The LG Velvet may be one of the most talked-about phones no one outside of South Korea can actually buy. LG has spent the past month systematically revealing details about its new approach to flagship phones, which has helped position the LG Velvet as a true alternative to some of the best Android phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy S20.
Samsung's Galaxy S series dominates the Android world, as the go-to phone to get when you want something that delivers premium features. And while this year's Galaxy S20 release has impressed, its starting price of $999 has some people wondering if there's not a lower-priced alternative they can turn that still delivers high-end capabilities.
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Can the LG Velvet fill that void? It's tricky to say until LG opts to launch that phone outside of South Korea and we have an opportunity to go hands-on with the device. But based on the specs we've seen so far, we can make some comparisons between the LG Velvet vs. the Samsung Galaxy S20 to determine if Samsung's place at the top of the Android phone pecking order is in any danger.
Here's how these two phones compare.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Price and availability
It's hard to compare prices between the LG Velvet and the Samsung Galaxy S20, as LG has yet to announce US pricing for its phone. All we know is that the LG Velvet starts at 899,800 won in South Korea, which converts to around $740. Phone makers rarely do straight currency conversions for phones, adjusting prices for particular countries, but it seems likely the LG Velvet would sell in the $700 to $800 range in the U.S. That's not much less expensive than the $899 price of the LG V60 ThinQ 5G.
However, a sub-$800 phone would be a significant discount from the Galaxy S20, which starts at $999. For context, Samsung charges 1.248 million won for the S20 in Korea, so it's safe to assume that whatever price LG sets for the LG Velvet, it will be cheaper than Samsung's flagship phone.
You can buy the Galaxy S20 at any of the major US carriers and several retailers, with Galaxy S20 deals potentially lowering the cost of your phone. We're still waiting to hear when LG will bring the Velvet to the US — if it does at all — but rumors point to the phone maker clarifying its rollout plans beyond Korea in the next month.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Design and display
From the looks of it, LG has put a lot of effort into coming up with a distinctive design for the LG Velvet, and it's this area where the phone seems best equipped to take on the Galaxy S20.
The LG Velvet features what LG is calling a 3D Arc Design with curved display edges designed to make the phone easier to grip. On the back of the phone, you'll find the rear cameras assembled in a vertical array with the largest main lens on top and the other lenses following in descending order — something LG bills as a "raindrop effect." It's certainly a striking contrast to the Galaxy S20 and its square camera array in the upper left corner of the phone, and fans of headphone jacks will appreciate that the LG Velvet has one and Samsung’s latest flagship does not..
The LG Velvet comes in four colors — Aurora White, Aurora Green, Aurora Gray and Illusion Sunset. It's a more eye-catching array than the more conventional Cosmic Gray, Cloud Blue and Cloud Pink options Samsung uses for the S20.
Not that the Galaxy S20 is a slouch in the design department — while the S20 looks a lot like the Galaxy S10 that came before it, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The S20 takes that existing design and refines it, with a smaller camera cutout that's now featured in the top center of the display. The edges aren't as rounded as before, which cuts down on the chance of accidental touches of the display when all you're trying to do is hold the phone.
The LG Velvet is noticeably bigger than the 5.9 x 3 x 0.31-inch Galaxy S20. At 6.6 x 2.9 x 0.31 inches, the LG Velvet is even taller than the Galaxy S20 Plus. Of course, that's to accommodate the Velvet's larger 6.8-inch OLED display, which is bigger than both the S20’s (6.2 inches) and S20 Plus’ (6.7 inches).
Resolution will be sharper on the Galaxy S20's screen, which features a Quad HD+ resolution of 3200 x 1400. That compares to 2460 x 1080 on the LG Velvet's FullVision display. The S20 can also support a 120Hz refresh rate (although not at full resolution), while the LG Velvet appears to have a more conventional 60 Hz refresh rate. That means scrolling will be smoother on the Galaxy S20's display.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Cameras
The LG Velvet has its work cut out for it to compete with the Samsung Galaxy S20 on the photo front. Samsung makes some of the best camera phones around, and while the Galaxy S20 doesn't surpass the iPhone 11 Pro Max as our top pick, it certainly produces some very compelling photos.
The Galaxy S20 features a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens that serves as the main shooter. That's augmented by a 64MP telephoto lens and 12MP ultra wide-angle shooter. The lenses are bigger than they were on last year's Galaxy S10, which lets in more light and produces brighter, sharper images. We were particularly impressed by the telephoto lens on the Galaxy S20, as it delivers a 3x lossless zoom that can really bring out the detail of what you're shooting. You can even zoom in 30x digitally, though we wouldn't advise that unless you've got a tripod handy to mitigate shaky shots.
There's no telephoto lens on the LG Velvet. Instead, the triple rear camera array includes a 5MP depth sensor for improved portrait shots. That joins a 48MP wide lens and a 8MP ultra wide shooter. The main lens uses pixel binning to combine four pixels together for better low-light performance.
When it launched the Velvet in Korea, LG talked up the video capabilities with features like image stabilization, ASMR recording and a bokeh voice feature that hones in on whoever's talking when there's background noise. Even there, the LG Velvet faces some stiff competition from the Galaxy S20, which can record 8K video at 24 frames per second. We'll need to get the LG Velvet in our hands to see how its cameras compare to what the Galaxy S20 can produce.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Performance
This shouldn't be much of a contest. The LG Velvet features a Snapdragon 765 processor, and while that's a capable system-on-chip, it's not the most powerful offering in Qualcomm's mobile lineup. Qualcomm's top-of-the-line chipset is the Snapdragon 865, and, wouldn't you know it, that's the one powering the Samsung Galaxy S20.
As a result, the Galaxy S20 has produced benchmark results that are among the best we've seen for Android phones. On Geekbench 5, the Galaxy S20 turned in a multicore score of 3,147, which is miles ahead of what phones running on last year's Snapdragon 855 produced. The Galaxy S20 also produced one of the better times for Android phones in our real-world test where we have phones transcode a 4K video to 1080p using Adobe Premiere Rush. Samsung's phone finished that task in 1 minute and 15 seconds; the OnePlus 8 Pro, a rival Android phone with the same Snapdragon 865 chipset, finished 38 seconds behind the S20.
We wouldn't expect the LG Velvet to match those numbers, given that its mobile processor lacks the same oomph. RAM won't be of much help either, as the 8GB of memory included in the LG Velvet are dwarfed by the 12GB Samsung packs into the S20. At least, you'll get the same amount of on-board storage — 128GB — with either phone.
The LG Velvet can match the Galaxy S20 in one other performance area — 5G connectivity. The Snapdragon 765 has a built-in 5G modem, so it will be able to connect to the same 5G networks as the Galaxy S20 does.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Battery
You might be able to get more battery life from LG's newest phone, simply because LG included a larger power pack in the Velvet. The LG Velvet's 4,300 mAh battery is a little bit larger than the 4,000 mAh battery inside the Samsung Galaxy S20.
The S20's battery didn't really impress us when we ran our battery test on the phone. In that test, we have phones continuously surf the web over a cellular connection until they run out of power. The Galaxy S20 lasted 9 hours and 31 minutes, which is just below average for a smartphone.
LG, meanwhile, has shown a knack in the past year for squeezing more battery life out of its phones. Both the LG V60 ThinQ 5G and the LG G8X landed on our list for best phone battery life, and the G8X's battery is smaller than what's inside the LG Velvet.
We don't know how fast the LG Velvet can charge, as LG hasn't talked up that feature. Some reports claim that it will support 30-watt fast-charging, though, which would be quicker than the 25-watt charger that ships with the Galaxy S20. Using that adapter, we got a drained S20 up to 53% on its battery indicator after 30 minutes of charging.
LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20: Outlook
Any definitive LG Velvet vs. Samsung Galaxy S20 face-off will have to wait until LG's phone enjoys a wider release. But the LG Velvet's bold design could make people give this phone more consideration than recent LG models have enjoyed. Whether that's enough to overcome the processor and camera advantages the Galaxy S20 enjoys on paper remains to be seen.