When it comes to Samsung’s Galaxy Note line and Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus, there’s no denying that large-screen smartphones have made their way out of the ‘niche’ category. Obviously Samsung and Apple aren’t the only players with ‘phablet’ sized devices, but they are the most popular, at least in the western world. Is there room for a third major contender in the phablet space? If a new report from The Korea Herald proves correct, LG seems to think so.
According to the publication’s sources, LG plans to roll out a smartphone called the G4 Note, in hopes to take on Samsung’s Note line and Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus. Although the name seems a bit too obvious of a Samsung copy, LG has reportedly already filed for the trademark at the Korean patent office in February. Moreover, according to the report, this new Note made by LG could potentially be the smartphone alluded to by LG Mobile CEO Juno Cho that will “stand above the G series“.
While the CEO didn’t reveal any specifics concerning this mystery device suggested above, it makes sense as to why LG would have a large-screen smartphone in the works. In a recent interview, Cho explained he wants LG to push ahead to become the third largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. Apple and Samsung have occupied the top two spots last year (and for several years now..), and perhaps not-so-coincidentally, both companies launched a couple of widely-popular phablets in 2014.
Samsung’s Note line has been relatively untouched in the phablet space, in terms of sales and included features. For starters, the original Galaxy Note sold over 10 million units by August 2012, and that was just the first big handset from the company. The Note line has continued to prove itself popular over the years, and has conjured up a consistent amount of sales throughout every iteration. Just in the first month alone, the Galaxy Note 4 sold over 4.5 million units worldwide. Those numbers have never been seen before from a smartphone that, just a couple years ago, was considered to be a niche product.
Moving to another device that has proven itself worthy, Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus has gotten a lot of attention since its launch in 2014. While we don’t have any specific numbers in terms of 6 Plus sales, the joint launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has given Apple the biggest revenue numbers in the company’s history. In Q4 of 2014, the company shipped 74.5 million handsets worldwide, which was a massive 46.1% increase year over year. The arrival of the 6 Plus was speculated as one possible reason for the uncharacteristic surge in sales, as it finally gave iOS fans a viable alternative to large-screen devices on the Android platform.
LG has a history with big smartphones, though it’s not an extremely positive one. Enter: the LG Optimus Vu (or the Intuition for you Verizon users). After Samsung’s original Note launched in 2011, LG aimed to bring something different to the then-new phablet world. The Optimus Vu featured a 5-inch screen (which was considered a phablet at the time) with a 4:3 aspect ratio and extremely poor stylus integration. The included pen couldn’t be stowed in the device, and everything just seemed half-baked when using the stylus for just about anything. It’s no wonder why this device failed, and why the next two iterations didn’t do so hot either.
LG has created numerous smartphones that have failed to make a dent in the phablet space, but that's exactly why they have the potential to create a really great large-screen smartphone this time around -- now LG knows what works and what doesn't work.
Then in 2013, LG announced its new G Pro series. These devices were bigger than most other smartphones on the market, though the lack of optimization for the large screens arguably didn’t provide enough value to the end user. This is where Samsung really shined with its Note line, and unfortunately, LG’s G Pro series just didn’t provide as much functionality as it needed to in order to survive.
In late 2014, LG outed its new stylus-equipped smartphone, dubbed the LG G3 Stylus. However, that phone was never really meant to take on the likes of the Galaxy Note line. The G3 Stylus was a blown-up LG G3 with downgraded specifications that came with a stylus. Unfortunately, this device didn’t really help LG out in the phablet category either.
Plans for the future
When it comes to the idea of a Note competitor, all hope may not be lost for LG. Back in December of 2014, the company filed a trademark for something called the “G Pen”, or what’s purported to be a smart stylus, much like Samsung’s S Pen. The G Pen patent doesn’t specifically mention the word ‘stylus’, though the patent does bring some interesting new ideas to the table. The G Pen patent mentions a number of “identification” devices, such as “watches, smartwatches, watch chains, and bracelets, key rings and rings of precious metal”. To be completely honest, we’re not sure what that means at all. But if you think about it, that’s a good thing. That means LG is thinking outside the box, and likely has something up its sleeve that could be a bit more exciting than the boring stylus it included with its devices in the past.
The bottom line
All in all, if there’s a company that could create a worthy competitor to the Galaxy Note line, it very well might be LG. Over the past 4 or 5 years, LG has created numerous smartphones that have failed to make a dent in the phablet space, but that’s exactly why they have the potential to create a really great large-screen smartphone this time around — now LG knows what works and what doesn’t work. The company now knows that the majority of people don’t just want to carry around a massive device just because they want a large screen. If people are going to lug around a giant smartphone, there better be some added functionality that comes along with it (or an Apple logo…). Let’s hope LG understands that concept, and they put forth the effort this time around that was seemingly absent in its past devices.
For what it is worth, the rumor from Korea Times suggests LG may be doing just that. Supposedly the handset could push beyond QHD, with a 5.5-inch 3K display, and may also see a high-end camera configuration as well. Considering the Note name and the recent G Pen filing, we can only hope that there are at least a few stylus-related surprises in the works too. Of course, for now, this is just a rumor, and so we’d take the entire report with a grain of salt.
What do you think, could LG create a device that could finally give the Note series a run for its money, in terms of both screen size and added functionality?