LG is right, phones need to focus on usability instead of battling it out over specs

The big news about the LG G6 is its screen. Not big in the phablet sense (which isn’t to say, of course, that 5.7 inches isn’t substantial), but big as in wide, with an unusually large 18:9 aspect (read: 2:1). But aspect ratios are a tough sell, particularly when your company is reeling from the failure of last year’s modular handset, the G5.

Still, the company actually made a fairly salient point when it took to the stage in Barcelona to discuss the G5’s stumble and the company’s plans to move beyond it. As LG Mobile President Juno Cho put it,

Last year I learned a meaningful lesson, both as an executive and as a consumer. Meeting the consumer’s needs is the beginning and solution for meaningful innovations.

Cho was quick to add that the company was still “proud” of its efforts with the G5, but one look at the G6 demonstrates more than anything else, that the company has indeed learned from its missteps. Dropping modularity makes for a more solid device, bringing key features like a bigger battery and waterproofing.

Granted, both of these factors find the company working to catch up with other flagships, but they also point toward the company’s efforts at making a device that’s just easier to use day-to-day.

The exec was actually mostly referring to the new, wider screen in his comments, which at the moment still feels like something of a novelty – another chance for the company to differentiate itself from a million other devices.

But Cho is right. The spec race, while not yet over, really ought to be. Mainstream consumers have had pixel density and processing power shouted at them since the smartphone race began. After the keynote ends, however, those factors quickly take a backseat to day-to-day device usage. Put simply, which is the more important factor to your everyday enjoyment of your smartphone? Display resolution or a phone that’s comfortable and easy to use?

I don’t believe that the G6 is that phone, necessarily (in fact, I’d go out on a limb and say it isn’t for most users). LG unquestionably has an uphill battle on its hands at its battles it out over the bottom rungs of smartphone market share. And sure, Cho’s words were almost certainly lip service as the company struggles to find its way forward. But let’s hope they’re also something of a bellwether for the industry.

Pixel dense screens and snappy processors are all well and good, but the fact of the matter is that the majority of flagships are great at this point. Now is the time to sunset the spec race and focus on the battle for usability.