The carrier-unlocked version of the LG G7 ThinQ (G710ULM) has just received a new patch from LG that promises performance improvements, bug fixes, 4K 60fps video recording, and the September security update for Android.
I ordered the LG G7 ThinQ from Google’s Project Fi as part of their $300 account credit promotion, making the total price for the phone, after trade-in and eventual account credit, less than $400.
I’ve had this phone for a little less than two days. I’m not a professional reviewer, just a techy schmuck. I’m also not a professional photographer, I am a point-and-shoot dummy whose primary subject is a 3.5ft tall blur that will ruin a good photo opportunity if I can’t take the photo fast enough. Coming from a Nexus 6P, my concerns were battery life, camera quality, and software support. Survivors of the Nexus 5X will probably be concerned about quality control from LG, and that’s fair, but realize that ~2015 was an especially bad time for LG phones and their reputation before and since, while not pristine, is comparable to other manufacturers. With that out of the way, I’ll get started.
The camera in low-light, that all the reviewers complained about, is fine. It lets in more light than my 6P, so it doesn’t catch the contrast of the shadows as well, and the resolution of night mode photos is lower because it combines pixels, but overall it’s fine. Wide angle is potato-quality in the dark. Here is a photo sampling:
Below, I’ve provided some sample shots for a comparison. I also added in samples from my work-issued iPhone 8.
The camera can be launched quickly with a double tap of the down-volume button. I find that it launches faster than my Nexus 6P’s camera, it focuses just as quickly if not faster, and its automatic point-and-shoot behavior is comparable. The Portrait mode works decently, but occasionally blurs things it shouldn’t; it’s better for ‘staged’ photos than the candid shots I usually do. I like that the record button is right there next to the shutter button, so I don’t have to wait a second or two for the camera app to transition to video mode. An update should bring, or have already brought, 4K 60fps video recording, depending on carrier approval.
I love the size and form factor. Nearly as tall as the 6P, but not as wide, so I can operate it with one hand easily. Very thin, very light. Pocket friendly! Fingerprint sensor is a bit lower than the 6P, so at first I kept tapping my finger on the camera, but I’ve gotten used to it. Notch doesn’t really bother me, except I wish I could see more notifications at once. Button placement is good, no accidental presses, and you’re confident that button presses are registered. I don’t love the headphone jack being on the bottom, but I can live with it because it has one. A lot of the promotional images out there make the phone look like it’s made of cheap, shiny plastic, so here is a photo of the blue matte finish.
Charges absurdly fast, 40->85% while I shower (15 minutes or so), and topping off in the car, with the same 2.4a charger (maybe supports QC?) I used with my 6P, makes a big difference. I never see myself leaving it on the charger overnight. Battery lasted a full day yesterday with me downloading a lot and setting it up. I rarely charge my phone to over 90% (better for long-term battery health), and I started today at ~85%. With 5 hours off the charger, listening to a podcast in the car for 20 minutes, and 1.5hr SOT, it’s down to 71%. A lot of phones seem to have a “learning” period, and if that’s the case here then I don’t think I’m going to have battery anxiety like I did with my 6P.
Screen looks crisp, very pretty. Lots of customization with a Flux-like night mode feature, game resolution and fps options, and its outdoor brightness is great. Putting it on auto mode, it keeps the brightness a little dimmer than I would like. Not being AMOLED means dark mode in apps is pointless (beyond aesthetics), and AOD (Always-On Display) feels like a waste of battery- the notification light will do for my needs. The screen’s lowest brightness isn’t quite as dark as the 6P, which makes sense because it’s LCD rather than OLED. Screen rotation is lightning fast. You can change the tone of the screen to suit your color palette preference.
LG Software and Skin
The LG skin, once you turn on the app drawer, will behave like a conventional Android home screen. I like how the app groups/folders can be given colors to differentiate them, and I like how a group has a little ‘add’ button that gives you the full app list and you can tick which app you want to add to the group. No more hunting for apps and dragging into groups… or maybe I need to remove some apps (300+ isn’t too many, right?).
You can change the grid dimensions for apps, change icon shapes, the provided widgets aren’t atrocious, and bind the keyboard to one side or the other for easier one-handed use. I have my Home screen setup where dragging up brings up the app drawer, and dragging down brings up a recent activity type screen showing my latest texts, upcoming appointments, latest emails, most recent browser tabs and apps, etc.
The LG skin makes theming easy, provides access to an online catalog of skins (some are paid), and with a lot of options to theme based on your favorite K-pop star (there’s no Brown Eyed Girls 😢). They have 360 wallpapers, AOD customizations, blah blah blah. I don’t really care about this crap. You can make the “Second Screen” a.k.a. area around the notch a solid color, like black, if you don’t like it trying to blend in with your apps.
If some apps don’t natively support the aspect ratio of the screen, there’s a button at the bottom-left to re-launch them to fit. That might be because I transferred the apps from my old phone. This same spot is also home to a button that you can long-press to make the screen’s back/home bar go away entirely (swipe up from the bottom to get it back).
LG doesn’t pre-load this thing with too much garbage, just a few items beyond the basics. It came with Facebook and Instagram, but I disabled them right away.
