LG Optimus Vu not coming to UK, Optimus G set for 4G in 2013

LG's palm-stretcher is off the menu, says its UK mobile chief, but its all-new quad-core Optimus G is definitely destined for 4G in GB.

Natasha Lomas Mobile Phones Editor, CNET UK
Natasha Lomas is the Mobile Phones Editor for CNET UK, where she writes reviews, news and features. Previously she was Senior Reporter at Silicon.com, covering mobile technology in the business sphere. She's been covering tech online since 2005.
Natasha Lomas
5 min read

Bad news for fans of phablets -- that's phones large enough to double as mini tablets -- LG's palm-stretching Optimus Vu looks like it won't be coming to the UK this side of Christmas.

"There are no plans to bring the Optimus Vu to the UK market at the moment," says Andy Coughlin, LG's new head of mobile, speaking in an exclusive interview with CNET UK.

We went hands-on with the squarish Vu back in February at Mobile World Congress where we were told a version of the Vu, without 4G, would be coming to Europe, including the UK, later in the year. Last month we reported the Vu was heading to the continent in September. But Coughlin pours cold water on an imminent Vu launch in the UK.

Asked whether LG is lining the Vu up as a UK competitor to Samsung's Galaxy Note -- and indeed, the Note 2 -- Coughlin says au contraire.

"We're currently looking at our portfolio in the UK and we think we have enough to concentrate on for this year," he tells me, adding, "I'm not quite sure that the Vu fits into the market during a busy period -- that is the second half 2012 -- so currently the decision's not final, but it's unlikely to come to the UK in 2012."

Should phablet phans look out for a Vu launch next year? "Potentially," is the only crumb of comfort Coughlin has to offer.

Tablets proper have been off LG's menu for a few months now -- and that's not about to change. "We're not addressing the tablet market at the moment," says Coughlin. "We're watching it with interest. Our core business is smart phone going forward.

"We'll be refreshing the L series with a new range of 3G smart phones next year, so you can look forward to hearing details of those soon, and of course bringing LTE leadership to the industry. That's going to be the focus for us and I think tablets would be too much of a distraction."

LG Optimus G -- and 4G

There's better news for fans of quad-core blowers. LG's tasty-looking, freshly announced Optimus G Snapdragon S4-powered glass-coated beast, which also packs a very high-res HD display, will definitely be hitting UK shops early next year.

"I can guarantee it will be coming to the UK during the first quarter of next year," Coughlin says. "The Optimus G... will be available to support both 3G and 4G services... Optimus G will be a very key part of what we do next year. It's got an amazing display... and also the performance of the new quad-core chip is going to be very exciting."

It's unclear whether the Optimus G we Brits see will be packing 4G network technology -- or offered as a 3G-only version of the phone. Asked whether the company is talking to Everything Everywhere about making a version of the G that could run on its forthcoming 1,800MHz 4G network, Coughlin would not confirm either way.

"We're certainly talking to them... I can't divulge any information on projects we're working on with our customers, but rest assured we're having conversations with all of our partners in the UK about the roll-out of LTE services -- whether it be in the first part or towards the end of next year."

Coughlin adds that 4G is a very important part of LG's smart phone strategy for next year. "We own 23 per cent of the world's patents on LTE technology, and we've actually sold over 5 million units to date worldwide of LTE phones, so we really are best placed to take advantage of the new services and to offer excellent consumer experiences when those services become available."

Jelly Bean, Android skins and updates

If you're wondering whether LG has any Jelly Bean devices up its sleeve, Coughlin tells me it has big plans for Android 4.1.

"There will be some announcements coming out when we start presenting our roadmaps to our partners. We will have a very strong story around Jelly Bean to offer the market," he says. "I can't give you a specific date [for the launch of LG phones running Jelly Bean] -- but certainly the latest you'll see them is 2013 but there is potentially an opportunity to do something earlier."

Asked whether it might consider launching any unskinned Android 4.1 devices, Coughlin does not rule it out, saying: "That's certainly an option.

"I don't think any of the skins used on top of Android are so much different if I'm really honest," he adds. "Although we have a couple of unique features such as swiping anywhere on the display to open it up, etc -- so we have a couple of really quite neat things... but our idea is to keep it simple. What we don't want to do is to be too clever about it."

For owners of existing LG devices hankering for an Android update, Coughlin has this to say: "Consumers are a lot more tech-savvy now and they know that when there's a new version of Android they want to enjoy it on their handset, so absolutely that is a message that's very clear [to LG] and we're working very hard at the moment to bring some updates to our range. You won't have very long wait to wait before we have some announcements to that end."

The LG exec also confirms the UK launch of one of the company's budget L-series devices -- the LG Optimus L5 -- has been slightly delayed, due to development taking longer than expected, but he says it's coming very soon. "[The L5 will launch] towards the end of next month and certainly within Q4 you'll see the L5 for general release," he says.

HD screens, beefy batteries: LG's 2013 phones 

What should UK phone buyers expect to see from LG next year?

"One of the major reasons I joined LG is because of the portfolio next year," says Coughlin, who joined LG after eight years at rival Korean mobile maker Samsung where he was head of account for Samsung Europe.

Smart phones with HD displays will be a big focus for LG in 2012, according to Coughlin -- with the aim of offering "a step up from our true HD proposition".

"We will look to offer a more compelling experience on the display, because there the thing 4G really does is open up the power of a smart phone and gives high-speed data access and it's going to be crucial to have a really good display to get the best out of that viewing experience.

"So that's an area we'll concentrate on -- along with battery life, we will keep innovating to make sure our smart phones offer really good battery life, and lastly of course performance, we'll make sure we're working with the right chip vendors to give the fastest speeds available to match the performance that 4G and high-speed 3G can offer."

Are you eager to get your mitts on the LG Optimus Vu? Or do you think the Optimus G hits the spot? Let us know your thoughts on LG's current line up and future plans by posting a comment below or sounding off on our Facebook page.