LG will end its smartphone business, the company confirmed today. The decision will “enable the company to focus resources on growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services,” LG said in a statement. .
Existing phones will remain on sale, and LG says it will continue to support its products “for a period that will vary by region.” The company has not said anything about possible layoffs except that “details related to employment will be decided at the local level.”
The move has been rumored for several months, after the division’s major losses over the past five years. Once considered a rival to South Korean manufacturer Samsung, LG’s recent high-end smartphones have struggled to compete, while the less expensive handsets have faced stiff competition from Chinese rivals. The company had previously said that they hoped to make the smartphone division profitable in 2021.
Today’s news means that it’s unlikely that LG’s elongated mobile phone will ever see the light of day. The last time the company showed off the device was back at this year’s virtual CES when the company insisted that the device was genuine and would be launched later this year.
Reports that LG has considered shutting down smartphones have been around since the beginning of this year. Although a spokesman for the company noted an earlier report on the company’s potential exit from the smartphone business “completely false and unprofitable,” an LG official later confirmed to The Korea Herald that the company had to make “a cold judgment” about the division. Potential measures could include “the sale, withdrawal and downsizing of the smartphone business,” the official said at the time.
In March, there were reports that the company had tried to find a buyer for its smartphone business, but that the talks had stopped, and it could instead close down the division. Korean outlet DongA said that the company had stopped the development of its upcoming phones with scrolling screens, and that it had put on planned smartphones in the first half of the year.
When it lost its share of the competition, LG released a series of eye-catching devices with unusual form factors. It was the LG Wing, whose main screen rotated to reveal a smaller secondary screen below it, or its recent dual screen devices. LG also tried a modular smartphone with the LG G5, only to leave the initiative a year later.
Unfortunately for LG, none of these features were useful enough to make the phones regular hits, and meanwhile the company’s more traditional phones fell behind its rivals in core areas such as camera performance.
LG joins a long list of high-profile device manufacturers to give up smartphones over the years, although many of the brand names have stuck to devices made by third-party manufacturers. Nokia’s consumer-facing brand lives on top of handsets made by HMD, while Blackberry’s brand was originally used by TCL and is set to return this year on a device made by OnwardMobility. It’s also HTC, which still sells some oddball handsets, but sold most of the IP to Google in 2017. Who’s next?