Android smartphone fans should be smiling.
LG announced today that its new LG G5 is coming to the U.S. in early April at major carriers and retailers.
All three new phones run Android 6.0 (Marshmallow).
Whether the new phones will sell in record numbers is questionable, since U.S. smartphone sales were actually down by 6% in the last quarter of 2015 -- the holiday period when they usually peak.
The downturn came about because even new flagship phones haven't excited buyers in the U.S. as much as in the past, since new features can seem incremental and average users are keeping phones longer. Analysts see upgrade fatigue on the part of average buyers, at least in the U.S. and parts of Europe, where the smartphone market is thought to be saturated.
But the LG G5 might perk up some buyers, at least the early-adopter crowd willing to spend money on new technology.
The phone features a removable 2800 mAh battery, an advance not seen on rival devices. The battery slides out from the bottom of the phone, leaving a slot that can be used to insert various modules for enhanced DSLR camera controls, better sound quality, a virtual reality viewer and more. The modules are called LG Friends and will sell separately in April.
That kind of modular innovation helped the LG G5 win the Best New Smartphone award at the 2016 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last month.
LG, however, didn't announce pricing for the phones or the modules, and wouldn't comment on a rumored off-contract price of $650 for the device. That price would put it in competition with other high-end smartphones. AT&T, Best Buy, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon were named as carriers and retailers offering the device in early April; none have separately announced prices.
At MWC, LG officials were frank in admitting the global slowdown in smartphone growth and said LG first noticed it two years ago when it decided to focus on something "fun and exciting" in upcoming phones. "The mission of the G5 is to wake up the play instinct," said Ramchan Woo, vide president of smartphone product planning at LG, in comments to reporters in February.
Two years ago, LG "knew this plateau in smartphone popularity was coming and the growth would someday come to a screeching halt," said Kenneth Hong, an LG global director of communications. "We knew we would have to change the conversation and that the discussion had to go beyond hardware."
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