In smartphone exit, LG's loss will be Samsung's gain

Much to LG's chagrin, most of the significant market share that it will vacate in the US will be filled by a Samsung ready to pounce with its A-series phones.
Written by Ross Rubin, Contributor

Despite being hinted at for a year and leaving writing on the wall for much longer, LG's announcement that it will depart the mobile phone market was still surprising given the high volumes the company shipped. In the US, the company had about 9% of the smartphone market, as strong a position as any company not named Apple or Samsung and far beyond that of faded stalwarts HTC and Sony that hang onto the business with the most tenuous grips.

LG's legacy includes a series of innovations. Alas, though, while nature may abhor a vacuum, markets have even less patience for one, and the smartphone brand's demise has already attracted a circle of ravenous competitors eager to feed on its vacated market share. While each will surely grab scraps here and there, many of the same factors that kept LG from grabbing more of the market will also apply to those aspiring brands.

Have a look at the websites for the three major US carriers and you'll see rows of smartphones dominated by Apple and Samsung that extend to refurbished models. One can't count Apple out. The company has long touted its ability to sway Android users and has been as aggressive as ever in catering to value buyers with the iPhone SE and iPhone mini, albeit with mixed results.

Between the two megabrands, though, Samsung will emerge as the next brand for most LG owners. Not only do Samsung phones provide a more familiar Android experience that preserves any app investments that LG owners may have made, but Samsung has timed the US introduction of its Galaxy A-series to perfectly coincide with LG's exit. Indeed, LG's recognition that Samsung would inherit its users may well have served to keep LG in the market for as long as it did given the fierce, decades-long rivalry between the companies.

Among Samsung naysayers, the brands with the next biggest opportunities would be Motorola and Nokia. Longtime LG owners who appreciated the longevity of the brand versus an upstart such as OnePlus may remember feature phone powerhouses, the brands of which have transitioned to new companies via acquisition and licensing. While those who preferred LG's more demure G-series phones may be drawn to the more conservative Moto designs, those who held out hope with the more fashion-forward Velvet might opt for the Nokias. Much may be swayed by the carrier portfolio, though.

Beyond the recognized brands, the LG diaspora has dwindling carrier-provided options, particularly if one considers the carriers' value brands. For example, at OnePlus-friendly Metro by T-Mobile, one can pick up a Nord. At AT&T's Cricket, which had a rich LG portfolio that included the Stylo, Risio, Harmony, and K92, there are a few Alcatel-branded options. And for the least brand-sensitive, each value carrier offers at least one house brand. These include the T-Mobile Revvl, the Cricket Icon, Influence, and Ovation, and Visible's Blade. Those handsets represent the Android reality for the US mainstream: A sea of sameness in which only Samsung has been able to float to the top.


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