LG Wing review: Falling with style

LG’s experimental $1,000 phone is great at showing off what makes it unique, but it fails to deliver a solid experience in everyday use.

The LG Wing, in its simplest form, is a $1,000 experiment that tries to offer the best LG has to offer and falls short in the process. This phone is the equivalent of Buzz Lightyear from 1994’s Toy Story: it so obviously can’t fly, but it certainly can “fall with style.”

The writing was on the wall for people to have a weird reaction to this phone. This is a device that has a swiveling display which creates a giant T-shape that does who knows what. It’s a modern retelling of LG’s past smartphones like the VX9400, a phone that made an appearance in 2008’s Iron Man. It’s the right amount of crazy to intrigue you, while also being relatively practical in everyday use.

I must say, the Wing definitely feels way more experimental compared to foldable phones. By now, foldables have had a chance to mature a bit and understand their place in the market. But this is the first time a form factor like this has ever been attempted, so leave it to LG to try and figure it out.

The Wing is not a bad phone. It’s actually really interesting when you toy around with it and find a purpose for such an abnormal design. But there are a number of signs that immediately tell you to readjust your expectations.

It’s cool, it’s fun to play with, and it’ll certainly stand out in a crowd. But in a world where high-profile $1,000+ flagships soar, the LG phone with Wings can’t do any more flying than Lightyear himself.

The “Wing” Experience

The whole point of buying an LG Wing is for that swiveling screen, so let’s talk about what you can do with it.

In Basic Mode, the Wing looks like any other smartphone. It’s got a big and tall 6.8-inch display, a pretty thick body at 10.9mm, a triple camera set on the back, and a USB-C port on the bottom. However, if you look at the sides of the device, you can see a gap which separates the top screen from the rest of the phone’s body.

This is where the magic happens. Push the Wing’s screen left and upwards, and you’ll watch it rotate 90 degrees, spreading its “wings” so to speak and entering Swivel Mode. The first time I showed this to my family, friends, and co-workers, they couldn’t believe their eyes.

Left: LG V60 ThinQ with second screen | Right: LG Wing in Swivel mode

Below the horizontal screen sits a smaller 3.9-inch display which both works in conjunction and independently of the larger panel. It’s configured similarly to LG’s double-screen offerings like the Velvet and V60 ThinQ from last year. But of course, whereas those phones had accessories that gave you a second screen, this device has the second screen built right in.

This type of form factor, as it turns out, can be extremely versatile. Off the bat, LG doesn’t lock you into using it in its default orientation with the sideways screen up top and the smaller panel below. You can rotate it a full 360 degrees and use it at each 90-degree mark (as seen below). This opens the door for many different use cases.

For instance, you could be watching a movie or TV show with the top screen and scroll social media or check email with the lower screen. Sideways, you might have a Google Maps destination on the larger panel and a music player on the left or right. If you hold the Wing upside down, you could play Asphalt 9 on the larger screen and have a map of the track directly above.

All of these modes fit into LG’s two categories of app support: A+a and A+B. The former presents an app on one screen and expands its functionality to the other, while the latter lets you run two independent apps simultaneously. A+a apps are pretty hard to come by since developers have to optimize their software for the Wing’s abnormal form factor, but A+Bs are much easier to find since it all just depends on how apps scale on different screen sizes.

By default, LG doesn’t give you access to all the apps you have on your phone when in Swivel Mode – only apps that the company has deemed compatible with the Wing are available. You’ll have to go into the Second Screen Apps setting page on the smaller display to enable everything else.

After I gave Second Screen access to all of my apps, I started screwing around with some of them to see if there were any major issues. Obviously, full-screen games are terrible on the smaller screen, but stuff like social media, email, and Google Chrome were all fine. It was rare I ran into a scaling problem with an app, and if I did, I just didn’t use it while in Swivel Mode.

Typing was a bit tricky on the small screen since I used Gboard instead of LG’s stock. The company optimized its keyboard to work with the Wing, and it works well. You just have to be able to tolerate LG’s terrible autocorrect.

Of course, while in Swivel Mode, you need to find something to do with the bigger screen, and I left that largely to watch videos. That was my preferred way of utilizing the Wing’s unique form factor, and I really enjoyed it. It’s pretty convenient having a screen you can dedicate to a video while you scroll Twitter or check email on another, all while not having to use your phone sideways like a dual-screen phone.

LG also includes some extra software tricks with the second screen. Slide down the quick controls from the top and you’ll find shortcuts to a calculator, a timer, the flashlight, and more, making everything perfectly reachable on this large device. The company also includes a trackpad on the second screen so you can use the top display as a sort of monitor.

