Features

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

First Look

realme GT Master Edition: Unboxing and First Impressions

Does it remind you of a suitcase?

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realme GT Master Edition

realme has a new phone — the realme GT Master Edition — and we’re gonna take it out of the box. We’ll also tell you what we initially think because these are the only things we’re allowed to do. For now.

The company is using all their favorite buzzwords again to generate… well… buzz for the phone. Words like disruptive, game changer, flagship experience — the works. It gets too hypey, but that’s what you gotta do to standout in an industry dominated by the likes of Apple and Samsung. I digress.

Take a look at the realme GT Master Edition specs before we proceed with the unboxing:

  • Display — 6.43″ AMOLED, 120Hz refresh rate
  • Processor — Qualcomm Snapdragon 778G 5G
  • RAM — 8GB + up to 5GB DRE (Dynamic RAM Extension)
  • Storage — 128GB and 256GB
  • Battery — 4,300mAh, Dual-cell design, 65W SuperDart charging
  • Rear Cameras — 64MP f/1.8 main camera, 8MP f/2.3 119° ultra-wide lens, 2MP f/2.4 macro lens
  • Selfie Camera — 32MP
  • OS — Android 11, realme UI 2.0
  • Color Options — Voyager Grey, Daybreak Blue

It came in this cool tiny travel suitcase. It’ll be a recurring theme.

realme GT Master Edition

Opening it reveals two boxes safely tucked in between foams for shock absorption.

realme GT Master Edition

The left box, as you can see, is just black with the trademark yellow realme logo. On the right side is the box of the actual phone itself.

The left box is filled with different realme items.

Some stickers, keychains, and more.

It also has printed pictures of shots taken using the realme GT Master Edition.

Now, onto the main event — the box of the phone itself.

realme GT Master Edition

Opening the box, you’ll see this warm welcoming message.

realme GT Master Edition

Inside this, you’ll find the usual documentation — warranty, manual, all that good stuff.

Lift that and you’ll be greeted by the realme GT Master Edition.

realme GT Master Edition

Wrapped in plastic with an indicator of where the in-display fingerprint sensor is located.

Lift that layer where the phones and you’ll find the plasticky case.

realme GT Master Edition

It looks exactly like the back of the phone except it’s a shade lighter and doesn’t feel quite as good.

Underneath it is the USB Type-C cable.

realme GT Master Edition

And as you may have gleaned from the photo above, the SIM tray ejector tool lies under it.

 

 

realme GT Master Edition

When you life the case, you’ll see the 65W SuperDart power brick.

realme GT Master Edition

That’s it for everything inside the box. Now let’s look at the phone.

Here’s a good look at the back of the realme GT Master Edition.

realme GT Master Edition

As mentioned earlier, the whole suitcase and travel thing is the main theme of this phone’s design. The horizontal grids were meant to replicate the look of a suitcase to trigger the thought of travel. It’s kind of cruel given the general travel restrictions still imposed on us because of the pandemic. But maybe that’s just me.

Signed by Naoto Fukasawa.

realme GT Master Edition

Responsible for the design is Naoto Fukasawa. He even signed the thing on the back. It’s a puzzling move to say the least. I’m fairly certain 90 percent of the people who will end up purchasing this phone will have zero idea who Fukasawa is. But congrats, you have his autograph now!

Fukasawa is a Japanese industrial designer. He is most known for his works with retail company MUJI. Now, I’m sure a lot of you will be familiar with MUJI. Even then, I don’t think the idea of a renowned designer’s signature being on your phone’s back is something you’ll find thrilling or enticing.

realme continues to make these wild choices for back designs. It’s brave and bold which is in keeping with their whole approach. Personally, these aren’t things I find appealing. Then again, an oldie like me is likely not their target market. I just wanted to get that off my chest.

Looks aside, that back feels great

realme says it’s called the concave vegan leather — the first of its kind in the smartphone industry. I’m not gonna pretend to understand the whole process so here’s an excerpt from realme’s infosheet explaining the thing:

“realme has adopted a more challenging way – the polymer material is turned into an initial three-dimensional shape through the injection molding process, and then use the hot pressing process to synthesize the vegan leather with the substrate, and finally achieve the integrated concave vegan leather shape.

Did you get that? Basically, all of that was needed to achieve the uneven finish with the feel of leather. It’s a lot to take in but all you need to know is that it feels great to touch and isn’t slippery at all.

Bottom: Speaker grille, USB-C port, and suprise — 3.5mm headphone jack.

realme GT Master Edition

Button placements are your usual. Power button on the right side and the volume buttons as well as the SIM card tray on the left side.

