Over the last twenty years, there have only been a handful of truly game-changing smartphone innovations.
The introduction of a camera on Sharp’s J-SH04 in 2000 formed the genesis of today’s selfie generation. Without camera phones, Instagram and Snapchat wouldn’t exist.
Apple’s decision to launch an app store for its 2007 iPhone represented another game-changer.
And Android’s introduction of voice control in 2009 paved the way for smart speakers and virtual assistants to fill our homes.
The last decade was a period of consolidation rather than revolution. Cameras improved and storage increased, screens expanded and bezels shrank, but there was little real innovation.
However, 2020 might go down in history as the year when another new concept emerged – the twin-screen phone.
The LG Wing has already been previewed on The Gadget Show, and excitedly discussed on technology websites.
It’s a folding phone, but not one that expands outwards like a Samsung Galaxy Fold into a larger single screen.
Instead, its top section rotates 90 degrees, creating a device which resembles a miniature Angel of the North.
The main screen becomes a 6.8-inch OLED landscape display, revealing a 3.9-inch bottom screen which is nearly square.
For brief interactions, you can use the LG Wing in folded mode, though this 1.1cm 260-gram handset suddenly feels clunky and heavy.
In what LG refers to as its ‘swivel mode’, the Wing looks spectacular – even more so when a pop-up camera emerges from the top to support two camera views simultaneously.
The bigger screen is also mounted on a gimbal, supporting smoother video clips and panning shots than any other smartphone could deliver.
Other specs include Android 10, 8GB of RAM and 5G. There are also all the features you’d expect on a $1,000 smartphone, such as fingerprint recognition and wireless charging.
At a T-junction
When it’s in swivel mode, this dual-screen setup offers boundless potential.
You could have a YouTube video playing on one screen while you comment on it via the other.
You could be playing a game with a map on the small screen as in-game footage dominates the landscape screen.
Typing no longer consumes a significant percentage of on-screen real estate, which could improve social media apps – if they’re redeveloped to support this new technology.
LG is also exploring other uses for a compact second screen, such as video playback controls, though few apps currently support this radical hardware.
Perhaps most significantly, the smaller screen can display a cursor, effectively turning it into a trackpad controller.
This could potentially support programs and services which require mouse precision, rather than clumsy fingerprint interactions via a compact touchscreen.
A Wing and a prayer?
In recent years, LG has been slowly sliding into irrelevance as a smartphone manufacturer.
Its global market share stands below two per cent, way behind Chinese brands like Oppo and Xiaomi.
LG’s mobile division has been consistently losing money, and the company doesn’t need to compete in an increasingly crowded market if the profits aren’t there.
After all, LG is a world leader in televisions and monitors, with a strong track record as a manufacturer of white goods and air conditioning systems.
Even if it isn’t launched in the UK (which remains undecided at this time), the ground-breaking LG Wing reminds people this company is still a player in the smartphone sector.
It remains to be seen whether the Wing is the answer to the mobile division’s prayers.