The smartphone market has stagnated a bit in recent years, we have reached a plateau in performance and conformity has occurred across the basic phone design.
For flagship phones which cost more each year the general theme is always a top of the range Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC or HISilicon / Samsung equivalent, encased in a big slab with as much screen as possible.
Until we get 5G handsets, the peak of innovation recently has been larger screens which are forced to use a notch. Not exactly as exciting as the first phone with Wi-Fi, or the first colour screen like back in the day.
This is definitely the case with the LG G7 ThinQ; you have a 6.1” screen with a notch, Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, 4GB of ram, dual cameras, all enclosed glass and aluminium body. Their selling point appears to be a bright screen and loudspeakers while being fractionally cheaper than Samsung.
For manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung with huge market shares, massive profits and a devoted fan base, this is not much of a concern. A little bit of innovation goes a long way, and they maintain their market share.
For other brands, this is not necessarily the case, and in order to be successful, they have had to differentiate themselves. OnePlus and Huawei are two notable examples.
OnePlus has seen exponential growth since they started out and have managed to carve out a loyal fanbase of their own. Their concept is simple, they don’t offer particularly innovative hardware, but their main goal was to balance high-end quality with a lower price than other phones in its class. The Never Settle motto was born from this idea. An example would be the OnePlus 5 which launched at around £200 cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy S8, while it wasn’t as pretty as the Samsung it was hugely popular.
Then there is Huawei, who has grown from being an unknown brand in the UK to be one of the leading mobile brands capturing 13% of the smartphone market in Q3 2017. They shipped 27-million smartphones globally in 2012, 5 years later that figure had grown to 153-million. Huawei has managed this by producing some fantastic phones that offer appealing features over the likes of Samsung. The Mate 10 Pro was the first phone to the market with an AI system built inside; this is now standard for all high-end phones, it also had one of the best cameras on the market and the largest battery on the market. Their new uses a triple camera setup with one of them being a 40 MP sensor, outclassing both Apple and Samsung by a large margin based on some reviews such as DxOmark. Huawei also has their sub-brand Honor which offers flagship phones at affordable prices, allowing them to capture consumers at multiple price points.
Other companies such as Asus are following the OnePlus concept and producing phones that heavily undercut Samsung.
LG used to build exciting phones; they had the LG Flex which was a curved phone that would literally flex. Then the V series which was originally their wacky flagship range that had a dual screen set-up. It would appear that poor sales led them to ditch these ideas and conform with the standard. The V-series dropped the screen. The differences between the V and G series are so little it just seems to allow them to release 2 flagships a year rather than one. The problem with the current line up from LG is that there are priced so close to Samsung why would anyone want to buy them?
Luckily LG does well in the budget end of the market and they captured 20% of the US market in Q1 2017. That was also the only quarter in the past 11 that their mobile division has posted a profit. They generally make huge losses in excess of $150m.
As it currently stands, I can’t see many people buying the new LG G7 ThinQ unless it ends up costing much less than predicted. We have the new Honor and OnePlus being released within 2 weeks, both of which will almost certainly take the shine away from the G7 launch and both are pretty much guaranteed to come in considerably cheaper too.
As a lover of the LG V20, I hope LG finds some new ways to innovate within the market. Maybe the LG G7 ThinQ will be greater than the sum of its parts, or the bright screen and loud speakers are very appealing to a large number of consumers.