LG Electronics emphasized a simpler user experience during its unveiling of the new G3 smartphone, and that message could prove to be a lot more than marketing noise.
The four major U.S. carriers -- AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless -- will begin selling the G3 in the summer or later this year. Pricing wasn't announced, but the G3 expected to be competitive with top-of-the-line smartphones like the iPhone 5S or the Samsung Galaxy S5, which U.S. carriers typically offer for $200 with a two-year contract.
While LG's pitch of greater simplicity for users of the G3 might sound like marketing mumbo jumbo, there's something behind that message, according to IDC analyst Ramon Llamas.
"I think the G3 will be simpler compared to those smartphones that came before," Llamas said. "Features have been expanding in so many different ways that it's hard to keep track of them and harder to use them. We've seen a bunch of incremental features, most of which we won't use. Now the pendulum is swinging back, and the vendors are dialing it back."
LG said its focus on simplicity evolved from consumer research. Some of the changes in the product are hardware updates from the previous model, the G2. They include a 13-megapixel rear camera with a laser auto focus that helps users quickly capture the best shot even in low light. It's believed to be the first laser beam used in a smartphone. Image stabilization technology is also upgraded by 20% over the G2 to reduce jitter for better shots the first time.
LG also cut out a step in the photo-taking process to improve ease of use. Instead of having to focus on a subject and then press the shutter button, G3 users can trigger the shutter by tapping on the photo's primary subject in the display. When taking selfies, a user can let the G3 know he's ready to have his picture taken by clenching his hand into a fist; the phone will recognize that action and initiate an automatic three-second countdown to shutter release.
The upgraded user interface seems to incorporate the biggest of LG's simplicity features in three areas: security, the keyboard and what LG calls Smart Notice.
Smart Notice works like a personal assistant but seems to go a step further than those features in other devices by providing recommendations based on a user's behaviors, phone usage and location. It can remind users of calls they declined earlier in case they decide they want to call back. Smart Notice also asks the user if he wants to delete or uninstall unused files or apps. While LG didn't demonstrate Smart Notice's natural language capability during a live webcast event, company officials said the phone can, for example, track weather conditions and remind the user to take an umbrella in the morning if it's going to rain in the evening.
Updates to the G3's virtual keyboard include the ability to track and analyze a user's typing habits to reduce input errors by more than 75%, according to Andrew Coughlin, LG's head of user experience in the U.K. Various changes also reduce hand and eye movements during typing, he said.
LG's security updates include a kill switch that allows the user to disable the G3 remotely in the event of theft, and to wipe content, including video or photos. A content lock feature encrypts data to keep files locked in the phone's internal memory or on a separate microSD card, LG said.