SEOUL (Reuters) – Fans of LG Electronics smartphones rued the loss of more affordable Android-based devices after the South Korean tech company said on Monday it would quit the business, with some praising LG for the innovation it brought to the industry.
LG smartphone users in South Korea and the United States posted nostalgic tributes on social media after the firm announced the exit, citing a prolonged sales slump. LG still holds a roughly 10% share of the U.S. smartphone market, according to researcher Counterpoint, though its slice of the global pie is just 2%.
“Please release the Rollable phone before you die,” said one user on a 300,000 member-strong forum on Naver, South Korea’s largest online search portal, referring to LG’s latest expandable display concept that the company flaunted at the CES trade show in January.
Fans fondly noted some of the company’s more unique designs, such as a T-shaped dual screen, as well as features including a double-tap to turn a screen on and off.
“LG has some of the best audio hardware of any phone,” Kim Dong-woon, who has used six LG smartphones, told Reuters. “It’s a shame that LG is withdrawing.”
Influential US tech reviewers echoed the sentiments.
“LG were never perfect but in a world of boring slabs they delivered some of the most unique phone designs, ideas and features ever,” said YouTuber Austin Evans on Twitter.
LG, which had been making mobile phones for about a quarter of a century, ultimately fell behind rivals Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, in part due to lacklustre marketing and slow software updates.
Its smartphone division logged nearly six years of losses, totalling roughly $4.5 billion by the end last year.
For all the fandom, some criticised the phones, saying the shutdown was inevitable.
“The writing has been on the wall for a long time … things didn’t improve,” said user cdegallo on Reddit.
LG Electronics’ move to exit its loss-making mobile business is expected to create more opportunities for Samsung than its other rivals in the lucrative North American smartphone market, analysts said.
LG’s US market share currently stands at about 10%, research firms Gartner and Counterpoint estimated, adding it was stronger in markets where it partnered with telecom companies to include its devices as part of a mobile plan.
“Apple tends to cater to the higher end of the (US) market; so it might grab a small portion of LG’s sales,” Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen said. “It’s more likely that Samsung inherits a lot of it because both vendors compete across similar markets.”
Globally, LG’s market share shrank to 2% in 2020, a massive drop from its status as the world’s third-largest smartphone maker behind Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc during its peak in 2013.
The company shipped 23 million phones last year, compared with Samsung’s 256 million, according to Counterpoint.
Counterpoint analyst Tarun Pathak said LG was mostly competing in the mid-tier, as its flagship phones received tepid market response.
“So it will be mostly the Chinese and mid-tier brands benefiting through the LG exit. In its key market like USA – Samsung, Motorola, HMD mostly (ZTE, Alcatel to a lesser extent) will benefit, while Xiaomi, Motorola will benefit in LATAM and Samsung in Korea,” Pathak added.
Tech enthusiasts on Twitter lamented the exit of the once ubiquitous name in the smartphone industry, with many crediting LG for pioneering the now-familiar features such as ultra-wide angle camera and capacitive touchscreen in mobile devices.
“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,” popular YouTuber Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) said in a tweet.
(Reporting by Subrat Patnaik and Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Munsif Vengattil; Editing by Anil D’Silva)
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Heekyong Yang in Seoul; Subrat Patnaik and Chavi Mehta in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shubham Kalia in Bengaluru, and Munsif Vengattil; Editing by Sayantani Ghosh and Anil D’Silva)