LG’s new flagship smartphone is the first to feature laser-assisted autofocus to help take sharp photos. The South Korean firm announced the feature at the global launch event for the G3 handset, held in London. The technology is designed to let the Android-powered device’s camera focus in dim light conditions and quickly lock onto moving targets.
Experts praised the innovation, but suggested its effect on the firm’s global sales ranking would be limited. “Handsets are becoming harder to identify just from the way they look,” stated Jasdeep Badyal from the telecoms consultancy CCS Insight. “A device needs to have some standout features so that when a consumer goes into a store the retailer can explain what makes it different from other smartphones.”
“But it will still be making a difficult battle for LG, particularly because of the bigger marketing budgets that Samsung, Apple and Sony have.” LG nearly doubled its handset sales to consumers from 2.6 million smartphones in 2012 to 4.6 million in 2013, according to tech research firm Gartner. However, over the same period the South Korean’s smartphone market share only rose from 3.8% to 4.8% with it remaining in fourth place behind Samsung, Apple and Huawei.
The G3 features a 5.5 inch (14cm) screen with 538 pixels per inch making it bigger and higher resolution that both is predecessor, the G2 and Samsung’s S5. LG compared the “quad HD” branded screen as offering a similar level of detail to a high quality art book and added that it had taken steps to limit the extra toll this upgrade would take on battery life.
However the device’s main 13 megapixel rear camera has a lower resolution than Samsung’s. But the camera is enhanced by the Laser Auto Focus function, which LG said allowed it to focus in 0.276 of a second – faster, it said, than a human’s brain signals take to reach the hand.
It works by sending out a low-powered laser beam that allows the device to measure its distance from the photo’s subject more accurately than “phase detection” – the analysis of contrast and the focus-assist lamps used by some other devices.
“I remember Sony’s early attempts at laser-guided autofocus, over a decade ago, said Jon Devo, technical writer Amateur Photographer magazine. “It was also referred to as ‘Hologram AF’ and worked similarly to how an auto focus-assist beam on modern digital cameras works.”
“One of the advantages of having an assist beam or laser is that it can help focus in extremely low light and even in total darkness, although the method was typically slow. If the LG G3 can do that effectively and at speed, it could be a game-changing feature in mobile phone photography.”
Other innovations announced by LG included the ability to trigger a photograph by making a hand gesture at the phone, which triggers a short countdown before the shot is taken. The firm suggested that this made the device ideal for “selfies”.
However, it will face competition for Huawei for this accolade. The Chinese firm unveiled its P7 handset last month, which features an 8MP front camera – significantly more than the 2.1MP in LG’s machine.