V20 both improves and harms LG’s image

All about Nougat and modularity

Earlier today, the world witnessed the unveiling of the LG V20. It’s the successor to the warmly received V10 from last year, and it’s the larger counterpart of this year’s LG G5. There’s a lot going for it, including a top-end processor, handy second screen, and unmatched audio chip. However, the real story is how the V20 is carrying LG’s image for the next few months. Let’s talk about its operating system and physique for a few minutes.

As you may have heard from several reports, the V20 is the first Android to come with Nougat out of the box. This is a bigger deal than most people think, because every time a new Android version got released in the past few years, Google’s Nexus series had first dibs on the latest operating system with its newest phone at the time. Things have changed this year, with the seventh generation of Android coming to older Nexus models through over-the-air updates, and then straight to LG’s current flagship.

LG V20 spread

Giving a third-party manufacturer such priority was unheard of just a few months ago. Reports stemming around Google ditching the Nexus program in exchange for a more streamlined Pixel series of smartphones and tablets probably explains the sudden change of method. By spending more time on the yet-to-be-released successors to the Nexus 6P and 5X, Google might be leaving the software distribution to reliable partners.

For LG to be the lucky winner of the Nougat draw can be seen in two ways. Firstly, it’s not surprising; LG was the maker of last year’s Nexus 5X, plus the Nexus 5 and 4 before that. Google has spent years dealing with several brands to work on its vision of the ideal Nexus, but for LG to be the constant go-to option for the smaller-sized products means a lot. On the other hand, it’s highly unusual for Nougat to be represented so prominently on a smartphone brand that heavily skins its operating system. If you compare the LG V20 and G5 to the lighter versions of Android from Sony and OnePlus, you’ll understand what we’re talking about.

Android 7.0 Nougat is rolling out now

Now, let’s move on to the V20’s construction. A highly controversial omission is the compatibility with add-on components called Friends, which were first made available on the LG G5. The Korean company promised strong commitment to the semi-modular platform when the G5 was originally released, and for the newly unveiled LG flagship to exclude it shows a lack of confidence in the system. Not only is this a blow to LG’s image, but to modular phones in general.

We argued last week that modular devices are the next evolutionary step for touchscreen smartphones. By allowing consumers to fiddle around with their handsets and choose exactly which components they want to keep and upgrade, purchase cycles would become a lot more dynamic, and in turn, lead to far less e-waste.

So far, only Lenovo has shown real dedication to the future of modularity. The manufacturer followed up on its stylish, semi-modular Moto Z and Moto Z Style flagships with the midrange Moto Z Play at IFA 2016. For a non-flagship device to carry on the modular compatibility of its predecessors is a step in the right direction, and proves how committed Lenovo has become towards its customizable platform.

We can only hope that the true successor to the G5 will somehow follow through on LG’s modular legacy next year. Backtracking on features has never ended well for smartphone brands, and only alienated users expecting some level of future-proofing.

LG-V20-press-images (4)

If you look at the V20 as it is, clear of any past history or legacies, there’s no denying it’s shaping up to be LG’s best smartphone ever. It’s a clear upgrade over the predecessor critics loved last year; the V20 just happens to be in an unfortunate spot, wherein the expectations are booming after the critical success of the V10, and the shadow of the G5 still lingers.

Lenovo Vibe P1 and Lenovo Vibe S1 Hands-On

Only time and our full review will conclude this story. Watch out for that!

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