5 ways LG can conquer the smartphone world
24th Sep 2012 | 15:55
And why it currently won't
It's no secret LG is struggling in the smartphone market after too many anonymous handsets, but we've seen reason to not count the Korean brand out yet.
Far be it for us to tell a multi-billion pound corporation how to act, but having spent a few days in the company's South Korean headquarters it's clear to see there are areas we think could be tweaked to bring it back to the cutting edge of the smartphone market.
The main thing that sprung from the trip was the passion within the firm over its products; from TVs to fridges to massage chairs, there's a real belief among the workers in the LG brand, which makes it all the more confusing - and upsetting for those that remember owning a decent LG phone - to see the once-dominant handset maker languishing around fifth place in the worldwide rankings.
From TV DNA to an altered design language, here are five things that, should LG bring to the market, would make it a real contender in a sea of iPhones, Galaxies and Ones.
1. Tell us about it
It's tough in the smartphone market; a real 'chicken and egg' situation. There's a notion that you have to have to networks on board and stocking your phone to get the brand in the public eye, to get buzz around the name.
But without the buzz, the networks aren't going to be as interested in stocking the phones…therein lies the rub.
However, the only way to break that cycle is to firstly, have a decent product (and the strong combination of hardware and software of the Optimus G certainly is that) and then have an event that rivals the likes of the Samsung S3 launch: a worldwide bonanza that shouts about a decent product.
Instead LG has launched the phone in one market, with two more to come, and we may not even see it on European shores until 2013. Compare that to Apple or Samsung, which can ship within a month, and you can see that LG needs to stop acting like the underdog if it wants to stop being one.
2. Relaunch the design
This is a big one: LG's smartphones are relatively well-made and the software is powerful… but not powerful enough to make people forget about phones past.
The truth is that while LG has had some success in this area, it's never managed to recreate the success of the Chocolate line from years ago. The memories of the likes of the Optimus 2X, which had issues with software and updates, don't disappear from consumers' memories easily.
So while the new UX user interface is good and the hardware solid, LG needs to show the world that it's ready to have another, stronger stab at the smartphone market. The Optimus G's design lineage can be traced from the Chocolate, so Chul-bae Lee, head of LG's design lab told us.
He spoke of how the company wanted to remind consumers of LG's brand strength, and while that might be true on its home turf, Europe and the US need to see a new identity for LG, as right now it doesn't have one beyond 'Oh, I used to have an LG phone. They were good back in the day'.
3. Focus on Android updates
We don't mean this in the way we've said before: it's not just about the right of the consumer having the best Android version on offer. It's now about showing the strength and speed of a brand, and LG needs to move from providing vague updates on future releases (for instance, we were told that Jelly Bean would be coming to the Optimus G 'sometime this year') and positioning itself as a leader in the field, giving buyers confidence they'll have the best in an LG handset.
It's not easy, but a company with the resources of LG needs to start thinking bigger. It's clear that getting the new version of Android to its handsets isn't a priority right now, but with Google's new policy of showing off new platforms to manufacturers first there's no reason LG can't be far more up front about how and when it's making changes to software.
4. Find a niche
The modern smartphone can do it all: camera, mp3, sat nav, video, payment… and there's no way a brand can be a one trick pony in these areas.
But LG is currently a smaller horse that has no party pleasers… it doesn't lead in camera (Nokia), audio (arguably HTC) or media playback (Samsung wins there with Apple a close second).
Instead, LG touts its 13MP camera, as if consumers are still wowed by such numbers.
It's a hard task, but if LG can continue with its strong foundation in the smartphone game but be the leader in a certain field (for instance in chassis design; a company that produces TVs with such beautiful edge to edge displays could surely make a phone that looks the same) then at least a consumer will recognise something strong about a brand when browsing their local phone emporium.
5. Keep the price, but do it faster
One thing LG DOES do well is make its phones goshdarn cheap – they're often selling top end hardware at mid-range prices… the Optimus 4X HD is a great example.
That should not change, as price is always going to be a real winner, especially when someone wants any old smartphone and picks up the one that won't cost and iArm and an iLeg.
But the fact the Optimus 4X was announced many moons before the Samsung Galaxy S3 but launched weeks after gave it no chance really. Consumers want hype, then belief in a product, then to own it. Don't let them forget about your super phone or there's no point in making it at all… which is all the more frustrating when it's actually decent.
But while the above would be very exciting to see, dropping shells into the smartphone waters, we're not sure that LG is going to heed any time soon.
It's nothing systematically wrong within the company, but having spent a few days talking to the camera guys, speaking in-depth about the design evolution of its smartphones and watched the things actually get put together (which is awesome, by the way) it would take a lot to see the necessary reboot for smartphone success.
Everyone we spoke to talked earnestly about the power, the features and the belief in LG's smartphone heritage… and while in a vacuum the phones stack up against the competition, if the consumer doesn't have the same excitement about it then there's no chance of generating the same volume of global sales.
It may be true that in South Korea LG phones are strong, that consumers like the design evolution and want the latest, most cutting-edge features, but to get true global domination LG needs to sit back and stop telling consumers what's so great about its smartphones, and start giving them reasons to find out for themselves.