Most device makers in the smartphone wars try to one-up each other with features such as upgraded built-in cameras and dazzling high definition display screens. From that perspective, the new LG G2 is yet another “hot new phone” out to trounce its rivals—except it breaks one common industry convention. LG Electronics had the audacity to put the phone’s only physical buttons on the back rather than along the edges, the typical approach in the market. Scandalous! What will the neighbors think?!
Placing the power and volume buttons on the back is a more natural fit, LG said, for taking self portraits, talking, and other uses. But the subtle yet startling placement presented a design challenge for the company. Situated just below the camera lens, the power button took up some of the already limited interior space. That required designing a smaller battery without sacrificing power capacity, said Jong-seok Park, president and CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications, on Wednesday’s launch event, held in New York.
With the physical controls on the back, the G2 employs virtual buttons on its home screen to control the device. Park said the new design evolved from the way consumers use their phones rather than from spontaneous ideas cooked up in a lab. “Technology without empathy can no longer be considered innovation,” he said. “Innovation for the sake of innovation is old school.”
Beneath its sleek case, the G2 uses a 2.26 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor. Steve Mollenkopf, president and chief operating officer of Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) in San Diego, took the stage yesterday and said the G2 is the first smartphone being launched worldwide that uses the Snapdragon 800 processor. The phone will have capacity for up to 32 gigabytes of storage and 2 gigs of RAM.
Novel button placement, on its own, is not enough to make the G2 a true rival to the iPhone 5 or the Samsung Galaxy S4. Some of the G2’s features include the Answer Me function, which automatically accepts incoming calls when the phone is raised to the ear, and the KnockOn feature, which lets users power up the phone by simply tapping the screen twice.
LG gave the G2 a 5.2-inch HD display while keeping the phone’s width at 2.7 inches. The design freed up space to narrow the bezel around the display screen. The phone’s 13-megapixel rear-facing camera is equipped with optical image stabilizer technology that improves focus on the subjects being captured, even if the photographer is jostled. LG claims the phone’s 24 bit hi-fi audio is superior to CD-quality sound.
Showy events only give a taste of what any device is capable of. The G2 is scheduled for release in the coming eight weeks, first in South Korea, with its North America arrival to follow on “the four major carriers in the U.S.,” Park said.