Features

Fall of LG Mobile: 5 years of experimenting gone wrong

A loss of $4.5 billion in six years

Published

on

South Korean electronics giant LG announced it’ll be shutting down the smartphone division (LG Mobile) due to deepening losses. After six years of posting a consistent loss, it was time for the phone maker to give up and focus on products that promised growth.

If you’re closely following the smartphone industry, LG Mobile’s demise doesn’t feel surprising. It was always playing catch-up in the market while Samsung and Apple were the trendsetters. Its current global share is only about two percent. It shipped 23 million phones last year which pales in comparison to the 256 million shipped by Samsung, according to research provider Counterpoint.

The story of LG Mobile is quite the same as BlackBerry, Nokia, Motorola, and HTC. The four brands that were once considered legends in the smartphone market are now history. Even though most of these brand names are again active, they no longer have the legacy DNA that made them what they were.

Why did LG Mobile fail to get a stronghold while newcomers like Xiaomi, OnePlus, OPPO, and vivo prospered? It also had an established sales channel in the US and Europe, where the demand for premium phones is higher. So, what went wrong?

The classic Samsung vs LG conflict

In March 2015, Samsung launched the Galaxy S6 while LG showed off the G4 after a month. Around the same time, HTC had also unveiled the One M9. This was when the three companies would try their best to outbid the other, and the stakes were high. Unlike today, Samsung was new to multiple variants of the same phone and it wasn’t the standard practice. LG Mobile only had one flagship and it had to do all the heavy lifting. Hence the price was also an important factor.

Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, & Galaxy S6

Samsung was racing ahead with positive sales of the Galaxy S6 (and S6 edge) while LG Mobile wasn’t far behind. It had a solid reputation, and the G4 clocked an enthusiastic response in the American market. But the overall global sales were below expectations. HTC’s decline had started, and it was gradually sinking since it completely failed to take on Samsung’s marketing might and a more confident product offering.

Just like Samsung’s two flagships per year cycle, LG debuted its V10 in the second half of 2015. While Samsung always had the S-Pen to differentiate the Note series, other phone makers were struggling to find their niche. The V10 sported a tiny secondary display that added an always-on feature for notifications, music controls, quick settings, and more to bridge this gap.

LG V10

Even though the V10 had top-of-the-line specs, dual-selfie cameras, and a few productivity-centric features, it couldn’t go up against Samsung. The S and Note-series now had curved screens, best-in-class cameras, improving UI (TouchWiz), and long-term software support. Even though Samsung was often late in pushing OTA updates, it maintained a far better roll-out history than LG Mobile.

And most importantly, Samsung was ready to splurge on marketing. While LG Mobile was playing catch-up with Samsung, the latter was trying to take on Apple. The ambitions of the South Korean companies were starkly different.

The experimenting phase

LG Mobile had spent a lot on ads in 2015, including getting Bollywood celebrity Amitabh Bachchan to endorse the G4. This was an ambitious campaign because it intended to capture India’s growing upper-middle class population, who usually aspire for an Apple or Samsung.

But after three years of chasing Samsung, LG was tired. The usual formula of creating a top-notch flagship just wasn’t enough. And with new smartphone trends like unibody design, dual-cameras, and larger screens, LG Mobile decided to experiment in 2016.

The LG G5 had a radical design — it was modular, and the user could swap parts. Around this time, the excitement around Google’s Project ARA was at an all-time high, and this seemed like a logical first step. Are you a power user? Here’s an extra battery that you can swap. Are you an audiophile? Here’s an external DAC. Love photography? Add manual DSLR-like buttons or a 360-degree camera!

Samsung Galaxy S7

It was a very futuristic approach, and it should’ve worked, but it didn’t. Samsung again stole the show with its Galaxy S7 series, and it helped the brand mint strongest profits in over two years. But even Samsung’s winning streak came to an end with the master-blaster Note 7. The second half of 2016 gave LG Mobile some breather, but it still wasn’t enough to celebrate.

So, why did a wonderful phone like the G5 fail?

It’s all about how you’re perceived as a brand. Samsung and LG are household names that make large appliances like refrigerators, televisions, and washing machines. These products are considered mass-market and are designed keeping a broader audience in mind. While LG still rules the heavy appliances market, it never focused on its phone division and had conflicting strategies.

Firstly, LG was a premium brand, but it frequently had to undercut its phones’ price to ensure an edge over the others. This meant that it wasn’t actually dictating a premium, and the other brands were perceived to be better. Apple never reduces the price of its products within months of launch. The losses and reducing revenues forced the company to cut costs. And this was easily visible through its software update history.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Apple iPhone X

Secondly, a phone like the G5 is too confusing for the average Joe. An iPhone is marketed as a stand-alone device that can do everything. Samsung too followed the same track and ensured its phones are near-perfect. The display, camera, battery, performance, and longevity all had to be taken care of. By adding modules, LG Mobile definitely gave the nerds a hard boner, but it also repelled the wider audience.

