After years of failing to make money on smartphones—and, in recent months, failing to attract a buyer—LG is shutting down its entire phone business.
LG says that the decision will help it focus on growth areas such as electric vehicle components, smart homes, robotics, and 6G (ugh). The company expects to fully wind down the business by July 31, though it will continue to support current phones for an unspecified period of time.
While the news seems shocking given LG’s reputation as a major electronics brand, it’s a fitting end for a company that never seemed to figure out what people want in a smartphone. LG’s mobile business hasn’t turned a profit since the first quarter of 2017, and in recent years its phones have suffered from a series of failed experiments, technical snafus, bad branding, and weak software support.
As an example, just consider the fate of LG’s flagship G-Series smartphone line. Reviews for these phones were often polite and respectable, but it was never clear why you should buy one over Samsung’s Galaxy S or Note handsets, let alone Apple’s iPhones. LG seemed to especially struggle on the camera front—perhaps the most important part of any high-end phone—with AI gimmicks that failed to cover up middling fundamentals. (The Verge‘s Cameron Faulkner, on the clumsily named LG G8 ThinQ, noted that the camera is “slow to capture, which leads to lots of blurry photos” and “has a hard time getting skin tones right.”)
The last time LG released a new G-Series phone was in early 2019. After the company announced that it would no longer release new phones on a regular schedule, it seemed to abandon the line entirely in favor of stranger ideas with even clunkier branding. The LG V60 ThinQ 5G hinged on an optional dual screen accessory for attention, but again failed to distinguish itself on camera quality or design. (Android Authority’s Eric Zeman: “Pictures I took with the LG V60 look fine, but not exceptional.”) A more recent foray into dual-screen phones with the rotating LG Wing also fell flat.
Along the way, LG also had trouble with the basics. Several LG phones from 2015 and 2016 suffered from bootloop issues, in which the phones failed to boot due to faulty connections between components. And as tech journalist JR Raphael points out, the company developed a dismal record for keeping its Android phones up to date.
All of this adds up to a company that couldn’t find its way in smartphones. Its high-end phones just weren’t good enough to take on the likes of Samsung and Apple, and it’s been under siege on the low end from device makers like TCL and OnePlus.
That’s not to say LG’s decision to shut down its smartphone business isn’t a loss for tech enthusiasts. Even with its most mainstream phones, the company seemed to delight in appealing to a certain set of power users by offering removable batteries, MicroSD card slots, and audiophile-grade headphone jacks. And while LG’s experimental ideas didn’t always pan out, the company deserves credit for trying. Its early support of curved display tech may have helped push Samsung forward on its own curved screens, and the idea that we’ll never see LG’s rollable phone is truly a bummer. Major phone makers are notoriously risk-averse, but LG was a rare exception.
Perhaps if LG had been stronger on the fundamentals—top-notch cameras, better software support, and literally any naming scheme other than “ThinQ 5G” mashed up with random letters and numbers—those nerdier ideas might’ve had a chance to shine. Now, we’ll never know for sure.