The LG V10 has me convinced that Dr. Ram-chan Woo and his design team really are a bunch of mad scientists determined to bend and shape unique smartphones. This is their latest and, by far, most Frankensteinian creation yet.
It's a bold mutation of the standard Android phone that I think looks like a three-eyed, two-headed monster thanks to its three cameras and second screen. My review handset is opal blue, but actually looks closer to pale green, which just further solidifies its ogre-like origins in my mind.
It's come to life in an effort to radically disrupt traditional features, and, good news, it's more than another, silly LG experiment. I found its two front-facing cameras, one with a wide selfie angle, to be exceptional for taking group shots and capturing the quintessential backgrounds, with everyone and everything in the photo.
The seemingly stunted, but handy 2.1-inch display at the top is a small notifications and shortcuts hub that keeps the main display clear of texts when you're watching a movie or browsing the web. This always-on panel can also dimly show the time or allow you to quickly adjust settings, even when the phone's main screen is off.
This feature, in part, makes it a misunderstood monster of a phone. While the LG V10 takes several cues from the flagship LG G4, the look and feel of this device is completely different. It's bigger, more rugged and has a little bit of extra power to it.
Just as freakishly large as its grip-expanding dimensions is the LG V10 price. In the US, it costs $700 without a contract through AT&T, or $250 with a two-year contract with Verizon. You won't find the LG V10 in the UK or Australia, but it'd likely cost as much as a top-priced phablet, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ at £600.
But none of these best phone rivals have a wide selfie camera and second display, or and few have extras LG is quickly becoming known for, like a swappable battery and microSD card slot.
My time with this Android Lollipop 5.1.1 phone was further proof that, while LG isn't bending its latest phone, like it did with the LG G Flex 2, it's still determined to try bold, new ideas, while Samsung and Apple play it safe.
LG V10 is durable, with an interesting mix of stainless steel sides and a silicone skin back. Its bumpy texture and rubbery feel really contrast with the LG G4, which has smooth leather and metallic-painted plastic style choices.
The benefit to this new concoction, dubbed Dura Guard and Dura Skin, is that it can survive drop tests like only a few other phones can. It's built to military-grade standards, which in my hands feels like there's a bulky, built-in case that I was going to (or really should, but never) buy.
Added to that already-tough formula is a much appreciated double-paned Gorilla Glass 4 for extra protection around front. That means it doesn't need to sport the same slight curve as LG's flagship device, and the LG V10 dimensions come out to a cumbersome 159.6 x 79.3 x 8.6mm and hefty weight of 192g.
The size and mix of metal, silicone and glass make it feel like a big phone, but it could be worse since there's lighter plastic here not. Its mainly limited top the top to expose the micro USB port, headphone jack and speaker. LG's rear-facing volume rocker flanks the fingerprint sensor power button in plastic, too, and while you can't see it at first, the underside of the silicone cover is really plastic if you peel it back to expose the removeable battery and microSD card slot.
Though the LG G4 is actually a bit thicker at its curved apex, everything else about this new phone is bigger, with the clear intention to challenge the iPhone 6S Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and other phones threatening to rip your pockets.
In fact, the LG V10 is larger than every other Android 5.7-inch phablet I've tested. It looks and feels big even months later. I never got to a point where I said, "Okay, now this seems like a normal-sized phone." But I also never felt like it would slip out out of my hands like the old Nexus 6.
Its Dura Guard stainless steel side always makes it feel like I was holding onto two roll cage bars meant for a racecar. On the other hand, its soft, yet textured silicone Dura Skin gives the right grip to easily slide my fingers around to change photo orientation, while feeling completely secure in my one-handed clasp.
That's an important distinction. While Apple and Samsung are trending toward aluminum and glass designs, LG stuck with a more practical finish, emphasizing durability, a microSD card slot and a swappable battery. These are features that Samsung phased out of the Galaxy S6 and Note 5, and Apple has never bothered to include either in the history of the iPhone.