LG Health is a lightweight step tracker for those of us who aren’t really committed enough to fitness to buy a fitness tracker or bother with Google Fit.
LG Mobile Switch worked very well to transfer my apps and settings from my 6P.
Quick Memo (launchable from double-tap of volume up) is pretty nice writing pad but doesn’t sync anywhere.
Smart Cleaning is actually pretty cool: it clears up temp files/cache and closes background apps. It’s in the Settings menu, too.
SmartWorld is their store for themes, icon packs, wallpapers, AOD skins, and most of them are free.
Update Center is obvious.
HD Audio Recorder is obvious. High quality recordings that work with no setup required.
Music player – This is stupid. It has a “Boombox Show” that brings up early 2000s style visualizations while you play music, while also making the flashlight and vibration blink/vibrate to the tune of your music. It only works when your music is played from the app, as far as I can tell. It’s dumb.
Smart Bulletin – phone context setting screen to the left of the home screen. It’s like Google Now but phone-only and useless. Can be disabled in the settings.
NextRadio – an Internet radio app, but most importantly: it lets you use the phone’s FM Tuner. I had glossed over the fact that this phone has a built-in FM tuner (only usable when headphones are plugged in). Being a data-conscious Project Fi customer, having the option to tune into local radio instead of stream it sounds great. My only qualm is that this app is just a free app normally available on Google Play, and it’s ad-supported. As far as I can tell, there’s not much of a market for good FM tuner apps, so this will have to do.
My one major complaint: I wish I could make the bottom navbar black, or adjust to the current app’s color. Having a dark app up with that light-grey bar at the bottom is ugly. I could hide it, but I’m a notorious multitasker.
My one minor complaint: by default, the share button tries to find nearby devices to beam to, as well as bring up the usual share options. This slows down the share menu and probably unnecessarily wastes battery. It can be toggled off in the Share menu settings.
Hidden gem: the Capture+ tool. Its interface looks like Quick Memo, but it’s something available as an Action icon in the status bar. It’s a quick screenshot tool that can also make short gifs, quickly crop a screenshot, or mark on it.
The LG keyboard is actually really nice. The number row is on by default, you can swap around the positioning of some of the characters, it learns very quickly, and it’s suggestions and autocorrect, even on its aggressive setting, is not as aggressive as Gboard’s autocorrect.
The ring is loud and crisp, you can’t miss it. When playing music while sitting the phone on a table, the speaker is impressively loud. Better than a cheap portable Bluetooth speaker. The vibration is fantastic, especially compared to the Nexus 6P where vibration might as well mean silent. Haptic feedback is solid.
There’s been a lot of positive commentary made about its Quad DAC and DTS 3D Surround, but I mostly listen to podcasts, audiobooks, and audio dramas in the car. They definitely seem louder and clearer. After tweaking the digital filter, voices are crisper and easier to hear. Nifty.
“OK Google” or other keywords have always been difficult because, at least on my old phone, there was such a delay between saying the keyword and the ‘ding’ to start talking that my small human being would often start talking and botch my search query. And it would usually want me to unlock the phone, which defeats the purpose of voice search (I don’t use Smart Unlock). Now, I can pick my phone up, tap the fingerprint reader, press the button and start talking. It’s definitely more convenient, but I still find voice search to be more of a gimmick than legitimately useful.
micro SD slot
Since this phone comes with 64GB of storage, the same that my 6P had, I knew the ability to use external storage was going to be a necessity, so I popped in a 64GB UC3 micro SD card. While not every app supports it, and those that give you options to save into directories sometimes complain they can’t write to it, the biggest storage hogs can take full advantage of it: Camera, Google Play Music, Netflix, Plex, Amazon Video, Pocketcasts, LibriVox, Audible, and Google Maps. Some apps can be moved to External Storage, too.
This is just my hot take, but this phone exceeded my expectations. I ordered with a bit of apprehension, not sure if I was making the right choice, but 2 days with this phone have made me feel confident that it should last another 2+ years like the 6P did, despite its flaws. With Project Fi’s recent $300 account credit promotion, and with doing a trade-in, I now have a new flagship-tier phone for less than $400, beating that classic Nexus price point with a powerhouse of features. I just popped it into a Spigen Rugged Armor case and it feels like I’m continuing to own a phone that does what I want.
If you do order this phone, register for the LG Second Year Promise within 90 days of purchase. It’s a free warranty extension for your second year of ownership. While I decided to get Device Protection from Google (well, Assurant), there’s no harm in having an extra layer of warranty from LG. It also helps reinforce to LG that providing long-term support is a great way to earn customers.
Professional reviews of the LG G7 ThinQ often mention that the LG G7 ThinQ can produce mediocre low-light photos. Having one in hand, I decided to make a quick comparison with a Nexus 6P.
The LG G7’s standard camera produces comparable night photos to the Nexus 6P. The G7’s photos are brighter and catch more detail, however they tend to lose the contrast between the light and the shadows. They also have a lower resolution, which makes sense given that the G7’s low-light camera mode, which is on by default in low-light, combines pixels to produce a better image.
The G7’s wide-angle camera performs very poorly in low light, but considering that many other phones don’t have this camera to begin with, it’s still a beneficial option for daylight shots.