In case you missed it, LG introduced its latest flagship phone yesterday, the G7 THinQ, which is packed with all of the things premium smartphones need in 2018: good looks, lots of screen, a Snapdragon 845 processor, Android Oreo, AI, wireless charging, IP68 water resistance, and a dual camera. On paper, the G7 checks off all the boxes, and even when you pick it up, it feels the part, with Gorilla Glass all around and a thin, comfortable frame.

lg g7 frontAdam Patrick Murray/IDG

The front of the G7 is nearly all screen now.

Yet, the G7 isn’t going to turn many heads in 2018. Part of it is due to LG’s fading relevance as a smartphone maker, but it’s mostly because smartphones have hit an innovation wall. AI is still waiting for a killer use, display tech hasn’t advanced to the folding stage yet, and cameras have gotten so good we’re no longer impressed by portraits and wide aperture.

DxO scores and display shootouts aside, there isn’t all that much standing between the LG G7, Galaxy S9, iPhone X, and Pixel 2 XL. Apple uses Samsung displays. Google uses LG displays. They all have dual cameras. The difference between the Pixel’s Snapdragon 835 and the 845 in the Galaxy S9 and LG G7 is nominal. Each has their fine points and faults, but the choice ultimately comes down to a matter of preference, with little to sway users from one brand to another.

But don’t blame LG, Samsung, or even Google. Blame Apple.

Following the leader

The worst thing that could have happened to Android phones was the iPhone X. In the months leading up to the release of Apple’s $1000 handset, Android phones were making the iPhone 7 looks downright stale, with 18:9 OLED screens, ultra-slim bezels, wireless charging, and an assistant experience that was way ahead of Siri. Even Essential did the camera notch first. But the iPhone was the first phone to get it right, with a truly symmetrical thin-bezel design, a brilliant depth-sensing camera, and intuitive navigation.

iPhone X GesturesDaniel Masaoka

The iPhone X was a game-changer for Apple, but it changed Android’s game too, for the worse.

Instead of doubling down on what separated Android phones from iPhones, phone makers pivoted to respond in some way. It’s given them all a way to make their phones new for 2018 without doing anything actually new. Samsung developed AR Emoji and better face recognition to keep pace with Face ID. LG and Huawei went the notch route. And rumor has it that Google will be implementing both home indicator-style gesture-based navigation and a notch in the Pixel 3.

Why? Because iPhone X was different and Android phone makers panicked. For years, they depended on Apple’s LCD screens, home buttons, and general predictable design, and the iPhone X took a hammer to that notion. Even alongside the iPhone 8, the X was a warning shot to the industry that things were changing, and Android phones didn’t want to be left out.

Phones stealing ideas from other phones is hardly a new concept, but the rush to copy the iPhone X is breathtaking. Not since portrait mode have phone makers been so desperate to implement me-too features, and consequently most of the iPhone X imitations we’ve seen are bland and downright cheap. AR Emoji may be a fun party trick, but it’s no match for Animoji. Intelligent Scan is nowhere near as secure as Face ID. The notches all look better when they’re turned off. And gesture-based navigation should have been a thing two years ago in Android Nougat. On the iPhone X, these features are new and exciting, and they make sense. The second or third time around, they’re just meh.


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