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Can LG's V10 help it get back on the right track?

LG really had something going with the Optimus G and its follow-up, the G2. Things took a turn with the G3 and now the G4, too. Can the V10 change things?

Published onOctober 27, 2015

LG V10 Vs LG G4 Quick Look-11

Don’t look now but LG is possibly in the midst of its own project valley, but this one is of an entirely different nature. Korea’s “other” big OEM broke away from its oft-dismissed Optimus product line back in 2014 when it introduced the LG Optimus G, and made major movements the next year with the LG G2 follow-up. Unfortunately, despite offering some top-notch kit in 2014’s G3, things started getting a bit stale. By the time 2015’s G4 hit, it was ironically the distinct lack of change that garnished the most positive attention.

To say that LG has hit a proverbial wall in its pursuit of profits is quite apropos given the company’s latest quarterly performance report. This is precisely why the revelation of the company’s newest offerings, the LG V10 and the LG Urbane 2, are so critical for the company’s future.

The Rise from “Obscurity”

While LG was never an unknown player in the early days of the smartphone game, it wasn’t exactly a dominant one. The company had some impressive devices, such as the Optimus 3D or Optimus 2X, however in light of the overbearing OEM skin and Samsung’s near-total reign over Android – not to mention HTC’s relevance at the time – many of LG’s better phones were ignored.

lg g3 vs lg g2 (8 of 15)

Things changed when the Optimus G was released. The device had some killer specs, a new design, and it was chosen by Google to be the base on which the Nexus 4 was created. When 2013 hit and the G2 released, LG was turning major heads, in no small part due to its use of rear placed buttons, something that was met with much discussion. Still, it had an all-new design and to this day is still beloved by many an LG fan.

Ain’t nothing but a G-thang

When the G3 hit last year, many were skeptical it could surpass the high heights of its predecessor. While there was technically a QHD smartphone released in China already, the G3 would be the world-at-large’s first introduction to such pixel progress. Also touted was a laser focusing camera. Unfortunately despite the solid spec set, LG seemingly put off more than a few buyers due to a concerning number of software issues present. Add an extremely dim display – even when set to maximum brightness – and it’s easy to understand why many felt it to be an inferior product. At least LG updated it to Lollipop in lickety-split fashion.

2015’s major flagship, the G4, was seemingly put out to pasture before it was even announced, thanks to a comment LG insists was mistranslated: A spokesperson had indicated there would be a device coming later in the year that would be positioned above the G-brand. We devoted some time imagining what such an impossible product would be. While the G4 did improve upon some elements from last year’s offering (a brighter display, more camera options, a better optimized skin) arguably the only real reason it got so much attention was for the company’s inclusion of microSD support and a removable battery.

The LG G4 was seemingly beloved by many simply for being too similar to its predecessor: microSD and a removable battery.

Indeed the real “claim to fame” that the G4 has is simply that it didn’t do anything different. Rather than use a metal frame or a glass back like Samsung, LG opted to once again make liberal use of plastic — though a leather back was also an option. The Galaxy S6 haters were suddenly smitten with this “devotion to customers”, though it was inevitably more the conglomerate being unprepared for Samsung to have put out such premium products. Indeed the device has sold quite poorly and LG’s 2015 finances have suffered as a result.

Fast forward to this past week and that “mistranslation” suddenly seems like it was actually correctly reported all along. The V10 was announced and is being positioned…above the G-series. The device, which is expected to “cost as much as an iPhone 6 Plus” is:

A whole new world

Regardless of one’s personal opinion on the V10’s ticker, the phone itself represents LG thinking outside the box and trying to add extra functionality to what has become a very mundane form factor. Samsung tried this last year with the Galaxy Note Edge, though the waterfall-type slope wasn’t to everyone’s liking. Still, even without the ticker the V10 offers up something else that LG had previously been unwilling to do: redesign its products.

Truth be told, the G3 and G4 looked remarkable similar to each other, though with some subtle differences of course. Both had the same curved back design. This in-and-of-itself is not so bad, but the fact that LG used it on seemingly every product it produced made the whole thing less original.

LG V10 Hands On-17

With this new premium product, the design is just off-the-charts. The back itself is made of a very elegant silicon material, and instead of being a “mold” that fits over the rear, looks almost like it’s a sheet that has been wrapped over the top and bottom parts of the device. Even the pattern on the back offers a very different take on the whole “boring plastic” design, even if it isn’t made of genuine leather as with some G4 rear panels.