LG V10 comes in Space Black, Luxe White and that Opal Blue color in the US, with the addition of Modern Beige and Ocean Blue internationally, meaning places like China and Europe. The US colors are limited to specific carriers: AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all have black, while Luxe White is only available through Verizon and that Frankenstein-flesh-looking Opal Blue is an AT&T exclusive.
I got more compliments from the Opal Blue than any recent phone simply because it's so different. It stands out today more than a rose gold-colored phone does, for example. I got to test the Space Black with silver highlights and scope out the Luxe White with a gold finish, but neither were as eye-catching.
Two displays and fingerprint sensor
The LG V10 has a color-rich main 5.7-inch, quad HD display that expands on the screen size of the 5.5-inch LG G4 in a noticeable way: touching the corners of its 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution and 515 pixels per inch (ppi) takes a phablet-sized reach.
Then, and here's where the LG V10 becomes a true Frankenstein-like marvel, it tacks on a 2.1-inch panel at the top, in effect taking the display size to a larger-than-Life's-Good 5.9 inches.
This always-on second screen puts the size over the top, even if it doesn't run the full width of the main display. Its two, beady selfie camera eyes are directly to its left, so it ends up taking on a 160 x 1,040 resolution.
The newsticker-like strip has its own resolution and a separate backlight component to it, but when both screens are on, it all looks like one seamless display under an uninterrupted sheet of glass. I must emphasize that if you buy the LG V10, get ready to stretch those fingers.
The extra reach is worth it for faster navigation. It serves as a quick way to glance at the time, weather and notifications, or to switch out my favorite apps. Both Apple's iOS 9 and Samsung's Galaxy S6 Edge+ do this, too, but with hidden menus that are harder to reach.
The LG V10's always-on top display dimly shines information and settings widgets, even when the main screen is off. Several of the best smartwatches include this handy feature, so why not on a much more widely used phone?
Multitasking is a bit easier than usual, with my most recent apps always present on the top, and incoming calls, text notifications and calendar appointments always present on the top, leaving the main display free of distractions.
I really hate staring at Google Maps directions in a new and completely unfamiliar city, only to have the street name I want to turn on covered up by a text message. I usually have to wait for the message to pass or dangerously swipe it away while driving, but not anymore.
By design, LG V10's second screen artfully gets around these problems. It's not at all like the rear, e-ink second screen of the YotaPhone 2, though it has the same battery life-saving goal. It also differs from the curve-mounted Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ with its sideways orientation.
There's no other phone out there with a dedicated display like this, so the LG V10 is in a class of its own. It adds to the normal, quad HD display I'm used to seeing, yet remains practical.
The LG V10 fingerprint sensor can be fast and accurate if properly setup, but it combines the power button and scanner, making it a two-step process to turn on and unlock my phone.
That automatically makes it inferior to the LG-made Nexus 5X and Huawei's Nexus 6P Imprint Sensor, even though all of these biometric sensors come from the same Swedish supplier.
I appreciated how these Google-commissioned phones could wake and unlock in an instant by gently touching their large, back-mounted sensors without having to reach for the sleep/wake button on the frame.
With the LG V10, I have to press the tiny rear-facing power button and hold my finger there to unlock the phone. It can take the same amount of time, but only if it works flawlessly the first time around.
I have experienced a much greater fail rate with the LG V10 fingerprint sensor than either of the two latest Nexus phones, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6S Plus. Remapping all of my fingerprints in the setup menu helped, but marginally.
I think the biggest problem is that the fingerprint sensor is embedded into a tiny power button. It's smaller than it should be and therefore whenever I register my fingers, it can only capture so much imaging data at once. By placing my finger there in an awkward way later on, I see the phone asking me to "Try Again," to the point that I'd rather unlock it via PIN.
I'm pleased to see LG include a fingerprint sensor on the V10, but combining the sensor with a way-too-small power button leads to more hassle than it's worth.
