LG makes its exit from the smartphone business

6 Apr 2021

Image: © Игорь Головнёв/Stock.adobe.com

The South Korean company was once a top player in the global smartphone market but its standing dwindled in recent years.

LG has thrown in the towel on its smartphone business after falling behind several of its rivals in recent years.

The South Korean electronics giant will wind down the business between now and July. It said its decision to leave the “incredibly competitive mobile phone sector” will allow the company to focus more on electric vehicles, IoT and other business segments.

It added that it will continue to provide support and software updates for a “period of time”, depending on the region. The company also indicated that there may be job losses with the closure of the business unit. “Details related to employment will be determined at the local level,” it said.

The conglomerate is in the middle of restructuring and spinning out parts of its business.

Shuttering the smartphone division marks the end of an era for LG, which was once one of the top smartphone makers in the world.

While Apple and Samsung often retained the top spots in the global smartphone market, LG maintained a healthy position in the early 2010s. But that position has dwindled in the last few years.

Figures from research firm Counterpoint show that LG had fallen to seventh place in terms of global smartphone shipments in recent years and its current global market share is at around 2pc.

LG’s decline coincides with the growth of Huawei smartphones over the last decade and other Chinese phone makers like Xiaomi that have flooded the market with handsets.

The company’s exit won’t leave a massive hole in the current market for smartphones as it would have seven or eight years ago, so it is likely a gap that will be plugged quickly by Huawei or Samsung.

LG did, however, have an impact on smartphones that will be felt long after its exit from the market. It tinkered with different designs and features on its devices, some of which became standard in other phones as the years went on.

On Twitter, smartphone reviewer Marques Brownlee said that LG pioneered ultrawide cameras on phones before its rivals. “They didn’t always ace every phone, but losing them means losing a competitor that was willing to try new things, even when they didn’t work,” he wrote.

In its announcement, LG said it would now be focusing on electric vehicles, internet of things and B2B solutions.

Glancing at its latest quarterly earnings, the company reported a quarter-on-quarter drop in sales in its mobile communications division and “sluggish sales of premium smartphones in overseas markets”. It was also impacted by chip shortages.

On the flipside, it reported overall revenue bumps and record profits for its TVs and home appliances.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin