LG introducing OLED in March for $12k; NFC smart appliances and superphones

By Patrick Avenell in Las Vegas

LG Electronics kicked off a manic day of big brand press conferences at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this morning. Flanked by an OLED TV and a stylish washer/dryer set John Taylor from LG’s US operations launched the Korean company’s new ‘Touch the smart life’ product proposition.

During the obligatory opening video, LG emphasised its new OLED TV (“the world’s slimmest”), its long-awaited new smartphone range, connected laundry appliances and refrigerators with more space.

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Taylor then introduced his boss, CEO and president of LG USA, Wayne Park. 

“We are here today to show how LG will help consumers touch the smart life in 2013,” Park said, before outlining the three product pillars that will underpin LG’s product releases: intelligence, attractiveness and product functionality.

“In 2013 we will continue to expand our leadership in core categories,” Park said, highlighting LG’s strong market shares in laundry, audio visual and refrigeration.

Read about LG's pre-CES announcements here

Park then handed the baton to LG’s chief technology officer Dr Skott Ohn.

In addition to reiterating the ‘Touch the smart life’ mantra, Ohn also asked the question of whether we need a smart life. He said that for the incursion of technology into all parts of our lives, the product needs to be “free and natural, stress free and breathtaking”.

LG’s answer to this challenge is to integrate ‘one touch’ connectivity between its smartphones, televisions and appliances via Near Field Communication (NFC). For example, by touching your LG smartphone to your washing machine you can start cycles, monitor its progress and make changes. You can also do this remotely. The same applies for controlling an LG TV and remotely checking the contents of your refrigerator.

In a dig at its Smart TV rivals, Ohn criticised the culture of feature-packing without adding to functionality. He also references fierce rival Samsung’s physical gesture input on it high-end 2012 TV models.

“Other companies are adding smart functions to TVs to just add more product,” Ohn said, “but we are doing it to make the process more natural.”

“Smart TVs from other companies feature UI that require very tiring arm gestures. LG’s requires just one finger.”

In smartphones, Ohn showcased LG’s new smartphone UX, which includes improved zooming on images and a new handwritten message feature.

“LG has created unimaginable product experiences with its 2013 product releases. We are leading the way with our OLED TV. You have been patiently waiting for its launch – well, the wait is finally over. LG started shipping OLED in early January while the others just talk about it,” Ohn said.

As previously revealed, LG has developed a solution to wirelessly stream games from an Optimus smartphone to an LG TV in Full HD.

New to LG’s TV range is a 100-inch “Laser TV” with Full HD and Smart TV capability, which will ship in Korea this month and in the United States in March 2013. No Australian availability was announced.

To reveal more new products, James Fishler, LG’s “visionary” head of marketing in the United States, then came on stage to say that ‘Smart’ meant action.

An admittedly poor photo of James Fishler on stage at the LG press conference. 

“Making your life better drives our design and features,” Fishler said, citing LG’s shorter laundry cycle times, 4:3 smartphone screens and the new Magic Remote as examples.

“You want home appliances that work for you, not ones with complicated manuals on just how to turn it on,” he said. “Energy efficiency is so important to LG and our consumers that we take pride in the recognition we have received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

LG will be releasing a full range of NFC-enabled home appliances in 2013, Fishler said, across its refrigerator, cooking appliances, laundry and floorcare ranges.

Fishler also pointed out that LG will not be abandoning its non-Smart appliances, with new models in its Door-in-Door and “mega capacity” refrigerators, dishwashing and laundry ranges. As evidence of this broad commitment, Fishler said LG will have 72 different refrigerator models in 2013.

Although already out in the United States, Fishler reserved special mention for LG’s flagship smartphone, the Optimus G.

“It’s not just a smartphone: it truly defines the term ‘superphone’,” he said, citing LG’s partnership with Google on the Nexus 4 as further proof of LG’s leadership in the nascent ‘superphone’ category. Google also has also partnered with Samsung and Asus for product releases, as well as owning Motorola Mobility.

Fisher promised more “cutting edge” smartphones for business users and consumers throughout 2013, though he did not reveal any of these handsets.

Called “the ultimate display”, Fishler confirmed that LG’s OLED TV range will launch in the United States in March for “around $12,000”. Over the last 18 months, LG Australia has shown great alacrity in gaining access to products quickly after global launches. Recent history would suggest that LG will release OLED in Australia at a similar time, though not necessarily a similar price.

Fishler then pivoted to Google TV, which is now in its third generation. Only Sony has thus far released a Google TV set top box in Australia, and no company has released a TV with a native Google TV operating system. LG will have new Google TV models at least in the United States in 2013. 

Further TV news from LG is that there will be no more CCFL backlit LCD TVs, meaning all the models in its LCD range will be LED backlit. Fishler also confirmed that LG is persisting with plasma TV panels.

LG's new flagship OLED TV, available in the US in March for around $12,000.

LG's new Smart washer and dryer set, which can be controlled via NFC.

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