What’s next for a post-smartphone LG?
South Korean mega-conglomerate LG made its dramatic exit from the smartphone business at the beginning of April 2021. While the company’s weird, wacky, and kind of wonderful smartphone designs never managed to create the kind of commercial success the company was clearly after, LG’s exit from the business raises one important question: What’s next?
As a brand, LG is thoroughly baked into the fabric of Korean life. The company’s home electronics and white goods are popular overseas, but its presence in Korea is on a whole other level of ubiquitous. Every air conditioner in my 20 storey apartment building is made by LG. The corporation owns one South Korea’s three major telecom carriers, and a subsidiary of LG’s Chem division, LG Energy, is having enough success making car batteries for everyone from Tesla and General Motors to Renault that it filed for what promises to be one of the year’s biggest IPOs this week. My toothpaste is made by LG.
People who worry about LG’s exit from the smartphone business clearly don’t understand just how big this company is. All the closure of its mobile device business means is that this titanic organisation is funneling wasted resources into something more profitable.
When it announced the closure of its smartphone business in April, despite ongoing concerns about what to do with its overseas factory assets, LG said that the staff working in its mobile business would be rotated away to other areas. So, where have they gone, and what are they doing now?
Is LG’s Smartphone Division Getting Reimagined as a Software Company?
There’s a good chance that a number of LG’s smartphone division’s employees have wound up in the company’s software development arm. On Thursday, LG unveiled a new mobile app designed to improve pedestrian safety (if you had to dodge delivery drivers watching netflix on their phones while driving at 30 miles per hour down the pavement on your way to shops everyday, you’d agree with me that this is a welcome piece of news in its own right) which is just the latest development in a flurry of app-based activity at the firm.
Last week, LG also announced that FOSSLight (Free and Open Source Software Light) system, its open source software management tool, will be made available free of charge to third party developers. TechRadar also reported that, according to several LG analysts, the company is looking to “bolster its presence in the software community.”
The new pedestrian safety app, called Soft V2X, is deployed in vehicles, and can warn drivers of potential collision risks between them and nearby pedestrians by relying on ultra-fast data exchange between the app, the vehicle, and surrounding devices. Basically, if the app detects it’s getting really close to a pedestrian’s smartphone really, really fast, then it will intervene with an alert. Presumably it can pause Season One of Bridgerton to offer a polite warning to look at the road.
HMD Global launches “rugged” Nokia smartphones
Finnish mobile phone manufacturer HMD Global, often referred to as the home of Nokia, has launched three new smartphones for the brand, the Nokia XR20, the Nokia C30, and the Nokia 6310. The company is also expanding its portfolio of audio accessories.
Explaining the reason behind the launch of the devices, Florian Seiche, CEO, HMD Global, said: "We are tapping into consumer pain points around durability and longevity. We did a global trend report8 and found that 73% of consumers want to keep their phone for longer and would if their devices were maintained over time.
“At HMD, we are empowering people to avoid early device replacement and encouraging more sustainable consumption through our longevity promises. We are delighted to announce the Nokia XR20 – a life-proof phone2 with our trademark sleek, Nordic design that we built for both consumers and enterprises,” Seiche said.
The Nokia XR20: The “life-proof” phone
According to HMD Global, the Nokia XR20 is built for longevity and toughness. The company claims it can withstand extreme temperatures, falls from 1.8m above ground, and can survive being in water for up to an hour. Features include the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus screen, said to be the toughest glass ever manufactured.
To prove its durability, Brazillian footballer Roberto Carlos and female world champion freestyler Lisa Zimouche put the XR20 through several tests including placing it in icy water, kicking it, and spinning it screen side down across a concrete football pitch. Carlos also kicked the phone in a move that recreated his infamous “banana shot” last seen in the Brazil vs France match in 1997.
Roberto Carlos, Brazil World Cup winner and Real Madrid legend, said: “I’ve been asked to recreate my ’97 free kick many times over the last twenty years, but never like this before, so I had to accept the challenge. Surely a mobile phone couldn’t survive the wrath of a football. I didn’t think the Nokia XR20 could have withstood the power of my kick. I may not be professional anymore, but I know I still pack a punch, so it was an impressive result.”
HMD says that the XR20 also comes with a 48MP+13MP dual camera with ZEISS Optics, OZO spatial audio, and innovative imaging solutions. “The all-new SpeedWarp mode lets you capture a whole lot of adventure in a compact, exciting montage. Pushing the boundaries of the mid-range, it also comes with 5G speeds, 15W wireless charging, and superior durability,” the company added.
The mobile manufacturer’s two other releases, the Nokia 6310 and C30 also have new characteristics, with the C30 offering both the largest battery and biggest screen ever fitted to a Nokia device. The battery is said to last up to three days on a single charge.
The third phone, Nokia’s 6310, aims to bring advanced accessibility, optimised ergonomics, and also has a long battery life. It features a larger display and buttons, as well as zoomed-in menus.
Nokia’s audio accessories
In addition to the release of smartphones, HMD has also announced an expansion of its audio accessory range. This includes four, new distinct audio lines: Go, Micro, Comfort, and Clarity.
- Go: ultra-high value products offering the highest quality at the lowest possible prices
- Micro: meeting the demand for compact form factor
- Comfort: a result of consumers seeking optimal comfort in wearables
- Clarity: top-of-the-range quality earbuds integrating the latest tech
One of the products in the new audio range, Nokia’s Clarity Earbuds Pro, aims to give customers high-performance sound, battery life, and build quality. The powerful combination of dual-mic environment noise cancellation (ENC), Qualcomm cVc, Echo Cancelling, and Noise Suppression Technology captures and eliminates background noise for superb call and music clarity, HMD said.
Alex Lambeek, Global Head of Accessories, HMD Global, said: “Much like our smartphones, the excellence in Nokia accessories is a result of industry-leading testing for quality. The invaluable insight from our Nokia smartphone community combined with regional insights across the globe has allowed us to grow our ecosystem of companion products to an impressive portfolio.
“It’s supported by a network of strong partnerships like Binatone that allow us to provide the best for our growing fanbase. Inspired by nature and packaged in paper and soy-based ink to protect it, each new line delivers premium lifestyle experiences at accessible price points,” he added.