Korean electronics manufacturer LG has spent the last two years proving its high-tech credentials as a smartphone technology leader. With the release of the G4, it is ready for more, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
When the LG G4 smartphone arrives in South African stores in mid-June, it won’t dazzle the market with the latest in technology breakthroughs. That would be so, like, yesterday, for a brand that has already shown its technology smarts, with advances ranging from 3D visuals several years ago to curved screens over the past year.
This time round, LG wants to impress the market with something more basic: market share.
While specific sales figures for South Africa have not been released, LG says the G3 sold double the number of the G2, and the target for the G4 is to double up again on the G2. To put that in context, the most recent market research from World Wide Worx and GeoPoll shows that LG has about 2,7 per cent market share in South Africa, almost exactly on a par with Sony. While other LG models contribute to that share, doubling G3 sales with the G4 will contribute significantly.
LG has something of a hill to climb, though, as the intended next purchase of South African consumers, revealed in the same study, shows it dropping a percentage point and Sony rising substantially.
For this reason, the timing of a phone like the G4 could not be better. The latest G-round comes across as a culmination of several years of development, fine-tuning and learning from the customer.
On the most basic level, LG has repaired a flaw in its previous devices, namely an overtight SIM slot, which tended to shred SIM cards when they were swopped to other devices. It still has an old-style slide-in wire-frame SIM slot, but the fit is more comfortable, and not designed to prevent one from ever removing it. On such basic foundations are positive experiences built.
It’s the first phone I’ve used where the switching process from one device has worked seamlessly, as advertised. Using NFC (Near Field Communications) on the phone, one holds it to another phone also running NFC to capture all settings, files and profile of installed apps. Aside from a few prompts and logging into an e-mail account on the new device, it all happens automatically.
So far so similar to Samsung and HTC. The difference is that, once logged into Gmail or the Play Store, it begins automatically downloading all apps installed on the previous phone. With other devices, most have to be selected individually, and accepted one by one. The saving in time and energy can be enormous.
The user interface is also simpler and more satisfying than on most Android phones, thanks to an avoidance of “bloatware”, as proprietary software add-ons are known.
On the hardware side, the phone naturally also outdoes its predecessors but, more important, much of the competition.
Most noticeably, the battery is removable, and it has giant-sized 3000mAh capacity – allowing for full-day usage despite the large screen – in what has the appearance of a standard-sized battery.
The camera is especially impressive, and a quick test against the iPhone 6 Plus and MTN One M9 give it a clear edge. At F1.8, it has the widest aperture lens on a major brand phone in this market – edging out the F1.9 aperture of the Samsung Galaxy S6 – which means it lets in more light and allows for more precise focus. Unlike many comparisons between phone camera lenses, the difference here is obvious even to the untrained eye.
The display dazzlingly sharp, in an environment where there is no longer such a thing as a screen that is NOT sharp. This is largely thanks to Quad HD resolution (four times high-definition, or 2,560 x 1,440 pixels) of its 5.5-inch display, and something called IPS Quantum Display, which allows for better control of the liquid crystals that make up the screen. More light is emitted, contrasts are sharper, and blacks are deeper, allowing for a richer, more defined colour.
Deon Prinsloo, General Manager LG Mobile, summed up the marketing position of the G4 like this: “We wanted to give consumers a truly human-centric device that combined the analog sensibilities with technologies that delivered real world performance. From the design to the camera to the display to the user interface, this is the most ambitious phone we’ve ever created.”
Hand-in-hand with LG’s highest ambitions yet for market presence, it takes the concept of “flagship phone” into a new category we can call the “standard-bearer phone”.
The Specifications of the G4, as supplied by LG, are:
• Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 808 Processor
• Display: 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS Quantum Display (2560 x 1440, 538ppi)
• Memory: 32GB eMMC ROM, 3GB LPDDR3 RAM / microSD slot
• Camera: Rear 16MP with F1.8 Aperture / OIS 2.0 / Front 8MP with F2.0 Aperture
• Battery: 3,000mAh (removable)
• Operating System: Android 5.1 Lollipop
• Size: 148.9 x 76.1 x 6.3 – 9.8 mm
• Weight: 155g
• Network: 4G / LTE / HSPA+ 21 Mbps (3G)
• Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 a, b, g, n, ac / Bluetooth 4.1LE / NFC / USB 2.0
• Colours: (Ceramic) Metallic Gray / Ceramic White / Shiny Gold /
(Genuine Leather) Black / Brown / Red / Sky Blue / Beige / Yellow
• Other: Manual Mode / Gesture Interval Shot / Quick Shot
Meet the ambassador to the future
Tilly Lockey, 14, lost her hands as a toddler, but sees it as a massive opportunity to embrace technology. She chatted with ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK about the human of tomorrow.
It is a description that defines 14-year-old Tilly Lockey: She lost her hands at the age of 15 months, and now uses bionic hands to show the world how to overcome disability.
