In memoriam: LG’s great smartphone inventions

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Today we got the bad news that LG will be leaving the mobile industry so we would look back on all the innovations that the company brought over the years as a thank you for all the hard work.

LG did not always get the recognition it deserved. For example, the LG KE850 Prada was announced in December 2006 – it was the first phone with a capacitive touch screen and an all-touch UI. Of course, in January, Apple unveiled its first iPhone, which stole the spotlight from Prada. Today, everyone points to the iPhone as the start of the touchscreen revolution, while LG’s contribution is largely forgotten.


A stylish monochrome interface
A stylish monochrome interface

The LG KE850 Prada had a stylish monochrome interface

In mid-2007, the company unveiled the LG KU990 Viewty, the very first smartphone to record slow motion video. It could capture 320p clips at 120fps, giving a 4x slowdown (below you can see a clip we shot over a decade ago). LG’s innovations often focused on the camera. It introduced the first phone that could record FullHD video, aka 1080p – it was the 2011 LG Optimus 2X.

That same year, it also released one of the first dual-camera phones, the LG Optimus 3D. 3D mode died down pretty quickly and makers went back to single camera setups.

The LG Optimus 3D was one of the first phones with a dual camera
The LG Optimus 3D was one of the first phones with a dual camera
Camera interface in 3D mode

The LG Optimus 3D was one of the first phones with a dual camera

This changed in 2016 when the LG G5 was introduced – it had the first useful dual camera with a 16MP main camera (75º FoV) and an 8MP ultra-wide angle camera (with a surprisingly wide 135º FoV). These days, even entry-level phones feature an ultra-wide lens.

LG G5 review

LG’s adventurousness stretched beyond the camera. Let’s return to the Optimus 2X – it deserves a dose of attention as it was the first smartphone with a dual-core processor. It even entered the Guinness Book of World Records.

The LG Optimus 2X was the first phone with a dual-core processor
The LG Optimus 2X was the first phone with a dual-core processor

The LG Optimus 4X HD missed out on being the first quad-core phone in a month. However, the LG Optimus G (2012) was the first widely available phone to feature Qualcomm’s then new Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset. Optimus G’s successors branched out to become LG’s new flagship line, which includes the G5 mentioned above as well as the LG G3 – one of the first with a 1440p display (not that first, but the first to be available globally).

LG inventions

The company was often also ahead of its time with its designs. The LG BL40 New Chocolate (from 2009) was the first phone to have an ultra-wide 21: 9 aspect ratio screen. It was ridiculed at the time to look at a remote control, but ultra-wide screens are the norm now.

LG BL40 New chocolate chocolate
LG BL40 New chocolate chocolate
LG BL40 New chocolate chocolate
LG BL40 New chocolate chocolate

The LG BL40 New Chocolate had the first 21: 9 screen on a phone

The LG G5 may have been the first modular Android phone – a rare example after Google’s Project Ara turned out to be vaporware. The Magic Slot system was poorly implemented (see our review of the add-ons for more), but at least LG was not afraid to try something new.

LG G5 Modular Components: Cam Plus
LG G5 Modular Components: Cam Plus
LG G5 Modular Components: Hi-Fi Plus (by Bang & Olufsen)
LG G5 Modular Components: Hi-Fi Plus (by Bang & Olufsen)

LG G5 Modular Components: Cam Plus • Hi-Fi Plus (by Bang & Olufsen)

The Nexus 4 was based on the Optimus G, which we mentioned earlier. In many ways, it was the first flagship killer – when it came out in late 2012, it cost only $ 300 / € 300, but had the flagship Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset. Keep in mind that an Oppo Find 5 with the same chip was $ 500 at the time. You could also have the S4 Pro in AT & T’s version of the Galaxy S III, but that was $ 200 just for the payout. Even the unloved Nokia Lumia 920 was $ 450 SIM free.

In any case, the Nexus 4 was also the first Android to support Qi wireless charging, which in turn is something that is considered standard on a modern smartphone. By the way, the Nexus is the “first Android” with Qi because the Lumia 920 hit the market in less than two weeks.

The LG-made Nexus 4 was the first Android to support Qi wireless charging
The LG-made Nexus 4 was the first Android to support Qi wireless charging

LG also made inroads with audiophiles, many of which loved the Quad DAC, which made its debut with the LG V20. The company’s close ties with Google also paid off, the V20 being the first phone to come out with Android 7.0 Nougat. And who can forget the oddball line display above the main display – it was not a notch as such, but an unusual design in the same way (it was introduced with the V10 the year before). LG also claims that the V20 was the first phone to take advantage of Qualcomm’s digital video stabilization, which improved the optical image stabilization of hardware.

The LG V20 featured high quality sound quality thanks to the Quad DAC
Secondary line view

The LG V20 featured high-quality audio output thanks to the Quad DAC • The secondary line display

The LG G Flex was the first flexible phone in the world thanks to the P-OLED screen and the unique LiPo battery, both the first of their kind and developed internally by LG. G Flex also contained a unique self-healing coating on the back – scratches would “cure” all by themselves.

Admittedly, the bending was minimal (it was certainly not a collapsible phone), but LG’s innovation in smartphone components has also helped other brands build better devices. For example, LG made the L-shaped battery for 2018 iPhones and is possibly developing a foldable screen for Apple.

The LG G Flex was the first flexible phone
The LG G Flex was the first flexible phone
The fun design of the LG G Flex retail box
The LG G Flex was the first flexible phone

The LG G Flex was the first flexible phone

We do not know why LG never managed to take advantage of its innovations, it has created some of the most exciting phones over the years. Clearly, LG has not quite figured out the cause either. We will miss the company’s innovative spirit and thinking outside the box. Now we hope it will apply them to adventurous designs for the many other kinds of electronic gadgets it manufactures.

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