The LG Velvet — the Korean electronic giant's attempt to revitalize its consumer phone brand with a design-focused handset — has arrived. And now the waiting game begins.
We're not waiting for the phone's specs or features. But what we don't know is when the phone will launch outside of LG's home market of South Korea. We hope that the LG Velvet does enjoy a wider release, and you'll see why.
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The phone LG's showed off during a launch event that felt more like a fashion show than a tech product unveiling is certainly eye-catching and could be an attractive alternative to Samsung's pricier Galaxy S20 lineup — though not as inexpensive as some smartphone users probably were hoping for.
Here's what we know so far after LG took the wraps off the LG Velvet — and what we're still waiting to hear.
LG Velvet specs
Price: 890,800 won (about $730)
OS: Android 10 with LG UX
Display: 6.8-inch OLED
CPU: Snapdragon 765
Rear camera: Triple-lens: 48MP wide; 8MP ultrawide; 5MP depth sensor
Front camera: 16MP
Battery: 4,300 mAh
5G: Sub 6-GHz
Size: 6.6 x 2.9 x 0.31 inches
Weight: 6.3 ounces
LG Velvet price and availability
According to an LG press release out of Korea, the LG Velvet will cost 899,800 won. While direct currency conversions for phone prices are tricky — phone makers adjust for taxes and import fees — that would put the US price for the LG Velvet at around $730.
The LG V60 ThinQ 5G — a higher-end phone that features a more powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon processor than the LG Velvet — costs $899 in this country. (T-Mobile sells a version of the phone without its signature dual screen accessory for $100 less.) So while the LG Velvet looks like it would cost less than the V60, the price difference doesn't seem that wide.
Still, it would place the LG Velvet below other top Android phones in terms of pricing. The Galaxy S20 starts at $999, while the OnePlus 8 Pro costs $899. (The standard version of the OnePlus 8 is cheaper at $699.) Of course, all those phones feature the more powerful Snapdragon 865, and not the Snapdragon 765 found inside the LG Velvet.
There's also the question of when — or if — the LG Velvet will arrive in the US. That information wasn't announced during the Velvet launch event unless one of the models holding the phone let it slip when no one was paying attention. All LG has said is that the phone goes on sale in South Korea on May 15, with pre-orders starting Friday (May 8) in that country.
LG Velvet design and display
Design is at the heart of the LG Velvet — hence the models strutting down the catwalk to mark the phone's debut. LG has touted the 3D Arc design marked by curved display edges for the new phone, which should make it easier to grip. (The models didn't seem to have any trouble holding onto their LG Velvet handsets.)
At 6.6 x 2.9 x 0.31 inches, the LG Velvet is closer in height to the Galaxy S20 Plus than the Galaxy S20, though it's taller than both phones if just as wide as the S20 Plus. Then again, the Velvet also has a larger display at 6.8 inches than either of those two phones.
Thanks to a 20.5:9 aspect ratio, the phone offers plenty of screen real estate that's interrupted only by a teardrop notch for the front camera in the top center of the display. There are very thin bezels around the screen, which is a FullVision display featuring 2460 x 1080 resolution.
One of the signature aspects of the LG Velvet's design is visible when you flip the phone over. Instead of grouping its three rear cameras in a chunky array like many flagship phones have done lately, LG has arranged them in a cascading order by size. LG calls this a "raindrop effect" and it's actually pretty striking and could set the phone apart from other designs.
The Velvet comes in four colors — Aurora Green, Aurora Gray, Aurora White and a particularly sparkly color LG is calling Illusion Sunset.
LG Velvet cameras
Speaking of those cameras, you'll get a 48-megapixel main sensor, aided by a 8MP ultra wide angle lens and a 5MP depth sensor that should help deliver more stylish portrait effects. You'll notice that a telephoto lens is missing from that camera array, which leaves the LG Velvet short when stacked up against other flagship phones. The Galaxy S20 family features a telephoto lens on every model, as do the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. The LG V60, on the other hand has a similar camera array as the LG Velvet, so perhaps LG just has no use for telephoto lenses.
During the LG Velvet launch event, LG seemed more interested in touting the new phone's video capabilities — not surprising since it seems like LG is tailoring the Velvet for a younger audience that spends its time creating and sharing videos. In addition to image stabilization for video, LG is touting features like ASMR recording for better capturing slight sounds and a bokeh voice feature that can hone in on a particular voice even when there's a lot of background noise.
LG Velvet processor and battery
The Snapdragon 765 isn't the most powerful processor in Qualcomm's Snapdragon lineup, but it should deliver solid performance. (Some initial reports suggested the LG Velvet would use the Snapdragon 765G, a gaming-focused variant of the chipset that renders graphics more quickly, but it now sounds as if that's not the case.) LG is augmenting that with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage on the LG Velvet.
As adept as the LG Velvet may be in handling demanding apps and games, it's not going to measure up to Snapdragon 865-powered phones like the Galaxy S20 or OnePlus 8 Pro — especially with phone makers stuffing those devices full of RAM. Also problematic for the LG Velvet is that the iPhone SE features a powerful A13 Bionic processor, which can outpace any Android phone, and Apple's new phone costs hundreds less than the LG Velvet is likely to sell for.
As for battery, a 4,300 mAh power pack is designed to keep the LG Velvet running through the day. That's bigger than 4,000 mAh battery inside the Galaxy S20, which lasted only 9.5 hours on our battery test. The LG V60 ThinQ 5G and its beefier 5,000 mAh has the best phone battery life of any 5G-capable phone we've tested, as it held out for nearly 13 hours on that same test.
That's relevant to the LG Velvet, because like the V60, it will connect with 5G networks. The Snapdragon 765 has an integrated 5G modem, so the LG Velvet will join the ranks of 5G phones when it arrives in this country.
LG Velvet outlook
The LG Velvet is essentially the LG G9, but with a more distinctive name as LG starts to shun the array of numbers and letters that most phone makers slap on their handsets. LG's G series phones were always built with a wide audience in mind, and both the look of the Velvet plus the focus on video seems to continue that tradition.
With the caveat that the LG Velvet could sport a very different price once it lands in the US, pricing is a little puzzling as its a little too close to more powerful phones like the OnePlus 8 and iPhone 11 to really position the LG Velvet as a bargain alternative for people tired of paying four-figure sums for their flagship phones. That puts an awfully big burden on those LG cameras to really perform well.
That said, we hope the LG Velvet does eventually expand its reach beyond South Korea to land in other countries like this one. At a time when it's getting harder to tell leading flagship phones apart, the LG Velvet at least brings a distinctive new look to the mix.