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LG is back

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LG has long lagged behind Samsung in the smartphone market, but the new G Pro marks a convincing return, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Do you remember LG? If you do, it’s possibly because you have a TV set, washing machine or air conditioning unit carrying that brand. And then you’d know that it goes hand in hand with the slogan, ‚”Life’s good‚”.

That’s not really what LG stands for, of course: it began life as a merger of the Lucky and GoldStar brands, and the Life’s Good handle is what’s known as a backronym.

Now LG wants to go back to the future it had envisaged for itself before its Korean compatriot at Samsung became the behemoth of cellphones.

Consider these numbers, compiled by market commentator Tomi Ahonen from an average of the world’s major analyst houses: In 2010, Samsung had an 8% share of the global smartphone market, selling just 24-million units. In 2011, it sold 90,9-million units in a fast-rising market, to take its share to 18,7%. Last year, the sales figure exploded to 215-million, and Samsung took a market-leading 30,8% share.

In the same period, LG at first flattered to deceive, rising from 2.4% in 2010 to 4.8% in 2011, with sales of 7-million and 23,3-million respectively. That put it precisely a year behind Samsung in unit sales, but several years further back in market share. In 2012 sales were almost stagnant, at 26,5-million. But, in a rising market, that meant share fell, to 3,8%.

This year, things are looking up for LG. According to the most recent IDC Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, for the second quarter of this year, LG sold 12,1-million smartphones, more than double the 5,8-million it sold in the same period last year. It’s 108% growth compares to 51% growth for the smartphone market as a whole.

It does the brand no harm that its latest devices are on a par with the best in the world. This month, the G Pro arrived in South Africa to bring real competition to the market for 5.5‚” phones, a category pioneered by Samsung with its 5.3‚” Galaxy Note, released in October 2011. Last year’s Note 2 took the screen size to 5.5‚”, which was then matched by Lenovo’s K900.

Samsung is expected to unveil the Note 3 in the next two weeks but, meanwhile, the LG G Pro stands out above the crowd. It has one of the best screens ever seen on a smartphone, with a sharp 1080p display, compared to 720p on the Note 2. A 13MP camera, compared to the Note 2’s 8MP, will appeal to a specs-driven market. However, the greatest appeal comes from its enhanced ability to multitask, with the large screen allowing two apps to be viewed simultaneously.

It’s achieved through sleight of screen, with LG’s proprietary QSlide feature. This allows two apps to be viewed simultaneously, with the one not in active use becoming translucent, so that each app does not have to be viewed in a reduced space, as on the Note.

The G Pro may have come too late to compete with the last crop of 5.5‚” phones, but it reveals a competitor that intends to be a contendor.

• Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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