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LG V35 ThinQ Review: Great, But Awkward

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LG has recently stated it will release phones when it sees fit, and not based around the time when competitors are putting out new devices. That’s the exact philosophy the company’s been following throughout 2018, what with the late release of the G7 and the odd unveiling of the V30S back in February. Now, we have our third (yes, I said third) flagship phone from the company called the V35 ThinQ, and it’s essentially the result of what would happen if the G7 and V30S had a baby.

I’ve been testing the device for a few weeks at this point, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just a super awkward phone and I don’t know who it’s made for. But at the same time, it’s pretty great.

Here, let me start with the build. The V35 is nearly identical to the V30 and V30S. It has the same dimensions, same weight, and same thinness. I say nearly because the cameras on the back are a bit lower than the V30’s. I’m not sure why, but I can imagine it probably won’t bother a lot of people, especially since cases designed for the V30 fit the V35 regardless.

What might bother people is the stale nature of this design. It’s been around for a year at this point, and while I certainly don’t mind it since it still looks modern, lots of people might find it old and outdated when compared to this year’s G7. It isn’t as slim, it doesn’t feel as good in your hand, there’s no dedicated power button on the side, and its screen is wider which might turn off the folks looking for something slim like the iPhone X. Essentially, any design flaw you find with the V35, you’ll find with the other V30s. And if you’re looking for a fix, the G7 likely has it.

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Still, the G7 isn’t perfect, and the V35 even fixes some of that device’s shortcomings. On the front, there’s a 6-inch P-OLED 2880×1440 18:9 display which looks significantly better than the LCD panel on the G7. Sure, it’s slightly smaller, but it’s better for watching YouTube on since it’s wider. It also offers a much more pleasant viewing experience across every aspect of the software thanks to its punchier colors, inky blacks, and great contrasts, all provided by the OLED panel itself.

The V35 also improves things under the hood. On the spec sheet, you’ll find a Snapdragon 845 which is the same as the G7’s, but it ups the ante by including 6GB of RAM. Let me just say, having 6GB of RAM in an LG phone is life changing. Considering just how heavy the company’s Android skin can be at times, I greatly appreciate the added power.

The battery is also larger inside the V35, with a sealed-in 3300mAh cell over the G7’s 3000mAh pack. Whereas the latter can last me until around 9 p.m. after a 14-hour day, the V35 can last me until 11:30 p.m. on a 17-hour day. Mind you, I recorded this statistic after a recent trip to New York where I spent the day at the American Museum of Natural History. I constantly had my camera active and cellular data turned on with brightness at 75 percent so I was pretty amazed by just how long the phone last me.

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Speaking of cameras, the V35 uses the same dual-camera array as the G7. There isn’t much new here, in other words. You get dual 16MP shooters on the back, with the main shooter packing an f/1.6 aperture while the secondary boasts an f/1.9 aperture. The phone can also shoot video at 4K in 30 fps and slow-motion clips at 720p in 240 fps.

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As you can see, the V35 has a pretty nice camera. Like I said in my G7 review, you aren’t getting Galaxy S9 or Google Pixel 2 quality, but the sensors offer a decent amount of quality that should be sufficient for most people’s needs.

The cameras also come with built-in Google Lens integration along with LG’s AI Cam mode that identifies different subjects and adjusts things like exposure, color, and sharpness to capture the best image possible. I rarely used either of these features, but they’re there if you want them.

Now comes my biggest gripe with the V35’s cameras. Normally, when LG includes its V branding with a phone name, it means you get access to all kinds of different shooting tools for taking better pictures and videos. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case with the V35. Rather, this V series device mimics the G7 which aims for a more consumer-friendly approach by offering a limited amount of utilities. Sure, you probably wouldn’t use all the modes available in a V30 anyway, but for anyone looking to get the same experience as the V30 in a V35, you’ll be disappointed.

As far as software goes, the V35 comes pre-loaded with Android 8.0 Oreo with LG’s skin on top. Again, like I said in my G7 review, the company’s latest software skin is becoming more and more mature with age while still retaining a lot of the same childish characteristics as years past such as the abnormally poppy colors. During my review time, I used the tweaked Pixel Launcher from the Pixel 2 with LG’s stock icons since a) I can’t stand the default launcher whatsoever and b) the latest iconography is actually pretty appealing.

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But the story doesn’t end here. As it turns out, I didn’t get my V35 sample from LG themselves. Rather, I reached out to Amazon who was gracious enough to send us a sample of the Amazon Prime exclusive variant. That means the V35 I’ve been testing comes pre-loaded with all of Amazon’s apps.

Personally, I’m not a huge Amazon user. In fact, I’ve been mooching off my mother’s Prime subscription only to get free two-day shipping. But I’m not one to stream movies on Prime Video or listen to my playlist in Amazon Music. Rather, I’m a very basic Amazon user who strictly enjoys buying stuff from their website and having it show up at my doorstep in 48 hours.

With that being said, I have no problems whatsoever with the pre-installed apps Amazon includes. I’m used to bloatware from carriers so having Amazon’s own utilities on my phone didn’t bother me. In fact, you can disable a majority of them so you never have to look at them, but for the sake of my review period, I chose to keep them all enabled. And sure enough, none of them got in my way.

Using a Prime exclusive phone nowadays is also a great experience thanks to Amazon’s recent move to rid the devices of ads. This means besides the pre-enabled widget on the main home screen of the V35, you don’t get any potentially annoying advertisements in your notification shade or your lock screen. Now, all you have to deal with are some pre-installed apps and a widget you can remove.

Also, in case anyone’s wondering, it’s the manufacturer of the phone you buy who controls software upgrades, not Amazon. I asked a PR agent about this and she said LG operates software updates for the V35. Just thought I’d provide a bit of clarity for anyone who might’ve been confused.

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On the audio side, all of LG’s recent handsets have packed hi-fi DACs that provide great music listening experiences. The same goes for the V35. You’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack up top that lets you use the 32-bit DAC inside and experience an enhanced listening experience. Plus, like the G7, the V35 comes with DTS:X surround sound which makes using over-ear headphones an absolute pleasure.

Unfortunately, for public listening of your music, the V35 packs a single down-firing speaker that doesn’t sound all that great. It’s good enough to hear a song once in a while or hear your notifications, but other than that, there’s nothing special in this department. This is a direct departure from what the G7 packs since that device includes a Boombox speaker which utilizes the phone’s body as a resonance chamber. The V35 doesn’t even come close to the quality of the G7’s loudspeaker which is pretty disappointing.

On the bright side, the V35 does come with free headphones in the box. They sound pretty good for included earbuds, although they never fit very well in my ears. That being said, you’ll probably have a better experience with them since not a lot of headphones fit my ears anyway. (Side note: oddly enough, EarPods fit fine which I don’t understand in the slightest.)

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The V35 is a great phone, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not entirely sure who should buy it. The phone improves upon the G7 in a lot of ways but leaves plenty to be desired to those who might want the latest and greatest from LG. The best I can conclude is if you absolutely need an OLED display, better performance, and a bigger battery, get the V35. Just know in the process, you’re giving up on a nicer design, a Boombox speaker, and a super-convenient Google Assistant key.

No doubt about it, the V35 is a confused phone that tries to improve upon the G7 but loses out on some of the latter’s best features. Plus, it’s exclusive to AT&T, Project Fi, and Amazon Prime which limits the device’s potential market reach. If you need a phone today, it’ll be up to you to decide whether all of the features mentioned are worth it. Otherwise, I’d wait for the V40 which should blend the best of the G7 with the best of the V35.

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Rating: 8/10

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