Many other phone makers have tried to create a niche, but they usually fail. The smartphone business is about scaling as much as possible to reduce operational costs. A niche phone like the G5 has a lot of appeal, but it attracts only a small audience. Brands like Nextbit, Essential, and BlackBerry tried to please the niche audience for too long, in turn, losing the larger user base.

Not learning from its mistakes

One thing every LG Mobile user will agree with — the software is horrendous. The company never took it seriously, and it was a serious letdown since the beginning. It was average until the G4 and then consistently went downhill ever since. Samsung’s TouchWiz has been a viral meme target, and that’s actually because of the number of units the company has sold. LG never sold enough units to earn a condescending meme in the wider social network.

I vividly remember that the company decided to skip the app drawer from its UI before the G5 launched but hastily decided to put it back because users weren’t happy. It was considered a mimicry of iOS. Incidents like these tell you that LG Mobile was confused — proceed independently or start taking inspiration from those who are successfully selling?

The LG G6 was also an exciting phone that housed an amazing wide-angle lens, sleek design, and a gorgeous LCD display (yes, LCD). I remember wanting to buy the phone, but it just didn’t seem like a worth-it deal. Why spend so much on an LG phone when I can get the Galaxy S8? By this time, the trust in Samsung was higher than ever, iOS had its own bubble, and new Chinese entrants like OnePlus were gobbling the market.

Samsung Galaxy S8, Xiaomi Mi Mix, and LG G6

On the eastern side of the world, OnePlus and Xiaomi were among the first few to truly understand the potential of a perfect UI running on Android. OnePlus started with a niche, Cyanogen Mod, and soon migrated to Oxygen OS. MIUI was at the heart of all Xiaomi phones and was just getting started. OnePlus not only ate into Samsung’s pie but also sidelined LG completely. The troubled brand was now struggling in the developed as well as developing world.

Its brand name had taken a massive hit, it wasn’t able to sell enough phones, and the competition slowly pushed it out. It could neither undercut others via price cuts in the US nor command a premium in Asia. All the sweet spots it had, were gone.

In the affordable and midrange, LG stood no chance as it had to go up against multiple competitors with exceedingly aggressive pricing. It didn’t have a large supply chain to go up against the Chinese players and after burning billions, the need to invest more was unjustifiable.

The final years of surviving

The G and V-series continued to get successors until 2019. The G8X ThinQ marked the end of the classic lineup that started it all. The V-series was being updated, but it was almost like nobody cared. In the last two years, the company had almost given up. But there were a few takers who still found a lot of value in LG phones.

LG made a lot of mistakes, but it also made phones unlike any other. Despite loss-making quarters, the brand remained loyal to its experimenting philosophy and showed innovative concepts like the Dual Screen cover. Foldable phones have been around for quite some time, but they’re fragile and expensive. LG’s new form factor brought something new to the table, and many were happy with it.

LG’s phones shall always be synonymous with wide-angle cameras, Quad DAC, OLED screens, and sleek designs. In a world where camera bumps are getting larger than the phone itself, having a simple light slab of glass and metal in your hand is very satisfying.

As a final gesture of survival, LG announced a brand new strategy in mid of 2020 and unveiled the Velvet. The new strategy also brought along a swiveling phone — the LG Wing. But it was too late.

LG Mobile could either abandon its plans to be a niche player and go full steam like realme or close down the business. Even with a niche, it wasn’t selling enough to cover basic operational costs. The board members of LG chose the latter.

The company that had once kickstarted webOS development was now leaving the mobile market for good. Although, this doesn’t mean we won’t be seeing LG around in the smartphone space. The giant is a lot like Samsung and makes class-leading displays, chips, and other components. You may not have an LG-branded phone in the future, but you’ll surely end up using its know-how passively.

From now on, the company will focus on divisions that have growth prospects–namely, electric vehicle components, artificial intelligence, connected devices, smart home solutions, and more.

A large company like LG, Nokia, BlackBerry, or HTC is harder to navigate. Due to the sheer size and distribution of the company, a turnaround becomes equally difficult. The irony is, these multiple channels of sales made them giants. And is the same reason why they got too heavy and can’t stay afloat.


WATCH: Remembering the best LG Phones

Unboxing

Hermès Apple Watch Series 8: Unboxing and Full Set-Up

What makes it different from the regular Apple Watch though?

Published

on

If you’ve been fond of GadgetMatch for quite a while now, you would know that Michael Josh is a big Apple Watch user.

From having to experience several Watch Series up until the Watch Ultra, to having various bands, he now has the most expensive Apple Watch in the Series 8 lineup in his hands.

In this video, he unboxes the most expensive Apple Watch ever — the Hermès Apple Watch Series 8.

To give you the full experience, he’ll also dive into the nitty-gritty of what makes it different and more special than the regular Watch Series 8.

Continue Reading

Camera Shootouts

vivo V25 vs V23 5G: Camera Shootout

Are there even significant improvements?

