If you’re curious about the latest trend of foldable phones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold or Huawei Mate X, but you’re not ready to commit either to the novel design or the high price tags (both cost more than $1,000), LG’s latest G8X ThinQ is an interesting alternative. Like the other foldable phones, the G8X doubles its screen size by opening like a book. But instead of having a flexible screen, the G8X is a regular 6.4-inch phone that attaches to another 6.4-inch screen using a special case.
It’s a similar arrangement to 2017’s(if anyone actually remembers that phone) and the upcoming in that they’re really just two phones or screens attached together. But the G8X gives you the freedom to detach the phone out of the case too, leaving you with a regular premium phone if you want.
LG created a similar product with the LG V50 ThinQ, which launched in February. Unlike that release though, the G8X is available in the US, unlocked, and through carriers that include AT&T and Sprint.
It’s true that the G8X doesn’t have the Galaxy Fold’s or Mate X’s super elegant and novel design. It’s quite clunky to carry around and you won’t be able to watch videos on a seamless, single tablet-esque screen.
But the G8X is a durable, middleman solution. And the best part is the phone’s price. LG, Sprint and AT&T are selling the G8X for $700, $750 and $780, respectively. The carriers are also offering deals that lower the cost even more (for instance, Sprint has a plan that totals $270). That price puts it pretty much on par with, if not a tad cheaper than, most high-end phones these days. But LG and these carriers intend to sell the whole thing, second screen and all, at those prices. International pricing isn’t yet available, but the $700 price tag converts to about £545 or AU$1,020.
Even without the second screen, $700 is a good price for the G8X, which is fast, reliable and takes good photos. But throw in two screens for the same price and LG’s got a compelling phone to offer.
LG G8X design: Double the screen, double the size
I drew a few stares while using the LG G8X at a farmer’s market. I mostly chalked it up to people wondering why I was taking pictures of produce with a big, silver Nintendo DS, but after a while I got used to handling the G8X boldly in public. After all, people buy clunky portfolio cases for their iPhones all the time. So eventually I stopped feeling out of place.
Speaking of clunky, the G8X is so thick it reminds me of what it’s like to use an ultra-rugged Otterbox phone case. Putting the phone in my pants pocket or a small clutch was out of the question unless I just wanted to use the G8X itself. Pressing the volume buttons or the Google Assistant key on the left side of the phone when the second screen is open is also difficult since the hinge gets in the way of my fingers.
The front cover, while useful for displaying the time and notifications, traps fingerprints like crazy — I often found myself wiping it clean. And it’s a big oversight that I can’t charge the phone when it’s inside the case. Every night or whenever I came back to my desk, I’d have to take it out of the case to juice it up.
Other design takeaways
- The G8X has wireless charging, but my Qi charging pad only charged the phone when I, once again, took it out of the case. I suppose the case is too thick to register the charging pad.
- Like other LG phones, the G8X has a headphone jack — a rarity among premium phones these days.
- The phone has an in-screen fingerprint reader so you can it by scanning your finger right on the display. It works fast enough, but it doesn’t feel as instantaneous as the .
- The phone is rated IP68 for water resistance, but the second screen lacks any such protection.
- Despite the teardrop notch on the second screen, it doesn’t have a front-facing camera. (LG used the same G8X display as the second screen to save money.) You can hide this teardrop notch with a black band in Settings.
Life with the LG G8X’s dual-screen
Despite my initial reservations that the dual screen was gimmicky, the accessory actually ended up more useful than I believed. Because the second screen bends all the way back, I could configure it at any angle as a kickstand. I propped up the phone sideways to watch videos and I placed it standing like a book so I can take photos at a distance. The second screen was also handy for multitasking. I can use it for navigating to a restaurant on Google Maps while looking up other options on Yelp with the other screen.
Playing games such as Call of Duty was more comfortable thanks to the “LG Game Pad,” a mode that turns the main screen into a separate game controller. There are different preset controls to choose from, like one that has a steering wheel for racing games. Not every game in the app store will work automatically with these preset controllers, so expect to customize your own controller for some games (I had to do this with Call of Duty to get it to work with the gamepad).
A few apps, though not all of them, were reconfigured to adapt to the dual screen. Texting and Gmail, for instance, placed my message on one screen and the keyboard on the other in landscape mode. This allowed me to type out messages like the old T-Mobile Sidekick days. If the phone is too wide on its side to comfortably reach letters in the middle of the keyboard, you can “pull” the keyboard to its sides by sliding it apart with your fingers. There’s also a “wide view” that lets you expand one app across both screens (like Chrome), but you’ll have to deal with the unseemly hinge in the middle.
To navigate between screens, LG added an on-screen, moveable hotkey that gives quick access to controls like “swap screens” and “show main on dual screen.” The controls are straightforward, but it still took me a while to use both screens fluidly and comfortably, and there are times even now when I’m a bit befuddled about what I want to do next after calling up the menu.
You won’t be able to watch videos on a seamless, single tablet screen due to the hinge nor can you mirror both screens like you could with the Axon M (that let me share the same video with a buddy sitting across from me).