LG is a perennial underdog in the smartphone industry, constantly overshadowed by Samsung and others. To its credit, the company knows this, and keeps trying new approaches that might appeal to niche audiences - things that capitalise on its in-house expertise and that no other company is doing. That's how we got the gloriously impractical G Flex (Review), the V-series with dual screens, and last year's modular G5 (Review). LG also hopes that features such as high-quality audio playback and recording will attract buyers who really value that kind of thing above all else. Unfortunately, most of its devices have rough edges, and haven't been priced competitively.
When it comes to flagships, LG has had a split strategy for the past few years. Its G-series phones, usually launched around March, are more typical flagships, while the V-series models launched towards the end of the year are more experimental and offbeat. Last year's V20 (Review) had a secondary screen, dual cameras, reinforced aluminium body and high-end audio. We didn't mind having any of those features, but they didn't exactly make us want to run out and buy it either.
This year there's a new strategy at play. The main features of the LG V30+ are its top-end hardware and focus on design - in fact, this might be the best looking phone that LG has ever produced. Could this be the one that finally propels LG to the top of the sales charts? We can't wait to find out.
LG V30+ design
The LG V30+ completely sheds any similarity it might have had with its chunky predecessors. This is an incredibly slick phone, with curved glass in front and on the back, and a polished metal rim that screams luxury. Where the G6 (Review) was bland and thick, the V30+ is gently curved and perfectly proportioned. The construction quality is impeccable, and this phone feels every bit as good in the hand as the Samsung Galaxy S8 (Review) and iPhone 8 (Review). It's a huge leap for LG, especially considering how old-fashioned the V20 felt.
Our review unit was the silver version, which has a very subtle texture beneath the rear glass that catches the light as you turn the phone around in your hands. The only problem with this design is that both the front and rear are extremely slippery - the V30+ slid out of our trouser pockets on more than one occasion, especially when we were sitting in a car, and wouldn't stay put on any surface that was even slightly inclined. We were afraid of scuffs and scratches showing, but that didn't turn out to be a problem during our review period, at least.
The tall screen on the front is surrounded by black borders; narrower on the sides than on the top and bottom. Overall the look is quite minimalistic. The screen has rounded corners that match the curve of the frame, just like the one on the G6, and LG says that this makes the frame stronger. LG has used the same type and size of screen on the V30+ as on the Google Pixel 2 XL (Review), and while this phone manages to be less tall, the tradeoff is that doesn't have front-facing stereo speakers.
The power button is on the back, which is LG's one consistent brand differentiator. We personally find this inconvenient, but with face recognition and gesture shortcuts, it's easier to live with than before. There's a fingerprint sensor on the power button itself, and at least that winds up being where it needs to be. Above that is the dual camera bump which thankfully protrudes less than 1mm. Though you can't see it, the LG V30+ is IP68 certified for water and dust resistance. The only other interesting point to note is the "Made in India" stamp below LG's logo.
The volume buttons are on the left, and there's a hybrid dual-SIM tray on the right. There's a USB Type-C port and a single speaker cutout on the bottom, and a 3.5mm audio socket on the top. In the box, LG includes a microfibre cloth, an oversized Quick Charge 3.0-compliant charger, a USB Type-C cable, a nice-looking headset, and the usual leaflets.
LG V30+ specifications and software
In some countries, LG sells the V30 and V30+ through different carriers, though there are zero cosmetic differences between them. They both have the same processor and screen. The V30, which has not been launched in India, has 64GB of storage and might or might not ship with B&O Play headphones in the box, depending on country. What you need to know is that the V30+ which has been launched in India has 128GB of storage, and you get LG's own Quadplay headset which is also touted as extremely high quality. Those are the sole differences between models.
It's also easy to see that there are several similarities between the LG V30/ V30+ and the Google Pixel 2 XL, which of course LG manufactures for Google. They have nearly identical specifications, right down to the 6-inch pOLED screen that LG developed itself. The panel has a resolution of 1440x2880 and supports the HDR-10 standard. It's extremely crisp and bright, and there's an always-on mode that lets you see the time and notifications when the phone is in standby, without taking too much of a hit to battery life.
