For Korean electronics giant LG Electronics, shoring up its ever-shrinking presence in the global smartphone market is a higher priority than anything else in 2019, including rolling out eye-catching products like foldable and rollable devices, according to LG mobile chief Kwon Bong-suk, who heads both the mobile unit and home appliance division under the tech firm from this year.
“(Like its rivals,) LG already has all the cutting-edge technologies, such as rollable, foldable and dual-screen smartphones, prepared to hit the market,” said CEO Kwon at a media conference in Seoul on Feb. 15, emphasizing that the company is not behind in the race for new smartphone technologies.
“However, increasing its market share in the existing mainstream market is our first priority,” the CEO said.
LG mobile chief Kwon Bong-suk speaks at a press meeting in Seoul on Feb. 15.
Korean mobile carriers to battle for 5G lead at MWC
Although the company plans to unveil its dual-screen smartphone -- its answer to compatriot Samsung Electronics’ upcoming foldable smartphone -- during the Mobile World Congress trade show later this month in Barcelona, it will spend more resources in selling its upcoming flagships G8 ThinkQ and V50 ThinQ 5G, he added.
The Seoul press meeting was held mere days before Samsung’s “Unpack” event in San Francisco. On Feb. 20, Samsung showed off its Galaxy S10 lineup as well as the firm’s first foldable smartphone.
Following Samsung’s launch event, LG will remove the shroud from the G8 and V50 during the Spanish mobile trade show, which is to be held for four days starting Feb. 25 in Barcelona.
The G8 runs on the existing 4G LTE network, while the V50 will become the company’s first 5G-enabled smartphone.
Kwon explained that since the 5G network is still in a nascent stage, the company will test the waters with the V50 before placing bigger bets there.
For 5G smartphones to takes off, price is the most significant factor, according to the CEO.
“Both the smartphone manufacturers and mobile network operators keep a close eye on which smartphones are first to break the US$1,000 mark,” said Kwon, adding the company would decide whether to roll out a mid-tier 5G smartphone with a price tag under US$1,000 or not in the latter half of this year.
He also announced the firm would not adhere to its usual annual launch schedule -- the G lineup in the first half and V series in the second half.
From this year, the launch of the V smartphone will coincide with the G smartphone in the first half, and upgraded models of the two smartphone lineups will be released in the second half.
The LG mobile chief said the decision was made to better cater to the demand of potential 5G subscribers.
For several years, LG has been caught between a rock and a hard place. The Korean firm, once the third-largest phone maker in the world, is now no match for Chinese companies especially in the budget smartphone segments, while the high-end sector remains a stronghold for its longtime rivals Samsung Electronics and Apple.
Plummeting profits over the past years show its smartphone business on a long slide. The mobile business lost 322.3 billion won ($286.2 million) in the last three months last year, marking the 15th consecutive quarterly loss.
Kwon, who has headed LG’s home appliances unit since 2015, was tapped to lead the troubled mobile business unit late last year. He is credited with expanding the firm’s foothold in the OLED TV market.
By Kim Young-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)