Smartphones

Watch out for LG, the next big player in the Android ecosystem

LG has mostly been know for its feature phones and LCD displays, but the company is making a major push into high end Android devices in 2011.

HTC and Motorola have traditionally been the two big power brokers in the Android ecosystem, dominating most of the device sales. In the second half of 2010, Samsung joined the fray and made an immediate impact with its Galaxy S smartphones and the Galaxy Tab, the first mass market Android tablet (before Google was even ready to do tablets).

Another big player could join the Android inner circle in 2011: LG. To be clear, LG released an Android device in 2010 -- the LG Ally -- but it was a low-budget wonder that was mostly distinguished by its excellent hardware keyboard and modest price tag.

In 2011, LG is moving upstream, going beyond its feature phone roots, and planning a flurry of high-end Android devices. After everything I saw and tried out at CTIA Wireless 2011, I now consider three LG products among the most anticipated mobile devices coming in 2011:

  1. LG Revolution, a Verizon 4G LTE smartphone
  2. T-Mobile G-Slate, a 10-inch tablet running stock Honeycomb
  3. T-Mobile G2x, an HSPA+ smartphone running stock Android

While LG has its own Android skin called the Optimus UI -- which is about as lackluster as Motorola MotoBlur and Samsung TouchWiz -- I applaud the company for not putting it on the G-Slate and G2x and just running the stock Android OS on those two devices. On the LG Revolution -- which is a very nice piece of hardware -- the best thing I can say about the Optimus UI is that it looks like it doesn't get in the way too badly (I'll have to confirm that when I actually review it).

None of these three devices have an official launch date, but are scheduled to be released this summer. The G-Slate, which will cost $529 with a $100 mail-in rebate and a two-year contract (for the 32GB version running on T-Mobile's HSPA+ network) might succeed where the Motorola Xoom has failed simply because of better timing. The G-Slate's later launch date will allow time for Google to finish refining Honeycomb and for developers to optimize their apps for tablets. The G-Slate will have to compete with the new Samsung tablets announced this week, but the design of the G-Slate definitely feels more high-end than the plasticy Samsung models.

Another thing I like about these three LG devices is that they all have excellent displays. Since LCDs are LG's primary business, it has a lot of expertise here and the result is that its devices have displays that are among the brightest, crispest, and most colorful that you'll find in any Android smartphones and tablets. Even the pre-production model of the G-Slate that I tested at CTIA had a noticeably more vibrant screen than the Motorola Xoom, which I reviewed recently. The displays on the G2x and LG Revolution are on par with the best screens I've seen on any smartphones.

LG has another Android smartphone called the Optimus 3D, which I tried out at CTIA. It uses a glasses-less 3D technology that is really gimmicky, adds little to the product, and is ultimately a waste of resources. LG has also integrated some 3D features into the G-Slate. In both cases, these devices can capture 3D video and play it back (and upload it to the upcoming YouTube 3D channel). In both cases, the experience isn't great and -- like other consumer electronics vendors -- LG would be better off dumping the 3D gimmick altogether.

Still, notwithstanding the 3D detour, LG is going to be an Android player to watch in 2011.

LG shows off its LG Revolution smartphone using the Microsoft Surface at CTIA Wireless 2011. Photo credit: Jason Hiner

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

6 comments
jayohem
jayohem

For the price of a one year Tracfone subscription HSN sold as a special of the day a little LG800 with a year's subscription to Tracfone including triple minutes for the lifetime of the phone. That beats the $49.00 price on the Tracfone site once you factor in the year's worth of time and a permanent triple the minutes of use. (What you buy to replace the year's use will reult in three times the minutes though only good for the length of time you bought.) It's a little cheesy, but certainly worth the investment. Probably good for a starter smart-type phone, though it isn't a smart phone. Worst case scenario: you've got a calendar, watch, calculator, memo pad, camera, and phone with service for a year. PS BTN == Better Than Nothin' :-)

allie0
allie0

I totally agree with you. The list of LG Android mobile phones is growing rapidly. It think very soon they are going to emerge as a leading brand for Android OS. Thanks for sharing it. Regards, Allie from Android Development.

pmhaas
pmhaas

Based on how well they make feature phones, they won't be worth spit in android devices. They will probably look pretty but fall short on function.

CptMatt
CptMatt

......in tablets when they do stupid things like put on a useless 3D video system but leave off a a very useful SD slot on the G-Slate.

BlazNT2
BlazNT2

The more the merrier. Competition will be great. One more thing to add, let???s look at the ViewSonic line. They have Tablets based on Droid too.