The year was 2010. The 00’s had left us in a fascinating place in personalised tech and the mobile phone industry was on fire. That cute little Apple logo was fast establishing a presence in every household in the country and teachers were confiscating iPhones and Androids left, right and center. 2010 was the year I got my first ‘smartphone’. But within my 13 year old self was the powerful spirit of anti-conformity set by generations prior and thus I refused to bow to the mainstream trends. I chose not the brand new and incredibly popular iPhone 4 or the Samsung Galaxy S. No, I had to be different. So for me, it was the LG C300.
And what a phone it was. A full QWERTY keypad (no more mashing the number buttons 20 times to spell a 5-letter word), FM radio, a 2MP camera (no front camera though, which became a real problem during the ‘selfie’ boom in the mid 10’s) and so much more. It even had 2G! Yes, I had plenty of good times with that cell. Sadly, like all things, it eventually grew dated and found itself lampooned with the dreaded ‘brick’ status (the phone equivalent of being called a ‘has been’) as touch screens, front cameras and 3G smartphones took the technology into the new generation. And while LG found itself in the glut of runners vying for third in the smartphone race a long way behind giants Apple and Samsung, the South Korean manufacturer went on to make some of the most fascinating models of the last decade.
After all, despite what the Apple loyalists might have you believe, LG was actually the first brand to release a capacitive touchscreen phone, all the way back in 2007 with its LG Prada which preceded the first iPhone. That kind of daring innovation would become a theme over LG’s next 15 years in the smartphone game, although not always to outstanding results.
For example, take the LG G Flex. Released in 2013 and ambitiously billed as “the most human phone ever”, the phone featured a truly unique ‘flexible’ design, with a natural curve in the body which was said to fit more comfortably on the side of your face when on a handheld call. You could flatten with a bit of force if you wanted, but it was a bit of a terrifying experience as the phone didn’t seem to appreciate it all that much and given that on its release it was retailing at an average price $940USD, not many were too eager to test the limits of LG’s innovative thinking. Was it a home-run? Not really, and many questioned whether the design was even meeting any kind of consumer demand for a phone like this. But it was a big swing, and it was something outside the box that we remember all these years later.
More recently, in 2019 LG went for the knockout again and dropped the LG Wing, a unique take on the recent popular dual screen trend (a trend which LG started with the G8X, the first dual screen Android smartphone on the market). Like, the ‘dual screen’ suggests, the LG Wing is a two-screen experience, but unlike most others in its lane, the first screen rotates 90° to sit horizontally at the top of the second instead of sitting vertical beside it. Why, might you ask? Well, we don’t really know, and many reviews again questioned whether LG’s often bizarre design concepts actually serve a practical demand.
But this is what made LG smartphones such a welcome presence in the market. In an industry full of copycatting and piggy backing off of what the top dogs are doing, LG was never scared to drop something that might raise eyebrows, prompt questions or even make them the butt of a joke. But isn’t that what innovation is about? Being creative, taking risks, trying to do something that no one else is doing. Maybe we’ll back look at LG’s weird and wonderful smartphones the way we look at the films of Stanley Kubrick; at first they were scoffed at and ridiculed because we didn’t really understand what they were going for, but in time we come to appreciate how ahead of their time they truly were. Or maybe not, and we’ll look back and think, ‘what the hell were those guys thinking over there’. Regardless, we will miss LG smartphones. If nothing else, LG were a brand that always played the game with no fear and that’s the kind of thing we should tip our hats to.
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