LG: What went wrong?

LG announced yesterday that they are quitting the smartphone business. LG was once a major player in the smartphone market, but soon started to lose steam after a series of financial losses.

What went wrong?

Bootloop issues

While positively received, there was an issue that would cause the downfall of the company… that is BOOT LOOPS

The dreaded bootloop. A word that would strain LG forever for many models to come. It was first seen on the flagship LG G4, which was the competitor of the Samsung Galaxy S6. The phone suffered from a crash that would cause it to restart on the startup logo forever, bricking the phone. Because LG did not properly fix the issue, and that successor phones still had the issue, a class action lawsuit was filed against them in 2017.

The bootloop issue forced many LG users to go to service centers to have it fixed or replaced. Unfortunately, even the replacements have the bootloop issue, making the problem hardware-based instead of software-based, which is harder to fix.

ThinQ, and lack of identity

What kind of name really is “ThinQ?” What are they ThinQing?. Regular consumers may not know what that word really means, and how do you even pronounce it? “Thin Q” or “Think”? I’d go for the former.

For those who are unaware, “ThinQ” is a name used to brand LG’s appliances. A genius move for LG is to slap that name on their phones, starting with the LG G7 ThinQ. The idea is that your LG phone is connected to their appliances, kinda like how Xiaomi does it with their smart home appliances.

The LG G7 ThinQ also had battery problems due to bad display optimisation. However, by the time LG G7 ThinQ got released, the issue did not get widespread as others are looking already for alternatives, such as the Galaxy S9.

LG’s naming schemes are also confusing, even if you’re technologically inclined, you are going to be confused which phone is which, which one is the “better” or “improved” version in a series (like the K and Q midrangers). Sony also suffered this naming problem, and Xiaomi also has this poor naming scheme. A regular customer may not even figure out what’s the difference between Mi Note and Redmi Note, without researching first, due to how similarly named they are.

A good naming scheme is easy to understand for a non-techie, especially its features and specs, and I believe this is what LG and Sony are lacking.

Good innovations, poor execution

LG is a company known for innovative design and pioneered many features which is used on many smartphones today.

LG Prada, the first phone with a capacitive touchscreen

The first phone with a capacitive touchscreen, and an all-touch UI, is not an iPhone, rather it was an LG. The LG KE850 Prada was released in 2006, a year earlier than the first iPhone. However, due to brilliant marketing, the iPhone stole this spotlight and was credited instead for “innovating” smartphones we know today, and this LG phone remains forgotten.

Taken from: GSMArena.com, the LG Optimus 2X

Another innovative feature LG unveiled was in the camera department. The first phone that can record slow motion video was the LG Viewty, a phone released in 2007. This phone can record 240p at 120fps, which was something new at the time. The first phone that could record in FHD was also from LG, this was the LG Optimus 2X introduced in 2011

They were also one of the first to create a phone with dual cameras. However, it’s not for photo enhancement or to create that crazy bokeh effect everyone was talking about, instead, it was for 3D purposes. The LG Optimus 3D was this smartphone. Manufacturers quickly returned to single cameras after the 3D fad died.

Impressive features at the time yes, however, LG also released a line of smartphones for them to experiment on, the V series. The G series is for mainstream while the V series is where innovations went. The LG V10, had a display on top, possibly making it one of the first phones to have that “notch” every phone has now these days. However, instead of improving that said technology (which, not gonna lie, is actually cool), they just jumped ship to another quirky or gimmicky feature. The design was also not received by many. Mainly, the phone was considered “too big” at the time, and it did not have a large consumer base for it. Also, the replaceable battery meant LG had to sacrifice water resistance, a benefit which is hard to justify. (Oddly, the Galaxy S5 still has water resistance, in spite of the removable back).

Since then, the V series went to a “safer route” making it nearly indistinguishable to the G series.

One recent innovation LG made is the swiveling screen on the LG Wing, the phone can rotate and form a T-shape so you can see the comments and watch a video at the same time on YouTube, for example. It caught the eyes of the media, but after a few weeks, it just faded… LG did not improve on it and started to jump ship again, this time with a rollable display. However, considering they are shutting down this year, the plan will never materialise, so much as LG has to cancel everything they have planned this year.

LG is a company that will create one experiment, and abandon it, and then create a new one, without ever improving or seeing the potential the older experiments have

Lacking software support

LG is one of those companies that rarely give Android updates, that also includes some of their flagships. Samsung was also notorious for this, but it recently coped up and even promised four years worth of updates for their newer phones. LG just occasionally sticks to the usual security updates, even then, it’s seldom. In AOSMark, LG (LGE on their website) is placed at the very bottom in terms of software updates

Poor Marketing

As mentioned earlier, many LG phones are not performing well. LG has lost more than $4.5 billion within the last six years of manufacturing. LG reached its peak around 2014, before the boot loop issues happened, which led to their demise.

When Xiaomi hit the scene, many once-big-manufacturers, like LG and Sony, failed to keep up demand. Their phones are just not worthy for the price than what Chinese companies has to offer. Their specs are underwhelming in the midsegment, in comparison to phones like Redmi Note 5 Ai or Redmi Note 4, which provide upper midrange performance for budget phone price. Although denying claims that they will exit the Philippines, they exited the market anyway early 2019.

The company also had a bad presence in Social Media, which means less people are going to be aware about their products, and bloggers who wish to present and review an LG phone meant they have buy it full price. That’s not bad, but what’s bad is the long delay before they arrive.

LG offered nothing new, no matter the tier, be it upper midranger, budget or flagship. Probably one of their best offerings is the Quad DAC sound, which provides crisp and clearer sound than those compared in the market, as well as the QHD display on some of their phones. In fact, the LG G3 was one of the first to provide a QHD display, and the LG G6 is the first phone to have an 18:9 ratio.

While the camera hardware is great, even competitive, their software side is lagging behind. Its most significant addition is the manual control, emulating that of a DSLR. However, since then, nothing new is brought up. Even if they did, it feels more like a gimmick more than a feature. One feature they brought up is “Triple Shot” where all three lenses at the back can take a picture all at once. The practical use of it has since been questionable.

Poor Price:Specs ratio

While LG still posted their sales figures publicly, they failed to adjust to one crucial thing, that is providing spec-worthy phones at a low price. LG phones look like every other phone in the market, and instead of lowering their phones prices, they instead adjusted the price in accordance to inflation, without providing any cool features that would make the phones unique than what others are offering. In short, they had competition, but LG can’t compete. Quad DAC is a cool feature, but the company needs to provide something more to catch people’s attention.

Users would buy, say, a Redmi K20 Pro, a flagship phone for less price but more features, than a similarly-specced LG phone, albeit with lesser support and lesser features, at nearly double the price.

Every company drops their price now and then. Phones depreciate and that’s completely normal. Even Xiaomi drops their SRP temporarily every time a new phone launches, and then returns back to its original price. However, LG seems to drop their price very frequently. From super expensive $700, down to just $300 in a matter of weeks, or even days, and then not retaining the original price. Thus, people are losing interest in buying them or not taking the company seriously, due to the confusing and unexpected price drops, as if LG does not know how to properly price their phones. The LG Velvet is beautiful, it could have made LG go back to its feet, but the absurd pricing is just hard to justify.

Sources: GSMArena, PhoneArena, TechRadar, ArsTechnica, Android Authority, Al Jazeera