Here’s the realme GT Master Edition with the case on.

realme GT Master Edition

It mimics the look of concave vegan leather but feels nowhere near it. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend using this case if you want to preserve that leather feeling. Really wish realme came up with vegan leather case too.

The phone’s wallpaper looks like a pavement.

realme GT Master Edition

Points for consistency, I guess? It’s running Android 11 with a coat of realme UI 2.0. If you’re an OPPO user, this UI going to feel familiar. It’s almost like ColorOS which isn’t a bad thing. The whole UI feels clean and easy to navigate.

What’s surprising are the overwhelming number of apps pre-installed. Sure, you have ones that you’ll likely install like Facebook, Messenger, and Netflix. But for every one of those useful apps, there’s a couple more that’s just flat out bloatware. There are also incessant notifications about apps you can download from their App Market. I know “disrupting” is their thing but maybe not like this?

Cameras to die for?

realme GT Master Edition

realme made a big deal about the back design and just as much as they did, they also said the cameras on this thing are fantastic. Hence, the inclusion of printed photos taken with it in this special unboxing package. We have no samples to show you just yet. We’ll take a step outside, observing health and safety protocols of course, to see if we can come up with stunning images ourselves.

The realme GT Master Edition (that’s a mouthful) is a decently-sized smartphone with concave vegan leather for its back that feels absolutely fantastic. It has an overall clean UI that’s bogged down a little bit by bloatware. We’ll explore its performance and camera prowess in the review. By that time, we’ll also know how its price so watch out for it.

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Accessories

Should you buy the Sony WF-1000XM4?

Here’s a quick guide

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Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony is back again with another top-of-the-line pair of true wireless (TWS) earbuds and it’s one that’s worthy of your consideration. Roughly a couple of years after the launch of the Sony WF-1000XM4, we now have the Sony WF-1000XM4. Should you spend your hard earned cash on it? That’s what we’ll try to answer.

We do have a pretty comprehensive review of the WF-1000XM4. But if that’s a little too long for you, consider this article the TLDR. Let’s dive right in.

It’s within your budget

It should go without saying but in hard times such as now, one shouldn’t mindlessly splurge on the shiniest new tech out there. That said, if you can shell out PhP 13,999 (US$ 280 / SG$ 379 / MYR 1099) then by all means, grab this pair. It’s easily one of the best devices in its category and is definitely worth every penny.

You’re an Android user

Sony WF-1000XM4

STAYC’s “Stereotype” is bop. Give it a listen.

Sony has this tech called LDAC. While it’s not exactly hi-res audio, it’s likely the closest thing to it. Here’s an entire explainer from the SoundGuys if you want a deep dive on it. And sadly, this format isn’t supported by any iPhone as of writing. To experience the absolute best audio quality that the WF-1000XM4 has to offer, you’re better off being on Android.

Now, that’s not to say it’s terrible on iPhones or any other device. In fact, we’ve used this on both an iPhone and a Mac and the audio quality is still a blessing to the ears. You’re not getting the ‘absolute best’ but it’s still better than most others.

You care about the environment

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony moved away from the usual box you expect from devices of this caliber. Instead, they’re using recycled packaging for the WF-1000XM4. It’s plastic free and is made from a special blend of paper.

It’s a move to the more sustainable side of things and it’s one we’re totally down with. Besides, if you’re looking for that premier feeling, there’s no shortage of that on the device itself.

You’re not a fan of the AirPods design

Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony WF-1000XM4 with the Huawei Freebuds Pro. Don’t have AirPods on hand, sorry.

Pretty much every other manufacturer who jumped on the TWS market followed Apple’s cue. That means TWS earbuds that have a stem. While we’ve gotten used to the look over the years, the general perception is still that if it has a stem, it’s an AirPods copycat. This despite other brands giving their own spin on it.

The stem isn’t just for show though. For most of these earbuds, they serve as a mic. During our tests, they’ve generally performed better in call situations over ones that don’t have them.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 is still pretty decent for voice and video calls, so if you can live with that and want something that doesn’t stick out of your ear too much, then this is the choice for you.

You want something for multiple uses

Multiple uses in every kind of sense. The WF-1000XM4 promises up to eight hours of music playback with noise cancellation switched on, and the case can supply an additional 16 hours of battery life via charging. That’s pretty consistent with our usage.

Trust us, you’re not gonna have these on for eight hours straight anyway. With its IPX4 rating, it’s water resistant enough to take with you for workouts. After freshening up from exercise, you can use it for a few work meetings here and there. And then you can cap your day by listening to your favorite podcast or music — for us, it’s been a heavy dose of TWICE tracks, STAYC’s “Stereotype” and some Slow Jams to put us to bed.

That’s what regular daily use looks like. And we’ve only had to charge the device after two to three days. Of course, that’ll vary depending on your usage — which, no matter what that may be, the WF-1000XM4 can handle mightily.

