Why are LG phones not as popular as they once were?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Why are LG phones not as popular as they once were?
The global smartphone market is an arena where some of the biggest corporations in the world fight tooth and nail for consumers’ attention and, of course, money. Naturally, we follow most closely those brands at the very top, the winners of this epic battle, but now we’ll take a look at some of the casualties of the relentless struggle to offer the best smartphone money can buy. And these aren't some random startups that came up with a cool concept for a device that never made it past its crowdfunding stage. We’re talking about tech giants that seem to have lost their way. We'll take a closer look at some of those companies, starting with LG. Today, in this first article of the mini-series, we'll go over what caused LG to go tumbling down on its way to irrelevance.

Bootloop, that dirty word

LG has always been one of the big phone brands, especially in North America, but recently, things haven’t been going great for the company. While in 2014 LG Mobile was enjoying record-breaking sales, in 2018, the company saw a 26% year-on-year decline in smartphones sold, continuing the slide down from previous trimesters, raising concerns with investors and executives alike. 

The first serious blow to LG’s reputation came in 2015. It’s then-flagship, the G4, had bootloop issues, forcing users to seek service centers so they can get their devices running again or receive a replacement. Unfortunately, many of the replacement G4’s came with the same issue, which understandably caused many to never consider an LG smartphone again.

Trying to shake things up with the following G5, LG decided to bet on modularity. The device allowed for different attachments to be connected at the bottom of the phone, giving it additional functionality. While that sounds cool on paper, LG’s implementation of the idea was poor, turning it into more of a weakness of the phone than a strength. The interchangeable modules were limited in number and usefulness and proved unpopular with consumers, something that we later saw with the Motorola Z2 as well.

G5’s successor, the LG G6, wasn’t a huge hit either, coming out with a Snapdragon 821 SoC when its competitors were flexing the next-gen Snapdragon 835. Needless to say, such a drawback is hard to overlook in the high-end segment, marking the third strike for LG on the flagship front.

I ThinQ LG had some bad ideas

The latest iteration of the G line, the LG G7 ThinQ, is an overall good device. What’s not so good about it, as you have undoubtedly noticed, is its name. LG decided to slap its smart appliances branding “ThinQ” to the names of its latest flagship smartphones as well. This was meant to signal how your phone will easily work with your LG fridge or washing machine thanks to LG's AI technology. Instead, it only added confusion. It's not even clear how the ThinQ brand name is supposed to be pronounced. 

Later in the life of the G7 ThinQ it was discovered that suboptimal display optimization caused below-average battery performance. By that point, however, LG’s flagship was mostly flying under the radar anyway and people were looking elsewhere for their next device.

Along with the G series of smartphones, LG began releasing high-end handsets under its V series in 2015. The V line was built around the needs of power users and gave LG the opportunity to experiment. The first two iterations (V10 and V20) were most notable for their a small secondary screen on top for quick access to apps, a unique feature that today seems like the "grand-daddy" of the trendy notch design. 

The V10 and V20 were well received by those they catered to, but that wasn't a large portion of the consumer base. The devices were big compared to their competitors and not as good looking either. The ability to replace the battery was a compromise with the devices' durability as they lacked water resistance, which for most didn't justify the benefits. Since then, LG has been taking the safer route, hence the V line hasn’t really differed much from the G line, and more importantly, from other flagships on the market. The lack of success for both lines sparked rumors that LG might eventually merge the two lines.

Other meh-ness

On the software front, LG doesn’t have a stellar performance either. The company is notorious for being very slow to release major software updates for its handsets and abandoning support altogether rather quickly, sticking only to the occasional security updates. LG is positioned 16th among smartphone manufacturers when it comes to software updates, according to AOSMark. It’s UX custom Android skin is not the most bloated next to those of other manufacturers, but it’s far from the snappiest.

