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Fall of LG Mobile: 5 years of experimenting gone wrong

A loss of $4.5 billion in six years

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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

Features

5 timeless gifts you can give to a dad anytime of the year

For your dad, your friend who became a dad, or any ‘dad’ in your life

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Father's Day Gift Guide

Dads don’t get a lot of spotlight, probably because a lot of us suffer from daddy issues. But for those who have a loving relationship, or those who just started repairing theirs — giving your dad a thoughtful gift might be a way to strengthen the connection.

Here are five timeless gifts you can give to your dad, your friend who just became a dad, or if there’s any ‘daddy’ in your life.

Powerbank

Father's Day Gift Guide

In the era of connected life, going out without a power bank is like going out without a wallet. Even though most gadgets nowadays have strong battery lives, it’s always practical to have a backup.

And dads love being prepared at any costs, making it the perfect gift that’s versatile to every need — whether it’s for their smartphone, wireless earbuds, portable speakers, or a mini-fan. Shop here.

Electric Shaver

Father's Day Gift Guide

Just because they’re getting old, doesn’t mean they should forget how to groom themselves. Teach them to be like a fine wine — they should get better as they age, and they should even look more dapper to keep up with the times. (Hello, matching father and son outfits?).

Anyhoo, an electric shaver will suffice — giving them a clean, shaved look that will help them look presentable wherever they are. Shop here.

Leather Wallet Phone Case

Father's Day Gift Guide

For so many years, dads kept us protected in different ways. Now that we have a chance to give back, why not help them protect their essentials through a leather wallet phone case?

Mujjo’s, for example, speaks convenience and efficiency, without forsaking style. Its cardholder can carry up to three cards, and the case comes in a durable yet gorgeous leather design producing a beautiful patina over time. Shop here and use coupon #dad for 15 percent off all products (valid through June 21st).

Cordless Drill

Father's Day Gift Guide

Men love cordless drills. Not because they love drilling somebody else, but because it gives them the power to build and repair things.

In a way, it’s also one of the most useful and practical gifts that you can give, since the household can use it in different situations. Shop here.

Treadmill

Our dads sometimes forget that health is wealth. Give them the gift of health through a treadmill, so you can encourage them to live an active and fit lifestyle to prevent diseases that come with age.

Running a few miles can help them live longer, so you all can bond and make more memories together. Shop here.

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First Look

realme 8 5G Unboxing and First Impressions

Midrange game changer?

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Game-changer. It’s a bold adjective to use, especially when you’re describing a smartphone that’s situated in a competitive midrange segment. But realme has always dared to leap, and they’re doing exactly that with the realme 8 5G.

They’re calling it a 5G game-changer. It will require more extensive testing to determine whether that’s true or not, but for the meantime, here are our first impressions of realme’s newest offering.

But first, a quick rundown of the specifications for this device.

Display 6.5-inch IPS LCD display, 90 hZ 1080p
Processor MediaTek MT6833 Dimensity 700 5G (7nm)
RAM + ROM 128 GB ROM/8GB RAM
Cameras 48MP primary camera (wide)
2MP macro camera
2MP depth sensor
Battery 5000 mAh

 

The phone comes in realme’s signature yellow box. No surprises there.

Taking out the lid, you’re greeted by a short note from the brand. Nice touch!

Going through the rest of the box, you’ll find your usual set of manuals, a charging cable, and your charging brick. Realme also included a case for free out of the box. Good stuff!

It makes a good first impression, but can it last?

Out of the box, the first thing you notice is how pretty the device is. Without touching it, you’d think it was made out of glass. But in reality, they used plastic for this device. The radiant light effect is definitely a nice touch.

Outside of the fingerprint smudges you’ll definitely be leaving on the back, you’d want to rock this phone without a case.

The realme 8 5G uses a curved back for added ergonomics. The phone is well-built, and it doesn’t feel cheap even if plastic was realme’s material of choice.

That extra feeling of sturdiness matters, especially in a competitive midrange market. First impressions can make or break whether you get a smartphone or not. In this case, realme passed with flying colors. Early indications suggest that realme has a winner with the 8 5G.

That’s all we have on realme’s newest midrange offering for now. We’ll be testing the device to see whether the realme 8 5G can truly #CaptureInfinitePossibilitiesWith5G.

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First Look

Huawei MatePad 2021 Unboxing and First Impressions

The device for people on the go!

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Huawei has updated its primary tablet the Huawei Matepad. Come and join me as we unbox the new Huawei MatePad 2021.

Unboxing

Starting off, we have the box. A clean and simple look, but definitely pleasing! The front of the box shows us the branding and the name of the device.

A Huawei logo on the upper left corner, the AppGallery on the lower right, and on the lower left, the screen size of the device.

The box also has an interesting texture, only on the top cover though.

Opening the box, we have the device itself wrapped in fine paper and a pull tab to assist you when lifting the device out of the box.

Underneath the device, you are presented with two boxes. One box for the charging brick…

and the second containing the paperwork, USB Type-C cable, a 3.5mm headphone jack adaptor, and a warranty card.

Only the larger box is removable so be careful not to rip out the smaller box. Behind the larger box is the sim ejector tool, be sure to keep it safe!

Huawei MatePad

Removing the paper, we now see the simple but gorgeous Huawei MatePad in the “Midnight Grey” colorway. Be sure to remove the sticker — it’s optional but I suggest that you do.

The device itself is lightweight and easy to carry around, as a slim device it’s very easy to place it in a bag and you will have no problem carrying it around all day.

Starting off at the front, you will see the 10.4-inch screen with the camera at the top. Referring to the format at the back of the device, the front-facing camera is placed at the top.

On the left side of the device, you will be able to find the speakers along with the sleep/wake button. The right side shows you another pair of speakers and a charging port.

The top shows 4 microphones with the volume up and down button at the very left.

Heading over to the back you’ll be able to see the single-shooter camera, the Huawei branding, and an indication of their partnership with Harman/Kardon. The camera is accompanied by a flash and a microphone.

Specs

  • Display: 10.4-inch 2000×1200 IPS, 225 PPI
  • Processor: Huawei Kirin 820 series
  • Memory: RAM – 4GB, ROM – 128GB
  • Camera: 8MP front, 8MP rear
  • Battery: 7250mAh

Final thoughts

Finally, now we have unboxed the new Huawei MatePad. With this, the device itself feels good to the touch and is a good size for a tablet. Additionally, the “Midnight Grey” colorway of the MatePad is a great choice, it doesn’t collect fingerprints easily and the device is lightweight so you don’t have to worry when taking it with you anywhere.

The initial setup of the new MatePad was fast and easy, there are pre-loaded apps that are ready to use. Although I’m not sure if it’s just me or the apps change from time to time when you open the designated folders of the pre-loaded apps. For media consumption, the experience was good. Although the YouTube app was not the same as the ones we see on our devices, it works well as it should.

The screen looks good so far with the 2000×1200 IPS display, trying a few videos and films, the quality was great. Additionally, the speakers are a huge boost to the volume — loud but good quality. The MatePad also doesn’t have a 3m5mm headphone jack, luckily, they provided an adaptor. The MatePad is looking good so far, stay tuned for the next article as we are going deep and we’ll be having a full review of the Huawei MatePad 2021.

 

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