LG is leaving the smartphone business, the company confirmed today. The decision will “enable the company to focus resources on growth areas such as electric vehicle components, connected devices, smart homes, robotics, artificial intelligence and business-to-business solutions, as well as platforms and services,” LG said in a statement. statement
Existing phones remain on sale, and LG says it will continue to support its products “for a period that will vary by region.” The company has not said anything about possible layoffs, except that “details regarding employment will be determined at the local level.” LG says it expects to complete the company’s shutdown by the end of July this year.
The move has been circulating for several months, following the division’s massive losses over the past five years. Once considered a rival to its fellow South Korean manufacturer Samsung, LG’s recent high-end smartphones have struggled to compete, while the more affordable handsets faced stiff competition from Chinese rivals. The company had previously said it hoped to make its smartphone business profitable by 2021.
Today’s news means that LG’s long-teased retractable phone will likely never see the light of day. The last time the company showed the device was back at this year’s virtual CES, when the company insisted the device was real and would be launched later this year.
Reports that LG is considering abandoning smartphones have been around since the beginning of this year. Although a company spokesperson burned an earlier report on the company’s possible exit from the smartphone business “completely false and without merit,Later an LG official confirmed The Korea Herald that the the company had to make “a cold judgment” about the division. Possible measures include “sales, withdrawal and downsizing of the smartphone business,” the official said at the time.
In March, reports surfaced that the company had tried to find a buyer for its smartphone business, but talks had stalled and it could close the division instead. Korean outlet East Asia said the company had halted development of its upcoming phones with retractable displays and suspended its planned smartphones for the first half of this year.
As the stock lost to rivals, LG released a line of eye-catching devices with unusual form factors. There was the LG Wing, whose main screen was rotated to reveal a smaller secondary screen below, or the recent dual-screen devices. LG also tried a modular smartphone with the LG G5, only to drop the initiative a year later.
Unfortunately for LG, none of these features were useful enough to make the phones mainstream, and meanwhile, the company’s more traditional handsets lagged behind their rivals in core areas like camera performance.
LG joins a long list of high-profile device manufacturers who have given up on smartphones over the years, although many of the brand names have stuck on third-party devices. Nokia’s consumer-centric brand lives on HMD handsets, while the Blackberry brand name was initially used by TCL and returns to an OnwardMobility device this year. There’s also HTC, which still sells some weird handsets, but sold most of its IP to Google in 2017. Who’s next?