The Velvet is LG’s new 5G high mid range phone which they hope will be attractive for young social media sharers and creators who value what a phone looks like more than raw performance. It’s a change in direction for LG who until recently with their G and V series were aiming to roughly match Samsung and Apple specifications and pricing.
Compared to all LG phones in the past the Velvet is definitely a leap forward in looks but does it match or best the competition with stand out hardware in the just-under $1000 price bracket?
What’s in the box?
Included in the box is the phone, earbuds with a tangle proof braided cord and a travel adapter labelled “Fast Charger” that only supports a maximum of 9V 1.8A which is 16.2W. The tangleproof buds are a nice touch but the Velvet is supposed to support 25W charging so the cost cutting slow charger is disappointing.
The Velvet is an eye catching double sided glossy glass phone with symetrical rounded edges on the left and right metal sides. It is a very tall thin phone which will polarise potential buyers. LG says the tall narrow shape is because the phone is optimised for customers who want to consume and create a lot of photo and video content.
The screen is OLED which displays photos and videos well but at last years standard of 60hz rather than a smoother 90 or 120Hz which all premium phones and many mid-range phones sport in 2020.
Several Ausdroid readers who are LG fans asked us to find out if the LG Velvet’s dual screen was going to be sold in Australia. Soon afterwards LG officially confirmed the dual screen accessory for LG Velvet won’t be sold in Australia with the phone or as a separate accessory which is interesting given that LG still included some dual screen specific apps on the phone.
In a sign of lack of attention to detail the LG Velvet automatically installs 5 “Dual Screen Apps” optimised for the dual screen add-on that LG says they won’t sell in Australia. All those games and extra bloatware Booking.com and Amazon apps can be uninstalled but the Naver Whale browser app cannot.
The Velvet’s only biometric unlock mechanism is fingerprint. There’s no face unlock but I think that feature is mostly pointless now in a mask wearing world. As you can see the software out of the box is mid 2020 security patch and Android 10.
The LG keyboard is poor at swiping to write, I switched it for Gboard after a few days frustration. They should stop wasting time on their own keyboard and just include Google’s offering as standard.
We asked if LG Australia is offering any particular promise regarding the frequency of security updates and how many years they are guaranteed for eg quarterly updates for the next 2 years. We also asked if the Velvet is guaranteed to receive the next 1 or 2 major Android releases, version 11 and 12.
Their response below does not inspire confidence considering the LG G7 was released in Australia June 2018 but the last security update was Aug 2019 when they released a security patch and the upgrade from Android 9 to 10 didn’t start rolling out in the US until May this year but is yet to land here in Australia — if it ever does.
LG regularly updates Android OS and security settings on its smartphone range, however we don’t have any information on future updates at this point.
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G
- Display: 6.8-inch 20.5:9 FHD+ OLED Cinematic FullVision (2,460 x 1,080 / 395ppi)
– Rear: 48MP Standard pixel binned to 12MP (F1.8 / 0.8μm / 79˚) / 8MP Wide (F2.2 / 1.12μm / 120˚) / 5MP Depth (F2.4 / 1. 12μm / 81˚)
– Front: 16MP Standard (F1.9 / 1.0μm / 73˚)
– Battery: 4,300mAh
- Memory: 6GB RAM / 128GB ROM / microSD (up to 2TB)
- Operating System: Android 10 Q
- 4K Timelapse functionality
- Size: 167.2 x 74.1 x 7.9mm
- Weight: 180g
- Network: 5G / 4G / 3G / 2G
- Connectivity: Qualcomm Snapdragon X52 5G Modem-RF-System, Qualcomm FastConnect 6200, Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac / Bluetooth 5.1 / NFC / USB Type-C (USB 3.1 Compatible), 3.5mm jack (standard DAC not Quad)
- Biometrics: In-Display Fingerprint Sensor
- Others: Stereo Speaker / AI CAM / Google Lens / Google Assistant / LG 3D Sound Engine / IP68 Water and Dust Resistance / HDR10 / Qualcomm Quick Charge 4+ Technology
What it’s good at
Something LG phones have been well known for being good at is audio. The Velvet’s stereo loudspeaker and headphone jack audio quality are excellent, well above average for calls and music which is handy for anyone working from home. Note there is no Quad DAC.