However, the big problem is that the V30+ suffers from exactly the same colour shifting issues as the Pixel 2 XL. Just by tilting the phone side to side, you can see the colour tone change. Whites take on a pink or blue tint depending on the angle you hold the phone at. This is something we're going to pay a lot of attention to when evaluating the usability and performance of the V30+.
The processor at the heart of the V30+ is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835. LG missed out on this hardware when it decided to ship the G6 ahead of its competition, so this actually makes the V30+ LG's first true flagship phone of the year. Unfortunately, Qualcomm has just announced the Snapdragon 845 which will undoubtedly power most of the next wave of flagship phones just a few months from now, and this phone could feel dated then.
There's 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. You can add up to 2TB more using a microSD card, though you'll have to sacrifice a second SIM because of the phone's hybrid dual-SIM design. Of course 4G and VoLTE are supported. The battery capacity is a generous 3300mAh, and wireless charging as well as Quick Charge 3.0 are supported. You get all the necessary standards including Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, and GPS.
On the software side, you get Android 7.1.2 which is a bit of a disappointment considering how similar this phone is to the Pixel 2 XL. LG's custom UI has a lot of options, but is also a bit overbearing with constant popups and tutorials for things as basic as turning Wi-Fi on. The message alerts and other system notifications are enormous. Right after the first boot, we received a warning not to pop the phone's battery out in case the phone becomes unresponsive (which is hardly reassuring, and impossible anyway because the battery is non-removable), and the first time we used the camera we had to dismiss an endless stream of popup "explanations" for several buttons and modes.
You can choose between single-layer and double-layer UIs, as well as a simple mode with large panel icons and wider spacing. You can change themes as well as the system font. There are templates for the always-on display giving you a choice of clock style and personalised messages to display.
LG lets you swap around the order of the Android navigation buttons and even add an additional shortcut of your choosing. There's a Floating Bar which is essentially a virtualised version of the LG V20's second screen. You can drag it to any part of the screen and swipe through panels to show shortcuts to apps and contacts, screenshot tools, and media playback controls. When gaming, you can pull up another toolbar that lets you take screenshots and change performance settings.
The Settings app is subdivided into tabbed pages making it a little hard to know where to find everything. You can tap the screen twice (LG wants you to "knock", but taps work just fine) to wake the phone and also to go to sleep, which slightly makes up for the power button being on the back when the phone is lying on a table. One new addition is face recognition to unlock the phone, and just like on the OnePlus 5T (Review) and Oppo F5 (Review), you are warned that it is less secure than other methods. It can work even with the screen off, so you don't have to wake the phone first, but will fail in low light and is unavailable when the battery is very low.
LG V30+ performance
Needless to say, with hardware like this, the V30+ was consistently snappy and responsive. It doesn't get too hot when stressed, and there's nothing that we can really fault - except for the screen's colour shifting problem. This can be dealt with when watching movies, as long as you stay perfectly still, but with games that use the phone's use motion sensors for control, the shifts as you turn and tilt the phone can be jarring. This is a really aggravating flaw that feels even more frustrating because of how good this phone is otherwise.
We got scores of 143,739 in AnTuTu; 1,925 and 6,174 in Geekbench's single-core and multi-core tests; 37,183 in 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited; and 55fps in GFXBench's T-rex test. We've seen higher scores from other phones based on the Snapdragon 835. You can get better framerates in games by manually reducing the output resolution, either within the Settings app or using LG's game overlay menu.
The single speaker on the V30+ is loud and crisp, but we're a little disappointed to lose the front-facing stereo speakers that the Pixel 2 XL has. We found ourselves muffling the grille on the bottom very often when playing games with the phone in both hands. As far as the much-touted audiophile features go, the quad DACs do seem to make a difference. You can turn the feature on or off through a toggle in the Quick Settings panel, and adjust presets in the Settings app. We tried a few FLAC files and streamed some Apple Music tracks as well, and found that sound was deeper and richer than we're used to.
