitate use case for it and it seems to be a waste of the time-of-flight front sensor. At times, I do enjoy pretending I can use the force and direct the phone to open a selected app as I say, “These are not the droids you are looking for.”
The rear fingerprint scanner is awesome so Hand ID is also a waste of development time. Skip the gimmicks and use the phone like you would normally use a smartphone for a great overall experience.
The camera software is easy to use, full featured, and helps you get very creative with your subjects. I love the cine video options and the other functions provided by LG in the camera software. Even though the night mode cannot compare to the latest Google, Samsung, or Huawei phones the cameras will still help you take great shots in other situations.
At the $830 MSRP I couldn’t recommend the LG G8 given LG’s poor track record of keeping at least Android security updates current. However, at $620 it is easy to recommend for all of its other great functionality and capability. Don’t even worry about trying the Air Motion or Hand ID, but do explore the camera, floating bar, and superb audio experience. My main SIM keeps going back to this phone because of the solid, reliable performance as a communications device.