LG confirms it may abandon smartphones

LG may exit the smartphone business, abandoning its fledgling rollable smartphone roadmap and recent oddball form-factors amid rising competition in the mobile space. Though still one of the better-known names in the cellphone space, the past few years have been a struggle for LG nonetheless, with the company racking up around $4.5 billion in losses for the division over the last five years.

In recent years, LG has attempted to stem the outflow of cash with more unusual devices. The company launched the LG Wing late last year, for example, a dual-screen device which rotated around to form a cross-shaped gadget that could mimic the results of a stabilized camera.

Before that, while Samsung and others were flirting with foldable smartphone screens, LG took a different dual-display approach. Some of its phones could be connected to a secondary display built into a clamshell case. Though more competitively priced than handsets such as Samsung's Galaxy Z Fold 2, they failed to capture the same share of attention.

Now, that could be contributing to the end of the line for LG's smartphone ambitions overall. "Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about time for LG to make a cold judgment and the best choice," an LG official explained to The Korea Herald. "The company is considering all possible measures, including sale, withdrawal and downsizing of the smartphone business."

The confirmation came after an internal message from LG Electronics CEO Kwon Bong-seok, who warned staff in the division of potentially major changes to how it would operate. Though reassuring employees that LG did not expect job losses in the process, the chief exec nonetheless paved the way for a high-profile exit.

It wouldn't come as a huge surprise. Back in December 2020, LG confirmed it would be outsourcing its low-end and mid-tier smartphones, aiming to trim its costs by turning to outside specialists for the more affordable lines. At the time, however, LG denied speculation that it was a sign it had plans to cease work altogether in the segment.

That denial was followed by the teasing of the LG Rollable, LG's first commercial use of rollable OLED in smartphones. Previewed at CES 2021 earlier this month, and tipped for a launch later in the year, the phone opts not for a folding OLED panel as others have tried, but a rolling one that allows the phone to extend outwards. LG execs have previously suggested that they would focus more on the premium end of the smartphone category, including devices like 2020's LG Velvet.