LG has always been a company that’s looked to push the boundaries of innovation. They brought Quad HD displays to smartphones with the LG G3, experimented with the concept of a modular phone with this year’s G5, and even showcased a 98-inch 8K TV at CES this year. For a company with these credentials, having an entry-level smartphone lineup consisting of the aging Optimus L5 and L7 phones seems out of character. However, LG has addressed this issue with the two new 4G LTE phones released last week: the K7 and K10.
The new duo is generations ahead of the L series in almost every aspect. The blocky designs have been replaced with smooth 2.5D arc glass in the front and a gentle curve at the back, making the devices appear slimmer and much nicer to hold. Both phones retain LG’s signature control layout with power and volume buttons at the back, which has been done away with in the top-end G5. While the devices are made out of plastic, the K7 gets a brushed finish while the K10 has a knotted design for the back panel, aiding looks and grip. At 5 inches and 5.3 inches respectively, both phones are almost similar in size and very easy to handle.
When it comes to day-to-day use, there is little that sets these phones apart. They are even hard to tell apart, with virtually identical design choices. Both phones run a slightly stripped down version of the fourth generation Optimus UI seen on the G4. That said, the Optimus UI (running on top of Android 5.1.1 on both phones) is still one of the most versatile interfaces, and both phones get double tap to wake and sleep, a configurable bar of soft keys at the bottom, which can be customised to include a button to drop down the notification drawer or switch between SIMs, which are not hot-swappable. LG’s Knock Code security feature has also found its way to the phones and even the default keyboard can be adjusted for size and colour, with the option of editing button configurations. While the K7 does not feature auto-brightness, it has an option to reduce screen brightness after a certain time of day to reduce eye strain. Both phones have an Easy Mode in their UI that increases font and icon sizes, includes a homescreen tab for favourite contacts and moves the app drawer from plain sight. As these phones may end up in the hands of new smartphone owners, this feature could come in useful for them to learn the ropes.
The LG K7 and K10
On the hardware front, there are a few small differences. The K7 gets a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1.5 GB RAM and eight or 16 GB internal memory (our review unit came with eight) and a 2,125mAh battery.
The K10 gets bumped up to the better known Snapdragon 410 and has 2GB of RAM and 16 GB internal memory with a slightly larger 2,300mAh battery. Both phones have microSD support, though 32GB is the maximum you can hit. Display-wise, both are a huge step up from the L series, with well-represented colours and decent contrast, though even the higher-specced K10 makes do with a 720p display. Sunlight legibility, while not stellar, is not as bad as some older LG devices.
Both phones come with a screen protector, but they barely cover the screen and the ill fit detracts from what are otherwise very good-looking phones. Performance was smooth on both, with the K10 expectedly doing better under multitasking. Regular users will be more than satisfied but those who like installing a lot of apps should go for the K10 for the extra storage. Battery life on the K7 was a little erratic, while the K10 can get you through a day’s usage unless really pushed hard. There is no quick charging option on either phone.
It is however, in the camera department that the narrow gulf between the two widens. While the K7 makes do with 5MP cameras front and back, the K10 uses a 13MP rear shooter and 5MP front-facing one. The camera quality between the two is significant enough – where the K7 produces slightly dull images into which noise creeps in quite easily, the K10 performs better under most conditions. However, the camera app itself features only the bare minimum, which is surprising, considering LG makes some of the best cameraphones on the market, such as the G4 and the V10.
The K7 and K10 are sure to shore up LG’s entry-level portfolio, but where the company has made a mis-step is pricing. While both devices offer a hassle-free experience, at Rs.9,500 for the K7 and 13,500 for the K10, LG may have a painted a target on their backs in the highly competitive budget segment. The K10, which is our recommendation between these two for obvious reasons, is directly up against heavy hitters like the Moto G Turbo, LeEco Le 1S and the OnePlus X, fresh from a price cut. LG has made two fine phones with the right feature set for entry-level users, but unless the company considers a price correction, they may find themselves armed with a knife in a gunfight.