LG is reading the room, or more likely, its bottom line. The Verge has confirmed an internal memo obtained by The Korea Herald that indicates the company is considering axing its phone department. Though LG can never seem to catch up to the likes of Samsung, its zeal for innovation has always pushed smartphone design to new heights.
At what point do you call it quits? — An LG official responded to the leaked memo in a statement to The Korea Herald and didn’t pull any punches. They said “it is about time for LG to make a cold judgment and the best choice” and that “the company is considering all possible measures, including sale, withdrawal, and downsizing of the smartphone business.” Still, LG went on to tell The Verge that nothing has been finalized.
It’s not hard to see where LG’s coming from, especially as its higher-end phones are currently limited to the U.S. and Europe. Global market share metrics either toss it into the dreaded “others” column or it registers too low to be prominently featured.
Within the U.S., it fares a bit better, but it still trails far behind Samsung and Apple. It’s boosted by its more affordable phones, but its current stateside market share would undoubtedly be lower without the Trump administration’s blacklisting of Chinese companies like Huawei, Xiaomi, and Oppo — all of which outperform LG’s offerings on a global scale.
But don’t forget about the good times — The best thing about LG is also the worst: an unchecked fervor for innovation (yes, bloatware is up there too). Plucky upstarts like OnePlus have blossomed, but as their market share grows, the phones all start to look alike again.
Even though the G5’s modular system never caught on, it was the first smartphone with a wide-angle lens. The LG V40 was the first to use a telephoto, wide-angle, and standard trio of lenses — which immediately became the table stakes configuration before some brands eventually graduated to quad lenses.
LG’s relatively new “Explorer Project” is still trying to push the boundaries of what a smartphone can be, from the swiveling Wing to its upcoming rollable phone. While it’s not the first company to show off a prototype of a rollable phone, LG may be the first to market. The company doubled down on the phone being released later this year while also suggesting it might be LG’s last one. It looks like it’s not choosing between going big and going home.