When it comes to cameras, LG's smartphones are on par when it comes to technical specs and were the ones to popularize the useful wide-angle lens. However, LG's camera app is still lagging behind. The company was one of the first to offer manual controls for those who want to take "professional" photos with their phones without having to install third-party apps, but has since failed to introduce anything exciting. In fact, it took forever for LG to add a portrait mode to its phones, instead focusing on developing gimmicky camera modes with artificial intelligence built in. The latest stand-out feature LG came up with, called Triple Shot, takes a picture with each of the three main cameras on the LG V40 along with a cringe-worthy video slideshow, but it takes a long time to do all that, and the usefulness of the feature is questionable. Another weak spot for LG's flagships are their front-facing cameras, and we all know how much some people care about selfies.

Despite posting underwhelming smartphone sales figures one quarter after the other, as a result of customers’ diminishing trust in the brand, LG refused to make adjustments in one of the aspects that matter the most: price. Without having anything exciting to offer and differentiate itself from the competition, LG could have tried to win over some of its lost user base by offering quality flagship phones at a lower price. Instead, it kept up with the trend of inflating prices without backing them up with cool features that could get people’s attention. A Quad DAC will do more to make someone google what it means than convince them to buy a smartphone. 

On the bright side, at least bright for those who want an LG phone anyway, the prices of its flagship phones quickly go down, and after just a few months, the devices can be quite a bargain. 

Don’t expect LG smartphones to disappear anytime soon, however. The mobile division is only a small part of LG Corp. Even if it’s not making money as a separate unit, it will likely continue to exist as a marketing tool.

If you want to read about the next manufacturer we examined, check our article Why did HTC smartphones go from popular to obscure?



1. sgodsell

Posts: 7566; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

Because sites like this do stuff, like this. Plus when you show biases towards one brand. Then what are people suppose to think? Hmmm? Please PhoneArena, do tell.

4. midan

Posts: 3112; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

It's funny and weird that you think sites like this with their articles have any impact to sales in real world.

12. sgodsell

Posts: 7566; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

No, but zealots like you will refer to sites like this and others as factual. When in reality, they are not. They like to show biases like you midan.

16. midan

Posts: 3112; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Haha, Hey go out more, you need fresh air! ;)

14. rubyonrails3

Posts: 375; Member since: Oct 01, 2014

I think its more what LG offers. and most of all what it doesn't.. which is camera sucks on LG phones. LG phones are expensive when they are announced and gets affordable after couple of months. also Lack of innovation. I bought LG V10 loved how it felt in hand and felt uniqe at the time. but its LCD was one of the reason I didn't buy LG until V30, V30 was great but camera wasn't great IMO, still I bought V35 which turned out to have poor battery compared to V30 and poorly optimized. also in 2018 every phone had stereo speakers and LG same old camera and single speakers. also when I sell LG phones it takes time and also I get very less. same I can't say about Samsung, Apple or OnePlus phones. I'm now using Pixel 3 XL cuz of its camera, but also it have great stereo speakers, I'm also using iPhone Xs Max cuz its iOS, want to stay in both Android and iOS echo system. but again iPhone have stereo speakers love that.

17. MrMalignance

Posts: 325; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

Great results can be achieved using a port of Google camera. Sadly, it appears that the software is the biggest cause of subpart camera performance. The fact that Google doesn't allow the software to be installed on the devices cause a lack of options as well

54. rubyonrails3

Posts: 375; Member since: Oct 01, 2014

but its never same what you get out of box. maybe you can get great results with tinkering with BEST in class manual mode on LG phones. but my kids don't give me that amount of time to take there pictures. LG need to give massive battery in their phones as well.

23. Venom

Posts: 3821; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

Or maybe because LG has failed the consumer too many times. First was the bootlooping issue, then the disaster that was the G5, then the underpowered G6, and let's not even get started with the confusing names and throwing something at the wall to see what sticks. LG should just exit the smartphone market if they can't see what's causing them to sink faster than they can be saved.

