LG Optimus Vu 'Phablet' Official, U.S. Details to Come

LG Electronics introduced its Optimus Vu 5-inch "phablet" the same day Samsung's 5-inch Galaxy Note went on sale in the U.S. from AT&T.

LG Electronics officially launched its Optimus Vu "phablet" in Korea Feb. 19, surprising those who expected the half-phone, half-tablet to debut at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona later this month.

Early in February, LG released a teaser of the device, and many of the suspected specs hold true: The Vu features a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1,024 by 768 and an aspect ratio of 4:3. It weighs 0.37 pounds and measures 139.6 by 90.4mm. The iPad, by contrast, measures 241 by 186mm.

One surprise: Like the Samsung Galaxy Note€”another 5-incher, or phablet€”the Vu Optimus also works with a stylus. Or, in the Google-translated press release, a "common pen," which it seems can collect data from a screen, for sharing, with a single click.

The Optimus Vu runs Android 2.3, known as Gingerbread, but within three months of its release will be upgraded to Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, LG said in a statement. Also on board are a Qualcomm 1.5GHz dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 1.3-megapixel front camera, 32GB of internal memory, a 2,080mAh battery, and WiFi and Long-Term Evolution (LTE) connectivity.

It also has Digital Living Network Alliance support, and can connect and share media with other DLNA devices.

The Optimus Vu will be available from South Korean carriers SK Telecom and LG+, though pricing€”and wider distribution€”details weren't shared.

The Samsung Galaxy Note, for now the Vu's main competition, as form factors go, went on sale Feb. 19 on the AT&T network, for $300 with a contract. Will its head start hurt LG? Perhaps not. While tablet-savvy consumers are said to be more ready for phablets than they were when Dell premiered its unsuccessful 5-inch Slate, there is still the matter of talking on these devices, which by most accounts requires a headset€”at least to not feel silly.

An eWEEK reviewer testing out the device said he felt like a not-funny Maxwell Smart, talking into his shoe phone. The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg complained that it's like "talking into a piece of toast," and The Boy Genius Report's Jonathan Geller noted, "You will look stupid talking on it, people will laugh at you, and you'll be unhappy if you buy it."

Not what Samsung was going for, surely, in re-blazing that trail. Perhaps, in addition to a stylus, it should come with a trusty headset to remove all embarrassment, not to mention potential health concerns. If Research in Motion recommends keeping the BlackBerry Bold at least 0.98 inches from one's head or body when in use, for reasons of radiation, users may feel uneasy about holding a 5.5- by 3.5-inch tech slab to their heads.

As a tablet, however, the Note is said to be "blazingly fast," and its S Pen stylus to really feel and look and behave like a pen.

Still, an even bigger wrench in the works of the budding phablet market could be the introduction of the iPad 3, which is now expected to arrive March 7 and feature a super-duper 2,048 by 1,536 display, being called a "Retina Display," and less certainly a quad-core processor and 4G LTE connectivity.

Even more worrisome for LG and Samsung: Apple may this time even release a smaller version of its tablet, not going so far as 5 inches, but instead debuting a 7-inch model.

The next few weeks should be interesting.