The rough trajectory of a brand that, over the past 20 years, went from a strong second choice for american dumb phone buyers to the only game in town. If you wanted the hottest messaging phones available to a case study on how to do android smartphones differently for better and for worse this week, lg electronics officially confirmed that, after years of struggling to turn a profit in the quote, incredibly competitive mobile phone sector, unquote and Reportedly, failing to find a buyer for its mobile division, it’s hitting the end key one last time, shutting the doors on that business unit forever. So i dug out every lg phone in my archive of oldies to see what sense i could make of the company’s two decades in mobile. You see if you’re, not careful, you can develop a kind of short term memory when you chase gadget release cycles for a living. The past few years of lg mobile’s floundering makes it easy to forget how much of a heavy hitter the company once was. This is the same company that samsung perceived as such a threat back in 2000 that the ceo of samsung’s mobile division effectively blew up a relationship with verizon wireless just because the carrier had bought phones from lg and, frankly, samsung had reason to be nervous. In the years to follow, lg would churn out some of the most compelling feature phones sold in the us. As a former lg rumor owner, i can attest that it made messaging accessible even to those of us who didn’t want to carry a smartphone all the time.
Back in 2007 and its higher end sibling, the voyager, combined that key clacking capability with a large outer display to do battle with the then new iphone and during the same period the company was also developing cell phones, whose primary mission was to look pretty the lg Chocolate seen here in its platinum edition trim for korea on a device loaned from david cogan at the unlocker was so named because of its resemblance to yeah, a candy bar and what its touch sensitive controls lacked in responsiveness they made up for in sheer geeky sex Appeal, i know it doesn’t look like much today, but in 2007 this was so far beyond the aesthetics of the competition that it became lg’s best selling phone up to that point and lg would later port the design language to a clamshell form factor for flip fans. This is the same period. Lg was pushing out other pretty plays like the prada toying with taller aspect ratios with the bl 40 indulging in the occasional bit of crystal clear craziness. I did a whole wind phones, more fun episode on this one and all the while keeping up its feature forward offerings with phones like the fusic, a music focused flip for sprint. At the turn of the decade, lg mobile was well positioned to ride the smartphone wave into the 20 teens. Now, as dumb phone sales began to dry up in favor of their smarter competition, lg kind of had to roll with the punches after releasing many devices for microsoft’s windows mobile platform, the company stayed on the front lines for the highly publicized transition to windows phone the Lg quantum not only had the coolest name of all the first generation windows phones, it also packed the most utility with a slide out keyboard similar to that of the rumor.
Sadly, it would not turn out to be a quantum of solace windows. Phone’S. Failure as a platform is a story for another time, but its eventual implosion would ultimately result in lg having to focus all its efforts on android, and you know for a while that streamlined strategy seemed to do lg some favors. I still remember how pleasantly surprised i was by the optimus g of 2012, a polished piece of hardware and software in an era when android phones, weren’t known for their polish, the sequel g2 would become a fan favorite starting a years long trend of placing the volume Keys in a spot, i still think makes ergonomic sense and the double tap gestures for screen wake and lock that arose from that button. Placement ended up being such a good idea that most phones today still use them. Meanwhile, lg was also making phones for google’s nexus brand. It made the two most popular phones of that line and all the while lg was also evolving, its g family with the g3 and g4 pioneering a higher resolution display and a much more performant camera respectively. Even if they were pockmarked with more problems than prior models Music, those problems were never more pronounced than on what otherwise would have been my favorite lg phone in december of 2013, i flew to san francisco to report on the lg g flex for pocket now, a Phone with a curved body reminiscent of samsung’s nexus s, but with a curved display to go with it, its chassis was designed to bend, so it could survive accidental pressure and its casing was coated in a compound that could heal minor, scratches all by itself to a Limited extent, but still when the smaller more fetching sequel, the g flex ii was announced for sprint in 2015, i very nearly switched carriers just to own.