LG V10, going again with my two-headed monster phone theme, has two eyes on front and one in the back of its head, whereas all other Android phones out there have just one on each. The horror!
Surprisingly, the rear 16MP camera took a back seat here. The main attraction is its 5-megapixel (MP) dual front camera, which let me play with two separate lenses that shoot at the normal 80 degrees and a much wider 120 degrees. All of a sudden, group selfies were incredibly easy to take.
I found myself able to capture three spread-out people and two cars while testing Apple CarPlay in the 2016 Chevy Camaro. This is the roadtrip-capping photo, expertly timed to have one member of our party jumping in the air, which took just one try. Without this wide camera, you may have gotten parts of the three people, one of the cars and no indication of the NOLA freeway in the background. To be clear, this perfect photo is a selfie photo, not one from the rear camera.
I experienced the same results when on a Disney World ride a few states over at the very beginning of this road trip in Orlando, Florida. I got myself and our videographer right after we got soaked on Splash Mountain. We're both fully in the picture, dripping Mickey Mouse ears and all. LG has yet to figure out a way to erase photobombers, like the one in the back row.
A good selfie tells a story, and there's no point in posing in front of an iconic landmark if it's mostly you, portions of your loved ones and a smidgen of the famous attraction in the frame. At just 80 degrees, that often happens. I only used LG V10's tighter camera to blow people away at how good the 120 degree wide selfie camera looked, so it mainly served a technical purpose.
The real fail here is the gesture shot, which I love - when it works. Placing my open hand in front of the selfie camera and closing it to form a fist is supposed to initiate a three-second photo countdown. But, if there's too much light coming in from my surroundings, it tends not to work. This has never happened with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 camera. Maybe I need a better tan against the white sky.
This gesture glitch could ruin the whole experience whenever I demoed the 5MP selfie camera to people. "Oh wait, let me mess with these settings," is the awkward phrase I have to say when scrambling for the normal timer that's hidden behind two on-screen button presses.
Samsung's phones have better gesture control detection, but no one beats the way LG switches between the back and front cameras. Swiping left or right across the screen essentially makes the display a big button. There's nothing worse than popping open a camera app to capture a fleeting photo op, only to realize it's facing the wrong direction. I'm left scrambling for a tiny camera flip button on other phones; I'm either seeing myself squinting with a frustrated face when I really want the rear camera, or looking at the ground or wall when I want a selfie.
I've used and admired Samsung's wide selfie mode, too, but LG is right: panning and tilting the phone to get everyone into the picture and having Samsung's software stitch it all together often blurs people on the edges. This is a much cleaner solution.
The LG V10 employs optical image stabilization to further reduce camera shake in the same top-of-the-line 16MP camera used in the LG G4. Yes, it took me this long to dig into the main, rear camera in this review, but only because the 5MP shooter is turning into the real star. Times sure have changed.
I still find the main camera to be color-accurate and fast, but slightly less clear than the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Samsung Galaxy S6 when in auto mode. The focus here can sometimes be off or slow at times. Manual settings, however, put complex controls at my fingertips, just like Samsung's equally deep manual mode. Both make Google's Nexus and Apple's iPhone camera apps feel extremely limited.
Less practical are some of the modes that come along with the new camera. LG decided to add an odd multi-view recording mode to the LG V10, which stitches together the normal selfie, the wider selfie and the rear camera. I don't understand the purpose of capturing these three different angles at once and probably never will.
Video is a completely different story. LG V10 is the first smartphone to a add manual mode for video, sort of like how the LG G4 opened up manual settings for still photos in April 2015, and there are now modes for recording 4K videos.
I was able to change the shutter speed, frame rate, ISO, white balance and focus while recording when shooting in HD. There's also full HD (1080p) and Ultra HD (2160p) modes, with two aspects ratios: the standard 16:9 and more cinematic 21:9.
