Tech

LG could be weeks away from shutting down its smartphone business for good

The company has pushed the limits of smartphone design, but that hasn’t been enough to make the business a success.

BARCELONA, CATALONIA, SPAIN - 2019/02/25: The new smartphones of the LG V50 series are seen during the MWC 2019.
The MWC2019 Mobile World Congress opens its doors to showcase the latest news of the manufacturers of smart phones. The presence of devices prepared to manage 5G communications has been the hallmark of this edition. (Photo by Paco Freire/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

LG Electronics may be nearing a decision to shut down its smartphone business for good. The Korean company hoped to sell the business to Volkswagen or Vingroup JSC in Vietnam, but DongA Inbo reports those talks have failed.

The decision to stop producing smartphones would be unsurprising considering LG’s immaterial market share, but disappointing because the company has pumped out some innovative phones in recent years. The LG Wing, for instance, is a dual-screen Android smartphone that features a 6.8-inch display that slides 90 degrees to form a T-shape and reveals a 3.9-inch secondary screen.

In addition to pioneering wide-angle cameras in smartphones, LG also demoed a rollable display technology at this year’s CES that could allow phone screens to expand and shrink in size. The company also makes more conventional phones that compete with the likes of Samsung, but they’ve never managed to achieve the same sort of success enjoyed by their compatriot’s products.

Tough competition — Failing to find success with its smartphones has also meant failing to make the division sufficiently profitable to justify its continued existence. LG’s smartphone unit has bled money for years, including $750 million in 2020 alone. Its market share has collapsed over the years as it’s been beaten out by heavy hitters like Samsung at the high end and Chinese upstart OnePlus, which has managed to pump out flagship-style smartphones at competitive price points.

LG has found itself languishing with other Android makers like Sony, Oppo, and Xiaomi, unable to distinguish itself. Its less adventurous designs are frequently maligned, and LG’s marketing isn’t great either, with products that feature awkward names like the LG V50 ThinQ.

Apparently LG doesn’t think this rollable smartphone is enough to turn around the company’s fortunes. LG/CES 2021

Back in January, LG Electronics’ CEO said that all options were on the table for the smartphone unit. DongA reports that the company halted the development of phones with the rollable display last month, and LG might share its decision on the fate of the business with employees as soon as early April.

Fewer phone manufacturers to choose from isn’t a good thing, but at the end of the day, LG can’t pour money into a losing battle forever. At least it still makes killer TVs, and the company’s rollable displays look set to get an outing in that market segment.