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Goldstuck on Gadgets

LG goes large in 2014

The new LG G3, with its startling approach to the arithmetic of display, is the first serious contender for phone of the year, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

We have a contender.

One of the big questions in the smartphone world, every year, is which handset will be the phone of the year. For the last few years, it’s been a two-horse race between Samsung and Apple, with the choice often coming down to personal prejudice.

In 2013, two other manufacturers also got the nod from various critics, resulting in widespread interest in the LG G2 and HTC One. That didn’t seem to translate into sales, though, and haphazard marketing in South Africa meant both phones fell through the cracks of quarterly sales figures.

LG is the first to show it wants to make amends, with yet another contender for phone of the year, and a device that is startling in many ways. Much may be made of simplicity, image quality, camera capability, processing power and the like, but the most surprising aspect of the phone is what it does with arithmetic.

Consider this: the dimensions of its body, at 5.76″ x 2.94″, are only marginally larger than those of the Samsung Galaxy S5, at 5.59″ x 2.85″, yet it manages to take the display size to 5.5″, compared to 5.1″ on the S5. So while the screen size takes it into “phablet” territory, at the size where the Samsung Galaxy Note began life three years ago, the device size is almost the same as its adversaries in the large smartphone category.

Here’s another arithmetical twist: the thinner (8.1mm) device with 5.1″ display weighs 145g: the thicker (8.9mm) handset with 5.5″ screen weighs only a few grains more, at 149g. And that is taking into account the fact that the G3 has a huge 3000 mAh battery, the better to power that large display, compared to a marginally smaller 2800 mAh battery on the S5.

The tale behind the form factor is fascinating. The LG design team in Korea was tasked with developing “a 5.5-inch smartphone and not a phablet”. To do that, they had to “optimise its grip” as well as come up with a larger display in a smaller chassis than competing phones in the same segment.

While they were figuring out what the optimal grip would be, common objects such as a computer mouse and door knob that people hold every day was considered,” reads an LG release. “The Arc shape seemed to be the obvious choice. Through hundreds of tests and research, they found the ideal curvature that would ultimately provide a 5.5-inch smartphone the best portability and gripability.

So what kind of display do you get for your size? Here’s some more arithmetic: 1440 x 2560 pixels, giving 534 pixel per inch (ppi) density. The Galaxy S5 comes in at 1080 x 1920 pixels, and 432 ppi.

It’s surprising, then, that the rear camera falls short of the S5’s 16 megapixel (MP) lens and 5312 x 2988 pixel resolution. LG delivered only a 13MP lens with 4160 x 3120 pixels. However, it built in a new technology called Laser Auto Focus, which measures the distance between the subject and the camera using a laser beam, even in low light, and allows for sharp images to be captured in a fraction of a second – promising to overcome the lag that has bedeviled the cameras on most other phones.

“Everyone wants a smartphone camera that can take quality pictures fast and without fail,” says Deon Prinsloo, General Manager of LG Mobile.

If it lives up to its promise, the G3 also means fewer users blaming lousy phone cameras for lousy phone pictures.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and view his YouTube channel at

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