There should be less shake here too, thanks to LG's electronic image stabilization meant for steady recording. It's not quite a software-created gimble, but the LG V10 is one of the better mobile phones for steady video. That's good news because I never travel with a tripod.
Pro video recorders who want to pretend to be a cutting-edge, roaming director will appreciate the built-in audio monitor and wind noise filter settings. They can and will still shout "quiet on the set," regardless. Everyone else can rely on the software to piece together their video. Snap Video mode creates one video by combining short clips of many captures.
15 sec. Auto Edit mode outputs a highlight package by detecting motion. This eliminates accidentally blurred and static scenes, all without the help of a post-production team. Don't worry, pros, there's a quick video editor here, too, to trim and fix everything in post.
While LG got a lot right with the 16MP camera on the LG G4, it admits that it didn't go far enough with video. This more than makes up for that, and we didn't have to wait a full year.
LG V10 features twice as many screens and twice as many front-facing cameras as every other Android phone, but it's not the only reason to consider buying into the new concept.
There's a spec upgrade beneath the two displays, even though a lot of the chips take their cue from the LG G4. It's a little more powerful and offers twice as much internal space.
The V10 is powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor, which is made up of a 1.44GHz quad-core chip, a 1.82 GHz dual-core chip and an embedded Adreno 418 GPU.
This is the very same chip found in the Nexus 5X. LG once again avoided the Snapdragon 810 processor, even though v1.2 is in the Nexus 6P. The LG G Flex 2, with the first version of the troubled CPU, became hot and slow in our tests when under pressure.
The real upgrade to the LG V10 specs sheet is in the memory. It features 4GB of RAM instead of the 3GB found in the LG G4. That's enough to compete with the Nexus 6P and Samsung's Note 5 phablet on paper, at least.
In GeekBench 3 testing, it received an average benchmark score of 3,501, right in between the LG G4 (3,499) and Moto X Style (3,557). The latter smartphone also features a Snapdragon 808 chip, but only 3GB RAM. Motorola's higher score can only be explained by its cleaner stock Android interface and an upgrade to Android 6.0 Marshmallow already available.
There's also one and only option for internal storage, and you're going to like it: 64GB. Android phones in 2015 typically start at 32GB, and Motorola and Apple's phones, somehow, still enter the race with 16GB.
Not enough space? LG has stuck it out with the microSD card slot, so that via expandable storage, you can add an extra 2TB worth of files. Video always take up a lot of space, so this is an important feature for a lot of people buying into the 4K-capable LG V10.
Call quality, reception and boot times
I really liked being able to answer and reject calls through the second screen rather than having them interrupt the main display, and the call quality delivers, too. Using the AT&T network for testing, I found reception to be stable and the volume to be loud enough on both ends of the line.
I wasn't able to fool callers when switching back and forth between the built-in earpiece and the speakerphone. They could certainly tell the difference, and so could I. That bottom-firing speaker is loud, but faces the wrong direction.
It took me 32 seconds to power up the LG V10, which is roughly the same as the Galaxy Note 5 (30 seconds), timed from being powered off to the lockscreen. That's all significantly better than the nearly one minute for the Nexus 6P (57 seconds) and the reigning Android slowpoke, the Nexus 6 (1 minute 33 seconds).
Android and apps
Announced just two days after Google's Android 6.0 Marshmallow launch event, the LG V10 released with Android 5.1.1 Lollipop. LG innovates quickly, but not that quickly.
The new operating system update has been promised by the company, telling us its team in South Korea is already working on the new version, with the hope of having it run with all the standard LG UX 4.0 apps soon.
Android Lollipop 5.1.1, in the meantime, runs perfectly fine on the LG V10, as long as you're okay with LG's rather lackluster interface and pre-loaded apps. This is one case in which the phablet differs from other Google-powered phones, but not in a good way.
LG UX 4.0 tweaks the Android interface to somehow be both overly complex and have nothing exciting going on. All of the square icons on its pre-installed apps look dated and don't conform to the company's new love of circles elsewhere, namely with its Circle Case, quick settings icons found in the dropdown menu and the notifications icons in the second screen.
