Selfie wars: LG takes on rivals with new phones


In the global smartphone market, selfie wars are heating up.

Korean electronics giant LG has unveiled a range of mid-tier smartphones designed with "high quality selfies in mind," as device makers battle for camera superiority.

The four devices – named Magna, Spirit, Leon and Joy – are curved with screen sizes ranging from 4 inches on the Joy model, to 5 inches on the Magna.

But LG, like others over the past year, is pushing one of the phones' features in particular: the ability to take selfies.

The Magna handset has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for selfies, and all of the devices have a feature enabling users to take pictures with a simple hand gesture. LG said it had extended the distance at which the camera can recognize the gestures to 1.5 meters, meaning users could attach a "selfie stick" and trigger the camera from further away.

Analysts said that over the past year, the front-facing camera has become an increasingly important differentiator for smartphone makers, but it is becoming tough to stand out from the crowd.

"We have seen a big jump in megapixels and quality on this camera and it is one way that device makers are looking to differentiate their products," Ian Fogg, head of mobile at IHS, told CNBC by phone.

"But pretty much every handset maker has front-facing cameras designed for selfies."

LG's announcement comes a week before the official start of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and marks an attempt by the company to drum up early headlines for its products ahead of Samsung's big launch event on Sunday.

LG is not the first company to tout the ability of its cameras for selfies and its front-facing camera is not the best on the market. Last October, Taiwanese rival HTC unveiled the Desire EYE with a 13-megapixel front and rear camera, and Chinese manufacturer Huawei unveiled the Ascend P7, with an 8-megapixel front camera, last year.

Hot category

The launch places LG's new devices in the fiercely competitive mid-tier market dominated by smartphones at lower prices. Chinese manufacturers such as Xiaomi have had massive success selling to consumers who want phones with good specifciations but don't want to splash out on an iPhone or premium Samsung device.

"The mid-tier is re-emerging as a hot category," Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight, told CNBC by phone.

"We saw the Chinese manufacturers breaking into this space first and now we are seeing that the established brands like LG and others stepping up the efforts in that space so they don't miss out."

LG said it would begin rolling out the smartphone range this week, but that pricing would depend on the market it was launched in.

- By CNBC's Arjun Kharpal