Hands-On, MWC 2019, Smartphone

LG G8 ThinQ Hands-On: A Cool Gimmick on an Unremarkable Phone

I will preface my hands-on of the LG G8 ThinQ with this: I haven’t had this much fun trying out a new phone. Yes, I did say the G8 is an unremarkable phone in my headline, and I fully acknowledge the contrast. However, this one gimmick with the G8 makes it a lot of fun to use, and it’s the phone’s most unique feature: the Z Camera.

Basically, the Z Camera is a time-of-flight (TOF) sensor on the front of the G8, which allows the phone to capture depth information, among other things. So what makes it so special? Let’s find out.

Okay, I’m going to begin with the G8 ThinQ’s coolest feature – in my opinion, of course – the Air Motion gestures. By placing my palm closer to the phone to activate the Z Camera (there’s a small bar right below the notch to show it is active), I can then “bend my fingers into a claw” to perform certain actions.

Once the Z Camera recognised my hand, I can then move to the left or right to launch certain apps. This is customisable, and I can even use Air Motion gestures to answer phone calls, stop an alarm, and my personal favourite: taking a screenshot. I only need to do a pinching motion with my hand to do this, and it’s really satisfying once I got the hang of the feature.

But therein lies the biggest drawback of the Air Motion gestures: it can be tough to grasp (apologies for the pun; I couldn’t help it). It didn’t take me too long to consistently activate the Z Camera, but there are other folks in LG’s booth that were struggling to get the feature to work.

Nonetheless, the idea behind Air Motion is is to control your device without actually touching it, which can be useful in certain conditions when it’s not convenient to, well, simply tap on the phone’s display. Say you’re cooking in the kitchen, and you want to turn up the volume of your phone. By holding your hand over the G8 and pausing for a bit, another interface would activate, allowing you to increase or lower the phone’s volume.

It’s like turning an invisible knob, and I absolutely love the idea behind this. It feels…futuristic, even though most consumers probably won’t find much use for this feature.

Beyond the G8 ThinQ’s Z Camera and Air Motion gestures, the phone as a whole is ever so slightly…underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I love how the phone feels in my hands, but it’s already 2019 – why is LG still releasing a phone with a wide notch? It’s as if LG didn’t bother giving the G8 a proper design update from the G7.

Fortunately, round the back, the G8 has absolutely no camera bump at all – the triple camera system sits flush on the rear glass panel of the phone. Very little phones have camera modules that don’t stick out prominently, so it’s great to see LG going with a different design decision here. Surprise surprise, the G8 also has a 3.5mm headphone jack.

While we’re on the topic of audio, the G8 is also equipped with what LG dubs “Crystal Sound OLED.” As its name suggests, the phone’s 6.1-inch POLED 1440p display – which looks great – doubles as a speaker, which explains the lack of an earpiece on the top of the phone.

Of course, you still get a dedicated speaker on the bottom of the G8, and even in the noisy environment of MWC 2019’s show floor, the phone’s audio output is still quite discernible.

Other hardware of the G8 ThinQ include a fast Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset paired with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of internal storage, an 8MP f/1.7 front-facing camera, a rear fingerprint sensor, a reasonably big 3,500mAh battery, and it’s IP68-rated.

Oh, I almost forgot: the G8’s Z Camera can also be used for yet another biometric security: Hand ID. Using the Z Camera’s infrared signal, the G8 can map out your veins – the haemoglobin in your blood absorbs IR signal. According to LG, this form of biometric security is very hard to beat.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try out this feature. The feature is blocked on every demo unit of the G8 showcased at LG’s booth.

Anyway, let’s get to the camera performance of the G8 ThinQ, which is…pretty standard affair. Like the majority of smartphones today, the G8 has three camera sensors on the back: a primary 12MP f/1.5 shooter, a 16MP /f.19 wide-angle camera, and a 12MP f/2.4 telephoto sensor.

I took a few images with all three sensors of the G8, and for the most part, the image quality is relatively good. Naturally, the primary 12MP sensor captures the best-looking images, followed by the wide-angle camera, and the telephoto shooter. As a whole, however, the camera performance doesn’t strike me as particularly impressive.

There’s no denying the G8 is a versatile shooter, of course, thanks to these three different sensors. But even though LG was one of the first phone makers to implement a super wide-angle sensor on its smartphone cameras, other manufacturers have followed suit. As a result, the G8 doesn’t feel particularly…special anymore.

And that captures the essence of the LG G8 ThinQ. It’s a good, competent 2019 flagship smartphone with the latest hardware and what not, but it doesn’t have that big feature to set it apart from the competition. I’d argue the G8’s Z Camera and accompanying Air Motion gestures is that exact “big feature,” but when it comes to practically, they’re simply too gimmicky.

For what it’s worth, I had a ton of fun exploring the G8’s Z Camera. It’s just a shame the rest of the phone aren’t all that remarkable, and it doesn’t even have a tentative release date or pricing information yet.