Sure, it gets the basic phone interface job done with a very plain design and unattractive color scheme within the dialer, settings and notifications menus, but then it tries to be too helpful in other, more vibrant areas. The attractive menu, dubbed Smart Bulletin, is a great example.
LG's Smart Bulletin, instead of Google Now on Nexus devices or something like Samsung's use of Flipboard, is the default for the coveted leftmost home screen. It's filled with widgets, and for some reason "QuickRemote" leading the charge. No one I know uses this.
It's followed by Calendar, LG Health, Smart Settings, Evernote, Music and Smart Tips. You can untick the ones you don't want, or turn off the menu entirely, and that's a good idea because there are so many better, fully customizable widgets and launchers out there.
I do appreciate the system-wide minimizer Mini View, which shrinks the entire interface on this massive phone down to size. Also likeable is the keyboard, with evenly spaced out keys and an always-visible numbers row. But I'm hard pressed to find a reason to like this operating system over Android Marshmallow, pure Lollipop 5.1.1 and even Samsung's TouchWiz.
The drab-looking interface is coupled with LG-made apps that are uninteresting or repeats of Google's better apps, and thankfully, they're uninstallable - even "Email" and the non-descript "Browser." Aside from the Camera app, the same can be said about Calculator, Calendar, Clock, Tasks and Voice Command.
I did find a use for File Manager, which isn't part of Google's stock Android software by default. Gallery, Music and Messages also act as more streamlined alternatives to Google's weightier apps like Photos, Google Music and Hangouts.
The two standout pre-loaded apps are LG Health, which does a nice job of being a lightweight fitness tracking app for a non-wearable, and QuickMemo+, which accepts sketches, photos and not just plain text. It's just as capable as Apple Notes on iOS 9 devices, and Quick Note on the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, minus the included stylus, of course. No matter, you do have five fingers on each hand to fill in those blanks.
The LG V10 doesn't wow me with its default apps, yet it makes full use of the Google Play Store and, in the US, comes with Android Pay to tie into that fingerprint sensor. In a matter of minutes, I had my Google app suite of Chrome, Calendar, Docs and Spreadsheets on the home screen and a To Do List widget in place of the Smart Bulletin on the leftmost section of screen.
LG also makes use of its spacious, 5.7-inch touchscreen with five apps in each row. This includes five apps in the bottom dock where there's already an unmoveable app drawer button for a rare six icon spots across. LG V10 is big, and in this way, it wears its size proud.
Movies and Music
Watching movies is a wonderful visual experience on this quad HD display, and no, the 2.1-inch second screen doesn't get in the way of the viewing experience. It automatically turns off unless you touch it on purpose, so those five colorful app shortcuts at the top don't ruin your ability to watch, say, a Frankenstein movie.
There's a hidden Video app that's not in the app draw, but it handles watching movies by default with very basic controls. The readily available Music app allows for more fine tuning, going as far as including an equalizer, so you can play your downloaded songs however you want. They each get the job done if you're playing local content, whereas the preloaded Google Play Movies & TV and Google Music can handle streaming content.
Listening to movies and music from the built-in speaker, however, could be a more immersive experience if LG simply shifted the tiny speaker from the bottom frame to stereo speakers on the front. There's enough room on the top and bottom plastic bezel to pull this off, and I really dig phones like the HTC One M9, Motorola Style and Nexus 6P with speakers all facing me. At least it's not on the back this time.
Plugging in a pair of headphones proves to be a completely different experience thanks to the 32-bit Hi-Fi digital-to-analog converter. My only complaint is that, outside of the default app and Tidal, it was hard to find audio content and players that supported this format.
The LG V10 graphics processor, the Adreno 418, holds up well against the newest 3D games available in the Google Play Store, like Breakneck. It's a futuristic racing game that didn't stutter, even if this phone is technically beaten by the more future proofed Nexus 6P Adreno 430. It's still fluid.
