LG is teasing its new “Velvet” smartphone, and over the weekend it released a video showing off the design and a key spec. LG says this “Velvet” phone is the first of “a new product roadmap” and that the company is “moving away from alphanumerical designations” in its branding. In other words, the LG G series is dead, and this is the phone that would have been the LG G9.
We are mostly here because the rumors were true, and this “flagship” smartphone isn’t sporting Qualcomm’s most expensive chip, the Snapdragon 865. Instead, it’s shipping the Snapdragon 765. If you’re worn out from seeing smartphones with sky-high prices, Snapdragon 765 devices should bring smartphones down from the stratosphere while still maintaining flagship-like speed and features. The chip is popular in China and other more competitive smartphone markets, but in the United States, we’ve yet to see a phone with the 765. The Nokia 8.3 has a Snapdragon 765G and will launch worldwide sometime in summer 2020, and Google’s Pixel 5 is rumored to use the chip, too.
The Snapdragon 865 is a two-chip solution, with the usual computer components on the main SoC, while LTE and 5G connectivity live on a separate modem. A two-chip solution is bigger, more expensive, and more power-hungry than the typical-all-in-one setup. Fitting the extra modem and extra mmWave components into devices is pushing OEMs to make bigger devices with bigger batteries to feed the more power-hungry components, and all of that is ballooning the price of smartphones.
On the other hand, the Snapdragon 765 is a strange quirk in Qualcomm’s lineup. It’s not the flagship chip, but it has a more forward-facing design: an integrated 5G modem. The Snapdragon 765 tones down the 5G modem a bit to get theoretical speeds of only (only!) 3.8Gbps down, while the separate modem in the 865 can theoretically hit 7.5 Gbps down. The 765 itself is cheaper, and the single-chip solution should also help reduce the size and power usage—and therefore the ancillary costs—of the rest of the phone.
The video mostly highlights the design of LG’s new phone. The front has a U-shaped notch and slim bezels. The back has three camera lenses and skips the “rectangular camera block” design trend you see on Apple and Samsung phones. Instead, it just cuts some circular holes in the glass back. The back comes in four colors: black, white, green, and what looks like a trendy color-changing red/orange option.
Unfortunately, the display is curved along the left and right sides, just like a Samsung or OnePlus phone. LG highlights this in the video by panning light across the phone and glass, causing the curved display sides to catch a ton of glare, and uh, that’s the problem, LG! A display that catches glare from overhead lights is bad, and it’s one of the most annoying aspects of a curved display. Curved displays also distort whatever you’re looking at along the curve, since websites and apps are designed to be flat.
The bottom edge of the phone should make some people happy by sporting a bottom speaker, a USB-C port, and a headphone jack. After Samsung removed the headphone jack from its flagship devices, LG has been one of the few outfits left still shipping one in a high-end smartphone.
LG’s teasing indicates the Velvet should be released sometime soon. Korean media reports say the phone will be out May 15.
Listing image by LG