LG established the G-series as its flagship lineup in 2012 and we’ve already looked at some of the best in the series like the LG G3 and LG G Flex. However, the company felt that there was room for an even more premium line, something to emulate the S and Note lines of perennial rival Samsung.
And so the LG V series was born, its specialty would be powerful, durable phones with innovative screen, camera and audio tech. This all began in late 2015 with the arrival of the LG V10.
The V10 certainly had a unique look. Instead of going for a sleek glass and metal sandwich design, LG opted for a back panel made out of the silicone-like “Dura Skin” material. It was textured to provide extra grip and the elasticity of the material helped make the phone shock-resistant.
That wasn’t all. The corners were padded with silicone bumpers to absorb the shock of a fall, while the chassis (dubbed “Dura Guard”) was made out of rigid 316L steel to prevent the phone from flexing, which can crack the glass. The glass was extra tough as well with dual-layer Gorilla Glass 4.
None of this didn’t prevent access to the battery. The back came off easily, so you could replace an aging battery and while there, you could also pop in a microSD card to expand the storage.
To be clear, the LG V10 wasn’t just a rugged flagship. Instead, toughness was just part of its identity – the V-series weren’t fragile, gimmicky toys, they were serious tools for serious people.
And the V10 was not short of inventive designs. The screen, for example, an IPS LCD panel, had its top left corner cut out. This created a dedicated shortcuts bar on top. The segment had 160 x 1,040 px resolution and its own display driver and backlight so that it could remain always on.
This made it into a sort of status bar when the phone was locked and a swipe would give you easy access to things like muting notifications and turning on the flashlight. There was also the “signature” option, which allowed you to put a short bit of text on the front.
The top left corner had to be cut out to make room for two selfie cameras. Both had 5MP sensors, but one was behind an 80º lens, the other behind a 120º lens. Group selfies were a breeze, even without a selfie stick.
The rear featured a single 16MP camera with a bright f/1.8 aperture, optical image stabilization and Laser autofocus. The camera app offered RAW and RAW+JPG modes, plus a number of manual controls for photos and videos.
There were some pretty advanced features like Rear curtain sync for the flash, which was useful in dark scenes with close up subjects. For videos you could control the frame rate, adjusting it as low as 1fps and as high as 60fps (or even 120fps in 720p mode).
The Directivity setting controlled how the microphones recorded sound – they could prioritize what was in front of the camera (your subject), behind the camera (you, doing commentary) or both. You could even use a wireless Bluetooth mic to record the audio and there were level meters to check if the gain is adjusted properly.
LG had already made a name for itself for excellent audio on its phones and the V10 was no exception. It featured a 32-bit Hi-Fi DAC from ESS Technology and native support for the lossless FLAC and ALAC codecs. You don’t even have to ask, yes, it did have a 3.5mm headphone jack.
The phone came with a LG Quad Beat 3 headset, which was really nice and was tuned by AKG for good measure. The music player had several presets, including one set up specifically for this headset.
Going back to the display for a moment, it was a 5.7” IPS LCD with 1,440 x 2,560 px resolution. It was bright, with a high contrast ratio and pretty good color rendering as well.
The LG V10 was powered by the Snapdragon 808, which wasn’t Qualcomm’s top chip that that year. But if you remember the Snapdragon 810 debacle, you probably already know why the 808 was a fine choice – the 810 ran very hot, so throttling negated most of the performance advantage it had on paper.
Benchmarks showed that in most tasks performance was close to that of the LG G Flex2, which did use the Snapdragon 810, though the GPU was slower (not ideal when paired with a 1440p display).
The phone launched with Android 5.1 Lollipop with a smattering of LG customizations. We already mentioned the ones for the secondary screen and the camera. There was also split-screen multitasking and Knock Code.
Back then LG’s trademark design was to put the Power button on the back, surrounded by the Volume up and down buttons. Soon that Power button became a fingerprint reader, but Knock Code was a tap-based code to unlock your phone.
The LG V10 was a unique phone. Not conventionally beautiful, but it was at least highly practical. The secondary display and the dual selfie cameras added interesting twists to the typical G-series formula and we appreciated the amount of manual controls and customizations present in the software.
But the V10 had a fatal flaw in its DNA, one shared by the LG G4. Some units suffered from a particular hardware failure that caused bootloops. LG said the issue stemmed from “loose contact between components” and promised a fix. Even so, it was hit with a class-action lawsuit for the G4, V10 and several other models. The suit was settled in 2018 with afflicted owners getting $425 in cash or a $700 rebate towards a new LG phone.
LG V30 (left) and V20 (right)
Undeterred, LG launched the V20 the following year and the V30 the year after that. We’re quite fond of both and will cover them in future installments. However, this was around the time that LG started to lose the plot. V30S? V35? Were those different enough to warrant a new launch? It was starting to feel like LG had ran out of ideas for the V-series.
That is not to say that LG was out of ideas, period. No, there were a few crazy devices in the works like the LG Wing, there was a rollable phone in the works too. But no model, not even the well-liked V-series, proved profitable enough, so the company (unlike Sony) decided to bow out of the smartphone business. And its innovation is going to be dearly missed!