There’s one more headlining feature that’s powered by the Wing’s unique form factor, and it’s in the camera department. Fling the Wing into Swivel Mode, open the camera app, and you’ll be greeted by an interface that essentially turns the phone into a gimbal. Simply called Gimbal Mode, the UI gives you various controls like a joystick, locked focus, panning, and much smoother stabilization.

The software-based gimbal is powered by LG’s physically rotated 12MP ultra-wide lens that gives the feature a big enough field of view so you can pan, zoom, and lock focus without physically moving the camera. I took the feature for a test drive on the Ocean City, NJ boardwalk and it worked really well. I was able to get some shots that look as if I used a genuine tripod.

There’s also a mode that takes full advantage of the Wing’s whacky hardware setup: Dual recording. It records video with the gimbal camera and pop-up selfie camera that’s mounted in a motorized compartment at the top of the device. This way, you could be vlogging about something in front of you and have your viewers see your reaction in real time. It records separate files from the rear and front cameras so you’ll need to sync them up in post, but it’s a neat feature nonetheless.

After all of this testing, I’ve found that most of it works really well. LG’s done a ton of work to its software to make sure these features don’t freak out once you swivel the top screen, and they’ve done a pretty good job.

If I have one major complaint about the Wing’s unusual user experience, it’s animation speed. Out of the box, the Wing’s animations are slow enough to get on your nerves. You’ll find yourself heading to the developer settings to adjust animation speed sooner than you might think.

But oddly enough, the entire Wing experience is nearly exempt from those signs that tell you to readjust expectations. Everything here works well. It was rare for me to be disappointed by the quirky capabilities of this abnormal device.

Truthfully, my problems arise when I try to use the Wing as a normal smartphone, which you’ll be doing at least 50 percent of the time. This is where the “falling” begins.

The ”Basic” Experience

I’ve already touched on these two aspects of the Wing, but they’re important since if you want to use the device as normal phone, you’ll have to compromise.

First of all, the design is a bit too hefty and thick for my taste. I much prefer something that fits in the hand and doesn’t feel like a brick. The Wing is exactly that: a brick. I’m not saying you shouldn’t buy the Wing because of this (there are plenty of heavy and thick phones on the market), but it’s worth keeping in mind.

Second, the actual quality of the displays. For some reason, LG refuses to include a resolution higher than 1080p on their flagship phones. For $1,000, the Wing’s screen is no better than a Pixel 4a 5G which is half the price.

Both of the screens on the device also come with 60Hz refresh rates. We’re still in the days where you can sort of get away with this (the iPhone skipped a faster refresh rate completely in 2020, for example), but boy would it have been nice, at least on the larger screen. I have no doubt that a 90 or 120Hz refresh rate would make the Wing feel much faster than it is.

There’s also something to be said about the fingerprint scanner which lives underneath the top display. It works well enough for an average reader, but it can be insanely awkward to use if you forget to scan your thumb before going into Swivel mode. If you pull your phone out of your pocket and fling the screen up, you’ll be forced to unlock the Wing with your password or PIN. The fingerprint scanner will simply be out of reach.

I wish there was some form of face unlock with the Wing. It would make perfect sense in a scenario like this. Maybe the Wing 2 will fix it.

The phone is powered by a Snapdragon 765G processor which can also be found in the Velvet. Throughout 2020, we learned that this isn’t a huge deal since the chip can perform pretty well, but only if the manufacturer knows how to handle the hardware at play.

I have to give credit to Google and OnePlus for making their 765G-powered phones nearly feel like they have flagship-level chipsets in them. It’s all in the name of optimization, a pain point of virtually every modern LG phone I’ve reviewed. And despite the Wing coming with 8GB of RAM, it still feels sluggish and awkward thanks to the poorly-optimized software skin atop Android 10..

In case you were wondering whether LG finally fixed its software with the Wing, I can confidently say they have not.

Using the Wing feels like using any other LG phone, which is a bad thing since their software skin is simply dreadful. The launcher’s app drawer still requires you to sort apps alphabetically manually if you want your sanity, animations still feel janky and slow, the icons look like they belong to Fisher Price, and even scrolling is full of random jitters. For $1,000, the Wing’s software is a disgrace outside of anything that involves the swiveling screen. (It’s also still on Android 10 which isn’t great).

A quick tangent: I had a bit of an epiphany while reviewing the Wing’s software. I’m pretty sure the reason LG does what it does with its software is to emulate iOS the best it can and try to attract iPhone owners. There’s too many similarities like the folder design, color iconography, and app drawer panels that can be arranged to your liking. Even the quick controls in the notification panel bear a vague resemblance to Control Panel on iOS.

Of course, LG also draws a notable amount of inspiration from Samsung’s One UI with its thumb-friendly UI in apps, “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to included features, and playful accentuations.

