Every year since the vastly underrated LG G2 in 2013, I’ve been going through the same emotional cycle with LG flagship phones: anticipation in the buildup, excitement during the launch, and ultimate disappointment with the final product. This was the case with the LG G3, G4, G5, and G6 — but not the latest G7 ThinQ. After my first encounter with the LG G7, I’m already over it. This is the least inspiring, least daring G-series phone that LG has released in a long time, maybe ever.
A quick recap of the G7, for those who haven’t yet come across the comprehensive leaks or today’s announcement: it’s a 6.1-inch phone with a notch at the top of its LCD, powered by a Snapdragon 845 processor and a comparatively mean 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. The G7 has a dual-camera system, like almost everyone else, it’s IP68 rated for water and dust resistance, like most rivals, and it supports wireless charging, like many, but not all. Other than a quad-DAC system for sensational headphone audio, there’s a serious dearth of reasons for you to care about or want the G7. And if you desire that great sound quality, you can already get it from last year’s G6 or LG’s superior V30 / V30S smartphone.
When I first picked up the G7, I was struck by just how anonymous and uninspiring it felt. The notch at the top of the screen lacks the basic decency to even have a distinctive shape or size. LG will tell you that its choice of an LCD instead of an OLED display pays off in “super” brightness (up to 1,000 nits) for sunny days outside, but I used it on a rare sunny day in London, and it wasn’t that much more legible than my Google Pixel 2 XL. What LG loses with the LCD is the perfect black of OLED, which allows competitors like Huawei to successfully mask their notch by just filling the sides around it with black. On the LG G7, if the screen is on, the entirety of it is backlit, so you’ll always see a dark shade of gray around the notch instead of black.
More than anything else, though, the G7 simply feels less premium than its rivals. That’s not because it uses Gorilla Glass on both the front and back. (The iPhone X, Galaxy S9, P20 Pro, and LG V30 each have glass backs, and yet I consider them the best designed and most premium phones on the market today.) What the LG G7 lacks is the same sense of density inside the glass, the same notion of a design so optimized as to be on the brink of exploding with all the technology inside. And we know for sure that the G7 has some extra space inside because LG is using that to turn the entire case into an amplification chamber for the phone’s loudspeaker. You might think that’s an ingenious little tweak, but I heard that speaker at its loudest, and I wasn’t blown away by it. Huawei’s P20 Pro does a superior job with its loudspeaker, which is currently my favorite from among a strong bunch in 2018.
Maybe what I’m reacting to it is simply the height to which Huawei has raised the bar for new Android flagship phones. LG promises an AI-assisted camera, but Huawei already does that better. More to the point, Huawei procured a much larger sensor for its main cameras on the P20 and P20 Pro, whereas LG is sticking with the same sensor size as last year (which was already behind leaders like the Google Pixel and HTC U11). Huawei’s flagship has a bigger battery, a lovelier display, more RAM, more storage, and a more sophisticated design than what LG is offering with the G7.
This series of small disappointments add up to a demonstrated lack of ambition from LG.
If there’s redemption to be found for LG’s latest flagship, it might be in the fact that Huawei’s alternative is being actively pushed out of the American market by US authorities, leaving a void for LG to fill. Plus, we don’t yet know the specific price at which LG will sell the G7, which might be proportionately lower than the phones LG seems unwilling to compete with head-to-head anymore. It’s hard to know exactly what change of strategy the LG G7 signifies: is LG making its V-series phones the new top tier of its range? Is the company rethinking the position of its entire portfolio in the market? Or is the G7 simply a victim of unrealized ambitions for a more aggressively innovative device?
The one thing I know for sure is that the LG that used to excite us with outlandish, sometimes over-optimistic, ideas hasn’t shown up yet in 2018. After reissuing the V30 under the V30S branding in February, the company has now returned with a G-series phone that is the very definition of an also-ran. The G7 might still be a good phone, but in the highly competitive field of Android smartphones, being merely good isn’t good enough.