LG (NASDAQOTH: LGEAF) will hold a special media event on Oct. 1. If recent reports are any indication, the Korean tech giant will use the spotlight to unveil its latest flagship smartphone. LG has seen the popularity of its smartphones surge in recent quarters, and its growing market share poses a challenge to other vendors, including Apple (AAPL 0.32%) and Samsung (NASDAQOTH: SSNLF).
A smartphone with a second display?
According to prolific leaker Evan Blass, LG plans to launch a new smartphone in October. The phone will be around the same size and sport hardware similar to that of its existing flagship, the G4, but LG will distinguish this new phone by including a secondary display.
If so, it won't be the first smartphone to include such a feature. Samsung released the Continuum in 2010. A modified version of its original Galaxy S, it included a secondary display along the bottom of the screen. Like the tickers perpetually running across cable news channels, the Continuum's second display gave the phone's owner a quick way to take in information at a glance -- real-time news, social media updates, and notifications. It may sound somewhat gimmicky, but at the time, it was well-received. When it reviewed the phone, CNet praised the dedicated ticker feed, highlighting it as one of the phone's single best features.
Ticker displays, however, never caught on. Samsung ditched the feature, and its rivals never bothered to copy it. Admittedly, Samsung's modern Galaxy Edge smartphones do offer something somewhat similar -- the curved edges on the Galaxy S6 Edge and S6 Edge+ can show notifications without activating the rest of the display -- but the implementation is different, and it hasn't been nearly as well-regarded. Reviewing the Galaxy S6 Edge, techradar wrote that it was difficult to access (it requires an odd swiping motion), and the information it offered was limited.
If LG does launch a phone with a secondary display, it may not use it in the same fashion. The invitation to LG's upcoming event includes a prominent image of a clapperboard, the black, handheld chalkboard used in film-making to designate particular scenes and takes. With such an obvious allusion to the film industry, could LG's new phone center around media consumption?
LG's rising popularity
LG is the third-largest smartphone vendor in the U.S., behind only Apple and Samsung. Last month, Kantar Worldpanel reported that LG's share of the U.S. smartphone market nearly doubled in the second quarter on an annual basis, and that it captured more first-time smartphone buyers than Samsung. Its flagship G4, which made its debut in June, may have been the driving factor.
With the decline of HTC, LG has become Samsung's biggest North American Android rival. Among Android phones, LG's G4 is perhaps the most compelling alternative to Samsung's Galaxy Note 5, with a large display and a speedy processor. Notably, it offers both a removable battery and expandable storage -- two longtime Galaxy Note features Samsung cut this year.
It also provides some competition to Apple's larger iPhones, though likely to a lesser extent. Apple's iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus are around the same size as LG's G4, but run an entirely different operating system. Consumers who prefer iOS have no choice but to go with Apple's iPhones. Still, in terms of offering a large, high-end handset, LG is Apple's second-largest rival.
Investors in the sector should follow LG's event closely, and keep a close eye on what it announces. While it may prove to be another gimmick, LG may just introduce the next revolutionary smartphone feature.