A series of reports, of which the latest last week, suggest that LG could be exiting the mobile business. According to chatter, there will allegedly be an official announcement tomorrow, April 5, where the company could potentially reveal its retirement from the segment. I personally believe this is the best decision LG can make.
No, I’m not hating on LG. Believe it or not, I have much love for the company and I have very dear friends who work at or for LG (you know who you are, much love!). So how come such a drastic move, where we lose yet another OG, can be a good thing?
LG Mobile and the platform dilemma
Those of you who have been around for the journey might remember that LG was really back and forth between platforms back in the day. This vacillation will, as we’ll soon see, become a defining factor in LG’s mobile business, which I believe has a direct correlation with its struggles.
Getting back to the platforms, LG’s push started back in the Windows Mobile days. The LG GM750 comes to mind with its 3-inch screen and Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional operating system. LG later became one of the three (alongside HTC and Samsung) hardware launch partners for Microsoft when Windows Phone 7 came along, and the Optimus 7 was a really good phone (also being LG’s first Windows Phone).
But in between Windows Mobile 6.5 and Windows Phone 7, LG started dipping its toes in Android waters, launching its first smartphone running on Google’s (Android 2.2) platform in 2009 with the LG GW620.
This indecisiveness (or exploring all options, if you will) will accentuate and persist in the future for LG. Sure, the other Korean behemoth, Samsung, was pretty much doing the same, and they’re in a pretty good position today. Yes, but Samsung had a certain consistency in other departments, where LG was lacking too.
In defense of LG, or any other manufacturer in the same position back in the early 2010s, there was no way in foreseeing that Google and Android will eventually blow up. Microsoft was the real deal, basically having a monopoly over a market that was fast developing. Betting on Windows Mobile (and later Windows Phone) was a safe bet, if only Microsoft wouldn’t have rested on its laurels, which eventually turned into Windows Phone’s demise. Apple and its iPhone launch in 2007 didn’t particularly help either…
LG Mobile and the design dilemma
What makes an iPhone an iPhone? Or a Samsung a Samsung? Heck, even a HUAWEI a HUAWEI! It’s the companies that managed to build a brand that’s recognizable that eventually succeeded. What do I mean by that? When you look at a product and you can instantly tell the brand behind it, that’s when you know they’re doing a good job. Just think about BMW and Porsche (just to name a couple that is not mobile-related).
LG somehow got lost in the details and failed to create a “signature” for its mobile phones. It basically threw stuff on the market to see what sticks, without leaving it on the market enough for it to actually stick.
In case that doesn’t make sense, let me put it this way. Instead of improving from generation to generation, LG went back to the drawing board every year to announce something completely different, abandoning the predecessor, or the main features it introduced.
We all remember the LG G Flex, the first curved display smartphone. It was way ahead of its time, but the project was abandoned just for LG to return to a flat display. At the same time, the LG G2 was trying to capture the same market, with a different approach.
The LG G3 was flat, just for the LG G4 to be curved again. I think you see where I’m getting at. …not to mention those leather back models which only stuck around for a little while, though they were gorgeous.
Save for the LG logo, there was little to nothing to make an LG phone instantly recognizable, and that I think laid down roadblocks in its own path.
About the only form factor LG has not experimented with (at least not in the form of a finished product on the market) is a foldable device. Instead, LG chose to go the “Dual Screen” way but threw in a twister (literally) along the way with the LG Wing.
Did I mention the V10 and its durability? Yes, that didn’t stick around long enough either, the same way that the Optimus 3D and the entire 3D smartphone concept were soon abandoned. How about the LG G5 and Friends, with the modular approach? Yep, out the window.
So what makes an LG phone an LG phone? I guess, if we have to put a label on it, it would be “diversity”? No, not in a good way.
The company’s best decision
Every time a player (big or small, doesn’t matter) retires, we all lose. The market loses, customers lose, innovation takes a hit, people lose their jobs, it’s a mess. It’s a lose-lose situation. Especially if the company is one of the OGs (HTC comes to mind as well), you can’t help but feel sentimental, nostalgic. I just fired up my G Flex 2: it still works.
So how the heck is LG exiting the mobile business a good decision? Well, it is, if you’re LG. The only one winning from this entire situation is, paradoxically, LG itself. It’s not that the behemoth doesn’t have the resources to fund a non-profitable segment of its huge organization. It’s about pouring water into a bucket filled with holes. At one point you just get tired of doing it, especially if you’re trying to pluck them, and another one pops up.
The millions and millions the company was spending on research, development, manufacturing, and many other aspects involved in its mobile business will most likely be put to better use elsewhere.
At this point, I wish it was an April Fools’ joke and I have wasted an hour writing this. But did I? You see, even if it was a joke, LG still has a big problem which it failed to solve for years and years on end. And, at this point, I don’t think it can come up with anything (that it hasn’t already tried) that can turn the tables in its favor.
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