LG Australia launches Stylus DAB+ smartphone with built-in radio

The electronics company has launched its inexpensive, digital radio-enabled smartphone in Australia for just AU$449 outright.

LG has launched its budget Stylus DAB+ smartphone in Australia, with a built-in digital radio as its main calling card.

The device, launched by LG and Commercial Radio Australia in Sydney on Wednesday, has an RRP of AU$449 and provides access to 30 free digital-only radio stations.

"We are delighted that Australia is one of the first countries in the world to get the LG Stylus DAB+," said LG Australia general manager of Mobile Communications Gino Casha.

"This is a smartphone that offers something nobody else does: Built-in digital radio. Customers in the market for a fully-featured affordable smartphone on which to enjoy a fantastic digital broadcast experience should look no further than this latest offering."

DAB+, an upgraded version of the Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) standard, broadcasts digital radio throughout Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide, with regional areas to be added next year.

The handset provides radio access once the user plugs in the included headphones, which double as an antenna. Radio stations can then be selected by using the Digital Radio Plus app. The screen also displays information about the song being played on the station.

Joan Warner, CEO of Commercial Radio Australia, argued that broadcast radio on smartphones is more "efficient", higher quality, and more battery- and data-friendly than using streaming services such as Pandora, Apple Music, and Spotify, and that streaming will never replace traditional radio.

"We frequently face the assumption that streaming will eventually, or in fact is now, replacing free-to-air broadcast radio as the main method of listening to radio. First of all, it isn't, and secondly, it can't," she said at the smartphone launch.

"Using streaming over a mobile network to reach a mass audience of hundreds of thousands of people all listening at the same time ... is not practical or technically possible, especially when you have to take into account that there are probably then hundreds of thousands of other people wanting to use that same network for other things at the same time.

"For starters, it would require far too much bandwidth. As DAB+ is broadcast one to many, it is more efficient than one-to-one streaming."

Warner added, however, that the future is possibly a hybrid between traditional broadcast radio and streaming.

"We believe that we have a hybrid future where we have still the main mode of delivery will be broadcast ... supplemented or complemented by streaming or simulcast," she explained.

"DAB+ does not buffer or cause network congestion when large numbers of listeners tune in. This makes it more reliable, which of course is especially important in times of emergency and disaster."

The smartphone was first launched in Paris last month, and detailed at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 in Barcelona, though it is called the LG Stylus 2 in Europe.

In terms of specs, the Stylus DAB+ comes with a 5.7-inch 1,280x720 HD screen; a 1.2GHz Quad-Core chipset; a front-facing 8MP camera; a rear-facing 13MP camera; 2GB LPDDR3 of RAM; 16GB ROM; a MicroSD card slot; a 3,000mAh removable battery; and runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It comes in just one colour, which LG is calling "titan", and includes a stylus.

It will be available on May 2 from Optus, Allphones, Big W, Officeworks, The Good Guys, and Harvey Norman, and on May 5 from Virgin Mobile Australia.

LG last month launched its flagship high-end smartphone the G5 in its home market of South Korea, where it is now reportedly selling 8,000 units a day. More than 160,000 G5 smartphones have been sold in South Korea over the last three weeks.

Overall during 2015, LG sold 59.7 million smartphones.

In Australia, LG last year reported a net profit of AU$11.9 million for the full year ended December 31.