LG has a new way to market Android smartphones that doesn’t rely on specs like camera megapixels, screen resolution, or price. Instead, it’s giving its new range of Aka phones personalities.
Cnet got an early preview of these Korean phones, and compares them to Tamagotchi, which isn’t too far off. All four Aka colors each have a different character: Eggy, the yellow phone, “falls in love easily.” Soul, the blue Aka, is the party boy who loves music and drinking. White Aka Wooky has a skateboard. And the female Aka, who stereotypically assumes the pink color, is called Yo-yo because her weight, um, yo-yos due to her love of cheeseburgers.
It’s best explained in this video:
The Aka line isn’t packed with cutting-edge technology. The first thing you’ll notice is that Aka phones have a front-facing cover that only covers the bottom three-quarters of the screen. The leftover display peeking up top shows your Aka’s eyes, and probably the time as well. You can wave your hand in front of the front-facing camera to wake up or interact with your Aka.
The characters are attached to the sleeve cover — so if you’re sick of Yo-yo, switching to Soul or Wooky is as easy as buying a new accessory. The different personalities also change the color and style of the Aka interface, and owners can even post to their specific Aka’s Instagram account.
Behind the cover, the Aka is like many other mid-range Android phones: It’s got a 1.2GHz quad-core processor (likely a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400), a 5-inch 720p display, and expandable storage. That package will cost 500,000 Korean won, which is about $455 at the current exchange rate, and a little high for the specs. There’s no word whether it’s headed stateside or to any market besides Korea.
Look at the Akas: They are a preview of what smartphones could look like in a few years. Smartphones, unlike many other technology products, are a truly mass-market product for nearly all demographics and ages — one that is now possible to be produced very cheaply by manufacturing companies that didn’t invest in research and development. That drives prices and profit margins to minuscule levels.
The key to intellectual property like the Aka characters is that other companies can’t catch up. [company]LG[/company] is not the only company making its devices cuter: Chinese smartphone startup Xiaomi does a brisk business selling stuffed versions of its rabbit mascot.
For instance, the LG G3 is a great phone and when it came out it was the only device with a 2560 x 1440 screen, but since earlier this year Samsung, Motorola, and other companies have matched that spec. Eventually, if the Aka is a smashing success, those companies might be able to add personality or cute touches or a new mascot to their devices, but they won’t have Eggy or Soul or Wooky, which is as good a reason as any for a consumer to pay more for what is ultimately commodity hardware.