The bundled earphones were a notch above the usual quality you'd get in a phone's box, but weren't worth getting very excited about. It was hard to get a good seal with the included rubber eartips, and we think anyone who cares about audio would choose something better.
Battery life turned out to be pretty good. We were able to use this phone quite heavily, with lots of photography plus some time spent playing games and streaming audio and video, and still made it to the end of a day without feeling too much anxiety. Our HD video loop test ran for 12 hours, 14 minutes. We also observed that the V30+ could be charged from zero to 100 percent in approximately two hours.
LG V30+ cameras
We've seen multiple different types of dual-camera configurations on phones - some with one zoom lens, some with a depth sensor, some with independent RGB and mono cameras, and some with enhanced low-light sensors. LG's choice of one standard and one wide-angle lens seems less useful than any of those options. Sure, you can get some nice shots of large groups, or take landscape photos without having to step too far back, but situations when that would be handy don't really come up that often. As another consequence, LG has been unable to implement a portrait mode, which is now becoming something that people specifically look for in a top-tier smartphone.
The camera app is packed with features and modes, not all of which are useful. LG also offers the choice between standard 4:3 photos and 18:9 crops which would look better on the phone's screen but are otherwise of limited utility. You can slide the shutter button up or down to zoom, which is neat, but if you hesitate even a second you'll wind up taking a burst of frames instead. There's also unnecessary clutter in the form of a shortcut bar that lets you add photos to social media posts or note apps directly.
There are some interesting collage and frame options, but the most notable mode is what LG calls Cine Video. This has two components - one lets you tap anywhere on screen and then smoothly zoom in to that portion, which can look quite slick, and the second is a carousel of real-time filters such as Pop-art, Noir, Melodrama, and Summer Blockbuster to give your videos a fun spin.
In terms of photo quality, we were a little underwhelmed. We weren't always satisfied with the quality of textures and colour reproduction that we saw in our photo samples, compared to the standard set by other top-tier phones in 2017. Daytime shots taken with the primary 16-megapixel f/1.6 camera were very sharp, but textures looked artificial and overprocessed in close-ups. In low light, photos were grainy and white balance was hard to get right, although quite a lot of detail did come through. Photos taken with the secondary 13-megapixel f/1.9 sensor and its wide-angle lens came out darker. The same objects right in front of us were much less distinct. As with the V20, we found that we always needed to double-check which camera was active, and that made us miss spontaneous shots sometimes.
Video recording goes up to 30fps at 4K, and you can switch between cameras in the middle of a shoot. The transition is abrupt, and we would have preferred a second lens that can zoom in rather than out, in many situations. Video quality is good, and we had no complaints. The Cine Video modes are fun but a bit gimmicky, and we'd always prefer to apply effects after shooting, so the original is preserved. You can turn videos or bursts into GIFs with one tap, which some might find handy.
Overall, it's clear that LG has managed to improve by leaps and bounds this year, first with the G6 and now with the V30+. It looks phenomenally good and will appeal to people who love having a lot of features to play around with. Of course, there are still rough edges to be worked on, mostly in terms of the user experience. There's no point in having a beautiful phone with an immersive display if that screen itself is flawed. Similarly, having dozens of camera modes and tool should be secondary to the actual output quality. This is exactly the kind of device that looks dazzling at first glance and has an impressive spec sheet, but really needs some time spent with it to uncover its true nature.
Another thing well worth pointing out is that LG has really done well in terms of pricing. The V30+ has been launched at a much lower price than the V20 and even the G6, and early buyers get a free wireless charger. As such, it is slotted neatly between the OnePlus 5T and the Samsung Galaxy S8. It's also significantly less expensive than the 128GB Pixel 2 XL, and all you really miss out on are Google's AI features and camera.
If you are considering buying the LG V30+, we would strongly suggest that you first try it out at a physical retail store to see if you can live with the screen. If it isn't a problem, you should be quite happy with this phone.