In memoriam: LG’s great smartphone inventions

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Today we got the bad news that LG will exit the mobile business, so we wanted to look back at all the innovations that the company brought over the years as a thank you for all its hard work.

LG didn’t always get the recognition it deserved. For example, the LG KE850 Prada was announced in December of 2006 – it was the first phone with a capacitive touchscreen and an all-touch UI. Of course, in January Apple unveiled its first iPhone, which stole the spotlight from the Prada. Today everyone points to the iPhone as the start of the touchscreen revolution, while LG’s contribution lays 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, which makes for 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 – that was the LG Optimus 2X from 2011.

That same year it put out one of the first phones with a dual camera too, the LG Optimus 3D. The 3D fad died off 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
The camera UI 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 cam (75º FoV) and an 8MP ultrawide-angle camera (with a surprisingly wide 135º FoV). These days even entry-level phones equip an ultrawide lens.

LG G5 review

LG’s adventurous spirit extended beyond the camera too. Let’s back to the Optimus 2X – it deserves a dose of attention as it was the first smartphone with a dual-core processor. It even got into the Guinness book of world records.

The LG Optimus 2X was the first phone with a dual-core processorThe 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 by a month. However, the LG Optimus G (2012) was the first widely-available phone to feature Qualcomm’s then-new Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset. The Optimus G’s sequels branched off 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 the first, but the first to be available globally).

LG inventions

The company was often ahead of its time with its designs as well. The LG BL40 New Chocolate (from 2009) was the first phone to have a screen with an ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio. It was ridiculed at the time for looking line a remote control, but ultra-wide displays 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 display on a phone

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


LG G5's modular components: Cam Plus
LG G5's modular components: Cam Plus
LG G5's modular components: Hi-Fi Plus (by Bang & Olufsen)
LG G5's modular components: Hi-Fi Plus (by Bang & Olufsen)

LG G5’s modular components: Cam Plus • Hi-Fi Plus (by Bang & Olufsen)

The Nexus 4 was based on the Optimus G 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 down payment. Even the unloved Nokia Lumia 920 was $450 SIM-free.

Anyway, the Nexus 4 was also the first Android to support Qi wireless charging, which is again something that is considered standard on a modern smartphone. By the way, the Nexus is the “first Android” with Qi because the Lumia 920 beat it to market by less than two weeks.

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

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


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

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 display and unique LiPo battery, both the first of their kind and developed in-house by LG. The G Flex also featured a unique self-healing coating on the back – scratches would “heal” all by themselves.

Admittedly, the flexing was minimal (it was certainly not a foldable phone), but LG’s innovation in smartphone components have helped other brands build better devices too. For example, LG made the L-shaped battery for the 2018 iPhones and may be developing a foldable display 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 don’t know why LG never managed to capitalize on its innovations, it has created some of the most exciting phones over the years. Clearly, LG never quite figured out the reason either. We will miss the company’s innovative spirit and its out of the box thinking. Now we hope that it will apply those to adventurous designs for the many other kinds of electronic gadgets that it makes.



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