LG pushes new boundaries in quest to reinvent the smartphone
When it comes to smartphone design, LG Electronics plays by its own rules — from its swiveling LG Wing to a recently-teased rollable device, LG appears willing to try anything to make its mark on the phone market.
During a live online event on Monday, LG unveiled the LG Wing smartphone, which has an OLED top display that swivels to reveal a second display hidden underneath. Instead of a foldable phone, which already appears to have been accepted as the next big thing in smartphone design, LG continues to go its own way, refining its lineup of dual-screen devices.
Over the last few years, LG has carved out a reputation for rejecting market trends in favor of products that do the same job, but the LG way.
At the LG Wing launch event, LG showed a teaser video for a future rollable phone. The video appears to show a thin phone with a second or expanding screen being pulled out from the side with the tagline "Hold your breath."
According to industry insiders, a prototype for the phone — thought to contain a second screen that rolls up when pushed inside for storage similar to LG's rollable television — has already been made, and the device is on track to be released in the first half of next year.
Although LG has not seen great success with its smartphones, it has had several “firsts,” gaining a reputation for its design experiments.
The beginning of its one-of-a-kind design started with the leather-backed G4 in 2015, the fourth model in its flagship G Series. Although its quirky form factor was much anticipated, the phone saw disappointing sales.
Despite the lagging sales of the G4, LG continued to push unconventional designs.
The company released the G5 in 2016, incorporating modular design with the battery sliding in and out of the phone, dubbed the “transformer phone.” The phone could also be used as a digital camera or high-quality sound system when used with other modular gadgets. The innovative design caught the market’s attention, but it was still considered impractical.
As the high-end smartphone market turned to foldable screens last year, LG began to explore dual-screen alternatives, offering virtually the same user experience but without the need for expensive folding panels.
Instead, LG rolled out its V50 ThinQ, a smartphone with a separate, detachable screen. Some users praised the model, saying that it is a solid alternative to foldable smartphones. Last week, Microsoft rolled out a similar model, the Surface Duo, which has an emphasis on productivity.
The launch of the LG Wing shows that LG has improved on its dual-screen system, bringing both displays into one device. The LG Wing is the first device in LG's "Explorer Project" product line.
“The existing smartphone market has already reached its peak,” said Andrew Coughlin, head of mobile business at LG Electronics UK during the live event. “LG will take a different approach from other premium smartphone brands and avoid the cookie-cutter form factors.”
As for the foldable phones that every other manufacturer is obsessed with, LG doesn't really see the point, saying it has not found any significance in the design besides the showy aspect of the foldable feature.
“Why wouldn't a company with a rollable TV release a foldable phone?” said LG Electronics CEO Kwon Bong-suk, at CES earlier this year. "LG will make a change in the smartphone market, even if it takes time."
LG’s performance in the smartphone business has been a thorn in the company's side for years, recording a loss during the second quarter this year for the 21st consecutive quarter. Its cumulative deficit now amounts to 4 trillion won ($3.4 billion).
“Apple has secured its place as a leader in the premium smartphone market, and Samsung has the biggest share in the local market in terms of supply quantity,” said an expert in the smartphone industry. “LG judged that it is difficult to compete with the two giants, so it found its niche in form factor innovation.”
BY JANG JOO-YOUNG, LEE JEE-YOUNG [email@example.com]