First look: The LG V20 keeps the good stuff and improves the rest

The Android 7.0 phone offers features being dropped by others, like an SD-card slot, removable battery and headphone jack.

lg v20

In an era when various features are being subtracted from high-end phones in order to make them sleeker and sexier -- like removable batteries, SD cards or even headphone jacks -- LG has managed to produce an attractive, lightweight phone that includes all three.

I had a chance to briefly try out the upcoming LG V20, just announced yesterday. It is a good-looking, all-metal device with the technology you'd expect to find in a premium phone. It offers a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage; you can add to your storage using a micro-SD slot.

Interestingly enough, the phone doesn't offer the more popular AMOLED display; instead, the phone has a 515 ppi 5.7-in. QHD (Quad High Definition) screen. And something extra: What LG calls a "second screen" -- a single-line always-on IPS display that runs across the top and that offers quick access to apps, scrolling messages and notifications, etc. This is the same second screen that came with the previous model, the LG V10; according to LG, the lettering is now larger, brighter and has a higher contrast than its predecessor.

While my first reaction to the second screen was that it was a rather frivolous tweak made solely to distinguish the V20 from its competitors, after playing with the phone for a few minutes, I could see where it could actually come in handy -- to glance quickly at an incoming text, for example, or to have quick one-tap access to the day's calendar. (According to LG, the second screen pulls very little of the power provided by the phone's 3,200mAh battery, and can be dimmed or turned off if desired.)

lgv20 battery

The LG V20 is one of the few high-end phones that still allows users to swap out its battery.

And about that battery -- as mentioned before, it's completely removable. A small button on the lower right edge of the phone releases the back and exposes the battery, which can then be easily pulled out and replaced. The metal backing then clicks back into place -- and, incidentally, feels much sturdier than the plastic backing that many phones used to use in order to allow access to the battery.

In fact, the LG V20 has a nice, smooth, premium feel to it. It measures about 6.3 x 3.1 x 0.3 in. and weighs about 6.24 oz. The volume up/down buttons are on the left edge, while the power button (which doubles as the fingerprint scanner) is on the back. The bottom edge has the USB-C port along with the audio port (thank you, LG).

A new Android and upgraded audio

However, the real selling points for the V20 aren't the battery or even the second screen. The V20 is the first smartphone to be sold equipped with Android 7.0 Nougat. This isn't that much of a draw; LG does add its own overlay, although from first glance, it's not an overly intrusive one. And the new OS should be making its way to other phones in (hopefully) a reasonable amount of time.

The most emphasized features of last year's LG V10 were its photographic and audio strengths, and the LG V20 has improved upon its predecessor on both counts. In a recent presentation, LG's reps cited the phone's new Steady Record 2.0 technology, which uses electronic image stabilization, together with digital image stabilization, to keep video recordings steady. The phone also offers the ability to manually control audio settings and includes 32-bit Hi-Fi Quad DACs (digital-to-analog converters) that support both popular and lossless music formats.

The front 5MP camera has both a normal and wide (120-degree) mode for getting all your friends in your selfie, while there are two back cameras: a 16MP camera for normal photos and an 8MP camera for wide (135-degree) pictures.

Bottom line

At the time of this writing, there was no information about when the phone would make its U.S. appearance or its pricing.

Altogether, the LG V20 looks like it could be an excellent phone for video enthusiasts, audiophiles and travelers who would prefer to stick an extra battery in their pocket rather than schlep around a mobile power device.

But does the entire package live up to the promise of its specs? We plan to test it fully in a more complete review -- stay tuned.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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