LG Mobile officially shuts down, ends 15 years in smartphones

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Starting off (in the smartphone world) with Series 60 (on Symbian) handsets, transitioning through Windows Phone 7.x phones, and ending up on Android, LG has officially closed its Mobile division, with the short statement quoted below. It's been a rocky road for LG, but even back in the mid 2000s at the Symbian shows, I never really felt their heart was in it, at least in terms of selling to - and supporting - the West. Some thoughts and a few looks back below.

From the LG Newsroom:

SEOUL, April 5, 2021 — LG Electronics Inc. (LG) announced that it is closing its mobile business unit. The decision was approved by its board of directors earlier today.

LG’s strategic decision to exit the incredibly competitive mobile phone sector will enable the company to focus resources in 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 will provide service support and software updates for customers of existing mobile products for a period of time which will vary by region. LG will work collaboratively with suppliers and business partners throughout the closure of the mobile phone business. Details related to employment will be determined at the local level.

Moving forward, LG will continue to leverage its mobile expertise and develop mobility-related technologies such as 6G to help further strengthen competitiveness in other business areas. Core technologies developed during the two decades of LG’s mobile business operations will also be retained and applied to existing and future products.

The wind down of the mobile phone business is expected to be completed by July 31 although inventory of some existing models may still be available after that.

Although most people will now know LG from a range of quirky Android handsets, LG was involved in the smartphone world back in Symbian days, with: (links go to original AAS articles) 

  • LG KS-10 (JoY), a S60 3rd Edition vertical slider (2006)

    LG JoY
    I remember trying to talk to the LG staff on the stand at the Symbian Smartphones Show in 2006 and getting absolutely nowhere. They'd brought phones, flashy stands, but their staff were all Korean and spoke little English. I know, I know, their English was better than my Korean, but you'd have thought that, attending a major industry show in England where journalists from all round the world would be asking questions, that they'd have UK staffers on the stand who could actually answer questions. I still remember LG's lack of effort fifteen years later - it seemed like they were going through the contractual (to Symbian) motions only.
  • LG KT-610, a S60 3rd Edition communicator, with internal and external displays, plus QWERTY keyboard (2008)

    'Flat' opened
    From my review at the time:
    "One thing's for sure - this is no Nokia E90 competitor - and LG have managed to mess up the qwerty keyboard, which is the one really unique selling point here. Would I like to see more from LG in this vein though? Absolutely, the idea's great. Rework the keyboard layout, optimise the media handling and (pretty please), add Wi-Fi and I'd be more inclined to recommend this quirky slice of S60 to a wider audience."
    They never did though. Just another design thrown out without full attention to detail or proper support.
  • LG KT-770, a S30 3rd Edition vertical slider (2009)

And then in Windows Phone 7.x:

  • LG Quantum and Optimus 7 (2012)

    LG Windows Phone 
    I don't believe we at AAWP ever managed to get a review device in. I realise that this site is marginalised in 2021, but we were the largest outlet for Windows Phone information back in the day and we got nowhere in getting hands on with LG's phones - again as if they were announcing devices to fulfil contractual obligations (this time to Microsoft) without any real effort in following through.

All followed, of course, by a slew of Android handsets, of which the G4 was my favourite, with leather back, replaceable battery, and stonking camera system (for the day). The G5 had an innovative removeable bottom cap, letting the battery be changed in a few seconds, plus add on 'music' and 'camera control' alternative bottoms, while the G6 onwards introduced industry-leading headphone performance, and in latter years a 'Dual screen' system whereby a dedicated case contained a bona fide second screen. Then, although I never got hands-on, the 'Wing', with rotating screen that revealed a smaller screen beneath it, both of which could be used at the same time.

There's a lot of heritage in there, then, over a full 15 years of smartphones. Every pundit out there will be putting their tuppence worth in as to why LG failed, but for the record here's my take. 

  • 15 years of smartphones isn't exactly a 'failure'. Especially in the Android era there have been some very enthusiastic fans, not least of LG's wide angle cameras, video capture, and headphone DAC prowess. There have been many manufacturers which have come and gone with only a handful of commercially available smartphones - LG's track record is at least prolific, even if never world-beatingly successful.
  • Three smartphone OS plus various proprietary systems (for feature phones), a myriad of form factors, all mean that LG's biggest problem has been lack of consistency. In hardware vision, in software quality, in reliability, in support. Even more than Samsung, one could accuse LG of throwing money and ideas at the wall and wondering why relatively little 'stuck'. The G5, for example, was an idea I really wanted to like, a 'modern' design yet with user swappable battery and 'Thunderbirds'-like alternative bottom modules, depending on what one was doing that day. Sadly, manufacturing inconsistencies alienated end users (gaps, sharp edges) and then LG completely dropped the idea after less than a year. Again, no consistency.
  • Lack of PR and marketing push. At least, in the West, seen from my UK point of view. Samsung, LG's biggest rival of the last decade, has event after event, with a huge marketing push and review hardware available, whereas LG only had one big event in the Uk - in a decade. And trying to get review hardware was tough. No money thrown into this means little coverage, which means little public interest and, ultimately, lack of sales.

Your comments welcome - did you own an LG device and how did it stand up in the long term? Did the hardware last and did you get updates?