LG G8 ThinQ Impresses With Its Crystal OLED Sound Speaker And DAC

By Patrick Moorhead - August 6, 2019
The LG G8 with a pair of wireless AKG N700NC wireless headphones

In 2019 we have seen incredible innovations like a foldable smartphone, an in-screen fingerprint scanner, and even an in-screen camera. It is no secret that the LG G8 ThinQ isn’t the phone that everybody has been talking about in 2019. Not a lot has changed from last years LG G7, and it is getting difficult to distinguish the LG G series from the V50. The LG G8 may not have the best specs or the best software, but the LG G8 thinQ is the best at one thing- its audio experience. Samsung is known for its Infinity Edge display, the Google Pixel phones for its pure Android experience, and Apple for its innovative iMessage and iOS experience. For those who know what a DAC is and more specifically for those who know that LG’s flagship has a DAC in it, the LG G8 is for consumers who want superior sound quality.

What’s new from last year

The LG G8 has had some yearly upgrades, expected from a new device. However, it still has much of the same design as last year’s LG G7. The design of the phone is almost identical to the LG G7 with a resemblance of Samsung’s Galaxy phone line. I wouldn’t consider this a bad thing, rather good on Samsung’s part.

The display still has the notch design and no longer has a 1000 nit display option. The battery has been upgraded from a 3,000 mAh battery to a 3,500 mAh battery. The processor runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 from the Snapdragon 845, a processor all 2019’s flagship phones are currently running. The memory has been upgraded from 4GB to 6GB. The LG G8 also comes out of the box with 128GB of storage from last years 64GB.

New sensors with promising applications

This year, LG has implemented a new feature into the LG G8. LG is calling it Hand ID, and it works by placing the user's palm in front of the device, sensors in the camera chin then detect the unique circulatory and patterns in the palm and unlock the phone.

After using the device for a couple of days, it was obvious that the technology was new. The Hand ID didn’t work consistently, and I found it more of a chore to position my hand and then reposition my hand to get it to work. After almost gave up on Hand ID, I decided to delete my hand data and rescan my hand. The difference was night and day, and I was able to get Hand ID to work most of the time. It still wasn’t as quick as the fingerprint scanner or even using a simple pattern, but it worked well enough to use with convenience.

The sensors used for Hand ID are also used similarly for Face Unlock by providing a secure 3D rendering of the user’s face. I found that I was able to unlock the phone in positions where other phones would have trouble unlocking and where I don’t have to reposition the phone to get Face Unlock to work. It was also fast enough to unlock by the time I was able to swipe the device open. It was useful when Hand ID wasn’t convenient and insurance for LG if Hand ID doesn’t work like in my first try.

The sensor also gives the device motion detection capabilities. By placing the hand in a relaxed position and hovering 6-8 inches over the device, a set of gestures allows the user to do various tasks. The user can play and pause a video as well as turn the volume up or down in a unique knob like hand gesture. The user can open one of two apps that is customizable and even take a picture by opening a closing a hand.

Sound quality

While most flagship phones are ditching the headphone jack for the USB Type-C or Bluetooth alternative, LG is continuing to include a dedicated high-quality DAC in its consumer-preferred headphone jack. All phones and devices that output sound use a Digital-to-Analog Converter or DAC to do so. Just as there are dedicated graphics cards that can enhance the resolution of a screen, a dedicated DAC can enhance the sound quality of a device by reducing the distortion of data when being converted from a digital format to an analog format. Since the LG V30 and LG G6, LG has catered to the Hifi audio community with features like it’s Quad DAC.

LG has continued to keep these sound features in the LG G8, including the DTS: X 3D Surround sound that provides 3D stereo sound. LG built onto this list of audio features by implementing the Crystal OLED Sound Speaker into the screen. The Crystal OLED Sound Speaker uses the screen as the speaker of the device. The screen vibrates and produces sound directed towards the user and replaces the speaker hole at the top of the screen. Paired with the DTS:X 3D Surround sound, the display speaker works well for calls as well as an enjoyable  experience from what LG calls it “Boombox Speaker” for video playback.  The Crystal OLED Sound Speaker is a feature we will most likely see in more phones, especially those striving to be fully bezel-less and 100% waterproof.

It’s great to see the LG G8 be the first to implement the display speaker into its flagship LG G8 and I think LG pleases a lot of people by taking a different direction to its flagship device by focusing on sound quality.

Wrapping up

The LG G8 has considerable upgrades from last years LG G7 and stands out from most flagships, not because it has the most to offer, but because of its high-quality audio implementation. The Hands-free gestures and hand ID can debatably be called a gimmick for now, however, with further developments and software enhancements, I could see it being more than a gimmick in future iterations.

Note: This blog contains substantial content and research from MI&S intern Jacob Freyman.

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.