Author(s): Peter Bryer
This week, LG officially unveiled its latest Android flagship smartphone, the V10. The device has a 5.7-inch primary display, a secondary horizontal "ticker" display above the main screen, a 16-megapixel back camera and a five-megapixel dual-lens front camera supporting 80-degree standard-angle selfie photos and 120-degree wide-angle group shots. The V10 runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor. It has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage.
Other features highlighted by LG include the device's removable battery and microSD expansion slot. These are two specifications that have been fading in recent years as other smartphone makers have followed Apple's design lead in sealed devices, much to the dismay of some consumers.
LG has made efforts to include several stand-out features in a market of lookalike Android devices. The new offering matches the size of the 5.7-inch display found on Samsung's Galaxy S6 edge+, confirmation that the industry is trending toward larger screens in flagship products. But it's LG's inclusion of a secondary display that makes the device special — this provides the user with access to alerts and controls like message notifications and music buttons without running the main display, saving battery power and time spent unlocking.
The V10's secondary screen is innovative though reactionary, and will certainly draw comparison to Samsung's edge display devices. It's difficult to judge the true usefulness of LG's ticker display without having extensive hands-on time using the device, but the feature looks promising. It's easy to envision breaking news sliding across the ticker, or other apps using the small display as a complement to the main one. However, LG's small global smartphone share could mean it will face the same challenges in attracting developers that Samsung has had with its edge screen. LG will be likely to kick off interest with its own utilities for the South Korean and US markets.
The handset's other key distinguishing feature, the dual-lens front-facing camera, is a nod to expanding passion for "groufies" (a term first used and trademarked by Huawei) — an evolution of the selfie craze. The wide-angle lens enables more crowd inclusion and is a reasonable addition, but isn't particularly groundbreaking. The Lenovo Vibe S1, for example, has a dual front camera optimized for selfies.
LG has rolled out an impressive device in the V10, with several eye-catching features, but it will be difficult to turn these into solid key selling points. LG doesn't have the marketing clout of Samsung or the mindshare of Apple. The company needs a killer app to turn the second screen into a saleable specification, and a strong distribution partner to explain the phone's advantages.
The smartphone industry has been standardized on full-touch devices, and marginal hardware additions tend to do little to put a device on the map. CCS Insight has highlighted in the past that it's difficult to break away from the current sea of sameness. Like the TV industry, these are primarily screens running someone else's content.