After 12 years of being an Android OEM, LG has had enough. The Korean company announced late last night that it is officially ending the smartphone market; it plans to close the store on its entire business by July 31, 2021.
The news does not come as much of a surprise, since LG has been preparing the public for this decision for some time. LG’s mobile division has had 23 consecutive money-losing quarters, and the last profitable year was in 2014. In January 2020, LG Electronics’ then-brand new CEO Kwon Bong-seok promised that the troublesome division would be profitable by 2021. That the message was apparently “profitability or bust “because by January 2021, LG warned the public that they had to make” a cold judgment “about the future of the mobile division. Local media reports claim that LG investigated the sale of the division, but did not find a buyer.
It is not clear what will happen to what feels like “LG’s latest smartphone”, the LG Rollable. The flexible screen smartphone was announced at CES 2021, and while the expanding screen mechanism was identical to concepts and prototypes from other companies, LG promised that the phone would actually be launched in “early 2021.” LG’s press release did not reveal what will happen to Rollable, but rumors that the phone may be canceled began circulating almost immediately after it was announced. We do not hold our breath.
A decade of also-robberies, gimmicks and dead devices
LG’s phones were never good. The company ping-ponged between building exactly what Samsung built – but with less marketing and brand recognition – and building wildly appealing gimmick phones without justification behind it. Who could forget stinkers like the LG G Flex in 2013, who used flexible screen technology to create a buet the phone. The whole body was shaped like a banana for no reason at all. LG repeated this error in 2015 with the LG G Flex 2 – again for no apparent reason. The LG V10 in 2015 had a little extra screen above the main screen so you could see icons or the time (so, just like the main screen?). The LG G5 in 2016 had a removable bottom that enabled a modular accessory ecosystem. You can replace the battery, attach a camera grip with a shutter button, or attach a new audio DAC for better headphone sound. “LG V50 ThinQ 5G” in 2019 had a second screen that can be attached. The LG Wing in 2020 was a T-shaped smartphone, where the main screen could turn sideways to reveal another, smaller screen underneath.
When LG did not release ridiculous phone designers, the company’s more normal phones could never answer the question “why should I buy this instead of a Samsung phone?” LG and Samsung both pumped out Android phones with the latest specifications, but if the phones were both almost identical, there was no reason not to buy the Samsung phone, which had much more sales and marketing muscle behind it. LG’s biggest contribution to the market, if you want to be very generous, was to make one of the first 1440p smartphones (LG G3) and the first phone with an extra wide-angle camera (LG G5). Both demonstrate LG’s typical inability to come up with a smartphone feature. None of the features were a solid enough reason to buy an LG smartphone.
Even when people chose an LG phone, LG did their best to make sure they would never be LG customers again. For years, the company produced defective smartphones that died early due to poor build quality. Improper soldering on the phone’s motherboard will disconnect the phone memory and the phones will not be able to boot. After years of complaints, the company’s shabby craftsmanship earned it a series of “boot loop” lawsuits covering the G4, V10, G5, V20 and Nexus 5X. Although your LG phone did not die an early death, you were probably angry with the company for its terrible Android update support, which often resulted in a nine-month wait for updates. The company even even claimed to launch “LG Software Upgrade Center” to try to repair the awful update image, which resulted in absolutely no changes and quickly became the butt of common jokes.
The company’s most critically successful devices were its collaboration with Google through the Nexus program, but even then many of these phones (although not included in the lawsuit) ended up dying an early death due to LG’s boot-loop failure and other bad craft problems that led to an early death. LG co-branded the Nexus 4, (2012), Nexus 5 (2013) and Nexus 5X (2015) for Google, along with anonymous manufacturer work on the Pixel 2 XL.
LG will leave a significant void in the prepaid and medium-sized drawers market, which accounted for most of the 10 percent market share it had in the United States. This will probably be quickly eaten up by Samsung or a Chinese OEM.
LG joins Blackberry, Nokia, Motorola, Essential, Facebook, Amazon, Mozilla, Microsoft, Acer, Palm, Panasonic, Toshiba, HP, LeEco, Nextbit, Dell, Gigabyte, Ericsson and many others in the pile of companies that could not cut it in the smartphone market. REST IN PEACE.