It trouble was that the g flex 2 came powered by qualcomm’s snapdragon 810, an soc that became infamous for bad thermal characteristics and poor performance that combined with lg’s poor software to produce a phone that was heavy on lag and light on battery life. Shortly thereafter, more severe issues began cropping up on the company’s other phones, some of which began exhibiting an issue called bootlooping that effectively rendered them useless. With enough cases reported over enough device types that the class action lawsuit was filed against lg the same time, the company came under fire for failing to support its software, as well as other manufacturers, often delaying android updates or failing to deliver them at all Music. All that set the stage for what i consider to be the final and most inconsistent period in lg mobile’s history from the g5 to winging a prayer at mobile world congress. 2016 samsung’s galaxy s7 was a beautiful, compelling achievement, but it was lg’s g5 that really fired. My imagination, with its novel approach to accessories its modular sled, slid out from the bottom of the phone like a handgun clip letting you swap in batteries. Speakers camera grips even a vr headset, while preserving the unibody frame of a modern smartphone. Sadly, for lg the accessories were poorly received unevenly distributed and motorola also released a modular phone the same year, whose approach to modularity was well better in basically, every way lg would go on to blame a 224 million dollar loss in the fourth quarter of 2016, partly On this strong, but wrong bet on the g5, as you might expect, lg’s next few mobile plays were more conservative, but the innovation did continue.
The g6 took some inspiration from the old bl 40 by stretching the chassis producing a 2 1 aspect, ratio that most smartphones still emulate today. It was also one of the first to bring military standard durability to a phone that didn’t look like. It belonged in a toolbox and it carried over the one great feature from the g5. The ultra wide camera that opened up a whole new dimension for mobile photographers today, it’s basically impossible to buy a high end phone without that feature, but it’s important to remember that. For years, the only way you could get it on a flagship was by buying lg. You know the more i talk about this stuff, the more i admire lg because it didn’t just take a contrarian approach to the camera. It also drew a big deep line in the sand when it came to audio, even as the iphone 7 was making headlines by removing the headphone port. Lg was not just keeping the jack but backing it up with a high quality digital to analog converter, starting on the company’s v20 of 2016.. Still i began to experience the first pangs of genuine concern for lg when that v line transitioned from a focused specialized phone for vloggers into just a bigger version of the g series, which itself was starting to look like just another android phone and while lg’s innovation Impulse never wavered, it did take odd turns, most famously with the half baked air gesture controls on the g8.
The most promising experiment was the dual screen accessory line it developed for those phones. By the time the lg velvet came around. The dual screen case was maybe just a generation away from something i might have added to my everyday. Carry if it had ended there. I might be a little less melancholy about lg mobile’s early retirement, but the sad fact is that the last lg phone i ever reviewed was also the most exciting. The lg wing of 2020 was catnip for novelty, starved slab phone burnouts like myself, part reboot of a decade old, verizon phone part revival of the t, mobile sidekick and part gimbal camera stand in the wing was just packed with potential being able to text or tweet. While watching whatever’s on netflix was exactly the kind of first world solution, it sounds like, but combined with the well thought out, camera features and the fact that you could use it as a conventional phone when you didn’t want to wing it. It made for a very exciting handset, even before you took into account its unauthorized ping pong pedal mode Music, Music. The wing was the first phone in a long time to give me hope that lg could someday return to its former glory. It was seductive to imagine a world in which phones like the wing and its sequels would rejuvenate this contrarian innovator. Sadly, that particular future is off the table now, leaving the next phase of mobile evolution to the entrenched goliaths and hopefully serving as both inspiration and warning to the smaller companies.
That now must fill the gap. Inspiration because there’s a lot of innovation left to be had in the mobile space and warning because well here’s the thing you could make the case that lg mobile failed because it bucked the trend and refused to pander to the mainstream but that’s. Frankly, too depressing a reality for me to accept. I choose to believe that lg mobile’s concepts were valid and sometimes even extraordinary and that it failed because all too often its execution of those concepts was lacking and it was unwilling to spend the money necessary to market the things it genuinely did do better. And you know, i think, that’s the biggest lesson i’m coming away with from all this. As with so many things in this world, it’s, simply not enough to have the most exciting story or the most specialized product or the most vocal fan base. You’Ve got ta consistently ship a product better or cheaper or more exciting than the competitions and you’ve got to make sure people know about it. So long, lg mobile thanks for the memories Music. Now, if you’re not quite ready to give up on seeing lg phones in your youtube subscription box every now and then go ahead and subscribe to the mr mobile on youtube. So you don’t miss when i cover the lg chocolate and other lg throwbacks on my series. When phones were fun also be sure to check out mkbhd, i think you’ve heard of him.
I happen to know he’s doing a very similar lg retrospective video today and has some more insights, particularly on the sales and marketing front that i think you’ll be particularly interested in i’ll link it below. As for this, video lg had no editorial input or early preview. Nor did it provide compensation in exchange for its production until next time, thanks for watching and remember to stay, safe and mask up when you’re around fellow humans.