LG gets some bad press from tech enthusiast sites. Maybe it’s understandable - the company hasn’t exactly been reliable on update schedules, innovative in design, nor as open to the modding community as nearly all other manufacturers have become in the last few years. This has left LG in a bit of a lurch - we, the consumers don’t trust LG. You hear it on tech blogs and in reviews: “This LG is a good phone, but…” and that statement is usually followed by “the software is atrocious”, or sometimes just a small easily avertable foible. Indeed, I think software is the place where LG falls down the hardest. They can produce some decent hardware, even if it is all a bit Samsung-ish (and I’ll get onto that later). But having to use my Optimus 2X in the stock configuration is as fun as having to use your phone sans thumbs.
This is where a lot of distrust for LG stems from. Your shiny new phone is slow and ugly out of the box. The new update for Android came out in December, but you won’t see it until the following autumn. And this isn’t just one phone; this is the company’s attitude to their entire line.
But I think LG are trying to turn this around. Ahead of MWC next week, LG have already announced what seem to be all the phones they’ll be showing off in Spain. This list is quite large, and there’s a bit more variation than we’re used to, so I’ll run through the devices quickly:
- The flagship looks to be the Optimus 4X, a 4.7 inch Tegra 3 monster;
- the Optimus 3D Max/ Cube, another foray into the 3D space, but with improvements to last year’s Optimus 3D;
- the “L Style” L7, L5 and L3 devices ranging from 4.3 to 3.2 inches that use some of the styling forged through LG’s partnership with Prada;
- and finally the Optimus Vu, the silly 5 inch device we covered recently.
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What LG have is a streamlined repertoire of devices, ranging from the very large (and likely higher end) to the smaller and lower end. What’s important is that LG has said that some of these devices (except the L3, the Vu and the 3D devices) will be launching with Ice Cream Sandwich. If you’ve been following what I’ve written so far, that in itself is surprising and in a good way. Getting devices out the door with ICS is exactly what LG needs to build their reputation - especially as it’s theorized that many competitors’ devices will be shown at MWC with Gingerbread and a future update to ICS (it happened last year with Froyo and GB, it may as well do so this year)
Indeed, take a look at the video below, which shows an Optimus 4X running ICS and LG’s new skin ahead of MWC.
Although it’s in Italian, there are some salient points to pick out (Thanks Todoleo for the translation): 720p 4.7in screen, 1.5 GHz quadcore, unfinished hardware and a very nice lockscreen. What’s important though is that it’s smooth, it’s ICS and it’s nearly ready, and in a usable state. It is also less ugly than LG’s previous efforts (It’s not exactly beautiful yet, but it’s better). All in all, things seem to be picking up for LG. They look like they’re trying to make some more sensible decisions and try to appeal more to the worldwide market.
But, I still haven’t got to my other bug-bear with LG. Unoriginality. Sure, the UI on the 4X looks nice, but you know what it also looks like? Touchwiz. LG seem to have a problem with looking up to and getting inspiration from their more successful country mate Samsung. Have a look at the point in the video where a widget is placed on the screen. That widget picker is so much like Touchwiz it almost feels uncomfortable.
Another example, take a look at the picture below. On the left a woman is holding an LG Optimus L7, and on the right a Samsung Galaxy S II. Or is it the other way? It goes as far as the icons in the launcher dock on both devices being near identical.
So what LG need is more of their own brand identity. LG created a device that does indeed look pretty in partnership with Prada, but they can’t just run off of something created for them. Meanwhile all their other devices look decidedly plain. They just need to do something new, in both UI design and hardware design. Of course, it is hard to make a unique black rectangle, but it’s still possible to make it obvious that it isn’t made by Samsung.
So, yes. We’ll see more from LG once MWC rolls round, including full specs and many hands-on previews with these devices. Only time can tell if LG will have a better time of it this year, but maybe they will, and maybe they’ll start regaining trust from all of us. They seriously need it.
Expect to see more information about all of these devices next week. I trust LG can make something good of this - they’re a big company with a lot of money to throw at something new and exciting. My tips to LG would be to hire new designers, those who are better versed in the design language of the west and to listen to your consumers more. The marketing drivel on your Facebook page will scare anyone off. Talk to your customers and find out what they want. Then we may start seeing LG moving up the ranks.