LG recently confirmed something that had been doing the rumour mill rounds for a couple of months. The South Korean technology giant has declared that it will exit the smartphone business by the end of July.
It brings to an end LG’s smartphone ambitions as it sought to take on the other big South Korean smartphone player, Samsung. Over the years, LG’s brought a number of unusual innovations to the smartphone space, more than a few excellent handsets, and a handful of not-terribly-good phones. Whether the handsets were good or not didn’t seem to matter that much to the wider Australian phone buying audience, which tended to mostly buy either Apple or Samsung handsets.
It’s fairly likely that while LG will cease producing phones under its own branding, it’s not the end of its work in the smartphone market. LG is actually a group of companies that produce both LG-branded products and a wide variety of components such as batteries and displays. As an example, if you’ve purchased a fancy OLED TV in the past few years, the odds are exceptionally good that while it might bear branding such as Sony or Panasonic, the underlying panel was in fact produced by LG.
Still, LG’s exit from the smartphone business does raise a few questions worth pondering.
What happens if you’ve just purchased an LG phone?
In essence, not too much that wasn’t already in play. Australian consumer law protects you in terms of a reasonable warranty period for normal use, for a start. Just because a company opts to no longer sell a product doesn’t mean it washes its hands of its obligations towards existing customers, especially for a company like LG which still very much trades in Australia for a wide variety of other technology products.
LG has also confirmed that it intends to provide updates for what it deems its “premium” phones for up to three iterations of the Android operating system. That’s in line with what other vendors such as Samsung are currently offering, although LG’s track record in OS upgrades in a timely fashion wasn’t always the best. The choice of the words “premium” there are important as well. If you purchased one of LG’s 2020 Velvet 5G handsets, that would apply, but less so for the cheaper lines. LG’s official line on this is that “LG premium phones released in 2019 and later (G series, V series, VELVET, Wing)” will get the three year upgrade promise, while select 2020 models such as the Stylo and some K series phones may see two updates. We’ll have to wait and see.
LG’s promise for OS upgrades means that it’ll also have to keep on track for Android security updates for its phones as well. Again, LG’s track record here wasn’t the best or the worst, but it remains a vital step for smartphone users to make sure their phones are up to date.
Is it worth buying an LG phone now?
It’s obviously a rather open-ended question. There won’t be “new” LG phones coming to Australia, so we won’t officially see the rather weird sliding LG Wing phone officially for example, but if you can get a decent LG phone for a reasonable price, it could still be worth considering. LG isn’t a junk brand, and while its phones didn’t excite consumers in the way that releases from Apple or Samsung have, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t produce a decent phone. I’d definitely be looking for a discount from the regular RRP if I were you, and I’d also suggest that you check reliable online reviews to ensure that the phone you’re getting does what you want it to do, relative to its price point.
What does this mean for smartphone competition in Australia?
LG’s local market share wasn’t huge – after all, if it was, it wouldn’t be dropping out of the smartphone race – and at one time, losing LG would have been a bigger drop in the competition space than it now is. We’ve seen a few brands leave the local market before, Sony being the most obvious example. Sony still makes Android phones, but opted a few years back to quietly exit the Australian market on the basis of low sales. Like LG, it supported the phones it had sold for a while after it departed the local market, but it had a different story to tell, as internationally you can still buy new Sony phones. That won’t be the case for LG.
At the same time, however, we’ve seen a lot of new brands in the smartphone space, mostly Chinese brands such as Oppo, Xiaomi, Motorola, HMD Global/Nokia and realme bring phones that range from budget-space models to the fanciest premium brands. There’s still going to be a fair amount of choice open to you when you buy your next mobile phone – it’s just likely that it won’t include LG in the mix.