In what will be the last of my entirely too many posts about last year’s flagship LG phone, I’m returning it. I knew LG made a lot of tweaks to Android that make it worse, and I was willing and able to work around the majority of them, but a few too many things still bug me. Bummer.
The overall UI theme of the V20 sucks. Thankfully, LG has a theme switching app that includes 3 built-in themes, all of which are ugly. You’re in theory supposed to be able to download new themes through something called LG Smart World but I never got it to work. I dunno if it’s trying to pull from a server in Korea or what, but it never downloaded anything.
There’s a guy who has a bunch of paid LG themes on the Google Play Store, and I found one from him for $1.49 that cleans things up considerably. Between this and tweaking many other things and replacing default apps (all of which is way too much detail and I plan to go into way too much detail on the things that still bug me), I got it pretty damn close to something I like. So if you see these screenshots and think, “hey that looks pretty good,” you’re right, because I spent too much time tweaking it.
But even with all my time spent tweaking the UI to get it to somewhere I mostly like, there are several stupid quirks of LG’s software that don’t make any sense and irritate the hell out of me. They are:
The V20’s automatic brightness setting is wonky as hell.
On my Moto X Pure that the V20 was supposed to replace, when you check the auto brightness box, moving the brightness slider adjusts the baseline brightness level, but the auto brightness varies the screen. Effectively, the slider defines a range that the auto brightness will move within. It works fine and stays out of the way.
On the V20, there’s nothing like the X Pure to set a range for the auto brightness. Instead, automatic brightness moves the brightness slider for you. This in and of itself isn’t a dealbreaker, but the auto brightness also can’t make up its damn mind about how to react to the lighting level in a room.
Sometimes it’s too bright, sometimes it’s too dark, sometimes in the same lighting it can’t make up its mind. I switched the UI over to a dark theme for as much stuff as possible to prevent from being blinded at night but it’s persistently all over the place.
If you move the brightness slider while the auto brightness is enabled, the screen will stay at that brightness for a little while, and then randomly decide to move the brightness slider to some other level.
For a phone, this is a pretty solid camera. It’s acceptable in low light, and has a handy second extra-wide angle lens, and a ton of manual controls. It’s pretty awesome, but there’s a stupid restriction on HDR.
HDR mode, for those who don’t know, quickly takes a series of multiple photos at different exposures and combines them. This is very useful on phone cameras, because their dinky little image sensors don’t have a lot of dynamic range, which is the ability to capture both very dark and very bright things in the same scene. By using HDR, you preserve more detail in the shadows and highlights of a scene instead of those areas showing up as totally black or white.
For a phone camera, I prefer to use HDR on every single shot unless I’m trying to catch something that’s moving, because the multiple exposures for HDR tend to result in blur when taking pictures of moving things.
But in LG’s camera app, for whatever reason, you can only turn on HDR in auto mode. Auto mode doesn’t even have a basic exposure compensation setting. All those awesome manual settings that I would totally take advantage of can’t be combined with HDR which gives much better image quality and can’t be replicated after the fact.
There are assorted third-party camera apps that let you do both HDR and manual controls at the same time, but none of them can access the V20's second wide-angle camera, and actually none of them have the nice manual control interface of LG’s camera app.
Do Not Disturb
On Motorola phones (and probably others), when you hit the Do Not Disturb toggle from the quick settings pull-down, you get the option to set it to expire within a certain amount of time, or leave it on indefinitely. It tells you when you select say, 8 hours, the time at which Do Not Disturb will expire. This is nice when putting the phone on Do Not Disturb before going to bed. I set it to expire a little before I plan to wake up.
On the V20, there’s no such option. In the main Do Not Disturb settings, you can set an end time, but it only tells you how long Do Not Disturb will stay active, not the time at which it expires. You have to figure that out for yourself. Supposedly you can set a recurring schedule for Do Not Disturb to come on automatically, and you can set it up differently for different days. But I tried setting this last night and this morning Do Not Disturb was still on after the time I had scheduled it to end.
Ah yes, LG’s signature feature for the V20. In theory, there is some useful stuff the second screen does. The call control icons show there when you’re in a call and switch to another app, which is kinda nice. There are several different “pages” of controls you can enable if you enable the second screen in general. You can put stuff up there like music controls, recent apps, contacts shortcuts, etc.
The problem is LG did a horrible job of making the second screen not show anything when it’s not doing anything. The only things I found genuinely useful were the music controls, and the in-call controls.
But, if you enable the music controls page, when you’re not playing music, instead of just leaving the area blank, there’s a music note icon, and the text, “play media to control.”
If you want in-call controls to show on the second screen, they’re not a page that you can turn on, but you have to leave the second screen enabled when the main screen is on, and with it enabled, you need to have at least one page like music controls turned on. You can’t just have it turned on for call controls but with no pages.
I don’t even really care if the call controls show on the second screen. I’d be fine if they show in a pull-down notification like other Android phones. But no, if you disable the second screen, if you leave the main in-call screen, you get this little floating icon that hovers over whatever else you’re doing, and brings you back to the main in-call screen if you tap on it. I hate hovering persistent buttons.
Before entirely giving up on the second screen, I tried to use the signature page to put something relatively un-distracting on the second screen when I wasn’t using it, but to preserve the music and call controls for when I did want to use them. I tried just putting a period there but the little white dot ended up very distracting. Then I tried an avocado emoji. It was still distracting.
This problem is what really sealed the deal for me on not keeping the V20. The reason I originally went with the V20 is because it has the same 5.7" screen size as the Moto X Pure it was supposed to replace. Most flagship phones have stepped down to 5.5" screens. The problem is, the V20 can’t use all that screen real estate effectively, because it makes everything on the screen a little too big. This is because LG took the display scaling option added to Android Nougat and broke it. First is the stock Nougat display scaling screen, vs. the V20's which is second.
There are two problems.
1) LG’s version only provides 3 settings instead of 5 in the stock version. The medium setting makes all the UI elements and fonts a little too big. The small setting makes the icons a little too small and while you can fix the fonts through the separate font size settings menu, you get a mishmash of small icons and normal looking fonts. The large setting makes everything ridiculously big.
2) The small size setting breaks the UI in certain apps like Facebook. Allow me to explain. On the left, the display size and font size are both set to medium. On the right, the display size is small and fonts are large. For whatever reason, some but not all Facebook posts will get this random gray bar across them with the display scaling set to small.
The whole reason I’m willing to put up with carrying a giant phone in my front pants pocket, and attempting to hold it with one hand, is because I want to have a lot of stuff on the screen at the same time but not have it be all tiny. The Moto X Pure, with no such display scaling nonsense, does a fine job of scaling up to use its available screen size and resolution. The V20 is demonstrably worse, and it’s bigger and more difficult to hold one-handed than the X Pure.
So there you have it, these are my overly nitpicky random gripes about the V20. There were actually a couple other more minor ones but this post is already wayyyyy too long. As for the next phone I try? That’ll have to be some other overly long post that nobody reads.