NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It has to hurt being Apple (AAPL - Get Report). The Android smartphone makers are leapfrogging in the hardware race many times over and over until Apple eventually responds, years later.
This time it's the LG G3, which is launching in Korea now and will be on U.S. store shelves in July. It is the new undisputed smartphone hardware specifications king.
It was only in the Fall of 2011 that 720x1280 resolution (so-called "HD") hit the smartphone scene, with the Samsung (SSNLF) Galaxy Nexus being the poster child. Then, it was only little over a year ago when 1080x1920 resolution (so-called "full HD") hit, with Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One being two of the most prominent early best-sellers.
One would have thought that cramming a 1080x1920 resolution into a five-inch display would have been the new plateau, just as it was for TVs. As you know, TVs have basically been at 1080x1920 resolution for close to a decade now.Apple keeps calling its tiny four-inch screen "retina" with the almost Soviet-style resolution of 640x1136. They might as well show up at the party with a 1980s Motorola brick. Samsung and others have spent much of the last two years running circles around Apple, inventing the so-called "Phablet" segment, with smartphones mostly in the 5.5- to 6.5-inch size range. Together with bargain-basement prices for low-end small smartphones, this helped Android reach a 80% worldwide smartphone unit market share, with Apple stuck at 15% and Microsoft (MSFT) and BlackBerry (BBRY) with a combined 5%. So far, so good, for Google (GOOGL - Get Report) and Android. Victory was already achieved. But now comes LG and upsets the Apple cart even more. People continue to buy TVs up to 80 inches with 1080x1920 resolution, but the new LG G3 flagship smartphone crams a 1440x2560 display into 5.5 inches. There is just nothing like it. The iPhone's 640x1136 resolution in a tiny four-inch frame simply doesn't reside inside the same competitive solar universe anymore. Normally, a 5.5-inch phone, regardless of resolution, would mean it is impossible to hold comfortably with one hand. This LG has managed to make the bezels so thin that at least if you have large hands you can operate it acceptably. The reason LG was able to make the bezels this thin is that all buttons reside on the back side, where your index finger normally rests anyway. No need to move your hand around to hit volume or wake-up buttons.
LG introduced this concept of backside-buttons already on the G2 last September but they have now been refined. I find that it works very well. Unfortunately, the LG G3 has a critical flaw that makes it difficult to recommend in my view. In a word, it's slippery. Literally.