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LG to let 4,000 people 'test drive' G4 before launch

Consumers will have the chance to use LG's new flagship smartphone for a few weeks before its official debut.

The LG G4 will be here before the month is out. LG

LG has dialed up a novel way to drum up consumer buzz for its latest flagship smartphone before its expected launch later this month.

The South Korean handset maker announced plans Tuesday to choose 4,000 people in 15 markets to "test drive" the LG G4 for a few weeks before its official debut. LG said the aim is to let consumers experience the Android handset for themselves unencumbered by basic speed tests and benchmarks.

"Customers are our best fans and we think this would be an exciting and unique way to get our most important mobile product of the year close to the public," Juno Cho, president and CEO of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company, said in a statement.

The next-generation smartphone is expected to launch on April 28, according to invitations sent to the media late last month. The G4 is the successor to LG's current flagship phone, the G3, which helped LG score record smartphone sales for last year's third quarter as well as its highest-ever market share in North America. However, the company faces a greater challenge this year squaring off against Apple's iPhone 6 lineup and Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S6 phones.

The test drive program is similar to a promotion launched last year by T-Mobile that offered a loaner Apple iPhone 5S to potential customers so they could try out the wireless service. While T-Mobile's promotion offered an already released handset to sell its wireless service, LG is trying to get more exposure for its smartphone before it launches.

Besides using participants as a de facto sales force for its new smartphone, LG apparently expects to generate more publicity from consumers applying for the program through social media, where word of the handset will spread even further. During the test drive period, participants will be given various unspecified "assignments" to complete, for which prizes will be awarded.

The program launched in Korea on Wednesday, with planned launches in the coming days occurring in the Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Turkey, the UK and US.