25. cncrim

Posts: 1590; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

How sites like this bias? Do you know that where you live will dictate you what you buy right? If you are in North America the chance you own Apple or Samsung is 95%, if you are live in India and chance you own Haweui or Oppo is 90%. Customers is the one dictate the market not other way around.

45. WalkingBlackBear

Posts: 1; Member since: Feb 12, 2019

No, it's the phones and experiences of the customers. I had the G4. Really liked the phone for about 8 months, when it started to get flaky. Sent it away to get fixed, bought a OnePlus 3 to use while it was gone. Never went back to it, realizing how much worse it was in all ways except video stabilisation. It did nice video, while the battery lasted. Fast forward to last summer. My daughter drops her phone and smashes it pretty hard the day before we put her on the plane back to school. I "upgrade" to the G7, against my better judgement. The article here is pretty spot on. Meh. The hardware is nice and all, but the software is disappointing after the most excellent oxygenos from OnePlus. The G7 is STILL on 8.0.0! It's STILL on the November security update. That's abysmal. Oh, and the camera situation .... Damn it's bad. I could still get better shots from my old OnePlus 3, except my kid won't trade me for the "new" phone ... She likes the OP3 too much. LG's image processing is nothing short of terrible. Every picture comes out looking like a weird oil painting when you zoom in at all. It wasn't good when the G4 did it, it's inexcusable in a current flagship device. I will never buy another LG phone. Ever. Best phones they ever built were the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5. Still have the 5. Still works. Articles like these are NOT LG's problem.

48. perry1234

Posts: 654; Member since: Aug 14, 2012

That is really effed up. I also noticed that LG stopped using top tier Sony lenses on their smartphones, and coupled with the abysmal software, I am not surprised that they are failing badly in the market. Experiences like these will make even the most loyal LG customers move away from the brand. LG should pay something to Google and relaunch the Nexus lineup with Android One and flagship specs with no compromises (unlike the LG G7 One). All OLED, good specs, stereo speakers, great battery life and amazing cameras.

2. Knownhost

Posts: 112; Member since: Nov 13, 2017

I owned the G4 and V20, and loved a lot about both. Unfortunately, with LG, there is always a pretty big compromise. Had the G4 not bootlooped, I would likely have used it for more than a year. Had the V20 had better batterly life, I would still be using it today. If LG made a no-compromise/tiny-compromise device like the Note 9, I would definitely give them a chance. Until then, I am pretty comfortable in Samsung's orbit.

5. Fred3

Posts: 582; Member since: Jan 16, 2018

Having the issue's with G4 and V20 is compairable to S8, S7 and Note8 bloatware and bugs. The G6 and V35 issue smoothed out like the S9 and Note9. I think LG's marketing and being out of touch with what the consumers want is just bad it's like they don't really care about their phones anymore

11. Rampage_Taco

Posts: 1109; Member since: Jan 17, 2017

Did you seriously compare bloatware to a bootloop issue? bloatware just wastes your phones space, bootloop is a death sentence to your device

18. MrMalignance

Posts: 325; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

The point is valid, but a unbalanced: both issues are fairly outdated and not really an issue. Unless you count the T-Mobile g7 bootloops, but that was carrier based

35. Fred3

Posts: 582; Member since: Jan 16, 2018

I know that but it was still a problem that kept people from buying them. I'm not talking about what it does to you phone SO YES

49. almostdone

Posts: 449; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

For me the vast majority of LG phones have poor battery life compared to the competition with similar battery capacities. It seems they're not optimizing their software/hardware properly.

3. midan

Posts: 3112; Member since: Oct 09, 2017

Here is short answer: lack of brand name and popularity Masses which drive most sales aren't interested to put a lot of money for device which they don't know or they friends don't have or basicly no-one have. HTC is in same boat, so is Sony. People mostly want safe choices, they don't want to risk it by buying something which they don't know anything about. Huawei is very lucky because they beat everything what i just said. They won peoples mind and now they have big brand name and their phones become one of the safe choices. Those old dogs brand name also doesn't mean anything to new generation of smartphone buyers.

