LG is reportedly considering abandoning the mobile market, following steep losses over a number of years and the lack of mindshare in the smartphone space. Sony hasn’t fared much better when it comes to selling smartphones – it has exited a number of regions, and does very little marketing to promote its wares – but, it has done a good job of cutting costs in order to target profitability.
LG has carried a similar ethos to Sony in that it has tried to offer good all-round smartphones, with decent cameras, battery life and performance. LG phones, particularly their V series, were some of the best phones for audiophiles with class-leading DACs. LG was also one of the few manufacturers to keep the 3.5mm headphone jacks in place, even in flagship devices. Remember, LG was also one of the first to make wide-angle cameras popular.
However, LG hasn’t been able to get the traction it’s needed to compete with some of the bigger brands. While the ‘G’ and ‘V’ series were very competent phones, their designs rarely stood out and LG were guilty of slow software updates, and poor support for some of its phones.
If LG does indeed exit its mobile adventure, it will be bad news for Android fans everywhere. The number one reason for this comes down to choice, and helping to push the envelope. LG has at least tried to experiment with some of its phones, genuinely trying new innovations like the LG Wing. LG also showed rollable display concepts for smartphones at CES 2021, which would take what we’ve seen with foldable displays to the next level.
One of the great advantages of the Android ecosystem has been the variety and choice of smartphones on offer. However, over recent years, that choice available to Android consumers has been narrowing and narrowing, particularly in the flagship space. LG’s exit would add to a long list of other manufacturers that have either exited or pared down their offering.
One of the biggest Android OEMs, Huawei, is now not an option for Android enthusiasts outside of China due to the lack of Google services. There is no doubt that Huawei is still churning out fantastic hardware, and produces some of the best cameras found on any smartphone. But the lack of Google integration has significantly impacted sales of its phones in Western markets, and this is unlikely to change any time soon.
Blackberry is another option removed from the market. Despite, the Blackberry KEYone and KEY2, being popular devices serving a niche for those that still want an Android phone with physical keyboard, TCL didn’t feel they were popular enough to continue making more BB phones. Blackberry ended its partnership with TCL in 2020. A new startup called OnwardMobility has taken up the mantle and is promising a 5G Blackberry-branded phone, but details remain thin on the ground.
Then we have HTC, who used to be one of the biggest Android OEMs, but now a shadow of its former self. Phone releases are far and few between, and the brand has fallen out of most people’s minds given the years spent in the wilderness. Nokia is another brand, that whilst continues to serve the Android space, focuses more on the budget and mid-range, rather than the flagship segment in recent years.
What all of this results in is much lower choice for Android lovers. You can’t really blame the OEMs for pulling out, or refocusing their portfolio. If everyone is choosing to buy Samsung Galaxy/Google Pixel/OnePlus/Xiaomi phones, then they cannot hemorrhage cash forever.
For that, we’re grateful that Sony continues to provide us Xperia smartphones. Yes, they are not priced competitively, but it is for this very reason why the business is likely to be profitable this year – something that cannot be said for others that have fallen away in recent years. Most importantly, it gives us an important choice.
We don’t look forward to a world where the only choice we have is between a Pixel/Galaxy/OnePlus/Xiaomi device. Sony is the only one that continues to provide features that some consumers still want – a 3.5mm headphone jack and memory card comes immediately to mind.
While we don’t expect Sony Xperia to compete in volumes with some of the bigger brands, we hope it will continue to be around for a number of years to give us that extra option. After all, that is what Android has always been about.