By Stephen Schenck | February 25, 2013 5:30 PM
The first Optimus G was a pretty nice little smartphone from a company that’s really been hard to feel enthusiastic for over the years. At least, between misses like the oddball Optimus Vu and the low-to-midrange L series it dumped on the market last year, it was starting to feel like it had been a seriously long time since there was an LG smartphone worth getting excited about.
Ultimately, the Optimus G was itself overshadowed by the Nexus 4, a cheaper version with the benefit of Google’s software support, but had that not stolen some of the limelight, the Optimus G would have likely been a bigger success than it was. Now LG is back with a new fleet of Androids, showing off the family at the Mobile World Congress, with the Optimus G Pro taking the lead. It’s a solid-looking phablet, but is that really what the company needs right now?
Whether it’s supposed to replace the Optimus G or just augment it in LG’s lineup, as the company’s highest-end phone, attitudes towards the G Pro are going to reflect heavily on the rest of LG’s offerings. From what we’ve seen it’s fast, has a nice clean look to it, and includes a good-sized battery. LG seems to have put a fair deal of thought into the software, and while it’s simply not going to compete with the Note II thanks to the lack of a native stylus, the on-screen annotation features appear to offer a workable alternative.
I’m sure there are people who will disagree, but I think moving up to 5.5 inches was a big mistake. There’s a line that’s going to differ for everyone where a phone simply becomes too large, and for me it’s just over the five inch mark. I think larger devices absolutely have their places in a company’s lineup, but a flagship like this, with the latest SoC and display tech, really needs to hit the notes that will resonate best with a mainstream audience. That’s a shame, because we know LG can make a five-inch G Pro, but right now it looks like only Japan will be getting that model; I think it would behoove LG to make that one available worldwide instead of the 5.5-incher. Actually, strike that – I want a five-inch Optimus G Pro with the Snapdragon 600 from the 5.5-inch model.
It’s decisions like this, the same kind that led to the Optimus Vu, that keep me concerned that LG just doesn’t “get” its audience. Sure, the larger screen sets LG apart from five-inch 1080p phones, but I just can’t see that as a good thing in and of itself. What focus group poured over the 5.0-inch and 5.5-inch Optimus G Pros and decided the latter made a superior phone for the US?
The Optimus G II will arrive one day, presumably as a proper phone-sized high-end handset, but look at all that’s going to happen between now and then. All these 4.7-to-5-inch 1080p phones from the other big OEMs are going to go up for sale, running the latest chipsets while the original Optimus G begins to stagnate with its Snapdragon S4. At the least, I’d love to see a 4.7-inch 720p Optimus G+ with a Snapdragon 600, or something.
LG will certainly find sales for the the Optimus G Pro – don’t get me wrong – but the company could have really used a new phone to directly compete against the HTC Ones, Sony Xperia Zs, and Galaxy S IVs of the world. For as nice a phablet as the Optimus G Pro looks, I’m convinced that there are just too many people ready to outright dismiss a smartphone that large, regardless of its merits.
In spite of this bungle, I’m excited about where LG is going. News of the company investing in its own SoCs was great to hear, and perhaps more than any technological advantage it could offer LG, I think it speaks to just how seriously it’s taking its future in the mobile space. Even if the Optimus G Pro is only a middling success, the Optimus G II could be LG’s big win. All I wonder now is if that success could arrive too late.