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Will the mysterious D1L project provide the makeover LG needs to challenge the Samsung Galaxy S III?

LG Optimus 4X RearLG is at a crucial point in its history, as according to figures released by the company earlier in the year, it’s phone division posted its first profits for eighteen months at the end of 2011.

This may be surprising to some, as LG holds second place in the US mobile market share charts, and fourth in the world, so it could hardly be described as a small fish.

The profit shown during the final three months of 2011 wasn’t enough to stop ZTE moving ahead of them in the final quarter’s figures though, with LG taking 3.6-percent of worldwide device sales, and ZTE grabbing 4-percent to take fourth position behind Apple, Samsung and Nokia.

With hopes of selling 35 million smartphones in 2012, and presumably retaking the position from ZTE, LG may need to look at the way Samsung has branded itself if it wants to make this year better than last when it comes to smartphones.

The Galaxy factor

Samsung has managed to do the almost unthinkable — create a similar level of buzz around the launch of a phone as Apple has done with the iPhone.

The gamble of not presenting the Galaxy S III at Mobile World Congress has paid off, as hype and anticipation surrounding the phone — which we know almost nothing about — trumps any other phone likely to be released this year bar the new iPhone.

Thanks to the massive success of the Galaxy S II, Samsung has attracted enough dedicated Android fans, who were looking for a desirable high-end phone to lust after, to build and develop into a brand — something Android sorely lacked.

The SII is a great phone, but it’s not light years ahead of offerings from Motorola and HTC, and as such Samsung’s current position at the top of the Android hierarchy is one that could easily be usurped.

What about the Optimus 4X HD?

Check out our full review of the LG Optimus 4X HD smartphone.

LG could argue that it already has a Galaxy S III challenger in the shape of the Optimus 4X HD. Unveiled at Mobile World Congress, it has a quad-core, 1.5Ghz Tegra 3 processor, a 4.7-inch HD touchscreen, an 8-megapixel camera and the coveted Android 4.0 OS.

It’s on par with HTC’s One X both in terms of specs and early benchmark figures, and is set for release in Europe sometime in June.

The trouble is, if the S III is launched at the end of May and then swiftly released to the public, the 4X HD — and the One X for that matter — could be lost in the scrum.

Could the D1L be the one?

As exciting as the Optimus 4X HD is — and when you look at that feature list, it’s hard not to be excited about it — it just doesn’t seem to have captured the buying public’s imagination in the same way as the unannounced Galaxy S III.

So what’s LG to do? The answer lies in the past as much as the future, as around 2005, LG had both the LG Chocolate and the LG Prada on sale. Both may have been feature phones, but the Chocolate was as influential as the Motorola Razr when it came to design, and the first Prada heralded the coming of the touchscreen era. LG has got it in them to be trend setters.

A new report by Korean publication ddaily.co.kr has leaked details of a new LG project, which is being worked on under the codename D1L, and it’s said to be the company’s true challenger to the Galaxy S III.

The suggested specs don’t appear all that different to the Optimus 4X, as a 4.7-inch HD screen and Android 4.0 are mentioned, however the chip may change from the Tegra 3 to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 and 4G could be added.

The spec doesn’t really matter provided LG does something exciting with the phone’s primary selling point: Android. How about refining its own Android skin to give users as pure an Ice Cream Sandwich experience as possible? That would sure to be a popular move in the Android community. Add a sleek and sexy chassis, 4G connectivity and a proper launch event, and the D1L project could be a winner.

For 2012 to be better than the majority of 2011 for LG, it not only needs the right hardware, but the right branding that appeals to Android fans too. If it can pull the two together, Samsung’s market share lead in North America could soon be eroded.