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A look back at LG: The wins, the losses, and why it couldn’t survive in the smartphone market

Written by Vulcan Post Published on     5 mins read

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Despite its many innovations over the years, after years of losses, LG’s mobile division is finally calling it quits

Though perhaps one of the most innovative smartphone manufacturers, LG is closing its mobile phone division for good.

By July 2021, the world may be saying its final goodbye to LG Electronics Inc’s global mobile division. That’s when it is expected to wind down, although the sales of its devices and replacement parts will continue for products that are still available on the market.

Reports earlier this year had already predicted the division’s closure after almost six consecutive years of losses amounting to about USD 4.5 billion.

The last time LG Mobile turned a profit was in 2014, and at the time, it was considered one of the top smartphone manufacturers in the world with breakthrough designs.

Promising beginnings

The smartphone market has always been fiercely competitive, but LG was a strong contender thanks to its risk-taking nature.

2011 was a defining year for LG when it earned a Guinness World Record for its Optimus 2X as the world’s first dual-core phone available to the public (announced and released).

Granted, there were issues with its OS, but early adopters were more than happy to overlook its flaws. This would also set the tone for LG’s adventurous spirit when it came to its phones.

LG’s first G series smartphone, the Optimus G, was already considered better than Samsung’s and HTC’s flagship phones at the time, but LG further kicked it up a notch with the G2 in 2013.

It had a bigger battery than Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and HTC’s One M7, and its camera supported 1080p/60fps recording before Samsung did. In the same year, its Optimus L4 was also the first triple-SIM smartphone on the market.

In 2015, the G4 brought to the table a leather back on some variants, a feature which Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo have since copied. It also had a microSD expansion and a removable battery, the latter being a feature LG would have in several of its future smartphones.

The G4 was popular with a certain group of users because it enabled them to replace and charge the empty battery on the go via cradles that LG also sold.

One of the most talked-about LG smartphones in history may be the V20, launched in 2016. It was the first of LG’s smartphones to offer a Quad DAC, a system that enhanced the port’s audio quality.

It would go on to become a hallmark feature of LG’s smartphones, making them the go-to for audiophiles, DJs, and musicians.

Other revolutionary and unique smartphone designs LG came up with over the years include the LG G Flex, the world’s first flexible smartphone, the V40 with its five cameras (another world first for LG), and the LG dual-screen case.

When its competitors were looking into foldable phones, LG took a different route and instead offered users an optional second screen they could attach and detach to their V50, G8x, and V60.

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So… what happened?

In Q1 2014, LG revealed that it had sold more than 5 million LTE-enabled smartphones, 79% more than what it had sold for the entirety of the prior year.

It was a record for the company then, and LG said it had also shipped a total of 12.3 million smartphones in the year’s first trimester.

Not to mention, by then, the company also had quite the portfolio of smartphones at different price points, making them an accessible choice for many.

But several major issues would begin to plague the company’s mobile line and cause it to lose sales.

1) Bootloop issues broke customer confidence

LG’s then-flagship phone in 2015, the G4, had bootloop issues, a problem with the hardware that causes a phone to go into a never-ending reboot cycle. Affected users were forced to seek service centers and received replacement G4’s, but unfortunately, many replacements faced the same bootloop issues.

This understandably broke customer confidence and maybe even trust in the brand, and in 2018, LG settled a class-action lawsuit over its bootloop issues in not only the G4 but also the G5, V10, and V20.

2) LG had an innovative spirit, but implementations fell short

LG, striving to provide users with a different experience, began experimenting with modular smartphones. They enabled different attachments to be connected to the bottom of the G5, which were supposed to provide additional functionality.

However, the modules were limited in number and usefulness and ultimately became unpopular with consumers.

3) Inconsistent major software updates

The company has a poor track record of providing users with major software updates, even for its flagship devices. LG actually acknowledged this multiple times and said it would develop a division to speed things up.

In 2018, we saw this achieved with its Software Upgrade division, yet for some reason, things remained the same.

4) Poor marketing efforts compared to competitors

For many, it’s difficult to recall the last time a marketing campaign or advertisement for LG’s smartphones was seen.

Compared to other smartphone brands like Samsung and Apple, LG never really pulled out all the stops when announcing the launch of a new phone. This caused its launches to usually fly under the radar until something unique or quirky was pointed out in reviews.

Unfortunately, the one or two stand-out features were never really enough to convince consumers to make the purchase.

5) Often the first, rarely the best

One of LG’s strongest points was its experimental attitude toward unique designs, but the company lacked the conviction to develop them into their prime.

This made LG the first to launch many unique designs, which have since been taken and improved by other brands at a faster pace.

Take, for example, the ultra-wide camera function and its initial bezel-less push with the G2, both features which have been made popular by its competitors instead.

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The bottom line

It’s clear that while other brands preferred the route of safer improvements via iteration, LG always preferred to try something new or radical.

Unfortunately, the mass market didn’t always appreciate its innovative moves, leading to slower adoption and sales. Early adopters alone cannot sustain a brand.

While the mainstream market would look back at LG smartphones and wonder, “Why would we even need something like that?” the pool of users that remain ardent LG fans would retort with, “But why not?”

This article was originally published by Vulcan Post

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