Ergonomics isn’t everything, but it’s a lot. The swiveling LG Wing has the most standard “phone” form factor of this year’s crop of amazing, expanding phones, giving you a dual-screen experience without feeling too chunky, wide, or weird in your hand. The Wing is coming to all three major carriers later this year, but I got a few hours with a pre-release model to get a view on what to look forward to.
A Totally New Design
The initially amazing thing about the Wing is how much it feels like a normal phone. It’s big, to be sure. The main body is 6.67 by 2.93 by 0.43 inches (HWD), and at 9.17 ounces, it’s noticeably heavier than most phones. Sitting on my desk next to a OnePlus 8 Pro in a case, it’s almost exactly the same thickness, and a little bit taller. But the Wing isn’t oddly chunky like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2, or uncomfortably Kindle-wide like the Microsoft Surface Duo. I can hold it in my hand comfortably; as with most big phones, I have to scooch it around to be able to hit things one-handed, but it’s usable.
The shiny, mirrored back is a fingerprint magnet. There’s no headphone jack on the bottom, although it includes a USB-C-to-headphone dongle in the box.
Here’s the magic: Push the screen to the left and it smoothly flips up in a T-shape. The push suggests that the phone is meant to be held in your right hand, although when the screen is flipped up, the fingerprint sensor is in a place only lefties can love.
In T-shape, the phone is nicely balanced. Whether I was cradling it along its length or gripping the bottom screen as a handle, it didn’t feel like it was about to fall out of my hand. The big screen then defaults to a carousel of apps designed for the dual-screen experience, although you can run pretty much any app on either screen.
The Wing, Galaxy Z Flip, Galaxy Z Fold 2, Surface Duo and everything like them are all trying to square an ergonomic circle—attempting to put impossibly big screens into something that you can fit in your hand. The exciting part is that they all do so in different ways, and it’ll be interesting to see which one rises to the top.
A Mad Multitasker
I actually ended up multitasking on the Wing more than I did on the Surface Duo or the Galaxy Z Fold 2. This is half about ergonomics and half about software. The Surface Duo’s two displays are too wide to comfortably move your hands around while holding them at the same time. The Z Fold 2 makes running two apps a complicated, non-obvious, multi-tap process. But with the Wing, the second screen is always there, right under your thumb, demanding to be used, and easy to reach. When it isn’t busy being a keyboard for the app on the big screen, it operates like a genuinely independent second application window below your primary one.
This isn’t always good. If, say, your brain is scrambled by the current state of the world and you can’t focus on anything, the Wing will make it way too possible for you to scroll Twitter while at the same time watching “Homecoming,” as I did this morning. But the design is also ideal for looking at something on the top screen and making notes on the bottom screen, or having a map open on the top screen and looking up the names of businesses in Chrome on the bottom screen.
The two screens can be better connected in software. For instance, a link from one screen doesn’t automatically launch a browser on the other screen, and only a few apps use both screens. The game Asphalt 9 shows main gameplay on the top screen and a mini map on the bottom screen. I’d love to see more games use both screens like on a Nintendo DS; LG said it’s using standard dual-screen Android APIs, so that could happen.
The bottom screen often turns into a keyboard, and it can be a little narrow. I wasn’t tremendously accurate typing on it, but I think I just need a little more practice.
And there are weird bugs, of course. When you expect a link from an app on the big screen to open on the small screen, that doesn’t happen…but sometimes if you then open Chrome on the small screen manually, it loads to where the link should have gone.
I’m not going to make any judgments about the performance of the Snapdragon 765 processor here, because once again, this is early software. Things seemed a bit janky, but no more than other pre-release phones I’ve handled.
Gimme That Gimbal
The Wing has a 32-megapixel front-facing camera, a 64-megapixel main camera, a 13-megapixel wide-angle camera, and a 12-megapixel wide-angle camera that’s rotated 90 degrees so it can take horizontal-format videos while you’re holding the main body of the phone vertically. I can’t say much about the camera quality yet, because the software clearly isn’t done; for example, everything I shot with the rotated camera was very blue.
The reason LG uses a wide-angle camera in the rotated mode is so that it can do a marvelous “virtual gimbal” trick. The bottom screen turns into a joystick control that lets you “pan” the camera digitally across the lens’ wide field and lock the image, once again digitally, so that it only moves over one axis, or only moves slowly over both.
The virtual gimbal, I’m excited to say, works. If you lock the vertical, you get that super-stable gimbal look; if you put it in first-person mode, you get something that moves, but isn’t jittery or jerky. It’s really cool.
A “dual recording” mode records video with the front and rear cameras at the same time, perfect for letting you narrate something you’re seeing. There’s an option to record it as two video files, so you put them together during your own editing process, or as one, so you can share them immediately.
The camera software isn’t entirely ready, clearly. As mentioned, everything shot with the rotated camera turned out super blue. Fix a few things, though, and this camera brings a professional-filmmaking feel that I haven’t seen in the default camera app on any other phone.
Price and Availability
The LG Wing is genuinely exciting; it also isn’t quite finished. The difference between our 2.5-starSurface Duo and 4-star Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 reviews largely comes down to the fact that the Z Fold 2’s software feels finished, and the Surface Duo’s doesn’t. If the LG Wing model that hits US shelves later this year has all of the kinks worked out, it will be a heck of a cool phone.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Smartphone Battery for LG