LG Optimus G

LG: LG’s best, codenamed G and the first quad core LTE smartphone powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 CPU, is rumored to sport a 4.7-inch True HD IPS+ LCD. Naturally LG Electronic’s sister company LG Display (LGD) developed the LCD, which sports a 1280×768 pixel format, a 15:9 aspect ratio, and RGB sub-pixels. The 317.6-ppi LCD has a white brightness of 470 nits and uses 70% less power than previous LCDs.

The touch screen called G2 Touch Hybrid Display, developed by LG Innotek, sports a laminated touch screen, eliminates the gap between the touch panel and the LCD panel, and results in a 30% reduction of thickness.

Wish list: stock Android 4.1, optically laminated cover glass, 3D symmetric design, less plastic more metals, absolutely no logos on the front.

Update 2012.08.27: LG (Korean): LG’s new flagship smartphone is called Optimus G and will be available in South Korea next month on SK, KT, and U+. Japan’s NTT Docomo is expected to carry the Optimus G in October or November. In addition to the impressive 4.7-inch IPS+ LCD the 8.45-mm smartphone will sport a 13 megapixel camera.

Although LG didn’t come through with everything I wished for, the overall design of the Optimus G looks quite nice. The front, with the exception of the earphone slit on top, is completely flat and devoid of any buttons suggesting it will sport capacitive touch buttons. I’m not completely fond of capacitive touch buttons, but I do like the simply flat front. If only the LG logo on the front wasn’t there. The shape seems to be symmetrically rectangular, which I like much more than the curvy Samsung Galaxy S III. Let’s hope LG made copious use of metallic materials and left the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich bone stock. Looks like a winner to me.

Update 2012.08.28: Jeff Blagdon at The Verge took the Optimus G for a spin at NTT Docomo’s launch event in Tokyo, Japan. He was impressed:

[…] the 4.7-inch 1280 x 768 LCD is impressively bright and crisp — without a doubt one of the best displays we’ve seen on any device.

He’s not thrilled with the boxy construction or the large top and bottom bezels, but I am particularly happy about it. Boxy means straight symmetric lines, which I prefer to nebulous. The top and bottom bezels (looks like they are the same width—bravo!), probably at around thumb width, are necessary for a comfortable hold in landscape orientation.

Three things. One, LG need not have wasted time on its Optimus UI 3.0 skin. Let Google do fuss over it or work with Google to make the stock Android UI better. Two, taking a close look at the photo gallery (granted it’s the Dokomo version) LG seems to have made liberal use of plastic. Yuck. Three, the off-centered camera (I don’t like the off centeredness of the camera on the iPhone either) on the back looks overblown with the chromed plastic bezel.

Update 2012.10.15: Dieter Bohn, The Verge:

Branding aside, the display is simply great. Unlike the Galaxy S III or RAZR HD, colors aren’t overblown and blues are given equal treatment to warmer tones. At nearly 318 PPI and with a standard RGB subpixel layout, text is crisp and beautiful. LG also has managed to get its brightness in a good range: with automatic, you set a “base” with the brightness slider or you can adjust manually. Viewing angles are excellent, matching the iPhone 5 and coming within spitting distance of the HTC One X — although even now I still have to give the One X the edge as the best display on a smartphone.

I understand why AT&T and Sprint want customized versions (software and hardware), but I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. The AT&T version has an 8MP camera off to the side while the Sprint version has a 13MP one in the center. There are other differences, but here’s the point: The LG Optimus G should be the same thing whether it’s on AT&T or Sprint. Even when it was a nobody developing the original iPhone Apple had enough balls to say no. No to custom hardware. No to proprietary carrier software. And no to ugly carrier logos. HTC, LG, Samsung, and every smartphone manufacturer should grow some.

When I saw the photo at the top of this post I thought, “Wow, LG is finally getting design.” The photo sported a minimalist, symmetrical design I thought was quite beautiful. Well, the photos taken by The Verge show a different smartphone, one that looks cheap.

Update 2012.11.05: Hmm. Maybe the photos taken by The Verge didn’t give the LG Optimus G enough justice. The photos by Ars Technica tells a different story. (Tip: Clean the display before taking a photo.)

Florence Ion:

This phone is, simply put, gorgeous. It has a 4.7-inch True HD IPS Plus display covered by a sheet of Gorilla Glass 2. The screen is framed by a barely-there black bezel, with textured bottom and top panels and rounded corners sealing it all together. The whole package looks sleek, industrial, and business-like.

Japan Display Inc. 2.3-inch 1280×800 LCD

Japan Display Inc.: This is older news, but JDI’s 1280×800 2.3-inch LCD sports an unheard of resolution of 651 ppi and a microscopic pixel pitch of just 39μm. JDI states 16.7 million colors are supported, but I am uncertain if that’s true 8 bit or 6 bit +FRC. There is a closeup comparison of the 651-ppi to a 326-ppi (that should sound familiar as it is the same as what’s found in the iPhone 4/4S retina display) and it is quite clear we need higher ppi.

ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A

Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica:

The 1920×1080 matte IPS display is undoubtedly the Prime’s strongest point, and it’s an oasis in a desert of 1366×768 garbage dumped on the market by every PC maker in existence—other Zenbook Prime models with 1366×768 and 1600×900 panels exist, but if you stick to the UX31A series (and not the UX31E or UX32VD) you can safely avoid both the inferior display […]

Great, but not perfect:

[…] our review unit had noticeably uneven lighting around the edge of the panel, especially at the bottom. This is really only noticeable when the panel is black or dark, but it’s significant enough (and the screen is otherwise excellent enough) that it bears mentioning.

LEDs emit a cone of light and if not properly diffused will result in uneven light pockets. This is easier said than done; I recently received an iPhone 4S from a friend and even it has some uneven light pockets, especially when the LCD is white, on the top edge of an otherwise perfect display.

The ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A is not perfect, but better than the MacBook Air:

[…] the screen is one of the all-too-rare instances where one of the PC OEMs beat Apple at its own game.

The 13.3-inch MacBook Air sports a 1440×900 pixel format good for a resolution of 128 ppi. That’s not terrible, but clearly not the best.

Update 2012.08.28: Jarred Walton at AnandTech analyzed the display and result is the UX31A kicks butt.

  • Contrast Ratio: 1085:1
  • Brightness (white): 401 nits
  • Brightness (black): 0.37 nits
  • Delta E: 1.94
  • Color Gamut: 80% AdobeRGB 1998

Let’s put these numbers into context. That 1085:1 contrast ratio. I’ve never heard of a notebook PC scientifically measured to have a contrast ratio above 1000:1. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) A high contrast ratio doesn’t necessarily mean contrasty because it’s easier to jack up white brightness levels than to reduce black brightness levels. A display with really bright whites and washed out blacks might end up having a higher contrast ratio than a display with considerably less bright whites but deep dark blacks. The UX31A is, fortunately, in the later camp. Combined with a matte surface the white brightness of 401 nits makes it usable in direct sunlight. The UX31A black level is 0.37 nits, falling only and just behind the HP Envy 14 Spectre. The result is a contrasty display that’s bright enough outdoors with deep blacks in dark environments.

A word about the 80% AdobeRGB 1998 color gamut:

That gamut actually isn’t quite right, though—the gamut is wider than AdobeRGB in some areas but less in others, so if you’re working within the AdobeRGB color space it’s more like 67%. If you’re serious enough about color accuracy that you have the necessary hardware and software for calibrating your laptop, you may not be completely satisfied with the UX31A’s display, but you’ll really have to spend a lot of money to find a better laptop LCD (e.g. the $500+ LCD upgrades found on high-end mobile workstations).

The color gamut is not quite good enough for color professionals, but one of the best for the rest of us.

Jony Ive’s Design Philosophy

Jony Ive:

Why do we assume that simple is good? Because with physical products, we have to feel we can dominate them. As you bring order to complexity, you find a way to make the product defer to you. Simplicity isn’t just a visual style. It’s not just minimalism or the absence of clutter. It involves digging through the depth of the complexity. To be truly simple, you have to go really deep. For example, to have no screws on something, you can end up having a product that is so convoluted and so complex. The better way is to go deeper with the simplicity, to understand everything about it and how it’s manufactured. You have to deeply understand the essence of a product in order to be able to get rid of the parts that are not essential.

Simple is good.

Success: A Catalyst for Failure

Greg McKeown, Harvard Business Review:

Why don’t successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call “the clarity paradox,” which can be summed up in four predictable phases:

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure.

I guess the trick is to perpetually stay at Phase 1.

Apple to Samsung: Stealing Isn’t Right

The New York Times: Katie Cotton, Apple spokesperson, responding to the jury’s decision to award Apple over US$1 billion in damages for patent infringement by Samsung:

We are grateful to the jury for their service and for investing the time to listen to our story and we were thrilled to be able to finally tell it. The mountain of evidence presented during the trail showed that Samsung’s copying went far deeper than even we knew. The lawsuits between Apple and Samsung were about much more than patents or money. They were about values. At Apple, we value originality and innovation and pour our lives into making the best products on earth. We make these products to delight our customers, not for our competitors to flagrantly copy. We applaud the court for finding Samsung’s behavior willful and for sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn’t right.

Copy, but innovate, and make it yours. Samsung failed to do the more important last two parts.

Update 2012.08.25: Marco Arment:

What’s really going to disrupt the iPhone is going to be something completely different, not something that tries so hard to clone the iPhone that it hits Apple’s patents.

Unoriginal manufacturers will need to pay for their unoriginality. The most reasonable course of action, therefore, is to truly innovate and design products that aren’t such close copies.