It has the same CPU and GPU combination as the LG G4, Nexus 5X and Moto X Style, and this means it can get a bit hot under its silicone collar with prolonged use. It gives me enough bezel to avoid touching the screen with my tight grip, which is great as reducing unintentional presses.
I did have to adjust to the turned-off 2.1-inch second screen when gaming because it makes the right and left bezel slightly uneven. It's much less of a hassle than Samsung's Galaxy capacitive buttons that make it too easy to exit a game unintentionally.
The LG V10 has the same 3,000mAh battery as the LG G4, and yes, it's once again removable, which I was able to easily test out when peeling away the phone's back cover.
Battery life has gotten an extra boost in my day-to-day use over the LG G4 thanks to the fact that I didn't light up its quad HD display all of the time. I just peeked at the always-on second display instead.
That dimly lit 2.1-inch panel, in part, allowed me to use the phone for more than a day and a half before it flatlined to 0%. With heavy use, it lasted just over a day, all longer than the LG G4.
LG claims that its new always-on screen only drains 5% of extra battery life in a day, which would make it 7.5% by the time the phone is ready to shut down. The measurement may differ because the second display turns off whenever it's slipped into your pocket or backpack.
Of course, if you're firing all of the pixels by watching a movie on the quad HD display instead of figured out mixed use, you're going to have a different, not-as-long-lasting experience.
Techradar's battery life test, which runs a looped HD video for 90 minutes, saw the battery drain 22% at max brightness. The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 was able to hold onto all but 14% when starting with a freshly charged battery using the same 90-minute test.
That's a step in the right direction for mixed use, okay for heavy use and poor for anyone who is foolish enough to constantly keep their screen lit at all times.
The biggest problem, though, is with the seemingly helpful Battery Saver mode. It turns on when the LG V10 reaches either a critical 5% or 15%, depending on the setting. It restricts apps, and this means the camera software no longer loads.
I know it's a way of saving my battery from draining the last bits of energy, but sometimes I want to snap that last all-important photo at 5% and I can't do it. Worse, when the phone powers down, I have to wait for it to power up beyond 5% to take the photo.
There's also no wireless charging out of the box. Yes, LG confirmed that there's Qi charging, but only with a special cover, so, not really without springing for the accessory.
The LG V10 is in a class of its own considering many of the features, like the second screen and two front-facing cameras, but there are several phablet challengers.
Some of the best phones from Samsung, Huawei, Apple and Motorola offer their own unique set of features or come in at cheaper prices. They don't stand out as much as the LG V10, but if you don't need the extra camera and screen, they're tempting alternatives.
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is the best friend to productivity-focused phone users and one of the best handsets to hold in your hand... if you can clutch its 5.7-inch display properly. It's not as wide as the LG V10, but it's glass back makes it slippery and harder to hold.
Tightening your grip on this one pays off if you can take advantage of the S Pen stylus or have taken liking to the much-improved Samsung TouchWiz-tweaked Android interface. It's display is the best ever created on a phone and it has an excellent 16MP rear camera.
Just don't look for that microSD card slot or removable battery. It's not here. Also, don't look for it in the UK. It's only available in the US and Canada in the western hemisphere and it's almost as expensive as the LG V10.
Google's Nexus 6P, announced at the same time as the LG V10, has special appeal because its specs almost match for a significantly cheaper price. It has the latest version of Android (and will always get updates first), a better fingerprint sensor on back and front stereo speakers.
The rear 12.3MP camera is a step in the right direction for a Nexus phone, but it's not as good as the LG V10, and there's a normal (not wide) selfie camera on front. You also have to deal with USB-C, which is the future, but a bit complicated for early adopters who likely have so many micro USB-charged gadgets. You're going to be carrying around both cables for a while.
iPhone 6S Plus
Apple gives you a different flavor of a phablet with its 5.5-inch iPhone 6S Plus, and the interface is tightly integrated and controlled (for better and worse). It's also an adjustment if you're used to using Android services and apps all of the time.
