In the shadow of Samsung taking a second attempt at launching the Galaxy Fold, LG has come to IFA 2019 with a different approach to unfolding a phone’s potential: dual screens. Today the company is announcing the LG G8X ThinQ, and with it comes a revised take on the “Dual Screen” snap-on case that LG launched in Korea with the V50 earlier this year. LG says it’s been at work on this idea since long before foldables became the buzzy thing of 2019.
The secondary screen now connects over USB-C instead of with the help of pogo pins. It’s now the same size as the phone’s primary 6.4-inch FHD+ display so they look like a more natural pair. The hinge is much improved and offers full 360-degree tilt freedom with good sturdiness. On the outside is a small 2.1-inch screen for quickly glancing at the time or your notifications. And the whole thing uses less power this time around.
I spent some time with a G8X and an early (as in hand-built) secondary screen case prototype here in Berlin and came away thinking of all the ways I’d use something like this — if only the app support was there. With DeX, Samsung is trying to extend the phone by letting you plug it into a desktop monitor or laptop and have it become a traditional computer. But LG is hoping that all of this screen real estate will mean that this one device can potentially be your primary computer. And when you don’t need that, you’re left with a traditional, sleek phone. Credit for trying something different and practical, even if it’s not as futuristic as a screen that folds before your eyes.
The phone itself is kind of the secondary story here, but it’s got the makings of a fine 2019 Android device. It also ditches the motion control gimmicks of the G8 from earlier this year. The G8X has the usual Snapdragon 855 and capable storage (128GB) and RAM (6GB) specifications. In fact, let’s run through that hardware:
- 6.4-inch FHD+ OLED screen (2340 x 1080, 19.5:9 aspect ratio)
- Headphone jack with 32-bit hi-fi DAC
- Stereo speakers (1.2 watts each)
- In-display fingerprint reader
- 4,000mAh battery
- Fast Charge 4.0 and wireless charging
- Google Assistant button
- MIL-STD810G certification
For rear cameras, like the G8, the G8X has two. There’s a 12MP standard and 13MP ultra-wide. The front-facing camera has a 32-megapixel sensor, but LG says by default it’ll capture images at 8MP. (It doesn’t offer the same wide perspective as previous LG phones, either.) More than camera hardware itself, LG is focusing on new software modes. AI Action Shot can bump the shutter speed up to 1/480s when it detects fast-moving subjects. Stabilization for video recording has been improved at the sensor level. You can now switch between the back and front camera while recording. And weirdest and most quirky of all, there’s a new ASMR mode that makes the microphones three times more sensitive than normal. So if you want to make YouTube videos of yourself whispering or methodically unwrapping something, there you go.
But the second screen is the whole draw here for all the possibilities and potential that it opens up. You can do the obvious things like watch Netflix or YouTube on one screen while browsing the web, texting, or composing emails on the other. LG thinks the G8X can serve as the ultimate phone for Uber and Lyft drivers who sometimes have a command center of multiple devices around them at the wheel.
Before I go any further, let’s address that notch. Those two notches, I mean. The one on the second screen exists purely for aesthetic symmetry (and probably because it saved LG costs when buying components). I think it looks ridiculous, but there you go.
Activating the second screen is as simple as dropping the phone into the case, pulling down the quick settings menu, and toggling it on. If you find yourself using the same multitasking combo often, you can set a specific app to automatically open whenever you the second screen turns on.
LG’s own apps can use both screens at once. So in the gallery, you can scroll through thumbnails on the left and see them at full size on the right. When the LG keyboard is open, you can quickly screenshot whatever’s on the opposite display with a tap. Put the camera in selfie mode and you can hand the phone to someone, flip the Dual Screen to the back, and see the composition of whatever shot’s being taken. If you’re writing a long email, you can use the entire bottom display as a full-screen virtual keyboard. It’s a mini laptop!
But support for third-party apps is basically nonexistent. LG allows Chrome to span both displays if that’s something you want; the gap that splits the two seems like it’d get annoying in this scenario. And Whale, another web browser on Android, has been optimized for the G8X and its companion screen. But everything else you might want to use across two large displays — Gmail, Google Docs, Google Photos, Microsoft Word, Netflix, Fortnite, etc. — only works on one screen at a time.
I mentioned Fortnite above so it’s worth noting that the second screen can act as a game pad for titles that support Android’s controller API. And some of them will even let you customize button placement and size. That’s really cool.
LG recognizes that it’ll need to sell the G8X at significant volume to get developers on board with the Dual Screen. To that end, it’s hoping that carriers will choose to bundle the screen case with the phone. Requiring consumers to pay for it separately might be a hard sell.
The G8X ThinQ and Dual Screen will ship sometime in the fourth quarter; specific carrier availability and pricing will come later.