Why LG's actions in mobile resonate now more than ever

Chase Bonar
 from  Winter Springs, FL
| May 9, 2013

It's likely that when LG announced the Optimus G a year ago, you brushed it off with ease. The Korean company capable of producing high quality electronics, including smartphones, is often overshadowed by its overzealous countryman, Samsung. LG has delivered premium devices like the Optimus G and most recently, the Galaxy Note-esque Optimus G Pro, and the Korean company has managed to turn heads with both devices. But before last year, LG was often associated with odd devices like the world's first 3D smartphone, the Optimus 3D, and the disproportionate Optimus Vu phablet (err...why?).

But LG is in a very unique situation with their successor to the Optimus G. It's easy to discredit a company which went all-in on mobile 3D technology when it never looked like anything consumers wanted. Even so, if there's anything we can learn from LG it's that they're not afraid to stand out even if they've made some dodgy choices in the past. You take risks in everything you do, and LG is focusing on making smartphones, so there is a large margin of error in this industry.

I'm guilty of discrediting LG on the fly. Once upon a time, I took a hiatus from the smartphone and purchased the LG Arena. I was scarred by the unintuitive UI which used a cube (of all things?) to make sense of navigating LG's software. Battery life was dismal and the device suffered from unbearable lag. The Arena may have been my worst experience with any device to date, and that includes quite a few.

It comes as no surprise that before 2012, LG was riding the mobile market slightly below the radar. Despite the South Korean electronics company releasing the first quad-core smartphone to the masses in 2011, or having what seems like a truck-load of F Series, L Series, and Optimus variants over the years, LG has taken countless swipes for traction over the years. Yet three years later and LG has improved in every area on the smartphone front. From build quality and materials, to specifications and timeliness in features relevant to the market, LG has made some good calls to get where it is today. 

This invigorated LG of 2012 has carried on into 2013. If you're looking for proof, look at the Optimus G Pro for what it is (premier hardware specifications, and a re-thought UI), rather than what it has done (launched only on one carrier). LG is on a roll and needs only carrier support for it to come into the public's eye.

Is LG on the verge of their big break?

The South Korean company just scheduled a press event in Macau for May 30th. It's likely we'll see a new smartphone of sorts, and many believe we could be looking at the Optimus G's successor. While that's perfectly fine by me - the Optimus G served me very well - I'm more concerned about its implications for the next Nexus smartphone since the Optimus G is LG's primary organ donor to Google's Nexus 4. Could LG also be on the brink of joining an elite group of OEMs who have delivered a single device to all carriers? 

If we are to find out, it's looking like we will this year.

Google recently tipped LG as their manufacturer of the next Nexus smartphone. It's not a surprise considering Google also crowned Samsung as their OEM of choice for two Nexus devices (including a Chromebook and tablet).

Our own Anna Scantlin recently explored the implications of LG's partnership with Google, and why Google may have chosen them again. In short, their relationship has been mutually beneficial and many who believe Google's Nexus 4 was the best device they've ever stamped the Nexus logo on are content with Google's selection.

The Nexus 4 takes many design cues from LG's Optimus G, and in many ways betters them. Both devices share the unmistakable glass back with patented "crystal reflection" design, but the Nexus 4 ditched the uninspiring "black box" shape of the Optimus G for rounded sides and waterfall display edges. The Nexus 4 managed to spare the very seldom laid plastic bits on the Optimus G for feux-rubber around the corners for better grip in-hand. Google even managed to relocate and increase the brightness and size of the notification light on the Nexus 4, with the Optimus G receiving a much smaller light at the top.

But for all intensive purposes, the two smartphones were identical internally. They have the same Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, 2GB RAM, non-removable 2,100mAh battery, and cameras (as the AT&T version).

Yet LG isn't the sort of company to be bashful when they've got momentum. Though it's been somewhat of an anomaly, Google and LG proved that they can make a device that can change the mobile market. And at the rate one OEM is calling their smartphone "the biggest thing," LG could very well be set to shake-up the mobile market once again with an affordable (in the case of the next Nexus), or an uninhibited technological force of mobile technology and build quality (like the Optimus G was in 2012).

So, what can we expect with the successor to LG's pride and joy?

There have been whisperings of a device so thin the volume rockers and power button needed to be placed on the backside, but that's borderline irrational. However, there has been a recent dump of information on a read-only Sprint page that could shed light on an LG flagship heading to The Now Network. (This is a rumor and should be taken as such.) On the website, a mysterious LS980 device sporting a Snapdragon 800 series MSM8974 chipset, 1920x1080 display, 2GB RAM and 32GB ROM, and a 13-megapixel shooter and 1.3-megapixel front-facer is outlined in plain text. In essence, we're looking at an LG device that is not the Optimus G Pro phablet due to the different processor and chipset. On the contrary, it's clearly one of LG's flagships for 2013.

Likewise, a device with these specifications clearly evolve what made the Optimus G as desirable as it was last year, and could easily elevate LG to HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S 4 territory. It also alludes to what the next Nexus smartphone could bring to market later this year.

If there's anything we can learn from Google and LG's partnership, it's that LG is submissive to Google's requests but not to their detriment. Google is not a hardware manufacturer and requires certain levels of control over any device bearing the Nexus logo, but with them, LG stands a solid chance at gathering the respect they need to be a contender in 2013.

We've learned that LG is not afraid of delivering a quality device at a price point that won't let consumers think twice. Google's clear recipe for success is based on LG's ability to minimize the bill of material a number of ways, and they've proven they are more than capable. And that's why the specifications of LG's Optimus G2 is important. Not only does it imply that they're all-in in the mobile market (something they recently admitted was their target for 2013), but it means they're potentially looking at another hit with the Nexus 4's successor.

History tells us LG's Optimus G shared so many components with the Nexus 4 that the two were hardly differentiable on the spec-sheet. And for good reason, LG's launch event at the end of May might hold more weight for Google than LG's Optimus G successor could ever hope for.

The Nexus 4 may have had a shoddy launch slewed with demand issues, but Google and LG are learning (and learning quickly) that affordable, premium, unlocked smartphones sell. As compared to premier flagships from Apple, HTC, and Samsung, Google undercuts competitors in the smartphone front right where consumers are most aware: price.

In short, Google and LG's successor may be a ways out, but anything LG does from here on out should not be dismissed - LG is set to capitalize on their Optimus G's faults and make headway into the 2013 arena.  

Are you ready? What features would you like to see from LG this year? Do you think they can finally compete with the likes of Apple, HTC, and Samsung? I'm looking forward to your replies down below!

Image via Digital Trends.