Adding to the design differences is the fact that the phone is substantially solid. Just take a look for yourself:

Whereas LG was preoccupied with the rear panel in the past (see the G Flex and G Flex 2), all the hyped self-healing in the world wouldn’t be of use for a nasty fall. Here the company has made structural engineering changes to ensure that the device can withstand impact in a way that makes seemingly all other phones buckle at their proverbial knees.

Is it worth it?

LG V10 02

LG has indicated its new flagship will cost as much as the iPhone 6S Plus. The 16GB configuration of said device starts at $749 before tax. Indeed V10 models on eBay as of this moment are priced well over $1000 from Korean sellers eager to take advantage of their country’s early release, despite the actual retail price of 799,700 won (roughly $690).

Now that the phone has started to land in the US, it turns out pricing in the states will be around $600. That means it will definitely occupy a premium segment of the market. In fact, it is also more expensive than the company’s own G4, which has been significantly discounted since it first launched, possibly as a result of the reportedly bad sales performance. Both AT&T and T-Mobile will be carrying it, though it may also be offered unlocked eventually.

The question becomes just how important the improved durability, secondary ticker, fingerprint sensor, and overall redesign are to each potential consumer. Spec-wise, the phone is really more of a G4 rehash than it is anything truly new, though given what’s inside, that is hardly anything to scoff at. That said, we are just months away from the Snapdragon 820’s release, and with it promises of some major advancements.

Some critics have been quick to point out that last year’s Galaxy Note Edge had two displays fused together and thus legitimately made use of a new form factor. The argument continues that LG simply took one 5.9-inch one and cut off some to make room for the cameras. This isn’t rocket science here, it’s just arts and crafts.

LG took a 5.9-inch screen a cut off part to make room for the cameras. This isn't rocket science here, it's arts & crafts.

Purely a pipe-dream?

LG V10 Hands On-14
Behold: the entire benefit of LG’s 2015 line-up according to a segment of Samsung-sour.

While the internet may be excited about the LG V10, unfortunately that doesn’t necessarily mean customers will be; after all it’s one thing to talk-the-talk, but it’s quite another to walk-the-walk. Much as how angry Samsung fans claimed to be running to the G4 earlier this year, the sales of the device – or lack thereof – have hurt LG’s profits. A recent report from Korea indicates that the V10 isn’t faring well there at all despite its brand new status.

Gven how few people apparently purchased the G4, could this device be DOA? Considering the starting price is quite high and the specs aren’t burning through the roof, there is a very real possibility that the mainstream consumer will avoid the V10. For those who don’t care about a removable battery or microSD support, the Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ still provide a very potent pair of rivals.

For what it’s worth, the fact that the Galaxy Note Edge didn’t sell very well could be taken as an indicator that only the most die-hard of phone-heads are interested in the potential of a dedicated separate screen.

A different design

LG V10 Hands On-12
Question: Does this look more attractive than the glass back of the Galaxy S6 family?

While the V10 certainly has a new-fangled, luxurious design, will the mainstream consumer feel it to be worth the expenditure over the Galaxy offerings? Or even the G4 itself? Those in the market for a different design may be inclined to go for the G Flex 2 which, ironically enough, sports a faster SoC than either the G4 or the V10 despite being released significantly earlier.

It would not be unthinkable to picture a customer at a store confronted with a choice between the Galaxy Note 5 and the V10, and come out thinking the former is the better buy. It has the S-Pen, it has an AMOLED screen, it has the glass back…even if the customer doesn’t understand any of these terms, their own sense of judgement is the best litmus test: is LG just right or has the decision to use a “lesser” back still hurt its visual voice in the face of competition?


LG V10 Hands On-25

Regardless of one’s personal thoughts on the V10, it seems quite clear that the internet has widely accepted it with open arms, and the vast majority of opinions have been quite positive. LG may very well be on the verge of its next big thing. At the same time, in this game success is ultimately measured by sales and profits, not by the number of “likes” a device may get on the internet.

LG has certainly proven that it has the ability to think outside the box once again here, but the ultimate question is just how many consumers will purchase the V10 in a very crowded, price-sensitive market? Especially among the tech-savvy, the promises of the Snapdragon 820 as well as whatever offerings next year brings with it means that dropping a cache of cash this last in 2015 may ultimately be money spent prematurely. Only time will tell, though; even if the Lost Odyssey is re-discovered, it may be as easily overlooked as another was.

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