It has a better fingerprint sensor care of Touch ID and a very similar IPS LCD display, but the camera and camera app don't live up to what LG and Samsung have done in 2015. The aluminum design is more refined and less monstrous compared to the LG V10, but the most slippery of all the best phones out there.
Moto X Pure (Style)
Known as the Moto X Pure Edition in the US and Moto X Style worldwide, this really should be called Moto X 2015. Any way you phrase it, though, it's a brilliant update to the Moto X 2014. Color and style customizations via Moto Maker let you add personal touches to its curved back, and Motorola always updates to Android quicker than the rest of the competition.
The specs are extremely close to what you get with the LG V10. The chipset is the same, only being two steps behind with 3GB of RAM and no fingerprint scanner. All of this saves you money in the long run, though, as this new Moto X can be had at a much cheaper price.
The LG V10 proves that the South Korean company can make a great phablet at 5.7 inches, but it can do the same at a more reasonable 5.5 inches, too. It has a good rear-facing camera, color rich display and fully capable specs. The 3GB of RAM and entry-level 32GB of storage are the major internal differences between it and the LG 10.
The lack of a second screen or dual front-facing camera means you won't be taking part in LG's grand experiment, but you also save a bunch of cash on this cheaper handset. Just know, there's no escaping the same LG interface and apps that I've complained about on the LG V10.
The LG V10 is one of Frankenstein's monsters that the greater mob may not understand. Its second screen and dual front camera setup are unheard-of features at this point.
That may not always be the case, actually, as this Android phone seems like more than just another random experiment by the ambitious LG phones team. I take heart in knowing that the team is trying new approaches and I hope to see its best ideas in smaller devices, too.
An always-on, 2.1-inch display headlines this phone with the date, weather and app shortcuts. Notifications also arrive in this space, while never interrupting the 5.7-inch main display. Snapping 120-degree wide selfies with its front-facing camera consistently surprised me, fitting in friends without cutting off someone's face at the edges and showing off backgrounds properly. Manual video controls and 4K capture modes make recording high-quality video possible and more tweakable than ever before.
All of this is wrapped in a harder-to-break design with a grippy silicon back, which can be taken off to access the microSD card slot and removable battery. Burned by the new Samsung Galaxy Note 5 that didn't include these perks? LG V10 is a good alternative.
At 5.7 inches, with a second screen that brings it to 5.9 inches, this is a super-sized phablet that requires juggling to reach its furthest corners. Its protective, rubber-like back and stainless steel frame keeps it in your hand, but prevents this phone from being considered premium in design. It's a monster in more ways than one.
The small fingerprint sensor can be a different kind of ugly with its higher failure rate than the very same scanner used on the LG-made Nexus 5X. It also doesn't inherit the friendlier price of either new Nexus, or Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It's one of the most expensive phones on sale right now and it's runs the previous version of Android skinned with LG's less appealing user interface.
The LG V10 promised to deliver something different and it succeeded with its 2.1-inch sliver of a second screen at the top and two selfie cameras right next to it. Annoyingly timed notifications no longer get in the way as you try to focus on Google Maps or watch a YouTube video thanks to this always-on ticker display. It also acts as glanceable spot for time and date checks and frequently used app shortcuts.
The 120-degree camera makes sense for group selfies and actually capturing backgrounds that you're posing in front of. It's more meaningful than squeezing extra megapixels into the camera, and I hope more phone manufacturers follow LG's lead here. Around back, the camera not only takes fantastic 16MP photos, it shoots 4K video and debuts manual controls.
You're just going to have to deal with LG's inferior Android software, the phone's big size and a troubled fingerprint sensor. But if you're carrying around a selfie stick that everyone around you openly hates or extending your arms so much it's become a daily exercise, consider paying up for this expensive Android. People may stop despising millennials just a little bit if you do.