The dedicated Assistant button summons Google Assistant which is good because it isn’t Bixby. Ideally it would be a programmable button like TCL’s smart key button.
LG follows through on their promise to tweak software for audio and video content creation. eg. the camera app lets you record straight to YouTube, video recording is able to focus on what the subject is saying over background noise, ASMR audio recording is available for those who like to listen to fireplace type sound and the HD audio recorder is capable of recording at high quality including in FLAC.
Some aspects are noticeably better than lower to mid range phones thanks to the higher end Qualcomm 765G platform the Velvet is built-on. The Velvet’s Wi-Fi and 4G LTE speeds were about twice as fast compared to the slower Qualcomm platform Samsung A71 and TCL 10 Pro I reviewed recently.
5G support is included in the hardware, though it’s only relevant if your phone plan includes 5G access and you use the phone in 5G coverage areas. I was not able to test that as my BOOST SIM is 3G/4G only.
Surprisingly the 4300mAh battery life is good enough to easily last a full days use with 20-30% spare capacity which is impressive for a thin phone. Need water and dust proofing? The Velvet is IP68 waterproof.
However recharging is unacceptably slow for this price range because of the included 16W charger which manages 0-100% in 2 hours — when other mid-range devices are supporting 30W and above charging LG’s 16W is sub-par. Wireless charging at 9W is possible for those of you who like to trickle charge their phone at their desk all day.
What needs improvement
The camera lens design on the back in a rain drop layout is a nice change from the big camera lens block offered by many phones.
However if you look at the specifications you’ll realise there are only two back cameras — a normal view and an ultrawide. The third lens is a depth sensor that helps portrait photos and the fourth lens is for the single LED flash.
For a phone aimed at creators the camera needs to be excellent and versatile. Unfortunately the Velvet’s main, ultrawide and selfie cameras are more in the competent but unspectacular category as you can see from the example photos I took. Unlike other mid-range and high-end midrange phones the Velvet doesn’t have a dedicated macro camera or a true 2x or better optical zoom camera.
After using the phone for two weeks I’ve decided that for most people the screen is too tall, so even with big hands like me you might struggle to reach the top status bar.
I understand the 20.5:9 screen ratio is what movies were made to be viewed in but surely teenagers these days are watching more 16:9 or 9:16 ratio short Youtube videos and TikTok, not Hollywood movies like middle aged and older people?
Should you buy the LG Velvet 5G?
The Velvet is trying to be a flagship-ish stylish phone at well under $1000. It succeeds in being stylish and has some good hardware and software features but is held back by its average camera and what’s inexplicably left out weakens the phone’s key strengths.
It supports a stylus but isn’t sold with one. It supports a dual screen attachment but it won’t be sold in Australia. There are some amazing back glass colours but we get white or grey. It supports 25W charging but the included charger is slow (16W). It supports dual SIM in other countries but not here even though it’s sold retail direct.
On top of that we gave LG a chance to promise the Velvet would get at least 2 years of software updates but they declined. Considering their track record with past phones LG Australia needs to make a promise like this on the record to improve confidence in their phones as being worth spending money on.
In Australia the Velvet is available in Aurora White and Aurora Grey for RRP $899 directly from JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys and other online retailers.
With the issues above addressed the Velvet could’ve been a strong contender for an affordable 5G phone with a lot of strengths.
As it stands, like many people I don’t care about 5G, if I had $800-900 to spend and I wanted a more exciting phone with faster screen refresh, stronger processor and better charging speed I’d look at the similarly priced OPPO Find X2 Neo or realme X3 SuperZoom 256GB.
LG has allowed Ausdroid to retain the Velvet to monitor the frequency of Android security patches and other system updates