Google Is the New Smartphone King, Despite What Apple Might Think

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- It has to hurt being Apple (AAPL). 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) 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.

When you hold a critical tool such as a smartphone, it needs to feel stable. It must be steady. You can't be nervous holding it as you dash down the street, being worried as if you really need to go to the bathroom and you aren't sure where the next one is.

It's just like a hammer. When you buy a hammer, what is your first and substantially the only consideration? You need a rubbery grip that ensures the hammer doesnt slip out of your grip. Same thing with a smartphone. Just as I don't care what my hammer looks like, I don't care what my smartphone looks like either. It just needs to have a grippy rubbery feeling around the back and sides so I'm not losing it.

The LG G3, unfortunately, has a somewhat slippery backside and has a very slippery metal-looking ring around it. This is the single biggest hardware drawback of this phone and it's a big one.

LG has another smartphone in the stable that doesn't suffer from feeling like a moderately used bar of soap in the hand. It's called the Nexus 5 and it's sold directly from Google for $349 and up depending on storage size. Its the smartphone I recommend to most people.

In contrast, the LG Nexus 5 has a matte black rubbery-ish finish that makes it feel relatively secure in the hand. Not 100% optimal, but closer to the ideal than this new LG G3 for sure.

The other standout hardware feature is the new autofocus for the camera, which promises to do the fastest autofocus of any smartphone to date. I'm no camera buff but it's the thing that annoys me the most about essentially every smartphone I have tested: not focusing quickly enough, or eventually not accurately enough.

On the software side, LG employs a skin over "plain" Andorid that used to be among the industry's very worst. In this new implementation, it looks a lot more sane and mature. So far, so good, but one wonders why bother with a skin at all?

Once you have become used to plain Android (Nexus) and the de facto identical "Google Play Edition" versions of various Android devices -- including LG's own 8.3-inch tablet -- you really don't want to mess with anything else in terms of Android software.

If the previous year and the overall structure in the Android smartphone market is any guide, we will see a Google Play Edition of this LG G3 smartphone as well as a Nexus version by the Fall. My recommendation is to skip these operator-specific versions of the LG G3 in July and go for one of those two versions later in the season.

Assuming that at least one of those two will be had in rubbery black material at least as good as the current LG Nexus 5, such a version will clearly be the Android smartphone to buy.

In the meantime, the LG G3 shows that Android is boss -- by a wide margin -- in the smartphone hardware spec race. The ball is in your court, Apple.

At the time of publication the author was long GOOGL and AAPL.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

>>Read more: Tim Cook Just Took Apple Away From Steve Jobs

More from Technology

Why the Blockchain Revolution Is on Hold Until There Is Better Data

Why the Blockchain Revolution Is on Hold Until There Is Better Data

Microsoft Shares Up Slightly After-Hours on Earnings Beat

Microsoft Shares Up Slightly After-Hours on Earnings Beat

Bitcoin Today: Price Rally Loses Momentum as Bid to $10,000 Falters

Bitcoin Today: Price Rally Loses Momentum as Bid to $10,000 Falters

Alphabet's Most Important Foundation for Autonomous Driving Success

Alphabet's Most Important Foundation for Autonomous Driving Success

3 Hot Reads From TheStreet's Top Premium Columnists

3 Hot Reads From TheStreet's Top Premium Columnists