SEE ALSO: Sony WF-1000XM4 review: Simply the best

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Features

This kid-friendly podcast is a cool way to teach Philippine history

It’s called ‘Habilin’ and is a 12-part podcast

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Habilin

There are a handful of key events and highlights throughout Philippine history that our kids should be mindful of as they grow up and begin to become more socially aware and involved.

Martial Law is one of them. It’s one of the most discussed historical topics until now, even just in a casual setting, 49 years after it was declared.

Nowadays, people still find themselves confused or have trouble talking about a keystone moment in Filipino history. It is no secret that the Marcos dictatorship, which spanned over a decade, affected millions of Filipinos.

It plunged the country into overwhelming debt, countless human rights violations, and consequences that are still being paid for today and will continue to be paid for by generations to come — as all verified and fact-checked by sources.

Yes, it’s a topic that’s serious, but we’d also want the next generation to be in the know and encourage them to take a stand as they look back at an important piece of collective history.

So one might ask: how do we begin to talk to kids about Martial Law?

Enter “Habilin,” a 12-part podcast and animated series about the heroes who fought for our freedom, produced by The Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines, Sandigan Para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan (SAMASA), and the Give a Hoot podcast.

The unsung heroes

Going with a unique approach with its production and story angles, the podcast project showcases the lives of ordinary Filipinos who stood up for their rights and empowered citizens, providing different point of views for its young audience.

Through thoughtful storytelling, eye-catching animation, and immersive sound design in its episodes available in both video and podcast forms, “Habilin” is able to cater to the more techy youth and share with them powerful stories they may have never heard of before.

Sister Mariani Dimaranan, Lazaro Silva, and Lumbaya Gayudan

Sister Mariani Dimaranan, Lazaro Silva, and Lumbaya Gayudan — these are all names kids might not be familiar with, but in just a few minutes, they will be hooked to their inspiring stories of heroism.

Habilin” has a feature on Elma Tangente, a “binukot”, or a young Visayan noblewoman chosen by her tribe to be sheltered from the public eye. But after they were forced out of their land by the military, she joined the guerilla movement and organized different communities, bringing them together to fight against the dictatorship.

She gave up her binukot status and went to a school run by student activists, where she learned to read and write and became interested in social issues. This is where she realized what being a “chosen one” truly means: to empower her community.

Nestor Principe

Another episode features Nestor Principe, a karate instructor and community organizer. Nestor and his brothers learned martial arts to defend their community against gangs and rogue policemen. After becoming a karate champion, he toured the world as a bodyguard for a Malaysian official until he learned about the First Quarter Storm.

When he went back to school, he absorbed more knowledge about national issues. Upon the declaration of Martial Law, he fled to Cordilleras. Despite not speaking the local language, he found ways to discuss the state of the nation and convinced more people to fight the dictatorship. Principe, who was martyred in 1973, exchanged fighting with fists to using his words to defend others.

Armando Palabay

Armando Palabay, meanwhile, tells the story of an Ilocano local living in a society that was devoted to the Marcoses. When Palabay and his brother saw that it was important to help people see the truth behind the propaganda, they told their classmates about the injustices, and staged protests as poems, plays, and songs.

Palabay’s story teaches kids the importance of standing for what is right, even if it’s difficult under the circumstances he was in.

Lights of hope

Habilin” features Filipinos from all walks of life: unsung heroes, which include a beauty queen and a nun. The courage of these unlikely heroes shows that no matter where they come from, anyone can carry a light of hope for a new future.

“I hope young Filipinos understand that they, too, can use their voice to stand up against injustice and oppression,” says Tricia Aquino, producer of Give A Hoot and chief content officer at PumaPodcast, the award-winning podcast production company behind the series’ sound design. “I hope ‘Habilin’ helps them learn our history, so that they can, in turn, tell the stories of those who fought for democracy.”

The “Habilin” series reminds us that everyone has the capacity to be a source of light in dark times, and that we have a responsibility to remember our history. Like them, you, too, can inspire the next generation to what’s right and what’s good for the rest of the country — in your own little ways.

There is no doubt that innovations in technology have made our lives easier and more comfortable in the modern times. But it’s also led to the age of disinformation and fake news.

The is why it’s all the more vital for kids to hear the real-life stories of everyday heroes that inspire and lead. Like the producers of “Habilin”, it’s only necessary for these history stories to be part of our regular conversations so we may #NeverForget and protect the freedom that we’ve gallantly fought for.


Give A Hoot is a podcast on communication for social change. Listen to the “Habilin” podcast series on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts. The animated version is also available on the Commission on Human Rights’ of the Philippines’ Facebook and Youtube pages.

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