back to article LG announces bold new plan for financial salvation: Trying to actually make phones people want to buy

LG was at one point a major player in the handset market, pumping out phones like the Nexus 5 that sold like hotcakes. Since then, its fortunes have waned, with its mobile division reporting an operating loss of $135m (KRW 161.2bn) in the third quarter of 2019. Hoping to reverse that dismal trend, the South Korean electronics …

  1. Snake Silver badge

    Competition

    Indeed, competing on that will indeed be hard. Most sheeple go with the flow of popularity, and since Samsung and Apple are already the top brass in that regard most buyers lock-step themselves into one of those two manufacturer's products.

    LG could easily grab a significant slice of the market by the simple expedient of guaranteeing Android updates for at least 3 years - Apple-level support. I came from HTC, of which I was fond regarding their hardware but with no software support it was bye-bye HTC.

    My LG Flex 2 was very nice, the right size and easy to hold, but died of BGA solder failures.

    My current LG V30+ ThinQ is excellent (and excellent sounding) but didn't get much respect. Why? Not flashy enough - put brushed metal bezels in between those front & rear panes of glass, and add in 3+ years worth of guaranteed upgrades, and I think more people will find them attractive.

    1. Malcolm 1

      Re: Competition

      I'm not 100% certain on this, but I think the issue is that Android's current architecture relies on the SoC vendor (ie Qualcomm) to provide updated binaries for some updates - so if Qualcomm fail to do so for "old" SoC then the manufacturer is S.O.L.

      I would like to think that that the recent "Project Treble" improvements which migrate to a PC-like Hardware Abstraction Layer model may make longer support time viable, but I'm not holding my breath.

    2. Chester Copperpot

      Re: Competition

      This is my experience with most things LG. Seem to be forerunners in their game (particularly tv’s) but the build quality simply isn’t there. So many people I know have had LG products fail prematurely due to faulty capacitors or poor soldering. It’s like they use a combination of recycled Kit Kat wrappers and chewing gum to hold their kit together than actual solder. I owned a SONY DVD recorder back in the day which after it broke, I discovered was a re badged LG. I have bought pre packaged sandwiches that lasted longer.

      1. Andrew Norton

        Re: Competition

        indeed. I've got a V20, but within 6 months of getting it, the glass over the cameras just randomly cracked. So I went and replaced it, and the mounting piece under it ended up coming off at some random point a week or two later.

        Now if it's under 55F, the battery will randomly die at some point between 35% and 23%, which is annoying when I plug it in after it's powered itself off for 0 battery, and it immediately says 32%.

        I love lots of things about it - the second screen, the actual manual camera ability as standard, but those build things are an issue.

  2. Loud Speaker

    Read it here ...

    Almost all the tech websites are absolutely filled with posts complaining that the manufacturers are removing the features they want and replacing them with ones they don't want.

    I won't bother doing the research for you, since you won't be paying me, but Google is your friend (ok, not your actual friend, but can help you search for things)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Read it here ...

      The problem is that we users (I include myself even though I am retired and not part of the typical demographic) of tech websites are a minority. A small minority. I remember having my eyes opened somewhat many years ago as the most junior member of an R&D department when someone pointed out that "people like us" represented less than 1% of the population.

      Since then the percentage of graduates has greatly increased, the relative importance of engineering and software has also greatly increased, but I doubt that people with technical interests represent more than 10% of the population. And of those a fair percentage will be quite happy with the Apple/Samsung duopoly in the US and the Apple/Samsung/Huawei and other Chinese triopoly elsewhere.

      tl;dr what LG needs is for a mysterious virus to wipe out Apple, Samsung or both, because absent the Chinese state-sponsored patriotism effect, most people would be perfectly happy with a duopoly so long as it churns out a range of models and improves things a bit each year. The US was happy with Ford and GM for many years.

      1. Luke McCarthy

        Re: Read it here ...

        The majority just want to be cool and fit in, issues that the technical minority care about are irrelevant. For an example, 3.5mm headphone jacks; this is obviously better for various reasons which I won't bother to repeat. To the majority, the trend-setters Apple now say it's cool to have funny white sticks coming out of your ears, so they loss of this jack is a non-issue. What kind of nerd would want to plug in headphones?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Read it here ...

          Also if you have a tiny white dong sticking out of each ear people know you are a slave to a consumerist near cult are rich enough to afford overpriced reassuringly expensive earphones.

  3. cornetman Silver badge

    I still use a Nexus 5.

    Apart from the camera, which is pretty crap and unreliable, I don't think anyone has made a phone that has ticked so many favourable boxes for its time since.

    Certainly, for the money it took a hell of a lot of beating.

