The LG Optimus 4X HD couldn't repeat the feat of its dual-core predecessor, which had the spotlight all to itself for a good few months last year. Yet, it may turn out more fortunate than the Optimus 2X. The first dual-core phone made a reasonably big splash but failed to capitalize on its head start. The Optimus 2X had its flaws, but its main problem was being unable to live up to expectations - which in hindsight weren't very realistic to be honest.
The LG Optimus 4X HD on the other hand comes to a more mature market, which already knows what to expect from quad-core powerhouses. It doesn't feel as rushed as its predecessor either - this time it was clearly LG's goal to finesse the experience, rather than put another first on their resume.
The flip side of the coin is that when you come to the market last of the big players, you need to offer something extra to convince everyone that the wait was worth it. And that's where it gets really interesting, as LG didn't take the conventional approach. Normally, you'd expect late arrivals on the market to be more expensive, and to carry more value-adding features.
What the Koreans chose to do instead is focus on the essentials, not the fine details. They have managed to deliver a really solid smartphone with no weak points at an attractive price point. Yes, the Optimus 4X has the latest in processing power and screen quality, but it still costs less than its direct competitors.
And before we rush to any conclusions, a look at one potential competitor, which was announced at the same time as the Optimus 4X HD, will tell us enough about how "easy" it was for LG to take the easy option. By the looks of it, the release of the Huawei Ascend D quad will be pushed further back and we may not even see it before the end of the summer.
So, that narrows down an already short list of rivals. And we all know who's on top of that list. The Samsung Galaxy S III is currently the smartphone to beat. Powered by Samsung's own chipset and using the company's own R&D in screen technology, the Galaxy S III also boasts a rich package of exclusive software extras. What the LG 4X HD has in its favor is an equally compelling overall experience at a lower price. Matching the Samsung flagship spec for spec is out of the question, but LG's customizations and extra equipment aren't bad either for the most part.
The Tegra 3-based HTC One X will inevitably be the ultimate point of reference and this one is too close to call in terms of processing power and screen quality. It will be other, seemingly less tangible aspects, that will tip the scales one way or another. The Sense UI is considered the standard-setter in customizing Android but LG have just shown us that they can do equally well. It may be surprising to some, but the Optimus UI actually does some things better. The HTC One X is visually more attractive while the expandable memory and user-replaceable battery are definite points in favor of the LG 4X HD. And once again, so is the current asking price.
So, Android has its own three-horse-race. With the opposing forces so evenly matched, it will be up to the smallest details to break the deadlock. And yes, small things can make a big difference for the individual user - things like design and feel, advanced software features and even interface customizations. There's nothing major though that divides the Big Three. It seems the Optimus 4X HD has little in the way of bangs and whistles but the overall experience is uncompromised. At this point, the order of appearance is becoming irrelevant.