7. mrochester

Posts: 1036; Member since: Aug 17, 2014

LG doesn't have an operating system or ecosystem that excites or interests consumers. Why buy an LG when you can get the same OS and experience from another brand? They desperately need their own OS and ecosystem like Apple has. That would give LG the freedom to create user experiences that please and delight consumers and keep them coming back to LG phones instead of being like every other manufacturer.

19. HarysViewty

Posts: 65; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

LG own WebOS now, which Android copied a lot, it's now becoming their own best TV OS

8. Eclectech

Posts: 355; Member since: May 01, 2013

i currently own an LG V30+. It has been a solid phone, much better over time than my experience with the Galaxy S8 I owned. My issue is I'm still on Android 8.0 and that sucks.

9. phoneclash

Posts: 40; Member since: Dec 18, 2018

As someone who worked in mobile retail for years in the prepaid market, LG phones are popular. The stylo’s aristo’s and even back in the day the LG motion used to sell like crazy, Yes none were flagships, but doesn’t mean they aren’t selling ANY phones. LG remains popular in the low end market and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.

10. Dejan92

Posts: 141; Member since: Feb 06, 2014

Because they suck?

13. Cat97

Posts: 1976; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

The answer is easy: - They use the same 3000 mAh battery since LG G2 (that is 5 years ago), but their phones are now huge while the G2 was very compact. So no innovation in packaging. - They removed the notification LED - They use a mediocre camera sensor and try to fix things in software - to no avail - They advertise all kinds of useless features to create fake market differentiators (read: stupidly curved screen, quad-dac, sound chamber) instead of focusing on what customers really need: good battery life, high screen to body ratio, good camera, a more compact option in their product portfolio. So basically they went backwards from year to year, with bad decisions at every step of the process.

20. MrMalignance

Posts: 325; Member since: Feb 17, 2013

I can't agree with the screen curve (which is less curved than other devices), quad dac, and sound chamber being a method of creating a "fake" difference. Those are solid differences that could be useful in other devices as well. I do agree that they need better battery life and camera (software only, the hardware is fine, but misused). Stating that they went backwards is a bit of an overreaction. I'll admit they aren't perfect, as they seem to make phones as a fun side gig, but they are still an option. Without different brands, we'd only have 2 choices: apple or Samsung.

21. HarysViewty

Posts: 65; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

As an LG fan, I agree on this. But QuadDAC, boombox, curved flexible screen are what makes LG unique. Useless ads are like Google Assistant, BTS stuff My v30 battery lasts longer than note8

15. adibuyono

Posts: 50; Member since: Mar 29, 2017

Make Sony's too :D The trio companies once tried.

22. HarysViewty

Posts: 65; Member since: Apr 04, 2015

LG didn't release V10 and v20 globally when note5 removed power users features and when Note7 exploded. Gflex1 was a luxury trial, the matured refined gflex2 came with problematic sd810, no big release G3 & g6 used a second best processor G5 was wrongly made, g7 was half-baked I'm still using my g3 g4 v20 & v30, love them so much

24. Vogue1985 unregistered

I remember when the time G4 was LG had the market right and distraction on point n solid. However it have noticed over the years, marketing hasn't been strong after the V20, excellent phone. Had the optimus, the pro g, the g2 (First step to bezeless, gorg phone),nexus 5, Pixel 2Xl,All excellent among the best of their time. LG has and still makes very good phone but theres also a Huge negative bias that many reviewers promote. Also I think custom rom usage is down, many LG followers were really into deep customization, like CYNOGENMode, AOkp etc,but custom os usage is down (for now).

26. cncrim

Posts: 1590; Member since: Aug 15, 2011

My experience with LG alway been solid did not see any problem, now I didn’t said It didn’t happen it is jusy the problem never happen to me.

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