LG and AT&T are about to further test the waters to see if consumer tastes are gravitating toward bigger smartphones that meet tablets halfway. Samsung's Galaxy Note 2 is already available with a 5.5-inch screen, and now it has a rival in LG's Optimus G Pro, with the same display size.
The Optimus G Pro hits store shelves on Friday, May 10, via the second-largest U.S. carrier at $199, with a two-year voice and data contract. The Pro was first unveiled at Mobile World Congress and launched at an event Wednesday in New York. Pre-orders begin Friday.
Apple upped the size of its latest iPhone to 4 inches last year, but many devices are already pushing the envelope past 5 inches. Samsung's new Galaxy S 4 is at 5 and a future Note with a screen just under 6 inches has been rumored. Huawei's Ascend Mate already has a 6.1-inch screen.
"Seems like there is a sizable population of consumers who want these large displays -- less talk, more browsing," said wireless analyst Ken Dulaney of Gartner Research.
"With innovations like cargo pants the size is no longer a problem. Women can easily fit them in their handbags."
The Optimus G Pro accesses AT&T's 4G, long-term evolution high-speed data network and runs Google's latest Android operating system. 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean). It packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 1.7-GHz quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM. The touchscreen is 1080p high definition IPS with a resolution of 400 pixels per inch.
But not only the screen size is well-endowed: The rear camera features a generous 13-megapixel high-definition shot, more than the iPhone's 8 megapixels and the same as Samsung's flagship Galaxy S 4. The Pro's camera features dual recording for simultaneous stills and video, with a 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera for video conferencing.
The Pro ships with 32 GB of on-board storage, with support for up to 64 GB of expandable memory.
"The LG Optimus G Pro gives AT&T customers the ability to create and share rich content easily," said Jeff Bradley, senior vice president for devices at AT&T, in announcing the phone.
The Optimus G Pro has some tablet-like applications similar to Samsung's Premium Suite for the Galaxy Note. VuTalk allows users to draw and share notes in real time (based on LTE availability) between compatible devices. QSlide 2.0 lets you overlay up to two application windows on an existing open application for multitasking. QuickMemo allows screenshots and personalized notes, drawings and messages to be shared via social media, text or e-mail.
In February, LG came in last among top OEMs in U.S. market share as estimated by comScore, with 6.8 percent, down from 7 percent in November. But there is hope, Dulaney. said
"LG has the technology to compete, so they will keep trying," the analyst said. "With so many devices seemingly similar, it will be up to the marketing folks at LG to make [the Optimus G Pro] a success."