As much as LG wants people to buy its phones, trying to copy a popular competitor isn’t the way to attract buyers. It doesn’t help that the company does an extremely poor job at doing so. I just wish they’d do a complete overhaul of their software from the ground up. It’s the only way I see them ever succeeding in the software department again.

Luckily, if you’re concerned about storage, the Wing is available with up to 256GB and microSD card expansion up to 2TB.

Unfortunately, the cameras are underwhelming on the Wing. The main 64MP lens with its f/1.8 aperture is capable of taking some nice shots in well-lit environments, but night shots can be hit or miss. I’ve found the manual controls can help out a ton in this area, but there’s no automatic way to get a good-quality nighttime photo which is a pretty inconvenient.

Post-processing is also still an issue much like it was on the LG Velvet. The only phone LG has put out that wasn’t subject to over saturation, odd color balance, and over sharpening was the V60. It’s a shame, too, since LG’s clearly capable of making better choices with photo processing. It just didn’t make them with the Wing.

Then there’s the secondary 13MP f/1.9 ultra-wide shooter with its 117-degree field of view. It’s not as good as the main camera in that detail, light intake, and noise reduction have all taken a hit.

Video from both cameras is acceptable, if a bit mediocre. Artifacts are a bit too common when shooting in 1080p, while 4K at 60fps can produce some nice-looking footage. Still, LG falls pretty far behind other manufacturers in terms of video quality, including the Pixel 5 which, to my eye, is much better than the Wing.

But by far the worst camera on the Wing is the 12MP gimbal lens. It’s only accessible when you’re in gimbal mode on the Wing, and because it punches into the field of view to achieve those neat software tricks, you lose a lot of detail, sharpness, color, and brightness. Video out of that camera looks like utter crap, and you can only shoot in up to 1080p resolution.

Don’t get me wrong, I really dig the gimbal features on the Wing, but it’s not worth using because you can’t get any footage that you’d want to use in a project or share on social media.

Rounding things off, the front 32MP camera in its motorized housing is fine. Sharpness and detail need some help, but other than that, I never really had a problem with the camera.

Battery life on the Wing is pretty good. There’s a 4,000mah battery inside which I would usually say is plentiful for a modern flagship, but because this device has two screens you’ll likely interact with on a daily basis, I wish the cell was a bit bigger. Still, if you’re careful, you can definitely get through a full day on the phone. Just don’t expect anything more.

As an FYI, the Wing ships with a 25W fast charger in the box along with wireless charging.

I went this whole review without talking about one of the most notable exclusions on an LG phone to date, and that’s because it might not be that big a deal to most people.

The Wing is the company’s first flagship without a headphone jack, which means the hi-fi DAC is also gone. Granted, LG said this change isn’t permanent and there is a USB-C to 3.5mm dongle in the box, but this may come as a disappointment to fans of LG devices.

Personally, I didn’t miss the headphone jack since I’ve been living without it for so long, but I did miss the option of plugging in my nicer headphones and enjoying the hi-fi DAC. I hope LG puts out another device with that feature in tow for the mere sake of just having it available.

Conclusion

For a thousand bucks, the LG Wing will provide a smartphone experience unlike any other. It’s not a foldable device and shouldn’t be compared to one. It’s not supposed to be a regular smartphone, but something more. It’s a completely new experience that, quite frankly, I can’t see any other company taking a chance on besides LG.

I’m happy to report the “Wing” portion of the device works really well. The app experience, software stability, and camera features were quite impressive. But when it comes to trying to use the Wing as a standard smartphone, I couldn’t imagine anyone justifying its high price tag.

I’m not gonna call the Wing a gimmick. I genuinely think it can be useful and it certainly was more appealing to me than the dual screen smartphones of LG’s past. However, I learned that I couldn’t bring myself to using the device day in and day out. It’s a bit too heavy, the software is dreadful, the cameras aren’t great, and performance could use improvement.

At the end of the day, the phone succeeds at spreading its wings, but like Buzz Lightyear, it won’t be flying anytime soon.

If you get a chance to try out the Wing, I encourage you to do so. Maybe its futuristic swiveling screen is enough to pull ten Benjamin Franklins out of your pocket. But to me, the Wing needed to nail the basic smartphone experience as well, and it simply couldn’t.

That being said, at least doing this never gets old:

LG Wing

$999
6.8

Design

7.0/10

Display

6.5/10

Performance

6.5/10

Camera

6.5/10

Battery

7.5/10

Pros

  • Swiveling screen is actually useful
  • Good software features for the unique hardware
  • Impressive camera controls
  • Battery life is good

Cons

  • It's heavy, big, and tall
  • Performance isn't the greatest
  • Camera quality is disappointing
  • Software in Basic mode sucks

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