What we lose in the lite

I’m an unabashed LG premium smartphone and Nintendo Switch fanboy and both those things got issued in compromised form last week. I ain’t even mad, though, because it means the potential of converting unwashed masses to the path of the enlightened. But there is a growing sense of resentment for these decisions that I just can’t shake. I get that demand has slowed for the premium offerings, but what they stripped out of these more accessible options is a big part of the soul of the respective devices.

Let’s start with the Nintendo Switch Lite. The most impressive thing about the original Switch was its pure gadget prowess. Without needing to purchase another device or controller you could transition seemlessly from handheld play to multilayer, to full-screen console gaming on your TV. HD Rumble made for great feedback and an immersive experience, IR cameras, accelerometers and computer vision made it possible for the gaming experience to extend into the physical world and, above all, it was just a fun experience.

Switch Lite strips the joy out of Joy-Cons by making it non-removable. This eliminates the opportunity to share the experience with friends without buying another device like a Pro Controller. Nintendo thankfully wasn’t completely ignorant of the multiplayer appeal   and will be building out its Nintendo Switch Online service and have enabled local wireless multiplayer for compatible games. This interaction relies on a future where all your friends buy their own console and you all jam together.

While I’m excited to see traditional gameplay driving development of more AAA titles for the Switch platform, this surely spells Doom for the Labo system and other experiments that leverage the unique characteristics of the Joy-Cons. If Nintendo is making a play for the youth market, I don’t think what is effectively a modern Gameboy will compete well against gaming phones and iPads when it comes to parents spending money.

We’ll have to judge the success when the Switch Lite launches on 20 September, though, and I’ll more than happily lick a couple cartridges if the idea catches on like a needle in a cotton wool factory.

LG neutering the fantastic G8 for our market is a completely different approach to making a “lite” version. The G8s ups the screen size, lowers the resolution (but it’s a G-OLED now, using glass as the substrate instead of plastic in the P-OLED), adjusts the camera lenses and removes the quad DAC.

That last sentence throws the entire concept into question. This is effectively what Apple did with the iPhone XR compared to the iPhone XS, but even in that equation the XR still gained a more flexible (because you can use it with accessory lenses) portrait mode. Yes the G8s ThinQ benefits from a good DAC on the 3.5mm headphone jack, but half of the LG flagship experience is the uncompromised headphone audio quality. Audio woes worsen with a lack of Boombox speaker, but this is the best performing stereo speaker arrangement ever on an LG.

Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 supported by 6GB of RAM and the Adreno 640 GPU is shared between this and its more premium sibling, as well as wireless charging and fast charging. That iPhone-esque notch houses the Z-camera (Time-of-Flight sensor and dot projector) and an actual earpiece speaker, unlike the screen vibrating trickery the actual flagship resorts to. At R12 000 you’ll be hard-pressed to find a competitor that can match the top-end camera capabilities and complete package at this price point. LG again delivers to our market what One Plus has done for years in more developed countries: bring flagship power at a reduced price.

In all both these devices preserve the core excellence of the more expensive units, but the compromises can seem a liitle too much to a jaded tech reviewer like myself. These just cut the things that I loved the most from each brand’s unique selling points. But even without the magic there’s more than enough to cater to most needs.

Follow me, it will be alright

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