  4. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    Here is a phone I want to buy

    A phone I want to buy has (1) a battery I can change in minutes, (2) a 3.5 mm headphone jack, (3) microSD card support, (4) no notch, (5) a physical home button, physical back button, physical menu (not app switch) button, and (6) the ability to uninstall any junk I neither want nor need. Check all those boxes LG and you have a winner. Until then ... meh.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge

      Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

      7) Oh yes, an OS that doesn't phone home with anything I don't explicitly allow it to.

    2. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge

      Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

      Literally everything you mentioned drives up the cost of the phone. Basically every commentard I've encountered with a fiddly laundry list of desired features also indicates an unwillingness to pay more than what they can scrape up out of the couch for a phone, so unless people are willing to put their money where their mouths are, I suspect the phone manufacturers will continue to build models which are actually profitable.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

        > drives up the cost of the phone

        That's ok. For a phone with a replaceable battery, I'm willing to pay extra.

        1. jgarbo

          Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

          Agreed. But you and how many friends? 25,000?

      2. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

        Literally everything?

        (2) a 3.5 mm headphone jack - OK, socket and DAC, but it's a feature that people want, otherwise phone manufacturers would be in the business of selling rocks, and it's probably paid for by (4).

        (3) microSD card support - a micro SD card slot (as found in a RPi) connected to the SOC and the OS supports it, pennies, probably paid for by (4).

        (4) no notch - lowers cost.

        (5) a physical home button, physical back button, physical menu (not app switch) button - three whole capacitive buttons, probably paid for by (4).

        (6) the ability to uninstall any junk I neither want nor need - software configuration problem (i.e not a problem) and a lot of bundled software is a stub app which is replaced on first update from the Play Store anyway.

        1. LOL123

          Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

          Component cost is not everything.

          Development, certification and interoperability costs come with it.

          3.5 mm jack is an additional opening to waterproof, takes out board area.

          Rpi is not a consumer electronic product. It is something like a dyi product. Sdcard interop and certification is a pain because of cheap ass cards out there that joe and Jane public buy. Performance of storage, including external storage, can also impact overall os behaviour requiring more r&d work.

          Removing the notch costs more - people want bezel less designs for ooh aah and not buying the same thing again. Coming up with a way to have the external sensor through the display glass actually is more complicated. We’d be having bezeless and notchless phones from day 0 of the first smartphone if your imaginations were true.

          In summary, there’s a lot more to those feature asks at the product/market level, that soldering a component on. There are so many manufacturers desperate to sell in this segment, so if any these were *actually* easy wins for the whole market, they’d be doing it already.

          These little “what I want in my phone” indeed reaffirms how small a demographic this is in the consumer smartphone space, a demographic fixated on “cheap” components, when the reality of what it takes to make a difference to millions is quite starkly different.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

            > 3.5 mm jack is an additional opening to waterproof, takes out board area.

            Tell that to the S5 Active users' possible next phone, the Xcover Pro with removable back cover and IP68 rating.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. jelabarre59 Silver badge

        Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

        Literally everything you mentioned drives up the cost of the phone.

        If that's the case, why is it whenever Apple *REMOVES* a feature the price of the phone goes UP?

        They've removed enough functionality the phones should be nearly free now.

    3. Zolko

      Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

      (1) a battery I can change in minutes, (2) a 3.5 mm headphone jack, (3) microSD card support

      OK

      (4) no notch

      why do you care ?

      (5) a physical home button, physical back button, physical menu

      no, these buttons can be integrated into the main screen, doesn't hurt, and reduces size

      (6) the ability to uninstall any junk I neither want nor need

      of course. Add to it an open bootloader please.

      (7) an AMOLED 5'' HD screen , and not a 4K 6'' behemoth, so it can easily fit into my pocket.

      (8) a 4000mAh battery so it lasts for 2 days, even if that makes the phone 1mm thicker.

      1. staringatclouds

        Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

        (4) "why do you care ?" - Because he does, he's buying it, this is what he wants, he doesn't need to give a reason beyond he's parting with his money for it

        (5) "no, these buttons can be integrated into the main screen, doesn't hurt, and reduces size" - Some people hate typing on a screen with a passion, some people hate having main system feature buttons on the screen with a passion, again see the answer to 4

        I'd quite like one that has 2 usb sockets so it can be charged at the same time as using an external device like a flash drive, not necessary but I'm quite happy to pay for it

        1. RockBurner

          Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

          re usb drive and powering - how come no-one has yet sold a USB drive with a 'pass-through' socket for power (or does such a thing already exist?). I can see that chaining USB sticks would overload the power supply from the original socket (eventually), but if you can push power in at the other end of the chain that might mitigate the issue.

