SAN FRANCISCO — LG has taken the wraps off the latest entry to its V series, unveiling the LG V20. The phone will be the first to ship with Android Nougat, the latest version of Google's operating system, but the phone's real focus is on features that help you capture pictures, video and audio.
LG hasn't announced a price for the phone, which will arrive sometime this month. When it does hit retail shelves, it will be available from AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon.
LG says the V20 was built with "storytellers in mind," and that's clear from the way the phone maker approached the rear camera. The 16-megapixel shooter is a dual lens set-up that lets you switch between a standard lens and a wide-angle view just by tapping a button on the V20's 5.7-inch display. Jumping to wide-angle gives you a 135-degree field of view versus the 75-degree view of the standard lens.
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It's not just about seeing more: LG also thinks its phone can shoot less bouncy videos than rivals. The V20 features Steady Record 2.0, an update to the feature that debuted with LG's V10. An LG spokesman told me the updated feature uses more algorithms — 16 to 20 — to analyze more frames for a more stable viewing experience.
The proof lies in a demo station set up by LG at the V20's unveiling. The phone maker placed a V20 alongside an iPhone 6s Plus on a vibrating arm and had both cameras shoot video simultaneously. The video captured by the V20 certainly looked less jumpy than what the iPhone 6s Plus recorded, even with some occasional pulsing in the V20's video. That LG rep told me the demo duplicates extreme conditions and that in a more normal setting — say, walking down the street as you record something — the V20's Steady Record feature will all but eliminate hand movement.
The rear camera isn't the only one on the V20 to offer a wider field of view. The 5-MP single-lens shooter up front offers a 120-degree view though you can also zoom down to an 89-degree view for more compact selfies.
The V20 is no slouch in the audio department, either, with a trio of high acoustic overload point (AOP) mics for capturing sound when you shoot a video. LG says its mics can capture 6.5 times the information captured by some rival phones, and when I listened to sample videos recorded by the V20 and a competitor's phone (LG wouldn't say which, but I suspect it's another iPhone), the tones from the V20's video sounded richer to me.
The V20 also boasts four ESS digital-to-analog converters, which should result in high-quality sound. As you might expect, the phone supports lossless audio formats, such as FLAC, DSD and AIFF. Strapping on a pair of headphones, I could hear a very vibrant piano solo with almost no distortion even with the volume cranked up.
That 5.7-inch screen is a Quad HD display offering 2560 x 1440 resolution. The second screen — a strip of apps and other shortcuts at the top of the display — returns from the V10, though LG says its improved the feature. The default brightness of the second screen is now higher, the font size is bigger and you can see more content.
The V20 promises to be just as durable as its predecessor, without adding any bulk. (The V20, in fact, looks like it's slightly lighter than the V10, weighing in at 6.1 ounces.) LG says the phone has a MIL-STD-810 rating, meaning it can survive a 4-foot plunge without any damage.
The V20's battery continues to be replaceable. LG added a sleek little button on the side to pop off the back of the phone, so that you don't have to pry it off. Don't worry about inadvertently pressing the button: you've really got to give it a push to get to the battery. A 3,200 mAh battery powers the new phone, slightly larger than the 3,000 mAh power pack on the V10.
One of our complaints with the V10 was that its fingerprint sensor was slow to set up, something LG told us it improved for one-step access.
Besides a Snapdragon 820 processor and 4GB of RAM, perhaps the most noteworthy number on LG's spec sheet is the 64GB of storage you'll get with the phone. For a device that LG is touting as a content-creation machine, that's an important feature.
On the software front, the V20 is the first Android phone with Android 7.0's new search mode, which helps you find content from built-in apps, whether it's contacts, emails, text messages or photos. LG says the In Apps features also lets you discover recently accessed apps, people to get in touch with and more. A shortcut to In Apps is right on the home screen.
From our very brief time with the LG V20, it looks like LG has created a very compelling phone, particularly if you shoot a lot of video or capture lots of photos. We look forward to putting those features to the test once the phone arrives this quarter.