You may not realize it, but 1 out of every 10 people you pass by on the street today probably have a smartphone made by LG. Unlike Samsung and Apple, LG is no master at marketing. For one, I’ve never heard a good reason why LG named its phone the V30. It‘s a strange moniker that doesn’t exactly grab your attention. But that’s just how it goes with LG—it could make the best device in the world, and fail to name it.
The V30 isn’t likely to jump out at you on a crowded store shelf, but it’s secretly one of the best Android phones you can buy.
Two years ago, LG’s V10 dared to look different. It had a rubber back and big metal edges, designed to help it withstand drops like nobody’s business. It was bulky, but you didn’t need a case for it at all—a novel idea in this era of fragile phones. The V30 is far more eager to blend in. It’s covered in glass on the front and back—glass with curved edges, which is just so 2017—and a beautiful high-resolution (2,880 x 1,440 pixel) OLED screen that covers most of its face.
I’d say that an edge-to-edge screen is so 2017 too, except LG was one of the first phone makers to shrink its bezels and put its home button on the back. Shined up, anodized metal covers the sides, which is supposed to help the phone take a tumble, but with all this glass, pray you don’t drop it. Unless you’re standing next to a pool, because it’s waterproof (IP68).
Waterproof and has some shock resistance if dropped. The fingerprint sensor on the back is easy to use and quick. With its headphone amp, it might be the best phone for audiophiles. It also holds up quite well, battery wise.
The camera is very good, but can’t compete with the absolute top smartphones. Glass design will require a case, and the rear coating picks up gunk. $800+ is a lot to pay for a phone.
Even in my pocket, its glass scratched within a matter of days. I recommend a case with shock protection and a lip to protect the screen (this Spigen case looks particularly tough, if you like the styling). There was a strange coating on the back glass that also bugged me. It seemed to turn my fingerprints into small particles, or gunk, that I felt compelled to wipe off a few times. It isn’t any worse than a bunch of fingerprints covering the glass, but it’s a thing.
Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S8, which confusingly placed its fingerprint sensor next to its rear camera, LG’s button is easy to find, and much faster to use, thanks to it doubling as a power button. It’s a pleasant phone to hold, despite having a 6-inch screen, and the volume keys are easy enough to reach. I found myself wishing the audio jack was on the bottom, not the top, for easier pocketing, but I’m happy to see a headphone jack at all! Competitors have all but forsaken this tried-and-true port.
LG has an especially good reason for retaining a headphone jack. This phone has a 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC) in it. Since I do most of my listening on Spotify, I couldn’t notice a difference when LG’s Hi-Fi was enabled, even in Extreme quality, but I do think the audio coming from the phone sounds exceptionally clear. If you listen to FLAC or other lossless audio formats with high-quality wired headphones, put the LG V30 at the top of your list.
On the inside, the V30 puts on the same numbers show that other high-end phones do. It has a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB RAM, 64GB onboard storage, and a MicroSD slot. (You shouldn’t need extra storage, but if you do, this 64GB card is one that I bought recently.) The V30 will hold its own competitively with any other phone in its price bracket, and I haven’t noticed even a hint of lag yet.
LG hasn’t put Android 8 Oreo on the device yet, but mine did at least get Android 7.1.2 in an October security update, which is more than I can say for a lot of Android phones. Hopefully LG will keep the updates coming. If you worry about security updates, and you should, buy a Google Pixel 2, Moto X4 with Android One, or any iPhone. No other device will get updates as reliably.
The other spec you’ll care about is the camera, and in this department the V30 is, well, OK. The 16-megapixel (f/1.6) rear camera takes decent shots in most conditions, and I was particularly impressed by how easy it was to switch on the second, bonus camera, which enables wide-angle photos. A lot of phones have this feature, but LG had it before many of them, and its experience shows. I took many wonderfully wide shots of downtown Boston.
The 5-megapixel selfie cam is where you’ll start to notice more of the cameras’ deficiencies. Unlike the iPhone 7 I compared it to, selfies on the V30 come out oversaturated and overfiltered. This is a problem with LG’s image processing in general. Instead of presenting the world as it is, LG subtly tries to enhance what you’re seeing. By default, it takes lines off your face, and selfie shots come out flipped for some reason. You can tweak these settings, but it’s a strange set of defaults.
LG’s camera is fantastic by most measures, but not quite up to the standards set by the iPhone 8 or Pixel 2, in my opinion.
Battery life, on the other hand, is as good as it gets. I haven’t had a day when the V30 didn’t still have 40 percent remaining at bedtime. You’ll have to charge this phone every night like you’re used to, but if you forget, your alarm will still go off the following morning.
There’s no big sparkly reason to buy a LG V30 over any other phone, and its $800+ price tag doesn’t win it any points. But you won’t regret buying it. The V30 may not stand out on a store shelf, but given the choice between this and the Galaxy S8, I’d strongly consider putting my money down on the V30.