          Edit - something akin to this? https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ex-Pro%C2%AE-Host-Dual-Power-through/dp/B00GRWW3WS

          Obviously the other choice is a power-lead micro-usb charger lead with a socket on the back of the plug for the (micro)USB drive/stick/object.

          1. staringatclouds

            Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

            I believe the micro usb standard is data or power but not both

            If you're lucky enough to find a device that allows charging at the same time as transferring data then cheer loudly & enjoy, but don't expect it as a feature on every device

    4. HorseflySteve

      Re: Here is a phone I want to buy

      My LG G5SE has your choices 1, 2 & 3. I don't know what a notch is (at least I'm honest). It doesn't have 5 or 6 but you can disable the pre-installed crap (e.g. Facebook) and it has a physical power button on the back that doubles as a fingerprint sensor. Of the 3 Samsungs and one LG i've owned, only LG has ever updated the originally supplied OS. I haven't upgraded my phone because the airtime provider don't offer any LGs currently & I don't want to change networks.

  5. Chris Gray 1
    Thumb Up

    {AOL}

    (Me too!)

    Wade, add a decent camera (13+ Megapixels) on the back, and I'll take one - you hit my list almost dead on. (Currently on Galaxy S4, still going strong on 3rd battery.)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    “wow factor” phones?

    Facepalm. How about making phones that just work, with no bloatware, current os, or at least security updates for 5 years and tha wouldn't cost a fucking grand with 25 cameras and fingerprint and iris readers popping out of their ass? Phone jack would be nice. Micro-sd card, even nicer. Good call quality, I wouldn't mind either. And if I could be so daring, a battery that's like... you know, one you can REPLACE yourself (yeah, a HERESY, report him NOW!)

    p.s. and no false claims about processor speed being 2.57464% faster than the unknown competitor's, when running a specially manipulated benchmark, thanks.

    ...

    but nooooo, that's way too much too ask. Instead: wow factors to woo consumers. Just fuck off.

    1. dfsmith

      Re: “wow factor” phones?

      With the exception of 5-year support and a replaceable battery, you're pretty much describing LG's current lineup. The strategy doesn't seem to be working for them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: “wow factor” phones?

        so, perhaps a / the strategy would be to come to terms with reality, i.e. people are no longer keen to buy millions of new phones and pay for a wow factor, which in reality turns out to be a fart, rather than a wow? You can't have "economic growth" for ever (until you get off this planet and start pilfering others) and you won't keep making bigger and bigger profit churning out more and more plastic slabs every year.

  7. Sodbury2

    LG G3

    Just update the CPU and camera on the G3

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: LG G3

      I loved my G3. Only stopped using it when I dropped it and it fell 'just wrong' and destroyed the screen.

      I could have gotten it fixed, but a cheaper contract and a new phone turned out cheaper.

      The rear power and volume buttons were both easy to reach and identify while difficult to activate by accident. You couldn't "hold it wrong" and turn the thing off while watching / reading something.

      I'd add a fingerprint scanner to your list of updates though. That's a useful feature.

      1. Sodbury2

        Re: LG G3

        Wellmif we are going that far, all of the above with a customisable physical button that came be used for camera etc

      2. Dave K Silver badge

        Re: LG G3

        I'm still using a 4 year old G4. The only downside I've had with it was a failure a few years back due to the famous "boot-loop" fault, but I had it fixed using my phone insurance. Other than this, it has been rock solid, I love that it has physical buttons, a headphone jack, SD card slot and replaceable battery.

        The biggest thing I like about it above all else however is that for a 4-year-old phone, it's still quick, snappy and responsive. I can't tell just how many Samsung phones I've used that are slick for the first year or two, then perform increasingly sluggish and stuttery after this. I really would like another LG phone when this one finally dies, however I don't want to see useful features like headphone jack and SD card slot to be lost.

    2. Dapprman
      Thumb Down

      Re: LG G3

      After about 6 months I rapidly grew to hate my G3. It would just eat memory resulting in a high end phone that was slower than my previous mid-end phone with the same apps (Nexus 4). It became painful to use. I'm certain it was down to the stock bloatware.

      Oddly enough a few years back I dug it out, factory reset it and installed the SONOS software to use it as a replacement for the now unusable CR100. It was now completely stock, drivers and stock software updated, cellular turned off, and the Sonos controller software the only thing on it. Was like walking through treacle (or so I would imagine),

  8. Sebastian.Q.Ostragoth

    It's the price stoopid...

    I'd like a phone that costs less than a desktop computer please... and as noted making it unsupported in less than 5 years is a tick against you too. No other industry thinks abandoning their product after 2 years is an acceptable practice.

