LG Targets Niche Users in Its High-End Smartphone Line-Up

Two LG representatives — seemingly lifted from the set of Toddlers Tiaras — demo the LG Optimus 4X HD. Photo: LG

LG’s Mobile World Congress strategy is clear: Announce smartphones that target upper-echelon enthusiasts, promising them features that speak to even the most obscure consumer use cases. The new phones, officially unveiled in Barcelona Sunday, are aimed at extreme performance snobs, people who prefer “phablets” over traditional handsets, and the infinitesimally small subset of users who demand 3D support in mobile devices.

To wit:

Optimus 4X HD

The Optimus 4X HD leads LG’s onslaught, and is the most compelling smartphone of the bunch. Not only does the phone include Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 chip, but the chip is running at a screaming 1.5GHz — slightly faster than the 1.4GHz implementation in Asus’ Transformer Prime tablet.

The Optimus 4X HD runs Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), and boasts a 4.7-inch, 1280×720 IPS display inside its 8.9mm case. There are 8MP and 1.3MP cameras front and back, and RAM and internal storage clock in at 1GB and 16GB, respectively. LG hasn’t announced US carrier support or a release date, and it’s unclear whether the 4X HD supports LTE.

Nonetheless, with a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and Ice Cream Sandwich built right in, the 4X HD sends clear messaging to Android power users: “I’m a chart-topper. I’m packed with power. I will immediately impress other nerds when you display me in public at the comic book store.”

We, too, are suckers for Ice Cream Sandwich at Gadget Lab, and this is the LG phone we’re currently coveting the most.

Optimus Vu

OK, this one is a real odd duck. Hot on the heals of Samsung’s inscrutable Galaxy Note, LG has announced its own phone-tablet hybrid device. But where the Samsung boasts a 5.3-inch screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, the Optimus Vu steps forward with a 5-inch screen running at 1024×768 for a 4:3 aspect ratio. This is a conspicuously wide smartphone that shouldn’t hide very well in any man’s front pocket.

Nonetheless, the Vu is quite thin at 8.5mm, and is armed with a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 8MP and 1.3MP cameras, LTE support, and a stylus marketed as a “Rubberdium” pen.

For folks who insist stylus-based data entry is still relevant in 2012, it’s all an intriguing package. Indeed, the Vu promotes doodle scribbling and free-hand note-taking at will. But there’s still one serious drawback: The Vu will launch with Android 2.3. The Galaxy Note is also hobbled by Android 2.3, and in our book, both phablets are non-starters unless one absolutely needs a phone-tablet hybrid.

The LG Optimus Vu. Photo: LG.

Optimus 3D MAX

LG’s third highly targeted smartphone is aimed at people who haven’t yet become annoyed by poorly implemented 3D content. The Optimus 3D MAX includes a 4.3-inch, 800×480 display that lets you see a semblance of a stereoscopic 3D effect without the need for bulky glasses. Dual 5MP camera sensors let you record content in 3D, justifying (to some degree) the phone’s raison d’etre.

But aside from the promise of 3D magic, the 3D MAX is a mixed bag in terms of specs. It’s got a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 8GB of storage, and NFC support. It will ship with Android 2.3, but LG says Ice Cream Sandwich support is planned.

In total, nothing about this phone screams “gotta have it!” and, in fact, we’ve never seen a glasses-free 3D handheld that’s impressed us. LG is offering an eclectic mix of features in its Mobile World Congress line-up, but only the Optimus 4X HD really sings to use.

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