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What could LG's "more premium than premium" flagship be?
While the major focus at MWC 2015 was clearly Samsung and its pair of Galaxy S6 offerings, one tidbit that few may have picked up on was the curious comment LG issued. Despite the fact that the G4 was nowhere to be seen, this didn’t stop Korea’s other big tech company from talking about a flagship, except said comment was in reference to a different, currently unknown product. This device was specifically billed as being something even higher on the totem-pole than the G4 itself, which begs us to ask the question: what could LG have that is “bigger than bigger”, to *ahem* use a now-infamous tag-line.
[quote qtext=”We are planning to release a product that stands above the G series. It will be launched during the second half of this year.” qperson=”Juno Cho, LG Mobile CEO” qsource=”” qposition=”center”]
Maybe it’s just… big
The LG G3 came and went, yet this time LG shied away from a large screen, mainstream phablet version like the G Pro and G Pro 2 that followed it. Granted there was the LG Vista, but it had neither the specs nor the presence to command a flagship-type following. Regardless, the G Pro line has never been a stylus-centered experience, though the Optimus Vu did give it a whirl. It’s conceivable that the new product will be a device more in-line with the Galaxy Note 4 and thus offer better competition for Samsung’s de-facto Android phablet champion, as well as expand its own offerings and software suite.
Still, if the G4 clocks in at 5.5 inches like its predecessor, the logic of a product at 5.7 inches would seemingly be too similar an experience, even it it were to have a stylus and accompanying support. LG itself made this clear back at MWC however when it actually told us there would be no G4 Pro in light of such an overlap. This leaves the possibility of a 6.X inch device, but it then risks being considered too big by even the phablet-crazed masses.
Supporting the theory that LG’s mystery new premium device is a phablet is talk out of Korea about a device called G4 Note. LG already trademarked this name, according to the report, and may be looking to emulate Samsung’s and Apple’s two-track strategy by releasing a larger device to take on the Note and iPhone Plus.
There’s also the remote possibility that LG might in fact shrink the G4 down to a more mainstream mingling 5.0-5.2 inches, and therefore a ~5.7 inch “premium” flagship would make sense. This would allow the company to take advantage of two different market segments, as these days 5-inches no longer qualifies as a phablet (to most, at least) yet even 5.5 definitely would. Still, the question needs to be raised as to if a G4 Note would actually substantiate LG’s promise of a super premium device.
Galaxy S6 Edge, eat your heart out
Thinking of what might be unquestionably considered “flagship”, a more plausible possibility is that LG will make use of the very technology it unveiled back at CES in January, the same type of technology that Samsung has now employed to amass an astonishing 5 million pre-orders based on retailer interest alone. By this of course, we are referring to the Galaxy S6 Edge and the dual curved edges it so ergonomically boasts.
The potential here is quite obvious, as evident by the warm reception to Samsung’s Edge, and by making an LG “Slide” of sorts, the company is better able to cater to those who may still be turned off by the G Flex 2 despite the smaller footprint and higher resolution screen when compared with its predecessor. LG has insisted on curving its product on a horizontal axis and, as such, its Flex line has been deemed the “banana” phone. Regardless of user-comfort and ergonomics, the fact is that many people simply don’t want such a thing no matter how cool it looks. The S6 Edge however, is still very much a flat product, just with some sloped sides.
Moving to metal? Or going for glass?
Like it or not, LG is now one of the only big OEMs that has continued the plastic-trend. HTC has used metal for years, Motorola has a metal frame on its Nexus 6 and Moto X hardware, heck even the up-and-coming heavy hitters from China like Huawei and Lenovo have made use of the material for their big name products. Late 2014 saw Samsung add metal to the frame of the Galaxy Alpha, Galaxy Note 4, and Galaxy Note Edge, and then make a unibody metal product with the Galaxy A3, A5, and A7 mid-tier offerings. The Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge are not only using metal, but also glass for the back panel.
Where does this leave LG? Not in a good situation, that’s for sure. While the self-healing properties of the G Flex series might be nice for those who care, the Flex 2 makes it almost pointless given that the back cover is removable: do people really care about little nicks and scratches when they can just replace the whole piece entirely? Granted the flexible nature of the device lends itself well to a pliable material like plastic, but for a true flagship? It’s time to step up the A-game.
The leaked pictures of the G4 show what looks to be plastic (similar to that of the Flex 2) and therefore it’s almost a given that the real product will indeed make use of a polycarbonate backing. The solution: simply develop, announce, and release a premium G4 under a different name. The device need not even have better specs than the G4, it just need to look and feel that way.
It’s worth pointing out that, just today, the Korea Times ran a story about an interview with LG spokesperson Terry Taekyung Lee, who said “a completely-redesigned new LG handset will be released soon.” This could easily become the curved-sided product that we mentioned earlier, or perhaps something metallic. Or perhaps both.
A “G” by any other name
Moving on, we must also consider the idea that LG won’t actually release a product better than the G4, but instead, simply release the G4 as a different product. The “G” moniker has been around for as long as the Optimus name, which has since been canned. Just as LG’s logo has actually seen an upgrade this year via a new font with smoother curves, it’s possible the whole “G thang” will be discarded and a new name chosen. Thus the flagship that’s better than a flagship will in fact be the same product, ironically enough.
When the LG G3 released last year, it did so at a cost somewhat lower than its rival products, despite excellent hardware inside. This in turn, might be part of what led the company to an increase in overall smartphones sales by 10 million units as mentioned earlier. What if the G4 is actually going to be an “upper mid-tier” device, and this new product in turn, becomes the true premium that’s set to go edge-to-edge with the Galaxy S6, or perhaps even the more pricier S6 Edge? Doing so would certainly allow LG to sell its product on the same grounds as Samsung’s offerings.
Long shot: foldable, convertibles
The final thought we have is that the mystery device could actually be a foldable smartphone or even tablet convertible. Last fall, LG Display released a very interesting visual that highlighted its plans for the following few years. For those in need of a reminder, take a look:
As indicated, 2015 is supposed to be the year that bending displays come into production, and mid-to-late this year would make a great time table for the entrance of such a product. This goes double for a release around the time of the Galaxy Note 5 which would no doubt steal some of its thunder. Of course, it’s difficult to imagine what a bendable product actually is. Technically speaking, the LG G Flex and Flex 2 can bend when you exert force on them. The POLED panel will literally flatten itself out. Is this what bendable means?
Does bendable mean that the product in-question will have a soft plastic build quality such that you can actually squish it in your hands? Would it be like a semi-hard piece of plastic? Given that Samsung has already gone on record to state that 2015 will see its first foldable display released to consumers, it’s only a given that LG will seek to counter with its own product. In all practicality however, the chances of a truly futuristic product like the patent seen above releasing in 2015 would be quite a shock indeed.
What do you think?
Well you’ve heard some of our thoughts on this mystery product, now we want to hear yours. Given that the LG G4 leak-festival has seemingly begun in earnest, it’s probably only a matter of time before pictures and details start floating around about this new product as well. We’re all eager to find out what it could be, and LG is no doubt eager to show us when the time is right. For now, let us just be content to dream the dream.
One thing is quite clear however: if the G4 name and brand will stand as-is, LG has arguably done itself a great disservice by publicly announcing to the world that it plans to release an even better product in the second half of 2015. Whether that is just PR-hype or an actual promise to deliver, those in-the-know and on-the-fence about the G4 may end up waiting it out, or else buying something else entirely.