Market Insight

LG looks to buy time with the G7 ThinQ

May 24, 2018

Gerrit Schneemann Gerrit Schneemann Sr Research Analyst, Smartphone

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In New York, LG Mobile announced its latest flagship handset, steering away from the crowded launch window surrounding Mobile World Congress in February. LG Mobile continues to be in a period of transition and evaluation, and the G7 is good sign of the state of affairs at the company – it’s a place holder to bridge time, but it is unclear what that future will look like for LG’s smartphone business.

LG jumps on the notch display trend

LG is the latest smartphone OEM to embrace a notch display design for its handsets. With the new display design and the overall bezel-less design language of the G7, LG has changed the hardware design for its premium G-series device for the third year in a row – the G5 introduced a modular design, which was abandoned a year later for the design of the G6, one of the first smartphones with a 18:9 aspect ratio display. This year, because of LG’s decision to announce its latest flagship design later than usual, the G7 is just one of the many handsets in the market with a notch display.

Hardware specifications of the G7 ThinQ:

Processor

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845

Display

6.1 inch QHD+ 19.5:9 FullVision display

Memory

4GB RAM/64GB ROM, microSD card slot

Camera: Front

8MP wide angle

Camera: Rear

Dual 16MP (wide angle, F1.9 + standard, F1.6)

Battery

3,000 mAh

OS

Android 8.0 Oreo

Other

HiFi Quad DAC, HDR10, Super Far Field Voice rec., “Boombox” speaker, Qualcomm Quick Charge + wireless charging

 

Pricing & Availability:

In the US, pricing at T-Mobile will be $750, or $30 per month after $30 down payment. With this price, the G7 ThinQ is a flagship device, but does not follow the latest Samsung, Apple and Huawei devices into the $800-and-up stratosphere of pricing. For LG, the V-series is now the device reaching the super-premium price target.

The phone will start to be available for pre-order in select markets soon, with broader availability scheduled for early June.

Analysis

For 2018, LG Mobile’s strategy seems to be: stemming the flow of bad news from the business unit and moving to a less congested high-end release schedule to optimize return on investment for each version. The G7 ThinQ will struggle to play its part.

LG continues to review its mobile handset business unit against the backdrop of sustained losses and unit shipment declines. In Q1, LG shipped 11.4m units, down 23 percent from a year ago. To work against this trend, LG needs its flagship devices to gain traction with customers again.  With the V30 LG was able to verse its fortune with flagship devices a little bit.

The G7 ThinQ packs the latest features but is not alone in doing so. What might have been a differentiating feature at the beginning of the year, the notch screen, morphed to a standard feature across many price points at MWC 2018. 

With the G7, LG continues to drive AI integration in its camera application. Just like other OEMs, LG is able to increase the number of scenes and scenarios the AI platform can recognize with the camera.  LG’s dual camera configuration is a differentiator, though. Since the company uses a wide angle camera as the second lens on the back of the device, the camera application can provide unique suggestions, like switching to the wide angle camera for group shots. Other OEMs usually pick a telephoto lens or monochrome sensor for the second rear-facing camera lens. LG continues to stand out in this regard.

Beyond the camera set up, three hardware features are noteable: the BoomBox speaker, Super Bright Display and Google Assistant button.

With BoomBox speaker, LG utilizes space in the handset to amplify the sound of the speaker for audio without headphones. The Super Bright Display is another attention grabber and should play well in the show room. The brightness of the display can be boosted for extreme lighting situations, like direct sun light. Both features lend themselves for in-store sales pitches – each feature can be experienced and explained without the need for a sophisticated display set up.

The G7 ThinQ is the first handset with a dedicated hardware button for Google Assistant. LG touted its cooperation with Google during the launch of the G6 last year. This year, the company takes its commitment to Google Assistant one step further – with dedicated hardware. It is LG’s Super Far Field Voice Recognition technology which should be the key feature to showcase the cooperation between LG and Google on Google Assistant – it would also eliminate the need for a dedicated hardware button.

Lastly, the ThinQ brand remains in development. It is not as well established as Samsung’s SmartThings brand. While LG puts the ThinQ brand on the new G7, the connection between other ThinQ-branded devices, services and platform capabilities was under represented during the launch. There is limited justification for adding this branding to the G7 and it complicates conversation about the device, especially when other LG SmartThinQ devices explicitly work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

With features like BoomBox speaker and a bright display, LG should be able to generate traction for its new device as an alternative to powerhouses Apple and Samsung. Since marketing support for its devices is one a key budget problem for LG, promotions like including an LG TV with the purchase of a G7 ThinQ are not sustainable and will not help LG stem losses in the Mobile business unit.

 

Conclusion

With the G7 ThinQ LG has launched a flagship device which ticks all the right boxes. It features a modern display design, the latest Qualcomm processor and some unique features, like its dual camera or its BoomBox speaker system.

However, the G7 is one of many devices with similar features. Even though LG waited to introduce the device away from MWC, Huawei did the same thing for its P20 and P20 Pro devices. Both ended up with similar hardware designs, thanks to the notch displays. Not only is the competition from Apple and Samsung strong as ever, but relatively new competitors are now in a better position to challenge OEMs below the two market leaders.

Just like last year, the latest G smartphone from LG is a fine phone which will not be able to significantly change LG Mobile’s fortunes to the better. The phone will also not be able to provide answers to more substantial questions for LG in terms of where the company’s future in smartphones lies.

Organization
LG
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