LG G8 ThinQ Review: An Affordable, Capable Flagship Smartphone

LG G8 ThinQ: Software Experience

On a continuum from bone stock Android to a heavily customized skin, the LG G8 ThinQ falls pretty near to the former. The G8 ThinQ runs Android 9 Pie with a customized aesthetic but very similar layout and feel to Google's Pixel phones. As a Verizon model, our unit shipped with a substantial amount of bloatware to uninstall or otherwise disable.

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Out of the box, the G8 ThinQ is configured with all apps right on the homescreen, sans app drawer and the previous triangle, circle, square navigation bar experience for Home, Back and app tray functionality. In display settings, users can configure the home screen to use an app drawer with a swipe up or dedicated button as well as change the navigation bar to the new gesture interface found on Pixel phones if desired. The navigation bar option also impacts how the recent apps menu behaves.

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Navigating around the G8 ThinQ is fluid and intuitive. LG has struck a good balance between making the device customizable without overwhelming the user with options. Most settings users will care about are found under either Display or Extensions in the settings app.

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In addition to configuring the notch, homescreen, and navigation bar, the Display section also allows users to configure their wallpaper and theme, configure fonts, display scaling, color rendition, timeout thresholds, and more. The options are well described to minimize confusion.

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The Extensions section covers a range of applets for enhancing the user experience. It includes a Smart Cleaner function to clear unnecessary files from the phone and keep the system running like new.

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It also provides options like a floating bar overlay to provide quick access to contacts, music controls, or favorite apps from any screen using a slide out overlay.

The Dual App option can be handy for applications users may have multiple accounts for but do not support concurrent logins. It creates a second instance of an installed application which retains its own profile, though currently it only appears to work with Facebook.

LG G8 Air Motion Gestures

Other minor quality of life improvements include KnockON for double-tap to wake, increasing touch sensitivity while using a screen protector, and Air Motion. Air Motion allows users to control parts the phone with hand gestures without needing to physically touch or unlock the G8 ThinQ.

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It is a novel idea, but we found it to be very unreliable and actions like turning your wrist to adjust volume can be uncomfortable. If you really need to be hands-free with your phone it can work, but we do not envision anyone preferring this over traditional tactile interaction. 

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The ToF sensor is also used for LG's Hand ID biometric unlock option. The sensor is able to recognize your unique palm and then unlock your phone with a wave of your hand, or so the theory goes. We found the sensor was able to detect our hand well enough - and reject others - but the method is awkward and slow. If you like keeping your phone on your desk and want to unlock it without lifting to hit the fingerprint sensor it can work, but we found it typically faster to swipe and enter a PIN than to figure out exactly how far our hand needs to be from the phone each time. You can see the gestures in action in our hands-on video on the first page.

For other quick actions, users can double tap the volume up key to launch the Capture+ notepad or double tap volume down to open the camera. If users prefer, a power button double tap can be configured to launch the camera instead.

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Capture+ is a handy way to jot down quick notes or to get artistic (not pictured) with different brush styles

The G8 ThinQ's rear fingerprint sensor is gesture capable and can be used to show or hide the notification panel. This is convenient if you find the status bar to be difficult to reach one-handed.

In all, we feel LG has succeeded in creating a simple yet powerful user interface. It allows users to make the experience their own while also getting out of their way. For the rest of LG's software tricks, we will flip over to the camera app, next...

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