That could easily read as an advertisement for a prosthetics company, but Tilly refuses to be defined by marketing messages. She has not only embraced what is supposed to be a disability, but wants to become nothing less than an ambassador to the future.
That is in effect what she is achieving by pushing the boundaries of what is possible with artificial hands. It means that, eventually, she will have more capabilities built into her body than most able-bodied humans can imagine. She collaborates closely with Open Bionics, a start-up that is using 3D printing to create low-cost prosthetics with high-tech capabilities.
“I have very high hopes for the future,” she said during a chat on the sidelines of the SingularityU Summit at Kyalami north of Johannesburg. From Newcastle-on-Tyne in the United Kingdom, she was at the Summit as a guest speaker, chaperoned by her father Adam and sister Tia.
“When I started working with Open Bionics, I wanted it to include lighting, music, Bluetooth, a projector in my palm, all over-optimistic things. But then I feel that is not too far away, and then a disability would turn into and enhancement of normal human hands. I’m really excited about it.
“I know there’s a couple of things they are working on right now, like trying to get the built-in battery thinner, because it’s hard to get overcoats and jackets over it, so they are trying to get the hands slimmer. They’re working on haptic feedback, to give a sense of touch of vibration, which tells me of I have a good grip on something. It could be coming soon. These hands I’m using now were made in the past five years. In another five years, I think we’ll have all of it.”
The hands in question are called Hero Arms, which its creators, Open Bionics, say is “the world’s first clinically approved 3D-printed bionic arm, with multi-grip functionality and empowering aesthetics”.
Click here to read more about the development of Open Bionics’s Hero Arms.
How Tilly Lockey became a Hero
Part 2 of ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK’s interview with Tilly Lockey explores her amazing career.
This is the second part of this series of articles. To start from the beginning, click here.
Tilly Lockey was diagnosed with Meningococcal Septicaemia Strain B when she was 15 months old.
Her mother spotted the tell-tale signs one day in 2007: a fast-spreading skin rash that looks like pinpricks, along with symptoms like lethargy and bruising. She was rushed to hospital, but the bacterial poisoning spread so aggressively, doctors gave Tilley no chance of survival. They had to make a quick decision to amputate her hands to save her life.
Twelve years later, her future truly came into focus: “I was surprised with really cool Alita: Battle Angel bionic Hero Arms and went on the blue carpet at the world premiere of the movie with Rosa Salazar and director James Cameron.”
That pivotal moment in her life would not have been possible without the intensive efforts of her mother, Sara, to raise funds to buy something better than the metal prosthetics issued by the National Health Service in the UK. She increased Tilley’s profile with a campaign to “Give Tilley a Hand”, and today works as a fundraiser and events organiser for the Meningitis Now support group. Her involvement in an event meant she was unable to join Tilley on her trip to South Africa last week, when she spoke at the SingularityU Summit. After coming off stage, Tilley told us that Sara was her biggest inspiration in her life, and the closest to a role model.
“I’m usually a speaker at her events. I tell everyone my story and what I’m doing now and give these kids inspiration, because they often feel they can’t do anything because of what Meningitis did to them.
“I am home schooled now, which is pretty cool, because I’m able to have a career and get educated at the same time. I feel I can do a lot of things that friends can’t do. I can take a whole class on an aeroplane. I have a great time traveling and meeting so many inspiring people who are making a difference in the world.”
The form of Mengingitis that attacked her leaves hidden scars and issues that only become apparent years later. She is almost absurdly cheerful about the challenges that have faced her.
“I personally figured out that my left leg had stopped growing. I’m still finding out things it has caused, but you survive. At least I’m here and I’m alive.”
It does help that she’s comfortable in the spotlight, happy to give interviews, and eager to show what she can do with her bionic hands.
“I want to go into public speaking a lot more, and it could be an option as career. I want it to continue because it’s a lot of fun, and I feel I’ve got a story to share. If I can inspire people to change the world, I will. “
Her travels this year will still take her to Barcelona, Jakarta and New York. In the Big Apple, she will accept a humanitarian award, and intends “to give a funky speech”.
In Jakarta, Indonesia, she will take part in a fashion catwalk and do a makeup tutorial live. She learned to do makeup with one of her bionic hands when she fractured her right elbow in a fall at school
“I got makeup for Christmas and wanted to play with it, and got the idea of doing it with an open hand. It took a lot of perseverance and patience, but after studying how to do it, I was able to recreate a full makeup routine using one hand. It wasn’t a great situation at the time, but now I’m happy it happened because it got me into doing what I do now.”
What she is doing with makeup is remarkable in its own right. She gives tutorials on YouTube, where she says she is “kinda new”, as she has “only around 16,000 followers”. That may well soon expand into cooking videos.
In other words, everything is an opportunity: “I could be sad, just sit on my bed and cry, or I can live my life and realise what I’ve got: these amazing bionic Hero Arms.
“All I want to do is help give people confidence in themselves, accept who they are, accept their scars and everything about them. That they don’t have to impress everybody and just be themselves.”
Read more in the third article of the series about how family remains at the centre of Tilly’s life.