This week LG revealed its phone division is being sent to the farm, confirming ongoing reports that it would bow out of the mobile market following years of declining sales.
This isn’t a surprise. Look at Counterpoint’s mobile market share stats and it’s clear LG hasn’t been a global leader in the space for years, and for good reason.
Every LG handset to pass through Trusted Labs in the past few years has at best been ok, but done little to give our testers reason to recommend them over their more established and often superior competition.
The influx of great value phones from the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo and OnePlus have also hindered their appeal in the mid-range market. Hand on heart the last LG phones I remember genuinely loving carried Google Nexus branding.
But for me, LG pulling out of mobile is still tragic and a sad sign of an ongoing problem in the mobile industry: the companies willing to innovate are all disappearing.
I’m not going to pretend for a second that I ever saw the point of the LG Wing. For those that missed it, this was LG’s last main phone. It had a quirky design featuring a swing-out display that rotated to reveal a secondary screen. To this day I’m confused about how it ever made it off the drawing board.
But, I still love what it stood for: an attempt to innovate in a stagnating market. It’s no secret, phones over the last year have been fairly dull. Sure 5G’s finally arrived and foldables have appeared. But for the most part, flagships are pretty by the numbers. Nearly all the best Android phones use the same CPU, have similar camera setups and all but a few have identical mixed metal and glass designs.
This is why this year I’ve found myself once again advising most buyers to not bother getting a new phone unless they have to, and even then I usually point them to our best mid range phones and best cheap phones guides, rather than a flagship.
Despite not making the best phones, LG was at least still keeping things interesting and trying to do something different.
This is indicative of a problem I’ve noticed over the last decade I’ve spent reviewing phones. Specifically, that companies willing to try and fail doing something different, or interesting, are dropping like flies.
HTC used to be a powerhouse and I loved its zany desire to try new things. It was one of the first phone companies to truly embrace Android and since then it was willing to dip its toe into any new technology it could find. Be it a competing OS from Facebook or an entirely new category, like VR, HTC was willing to give it a go.
The same was true of Nokia and BlackBerry, back when they actually made their own phones. Sure BB10 OS was a train wreck, and the less we say about Symbian the better, but the two firms’ phones year-on-year at least offered something different. I still remember testing the Nokia 808 Pureview around the London Olympic Park nearly 10 years on because, despite being pretty terrible, it was at least memorable.
LG was one of the last companies still operating this way and that’s why I can’t help but feel its mobile division’s passing is a tragedy and mourn its loss. You can see our obituary for LG phones, listing its most entertaining handsets in the attached link.