    1. Baldrickk Silver badge

      Re: It's the price stoopid...

      Yeah, the new IPhone and the "flagship" androids cost as much as my current gaming PC that's still going strong after a good few years (6700K and GTX 1070), and my old one too, which lasted 8 years before succumbing, and would probably still be in use, fully supported if not for that.

  9. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Problem

    LG is missing the boat. Phones are a mature market and like all mature markets it is dominated a few major players with some minor players. For LG to capture customers they have to mostly get them from someone else. Thus they have to a product line that is enticing to those looking for a new phone with the right mix of features and pricing. While many will use their phones for more than phone calls and texts the phone is itself is not important but the various apps installed/available for the phone. So what LG needs to figure is something that will get users to look at their phones as an alternative to their current ones.

    1. NeilPost Bronze badge

      Re: Problem

      Do a deal with a phoneless Tech giant with content.

      Amazon comes to mind after the Fire Phone failed. Years comp Prime Video/Music Unlimited ??

      You won’t get much market leverage between the mid priced Chinese players and Samsung. I’d suspect even Nexus phones are not selling massively these days either.

      User Swappable battery not a big thing. Replaceable battery at an affordable price is.

    2. Nick

      Re: Problem

      Isn't this what Nokia is doing?

  10. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Not cloning Apple

    Rumors are that Sony is keeping the memory card slot and returning the headphone jack in future models. I'm not sure if they'll ditch the gum stick aspect ratio, but it's a start.

  11. john.jones.name

    HUGE BATTERY FLIP PHONE

    honestly LG you own the premier battery chemistry

    make a Flip phone with 3x21700 user replaceable batteries in it out of metal (case) with a SD card and large android touch screen (as well as the physical keypad )

    you could afford some great camera's on it as well... it would only have to be 4G

    I know it would be HUGE in every way but honestly if it would last a week and people could treat it badly it would sell bucket loads

    your welcome

    John Jones

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How about phones with an absolutely plain vanilla OS ans NO bloatware preinstalled. Add a carefully curated app store that can supply any bloat you want (and be able to actualy remove it if you decide it is actually crap).

    That and make clear the length of OS support that will be provided.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Accessibility and battery life

    Battery life - because people rely on their phones more. How a longer life is delivered is up to the manufacturer, but removable batteries fix this.

    Accessibility - folk are getting older and it's harder to see smaller screens and interact with those tiny buttons. There *is* a market for bigger 6" and up (maybe even phablet form) screens with lower whizz graphics.

    If voice control and text to speech was even halfway decent, they could keep screens small. but it's not. And with the current trajectory won't be for another 15 years.

  14. rfrazier

    LG G5

    I'm still using an LG G5. Decent SOC. Decent camera. Replaceable battery (on third), with fast charging. Headphone jack. Micro SD (256GB). LineageOS (Android 9, no Google apps, built and signed locally). I even have a spare for parts, if I ever need them.

  15. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Hello LG, for next Xmas I would like,....

    Stock Android, phablet sized regular form factor device, with a 3.5mm headphone jack, user replaceable battery, SD card slot, IR blaster, and a stylus. Oh, decent battery life ~4000MAH. Not bothered if this means the phone has to be a couple of mm thicker.

    Nice to haves,....some splash proofing, but not at the cost of the above. Really niche nice to have, a Push to Talk type walkie talkie independent of the phone network, like that Doogee thingy. Dedicated physical button to operate the flash LED would also be awesome. Oh, and FM and DAB radio. (Well it is Xmas : -) )

  16. staringatclouds

    *Cough*SlideOutFullLongestAspectKeyboard*Cough* like an F(x)tec Pro 1 but more up to date with chipsets

  17. elaar

    Privacy concerns

    LG need to sort out their harvesting of private data before I'll ever buy one of their products again (phones and TVs).

  18. BuckeyeB

    Pricing

    How about selling me a phone that I might actually want to use that doesn't cost close to $1000. Even 2 model old phones run $300-400. Case in point would be the Samsung Galaxy phones(and I'm sure Apple is just as bad). Prices are in US Dollars:

    S10+ 999.99

    S10 899.99

    S9+ 699.99

    S9 599.99

    S8 399.99

    1. uccsoundman

      Re: Pricing

      Galaxy S6, 32GB from Walmart; $99. My idea is that if they are going to force me to use unfixable, disposable phones, I'm not going to pay $1000 for one; I'll pay disposable-phone prices. Indeed if I didn't need some sort of smart-phone for work (my employer insists that I have a smart phone so they can install their productivity apps on it.... but of course they don't help pay for the phone), I would have a flip-phone.

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