Published

on

By

vivo V25

It hasn’t even been a year but vivo has already revealed the successor to the V23 5G that was launched earlier this 2022. But is it actually worth upgrading to the new vivo V25? Or should you save yourself some money and buy the older V23 5G instead?

vivo V25

Don’t let that new camera bump with bigger circular cutouts on the vivo V25 fool you. On paper, the cameras are close to one another but the V25 has the advantage of having a slightly wider aperture and OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) that the V23 5G doesn’t have.

vivo V25 vivo V23 5G
Wide 64MP f/1.79
PDAF, OIS + EIS
64MP f/1.89
PDAF, EIS
Ultra-WIde 8MP 120º f/2.2
Macro 2MP f/2.4
Selfie 50MP f/2.0 wide

 

50MP f/2.0 wide
8MP f/2.28 ultra-wide
+ Dual-tone Spotlight

The sad news though is that, vivo has decided to remove the extra ultra-wide selfie camera and dual flash system on the new V25.

vivo V23 with the Dual-tone Spotlight Flash feature

But how do these phones perform side-by-side knowing the new V25 also has a slightly less-powerful MediaTek Dimensity 900 chipset over V23 5G’s Dimensity 920? Are there enough convincing differences or is the older model actually better? Feed yourself some photo sample comparisons below.

Daylight

In any given circumstance, a valuable Android midranger should take at least a decent photo with natural light around — thus me taking lesser photos to compare.
Still, your judgment matters.

#1A (Ultra-wide)

vivo V25

#1B (Wide)

vivo V25

#2

#3A (Wide)

#3B (Zoom)

Food

Taking food shots (mostly with indoor lighting) is a better way to test which phone camera is capable of producing the better image output with the right amount of highlights, shadows, contrast, sharpness, temperature, as well as Dynamic Range.

#4

#5

#6

#7

#8

#9

#10

#11

*Left photo was taken multiple times with the focus tapped on the baked roll. Lens coating was also cleaned several times but still resulted to the same output.

#12

Night Mode

Low-light photos can either make or break the capabilities of a smartphone’s camera.
While it’s a mixed bag of outputs, it still depends on the user if Night Mode photos are important in a midranger or not.

#13A (Wide)

#13B (Ultra-wide)

#14

#15

#16

#17

#18

vivo V25

#19

vivo V25

#20

vivo V25

BONUS: Low-Light Selfie

For users who love taking selfies even in the dark, both phones can take fill-in flash (using the display) to brighten up your faces.

Without Flash

vivo V25

However, the ultra-wide selfie and Dual-tone Spotlight feature were removed completely from the vivo V25. You just have to guess and pick which is which.

With Flash (Aura Fill, Dual-Tone Dual Spotlight Flash)

vivo V25

Results

No more confusions, the results are consistent all throughout the board:

Photo A — vivo V23 5G

Photo B — vivo V25

Conclusion

vivo V25

While it’s barely a big camera quality improvement, the vivo V25 has rendered some of the scenes quite well such as in Photos 1A, 11, and 12 which the V23 5G failed to display at least an acceptable output. Other times, the vivo V23 5G delivered better results like in Photos 1B, 2, 3A, 4, and 13A. Those images delivered overall better photos with a sufficient amount of HDR (High Dynamic Range) and AWB (Auto White Balance).

Overall, the V25 produced better images with decent amount of highlights, shadows, contrast, sharpness. The newer model also has some slight edge on focusing and making shots brighter and more stable at night.

vivo V25

While only two selfies were provided, the V23 5G obviously has the edge — especially with its extra selfie lens and dual-flash feature.

vivo V25

If you’re coming from the V23 5G, you don’t need to upgrade to the vivo V25. Period. But, if you’re looking for a phone to replace your old vivo smartphone (or pretty much any old budget phone or midranger for that matter), buying the V25 won’t hurt.

vivo V25

Unless you’re looking for a used unit, a brand new vivo V23 5G is being sold at PhP 27,999. Whereas, a brand new V25 retails at a cheaper PhP 23,999 price tag.

vivo V25

Imho, choosing the V23 5G over the V25 is advantageous for some reasons: a more premium-looking design with metallic sides, slightly faster chipset, and the extra selfie camera.

vivo V25

But realizing how more capable the cameras of the V25 are, you can also choose it for its bigger battery and brighter display. Also, the OIS feature is very handy if you love taking photos in action or at night or just record stable-free videos without worrying about warping and jitters. At the end of the day, you should know what you value the most in buying a new smartphone.

SEE ALSO:

vivo V25 is a Night Portrait Master

Taking photos to the next level with the vivo V23 5G

Continue Reading

Camera Shootouts

iPhone 14 Pro Max vs 13 Pro Max vs S22 Ultra: Camera Shootout

A Very Different Camera Test

Published

on

The iPhone 14 Pro Max finally has an upgraded camera system — highlighted by its 48MP main camera sensor.

But does it really take better photos vs the iPhone 13 Pro Max and Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra?

Find out in our photo-walk style camera shootout with the pro-photographer and Apple’s #ShotoniPhone Macro Challenge Global Winner Tom Reeves.

Continue Reading

Trending