Smartphones are, whether you like it or not, changing. And changing significantly, while at it. Designs and form factors are evolving. Some say, change is good. I agree. The Samsung Galaxy Fold foldable smartphone is a beauty. On paper, even Microsoft’s upcoming dual screen Android smartphone looks very promising. And well, even the Moto Razr foldable phone ticks off the style and flaunt value requirements. But I really have a problem with change, when someone hands me the LG G8X ThinQ dual screen phone. Do not make a different phone just because your rivals are.
For starters, the price. LG is selling this G8X ThinQ for Rs 49,999 at retail outlets. So why does their own website plaster the price tag of Rs 70,000 for this phone. But that is just the beginning of a journey that is part perplexing, part annoying and part of anger management.
Let us start with the ingredients of the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen. Actually, the foundation is a conventional phone with a single screen, called the LG G8X ThinQ. A 6.4-inch OLED display and for the most part, this looks quite acceptable. There is a lot of glass at the front, a lot of glass at the back and a bit of metal sandwiched in. it is available in the Aurora Black colour, so if you like black, well that’s a positive mark for the LG G8X ThinQ. So, is it really a singular screen phone and we are simply messing around? No, actually. LG has made this snap-on case, which they genuinely must believe is a work of art, that you can plaster on to this LG G8X ThinQ. This isn’t just some random case, but it has a display on the inside cover. A 6.4-inch OLED too. But hang on a second. Actually, it is a screen and a half. Because on the cover is a smaller 2.1-inch display for quick glance at the time, notifications, incoming calls and whatnot. LG also takes the pains to explain that this case has a 360-degree Freestop hinge that lets you position this second screen exactly how you might need it—incidentally, I noticed that double tapping on this half screen or around this half screen doesn’t illuminate it and that I had to press the power key every time I wanted to check if there’s a new notification. Yet, this screen would occasionally illuminate for no reason (no new notifications, mind you) while the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen was kept on one side, and no one was bothering about it. Not even one little bit.
So basically, the phone that is called the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen actually doesn’t have two screens but two and a half screens. And a 360-degree hinge. I would imagine the name LG G8X ThinQ Two and a Half Screen 360 Degree Display Phone or something like that wouldn’t really roll off the tongue.
While the LG G8X ThinQ itself has a USB-C port, attaching the case means the other two and a half screens now derive their power from this USB-C port and you are left looking at these pogo connectors which make no sense in the world of smartphones. So now, how do you charge the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen? We looked multiple times, but LG doesn’t give a USB-C to Pogo, micro-USB to Pogo or any such adapter in the box. Neither is there is a separate charging cable that attaches with this connector. So now you have two options. You either take off the case and plug it in directly as you have charged your phones over the years. Or use a wireless charger, with the case still plonked on. But LG doesn’t provide a wireless charger with the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen. Interestingly enough, LG doesn’t even sell a wireless charger accessory in India—though they sell a bunch of headsets, cameras and even a VR headset. I’m no businessman, but to rely so heavily on third-party accessories for a basic functionality in a phone you make, just seems a bit perplexing. And for the rest of us who still want to use the wire to charge it, purely inconvenient.
Ah, I was expecting that. Why, Apple also doesn’t make wireless chargers for its iPhones, you do point out? But look carefully, Apple also doesn’t make or certify weird cases that introduce you to a world of pogo connectors, and the charging cable that it provides in the box can be used to charge an iPhone without having to disrobe it every night.
Then there is the small matter of the weight. The LG G8X ThinQ tips the scales at 192 grams. Add the dual screen case, and that adds 134 grams more. This means it weighs 326 grams in total as you lumber along. An Apple iPad Mini weighs 300.5 grams. An iPhone 11 Pro Max tips the scales at 226 grams. The Samsung Galaxy Fold weighs 276 grams. You get the picture.
Oh, and did I mention this is a pristine fingerprint magnet?
Let us look at the specifications in a bit of detail before we move on to the usability part. This runs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor, which albeit a little long in the tooth now, still does the job of powering premium smartphones. This is paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage. Yes, there is a microSD slot that lets you add up to 1TB more space, but if we are to look back for a second at 128GB storage in a phone that costs almost Rs 50,000 in this day and age, it can be safely added to the list of perplexing decisions. It is good to note that both displays have the 2,340 x 1,080 resolution, and that means the visual experience remains similar.
Speaking of the two displays, they do tick off the boxes on the checklist—they are bright, colours are quite vivid without being unnaturally so and viewing HDR videos on this is a delight. There is a tiny on-screen toggle that you need to tap to switch apps between the primary display and the secondary one—the options include swap screens, show main on dual screen, show dual screen on main, put main to sleep, wide view and turn off dual screen. Wide view simply stretches the app across the two displays. For most intents and purposes, this is not as useful as one would imagine.
Weirdly enough, if you send an app to the secondary display and then have to remove the case for some reason thereby deactivating the secondary display, the app doesn’t switch back to the main screen. It remains in the list of apps running in the background, and also doesn’t return to prominence once the emperor wears the wardrobe again and the second screen is active. Yet, the ability to use two apps at the same time, side by side, does work well. It is quite convenient to have WhatsApp open on one screen while you may continue to browse the web, shop a bit on Amazon, check emails, read a book or even do some YouTube crunching on the side—and that’s just one illustration.
LG clearly has not spent enough time ironing out the finer details. On the LG G8X ThinQ’s primary screen, you need to swipe right to left to access the app screens. On the dual screen, you need to swipe from the bottom towards the middle to open the app drawer. How incredibly inconvenient is this? And why do I need to deal with two app drawers, essentially replicating the same thing on both screens? While it is called the LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen, neither of the two screens are aware of what the other is doing. How can that be unforgivable in a phone that sports a premium price tag?
LG envisions a usage situation in which you can use one screen fully for the keyboard and use the second screen for the apps that you are working on—a sort of a mini-computer, or a palmtop, from the years gone by. To be fair, this might just work for someone who may have to type out long emails or documents on the phone and would prefer that larger real estate the keyboard is afforded in such a scenario. But really, how often would that be?
Nevertheless, LG has preloaded a browser called Naver Whale which utilizes the dual screen capabilities well enough and gaming could be a scenario where the second screen could come in handy for controls, for instance.
The rest of the specs include the fairly capable 12-megapixel and 13-megapixel cameras at the back, a 32-megapixel selfie and video calling camera as well as Hi-Fi Quad DAC, sound tuned by Meridian Audio and a large 4,000mAh battery that’ll last just a day if you use both screens.
While I am all for experimentation with smartphones, the fact is it has to happen with some sort of purpose. It cannot simply be a slapdash effort, just because of peer pressure. The LG G8X ThinQ Dual Screen could actually have been a much better package had the basics been looked at a bit more closely. Two and a half screens are great to have, but surely not when the rest of the experience is compromised. The LG G8X ThinQ could have been a fine enough phone but adding the gimmicky Dual Screen case into the mix has meant things have gone completely pear shaped. The worst part is, the software isn’t ready—neither is Android nor are most of the popular apps. LG hasn’t done itself any favours with the haphazard scrolling direction implementation, for instance. Save your money. This is just not worth your time or effort.