If “LG ditching budget phones” sounds like a familiar headline, it’s because we’ve been reporting it yearly since the Android Lollipop days. But alas, this time will surely be different. As the stumbling Korean company is planning another sharp turn toward flagships. Because it surely knows how to sell those, right?
To be frank, even LG understands how ridiculous this sounds to hear for yet another time. This is why it isn’t making any bold announcements about strategic shifts, restructurings, and other buzzwordy activities signaling its decision-makers are completely hopeless. Unfortunately for those executives, LG is still a public company. That means it can’t avoid the topic entirely when investors and analysts come knocking.
This kind of development is what brought us today’s story in the first place. As LG has again been mumbling something about cutting and reshuffling smartphone lines as of late. Yes, again. In fact, whenever LG rethinks strategy and winds down budget device operations, history shows that it soon gets a reality check from the market. Then it goes back to producing $100 phones you might buy Grandma at Walmart on your way to a Christmas dinner after realizing you forgot her present.
How can LG ditch budget phones if the alternative is having dead factory lines?
After all, even churning out products with non-existent profit margins is better than having all those smartphone lines sit idle. Because this way, you might get some lucky quarters in which you break even or thereabout. Otherwise, your massive investments are depreciating while you look even more clueless. That about covers LG’s yo-yoing smartphone strategy since its last globally successful smartphone with big-boy profit margins. Can’t blame you if you don’t remember the device in question, as it’s been six and a half years since the LG G3 released.
Credit where it’s due, however: at least the recently launched LG Wing clearly illustrates the Seoul-based chaebol is trying new things. Of course, take a closer look at that thing and you’ll realize the said illustration is an SOS sign. Maybe the company’s rumored stretchable OLED smartphone will look like something a human would actually want to use?
In any case, LG’s smartphone business is currently doing its best Bill Murray impression from Groundhog Day. Whether it breaks free from its slow demise will depend on two things: one, its ability to deliver a good smartphone at a competitive price point; and two, scrapping some cash for a couple of human marketers that can effectively communicate something along the lines of: “hey, fellow humans, this new LG phone is great and affordable, try to remember it next time you’re shopping for a handset.”
Or, it could carry on as it did so far. That would be with no marketing to speak of that could push quality, but conventional devices. This is what leads to laughable gimmicks like the LG Wing, as its design teams are forced to either make something that’s in your face or not bother at all.