Will leather and a cool camera win the smartphone war for LG?

With its new LG G4, the company is emphasizing high-end camera technology and the elegance of a leather case.

lgg4 with leather case

If you're building an Android phone these days, it can be hard to stand out in a fairly crowded market. It's not impossible -- for example, Motorola made quite a splash in 2013 with its roll-your-own Moto X. Some vendors are trying by offering good phones at lower prices, such as Alcatel's recent offering, the OneTouch Idol 3. And Samsung always manages to get attention because it continually ups the ante (and because it has an excellent marketing machine).

And now, LG has introduced the latest iteration of its flagship phone, the LG G4. The new phone has an improved display, an upgraded processor, and is one of the few high-end phones that still allows you to swap the battery, all of which could be good selling points. But the company is apparently trying to center public attention on two major features: A leather cover and a high-end camera.

The former is, to say the least, a case of style over substance -- there is no reason, short of bragging rights, to favor leather over metal or even a well-manufactured plastic. (And as somebody who has ruined more than one expensive pocketbook, I couldn't help asking how protected the leather was against stains and other mishaps. Nobody at yesterday's product introduction had an answer.)

The camera is, in my opinion, a lot more interesting. It's been a while since manufacturers began realizing that including cameras with phones is more than simply a gimmick -- in fact, the combination has changed society, as citizen journalists record the events around them and make it harder for almost anything out of the ordinary to go unrecorded.

That being said, smartphone vendors are starting to push the technology to try to figure out how to get better cameras -- cameras that are faster, that operate in low-light conditions, that create sharper photos -- within the limits of what they can do inside of a slim, crowded case. Samsung, for example, in its latest Galaxy S6 smartphone, upped the capacity to 16 megapixels and added other improvements. HTC tried dual lenses in its One (M8) camera and then abandoned that for other tweaks in its One M9.

LG has tried to push that envelope with a phone that, according to the company, will suit both day-to-day photographers and professionals. It's included a camera that, according to representatives, has an F1.8 aperture, a color spectrum sensor, more stabilization and better speeds. It also has a manual mode that allows the user to tweak the shutter speed, ISO and white balance settings -- and will save files in RAW format, something that most professional photographers prefer.

If you're curious about what the LG G4 is like to use, JR Raphael has published his first look at the phone.

Meanwhile, the question remains: Will the cool camera and the elegant leather case make the different for the LG G4 -- enough to push it ahead of competitors such as Samsung? As always, it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few months -- and how the public responds.

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