The LG G3 popped out of the LG cake last night with a dazzling screen, laser-sighting camera and all the high-end features you could ever need -- but as industry experts brand the G3 a "tough sell", it's been hit with a vote of no confidence from two major UK outlets.
The UK's largest phone network, EE, and Phones 4u, a high street phone retailer with over 600 stores, have confirmed to CNET they are not selling the new phone. Analyst Ben Wood of CCS Insight suggests a crowded market is to blame: "The LG G3 goes head-to-head with other flagship devices such as HTC's One M8, Samsung's Galaxy S5 and Sony's Xperia Z2, which most retailers have already ranged.
"So it's no great surprise that the G3 is not currently selected by EE and Phones 4u, particularly as there is growing evidence that smartphone demand is weakening."
"LG's timing was always going to make the G3 a tough sell," continues Wood. "There's no doubt it's an impressive device, but when the channels already have several other flagship Android-powered smartphones in their range it's hard to make space for one more that in the eyes of consumers looks essentially the same."
"It's not uncommon for an operator to choose not to stock a handset," says industry analyst Ian Fogg of IHS. "Each operator has a certain number of slots in their portfolio and they try and ensure they have the key brands and handsets with a mix of capabilities to appeal to particular segments. For the leading brands like Apple and Samsung it's pretty straightforward, but the challenger brands have to compete for those slots -- and it's a very competitive market."
Spokespeople for EE and Phones 4U were unavailable to offer a reason for pooh-poohing the G3, or to confirm whether this is a temporary or permanent snub. It's not clear whether this is a stock issue, a lack of confidence in the phone, or simply a failure to reach an agreement with LG by the time of release. It's also unclear at this stage whether the phone will be available as soon as this wobble has been ironed out.
'Looks great on paper, but...'
Fogg is unconvinced the G3 can stand out from the crowd. "What LG has chosen to do is try and pick a different way to differentiate: Samsung wants to differentiate the Galaxy S5 on health and well-being with the heart rate monitor and apps, adding water-resistance as a secondary differentiator. With the Z2, Sony continues to differentiate on water-resistance, as well as Sony apps and content services. HTC differentiates with the One M8's industrial design, the metal finish, and innovation like the Dot View cover.
"Meanwhile LG is trying to differentiate on the laser autofocus camera and high-resolution quad-HD screen, but the challenge they face is, are those features people will care about?" Fogg asks. "Differentiators like design, heart monitors, and water-resistance are very visible, but will consumers actually see the difference in the G3's screen and camera?"
"LG has to prove it's got the right set of features to appeal to consumers and sell in volume. My concern," says Fogg, "is that LG may have chosen to differentiate on something that looks great on paper but is overshooting the needs of the market."
A spokesperson for LG declined to comment.
Not everybody has turned its back on the G3. Phones 4u's high-street rival Carphone Warehouse, which has over 1,700 stores, confirmed during the launch that it would stock the G3. "We are proud to be working with LG and offering the G3 to our customers," a spokesperson told me in a statement. "The G2 was one of the hits of last year, especially popular with tech-savvy consumers, so we know this will be another popular handset."
Both Ben Wood and Ian Fogg acknowledge that EE and Phones 4u could still adopt the G3 if it takes off at other outlets, especially if LG throws some marketing money at the phone.
G3 price and release date
The G3 went on sale in LG's home turf of South Korea today, with 170 countries to follow in coming weeks. The phone reaches these shores on 1 July, with pre-orders open on 3 June. It's set to cost S$868 in Singapore (US $691, £412) or $799 Australian dollars (US$736, £440).
In the UK the G3 is set to cost around £500, but the G3 has its work cut to compete with the Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy S5 -- especially if EE and Phones 4U's snub turns out to be permanent.